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Joe Don 'J.D.' Norton the seventh contestant cut adrift on 'Pirate Master'

By Christopher Rocchio, 07/11/2007 

Joe Don "J.D." Norton went from serving as the Picton Castle's first captain to posing as the biggest physical threat against the ship's current regime, causing the 36-year-old smoke jumper from Ft. Wainwright, AK to become the seventh buccaneer wannabe cut adrift from Pirate Master during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition series.

Pirate Master's seventh episode began with the self-proclaimed "Triad" -- captain Azmyth Kaminski, a 26-year-old music producer from Los Angeles, CA, and his two officer Ben Fagan, a 23-year-old student/musician from Boston, MA, as well as Jay Hatkow, a 37-year-old automotive-parts salesman from Detroit, MI -- relaxing in the Picton Castle's captain cabin and drinking rum.  Azmyth commented how the three were both "well rested" and "well fed," two key aspects of their strategy to "triumph" during the next Expedition.

"There's gotta be new blood," said J.D. as he sat below deck with other members of the crew. "I'm gonna hang myself if I don't get a win tomorrow, man. It's gonna be tough, but I'm gonna die trying."

The next morning Kendra Guffey, a 38-year-old dive master from Los Angeles, CA, explained how she was "worried" about her body failing her during the next Expedition just as the Picton Castle's crew was called to get their portion of gruel.  As J.D. complained about its lack of sustenance, Louie Frase, a 43-year-old marina owner from Fishing Creek, MD, added he was also "pretty hungry and tired."  However the crew's physical state didn't stop Azmyth from doling out duties, which included swabbing the decks and bringing the sails up.

"Captain Azmyth is definitely number one on my list," said Nessa Nemir, a 29-year-old make-up artist from Berkeley, CA.  "I'm itching to get him out of here.  He's on some kind of ego trip... He gives long list of demands of things you have to do and he's a control freak and it's getting old."

However Azmyth and Jay discussed how there was a method to their madness.

"Since Joe Don and Louie would be on the Red Crew, we are have to tire them out as much as we possibly can, in any way," said Azmyth.  Added Jay, "Knowing Joe Don and Louie would be on the Red Crew, me and Azmyth want them to be as weak as possible when we go out on these Expeditions.  I think it's a great strategy."

While J.D. admitted to some other members of the Picton Castle's crew that he was feeling "physically beat," he made sure to add his spirits were still "strong."

"They don't want to feed us that well and we're working hard and they are definitely racking and stacking that deck because those greedy blue coats just want more gold," said Louie as he watched the Triad eat a hearty breakfast.

The Picton Castle dropped anchor and Pirate Master host Cameron Daddo informed the crew that it was time for the 10 remaining buccaneer wannabes to open the seventh compartment in the Chest of Zanzibar.  Cameron told the crew that the next treasure was hidden by the Picton Castle's Purser -- who left the first clue beneath a floating marker -- secured inside a bottle.

As was the case during the previous Expeditions, the captain and his two officers would lead the Black Crew, with the rest of the shipmates randomly divided to either follow the captain on the Black Crew or oppose him on the Red Crew.  If the Black Crew wins, the captain remains in power.  However if the Red Crew wins, they elect a new captain. Everyone proceeded to pick either a black or a red shot to determine which crew they would join.

The Black Crew consisted of captain Azmyth; his two officers Jay and Ben; Elicia "Jupiter" Mendoza, a 30-year-old bartender from Los Angeles, CA; and Laurel Schmidt, a 21-year-old glass blower from Los Angeles, CA.  The Red Crew consisted of J.D.; Nessa; Louie; Kendra; and Christa DeAngelo, a 29-year former member of the military and single mother from Tamaqua, PA.

"The reality of this is if we lose it, the Triad is in trouble," said Jay. "Almost guaranteed, at the next Pirates' Court, one or all of us will be Black Spotted."

On the first leg of Pirate Master's seventh Expedition, both crews rowed their longboats towards the western tip of the island in search of the floating marker.  The Black Crew had an early lead, with Ben being the first to dive into the water to retrieve the Purser's bottle.  Ben commented how he might not be the best swimmer, but wanted to "step up" for the Black Crew.  As the Black Crew busted open their bottle to read the clue, J.D. retrieved the bottle for Red, causing Louie to comment J.D. is "spectacular" and "strong."

Yielding a map of the island, both crews now had to row to Skull's Point, where they would search the island for a cannon where two hidden ropes awaited them. Both crews rowed to shore, with the Black Crew in the lead and Azmyth pushing them hard. While Louie spoke for the entire Red Crew when he said they were "pretty hungry and pretty tired," both the Red and Black Crews simultaneously found the old cannon where two ropes hang over the side of a cliff.

