Joe Dowdle eliminated from 'Survivor: Tocantins' due to medical evac
By John Bracchitta, 04/10/2009
After 21 days in the Brazilian Highlands, Joe Dowdle became the seventh castaway to be eliminated from Survivor: Tocantins during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
However Dowdle, a 26-year-old commercial real estate broker from Austin, TX, was not voted out of the competition. Instead, he was forced to withdraw from the competition after the show's medical staff warned him that an infection in his left leg threatened to take a turn for the worse and become potentially life threatening.
"The doctor said that if it got bad -- which it would have if I had stayed -- that I could potentially lose my leg or lose my life," Joe said before boarding a helicopter to get transported to a nearby hospital. "This game is cool, but it's not that cool. I don't wanna die, I'd rather walk home."
Because of Joe's withdrawal, no Tribal Council session was held for the nine remaining contestants who had merged together into one tribe only two days earlier.
Survivor: Tocantins' seventh episode began on Night 18 with the Jalapao tribe returning to their camp following the elimination of Sydney Wheeler. While Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George, a 37-year-old from Nashville, TN, called Sydney's elimination "bittersweet" because it had allowed her to remain in the game after being on the chopping block as well, Joe was a bit more worried by the elimination, as it left him with no significant allies left in the game.
"After tonight I feel like the odd man out," Joe said. "You get a little nervous... when you see torch after torch getting lit out, its not fun. It's not fun to lose and its not fun to send people home."
The following day, Joe's tribemates began growing more concerned that his left leg, which he had injured days earlier during a challenge, was still swollen and appeared to have become infected.
"The only thing that concerns me about Joe right now is his leg. His leg is very swollen and red from the knee down," Taj said. "It didn't look good to me but he swears it's getting better. I don't know... it didn't look too good to me."
Both tribes then met together at a small dune in a river where they found a large picnic for them signaling that the merge had occurred and the contestants would live as one tribe at the former Timbira tribe's camp.
While happy that the merge had occurred, Benjamin "Coach" Wade, a 37-year-old soccer coach and part-time orchestra conductor from Bolivar, MO, said later that he would have liked some more time to remain with the Timbira tribe so they could "slowly pick apart" Jalapao and weaken them further before merging together.
Coach also came up with the name for the newly merged tribe: Forza, which means "strength" in Portuguese.
Following the feast, Forza went back to their campsite where they continued to get to know each other. After going out to fish together, Coach and James "JT" Thomas Jr., a 24-year-old cattle rancher from Samson, AK, discussed the the game's events and came to the conclusion that there were likely two hidden Immunity Idols in play and Brendan Synnott, a 30-year-old entrepreneur from New York, NY, had one of them.
JT also accepted Coach's suggestion that they both keep their conversations "confidential" and form an alliance.
However, after the meeting JT hinted that he may have more up his sleeve after noting that he had seen weak spots in the former Timbira tribe members' relationships.
"I've seen cracks right way, I had some ideas before there was a merge, it's hard to keep people from different walks of life to stick together when they hate each other," he said. "So I'm just [here] to make sure everybody hates each other."
Later that night, Coach shared JT's belief that Brendan was in possession of a hidden Immunity Idol with close ally Tyson Apostol, a 29-year-old bike-shop manager and former professional cyclist from Linden, UT.
After determining that Brendan needed to be the next castaway voted out of the game, Coach and Tyson decided that they should form a five-person alliance with Debra "Debbie" Beebe, a 46-year-old middle-school principal from Auburn, AK and former Jalapao members JT and Stephen Fishbach, a 29-year-old corporate consultant from New York, NY.
Tyson then approached Stephen with the pair's idea and Stephen quickly told him he was onboard with the plan.
"Once we get Brendan out the game is all in our hands," Tyson whispered to a smiling Stephen.
"We've definitely found in-roads into Timbira, this is clearly a very fractured tribe because there is no strong bonds and sense of place," Stephen explained afterwards. "So there's a lot of power in that mix of play that are very easy to exploit."
The next day, Tyson and JT formalized their plans when they while fishing alone.
"Stephen's the only guy I can vouch for 100%... whatever y'all are doing I'm with you," JT told Tyson.