Louie estimated it was approximately 70-feet of rope the crews were trying to pull up the side of the cliff, a task he seemed confident the Red Crew could complete quicker to do similar chores they complete on the Picton Castle.  However it wasn't meant to be, as the Black Crew was the first to retrieve their barrel and learned they had to next solve a riddle that would help them in locating an X where the keys to the treasure were buried.  But the Black Crew was confused by the riddle, allowing the Red Crew to catch up.  Christa noticed an X on the beach -- and when the Black Crew saw the Red Crew running toward the beach -- they gave up trying to solve the riddle on their own and just followed.

While Red had a lead heading to the X, the were quickly overtaken by the physically stronger Black Crew, and both arrived at the X at the same time and immediately started digging at its base, unearthing a set of dials. The crews learned that they now had to locate a bunker on the island and use the dials to figure out the correct combination to unlock the bunker and uncover the treasure. Both crews ran up the beach and located the bunker at the same time, however it was the Black Crew that was first to find the correct combination, unlock the bunker, and secure the treasure.

"Aw man... The Triad baby!" said Jay.  Needless to say, J.D. felt differently about the results of the Expedition.   "This is probably the hardest loss that I've had," he explained. "I really wanted to get them out of power and start a new regime."

As the Red Crew returned to the Picton Castle, Nessa also realized the loss was "extra hard" because it was a "big chance" to take Azmyth out of power.   Making matters worse, Cameron also explained that Pirate Master's Royal Pardon, which was currently in J.D.'s possession, would have to change hands before the next Pirates' Court, meaning he would not have a safety net to survive being cut adrift if he received a Black Spot.  Kendra was also worried, remembering that she received a Black Spot following the last Expedition due to her lack of strength.

"The loss hits me really hard because I barely squeaked by on Pirates' Court last week," said Kendra. "I'm considered very weak by everybody on the ship and I have a feeling I'm going home. I needed this win."

If the Red Crew was down in the dumps the Black Crew was on cloud nine, counting their booty and learning the Expedition they had just won yielded $35,000.  The Triad -- which Jay described as "unstoppable" -- once again split the booty 60-40, however Azmyth also tipped his hand when asked by Cameron if he wanted to appoint new officers. 

"I love Jay and Ben. We're fantastic as a crew together," he said.  "As long as we can hold this position, I would never turn my back on them."  Laurel and Jupiter were pleased to receive a portion of the booty, especially Jupiter, who had since taken over the Picton Castle's cooking duties and was in the Triad's good graces.

"Though I don't wear the blue coat, I still kind of have an upper hand with being the one who's feeding them," she explained as Jay gave her a few extra coins.

As the crew discussed how they think the next Pirates' Court would go, J.D. lamented about the fact he'd be unable to bid on the Pardon, however Nessa revealed her plan to place a high bid for it, realizing its possession could go back and forth between her and J.D. for the rest of the competition.  Aware she doesn't have the same monetary resources as Nessa and J.D., Kendra decided to instead approach Jay with a swashbuckler of a deal to save her own neck and get one of the stronger members of the crew booted.

"I'd really like to stay if there's any kind of chance," she told Jay. "I'm a vote that can be bought to keep around. My vote is gonna stand when you guys need it."  Jay almost jumped when accepting the deal.  "If I can keep Kendra, Kendra would have my back forever. I say get out someone that's a threat to us... somebody strong from the other team, like Joe Don or Nessa."

Azmyth met with Ben and Jay to discuss who would receive the three Black Spots and face possible elimination at the next Pirates' Court.  Immediately, Azmyth identified J.D. as a "very big threat" -- and because he's unable to bid on the Pardon -- they also recognized he's in a very vulnerable position.  While Azmyth also considered giving a Black Spot to Kendra, Jay assured his fellow Triad members that she "swore her butt up and down" to vote whichever way they tell her to, so they decided to spare her.

The Triad then chose to give a Black Spot to Nessa because even though they know she'll probably be the highest bidder for the Pardon and thus won't be able to be cut adrift, it will improve their chances of sending J.D. home.  They decide the final Black Spot will be given to Louie, describing him as a "placeholder" because due to his popularity, they felt more votes would be directed at J.D.

After the Black Spots were handed out, Kendra was excited to learn she didn't receive one and described herself as both "dependable" and "honest," presumably meaning she was ready to keep her promise to the Triad.  Nessa was "shocked" she received a Black Spot instead of Kendra.  Louie was less nervous about his Black Spot because he's aware of his favorable standing with the females in the crew, a fact that had J.D. feeling less optimistic.

"My back is up against the wall," said J.D..  "I'm just gonna let them know that popularity doesn't win Expeditions."  The crew then considered mutiny against Azmyth, but Jupiter said she wouldn't be in favor of it due to her standing with the Triad, immediately killing the idea.  Laurel described her relationship with Louie as "tight" and called him a "good guy" as he taught her how to navigate the Picton Castle.

"I trust my ladies and I've always said it and I've told it to them too," said Louie.  "I'm proud of 'em and I look at 'em just like my daughters... But you never know what they're gonna do."  Louie's popularity was also the main topic of conversation between Nessa and J.D., as they weighed it against J.D.'s strength on Expeditions. 

"I adore Louie, everybody does," explained Nessa. "But when it comes down to the Expeditions, Joe Don's really strong, so if he's taken out of the equation, there's a good chance we've been checkmated by Azmyth."  However Nessa also revealed that her motivation for keeping J.D. around wasn't just about the Expeditions.

"Joe Don's definitely my main confidante and probably the person I'm closest with on the ship right now," she said, not really surprising news considering their constant flirting. "I don't wanna see him leave."

With Pirates' Court looming, Jay reiterated the importance of the deal the Triad made with Kendra.  "I am extremely conflicted over selling my vote for Joe Don because Joe Don is the best chance we have to break up the Triad," she said.  Kendra still reluctantly complied with Jay's request, but let him know how she felt about it.  "I don't want to but I will."

The crew then gathered on the Picton Castles' deck for Pirates' Court -- where Cameron explained the format once again -- with the crew casting ballots and having to choose which of the three marked pirates is cut adrift, adding they could also unanimously "rise as one" and mutiny against the captain. In addition, Cameron said he wouldn't reveal the highest bidder for the Pardon until after the vote.

Azmyth explained why he gave the Black Spots to who he did, commenting Nessa seemed "dissatisfied" after losing the Expeditions before coming right out and saying Louie was a "placeholder" and adding he "felt strongly" he wouldn't be cut adrift   He then gave the obvious answer as to why J.D. was nominated.

"As I said before, Joe Don is a fierce competitor... Always gunning for us.  Especially now, since [the Black Crew] has won three [Expeditions] in a row," explained Azmyth.  "We've got to be careful about threats."

Nessa was the first to defend herself and came out with guns blazing, basically calling the Triad a bunch of cowards.

"While I see that you have a strategy, I think it's unfortunate that you don't welcome your competition," said Nessa.  "That you'd rather stack the deck than embrace the competition that's out there. But I'm sure there's some method to your madness and the rest is up to you guys."  Louie then used his relationship with the Picton Castle's ladies to hopefully help save his butt.

"You know I love this ship, I love you all.  I like the men... but I do love the ladies, and I'm happy to see an all-lady ballot casting today," he said.  "I'm as proud as any father could be of all of you.  You're strong and courageous women. My fate is in your hands."  J.D. decided to "skip the formalities" and get right to the point in his defense.

"The fact is Nessa's more than likely holding the Pardon, so voting for her isn't gonna do you any good.  This is going to turn into a popularity contest between me and Louie," correctly stated J.D..  "If Louie's the father, I kind of feel like I'm the warrior.  I want you guys to examine that and think about it really hard... I think you need a warrior to light the way and be your voice... I don't think the father can keep you safe, especially with these individuals [aka the Triad]. I think you're gonna be picked off one by one. Louie can only do so much." J.D. then decided to focus solely on Kendra, reminding her how he pulled her to shore during a previous Expedition.

"I feel like I kind of saved you, man," he said to Kendra, reiterating how he "saw the fear in her eyes."  "And tonight, I kind of feel like you need to save me."  Kendra looked confused about what she was going to do, and commented the crew "can't afford" to lose J.D. and agreed with his description of himself as a warrior. 

"If the Red Crew's ever going to have a chance, we need him.  He's strong," she said.  "That's why he's up there.  He's the fighting chance that the Red Crew needs."  Christa, Laurel and Jupiter all seemed just as uncertain about the vote as Kendra, with strategy coming into play and it not just being a popularity contest.

Cameron informed the crew -- excluding those three who received Black Spots, Azmyth and his officers -- that it was time to vote, and one by one, the pirates placed their ballots atop the blade of a dagger.  Prior to counting the ballots, Cameron revealed Nessa was the highest bidder for the Royal Pardon, paying $5,000 to J.D. for it.

Cameron said there were no mutiny ballots cast against Azmyth and added Nessa's booty was not spent wisely, as no ballots were cast against her.  Cameron then revealed that Louie received only one vote while J.D. received three, meaning he became the first former Picton Castle captain to be cut adrift from the competition.  However he didn't go home completely empty handed, as he received a nice lengthy kiss from Nessa before he departed.

"I really feel like I played the game the way I really wanted to play the game," said J.D., seemingly unable to get past the kiss.  "I'm really gonna miss Nessa.  She's a sweet little girl, man.  She's cool, and I hope she goes a long ways in this game... I hope she goes a long ways."

Pirate Master's eighth episode will air Tuesdays, July 17 at 10PM ET/PT on CBS.

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