"I'd like to get rid of Brendan, he's the biggest threat," Tyson said later. "He just seems like a sneaky bastard. I can't look him in the eye and believe a word he says."
Meanwhile, Taj had also come concerns about Brendan's motives after neither he nor Sierra Reed, a 23-year-old model from Los Angeles, CA, made any immediate attempts to contact her or Stephen about the cross-tribal alliance they'd previously established during their visits to Exile Island.
"I feel like he's not doing the things he was saying he was going to do before," Taj vented to Stephen.
"I was thinking we were safe... but they haven't even made any signs or signals... so it makes me think they're going to stick behind their tribe right now," Taj explained afterwards.
However, unbeknownst to Taj or Stephen, Brendan said that he had not seen a reason to immediately reveal the alliance and preferred that they "lay low" until a few more contestants had been eliminated so their four-person alliance would be more effective.
"Right now Joe needs to go, JT needs to go, and then my Exile alliance can kinda take charge if need be," he said.
In the meantime, Tyson shared the five-person alliance plan with Debbie, who appeared to commit to it immediately.
"I like JT and Stephen... [they're] straight shooters," she replied.
That same day, Joe and Erinn Lobdell, a 26-year-old hairstylist from Waukesha, WI, attempted to use the clues they had received during their earlier Exile stay to find the Immunity Idol hidden at the former Timbera camp. However after discovering it wasn't where it was supposed to be, they quickly came to the conclusion that Brendan or Sierra had already found the idol following one of their own previous Exile visits.
"We'll vote them both out and then we can actually play the game for real," Erinn explained matter-of-factly afterwards.
The castaways then met with Survivor host Jeff Probst for their first individual Immunity Challenge. After revealing the Individual Immunity Idol necklace given to the challenge winner, Jeff told the castaways that their challenge would be a rather simple one. After climbing to the top of a pole with notched carved into it for them to hold onto, the castaways would simply have to hold on as long as they could, with the last one to not fall winning immunity at the next Tribal Council.
While Joe immediately struggled to hold himself up with his injured leg, he quickly became the second contestant to fall off of their pole after Stephen quickly fell off after the challenge had begun. As Joe went to sit down following his elimination, Jeff noted that his leg was not looking good.
Brendan was the third castaway to fall off of his pole. he was followed by Taj, Erinn, JT, Coach, and Sierra, leaving Tyson and Debbie as the last two on their poles after 30 minutes. However, Debbie quickly faltered and fell off the pole as Tyson didn't budge at all and won the challenge.
"Yeah, so I kick ass like I always do, and if any ladies want my phone number, I guess ask," Tyson said dryly with a smile after his challenge win.
After sending the castaways back to camp, Jeff held Joe behind to get his leg checked out by a medical tea.
While Joe maintained that he wanted to stay in the game and would need to hear a doctor say "if you don't go home right now you're gonna lose a leg" in order to leave, the doctors were able to make his decision much easier by explaining that his leg was 'really swollen" and he was risking an infection that could spread to the bone and in fact cost him his leg. The doctor added that the infection could even potentially spread to his blood, which would be life threatening.
Back at camp, despite numerous plans set in motion by Coach and Tyson to try and orchestrate a blindside of Brendan, it was quickly noticed by many of the castaways that Joe's continued absence likely meant that he was being forced to leave the game due to his injury -- which could have repercussions on the evening's previously scheduled Tribal Council session.
In addition to the uncertainty regarding Joe, Stephen also had some concerns regarding whether or not he truly could trust his new allies from the old Timbira tribe.
"We immediately knew something was up with Joe because he didn't come back from the Immunity Challenge," said Stephen. "We were hoping we can take out Brendan tonight, but honestly I've known these people for two days. They're obviously crafty people, that's why they're out here, so I don't trust anyone right now. But you gotta go with your gut sometimes in this game."
Perhaps catching wind of the discussions to eliminate him, Brendan began to express worry that his former Timbira tribemates could be looking to oust him. However, he never got the chance to find out how right he was, as Jeff surprised the tribe with a camp visit and revealed that Joe would be unable to continue the game because of his leg.
"They looked at it, did a thorough assessment. He can't continue. They said the risk of him staying longer was too serious that if they left [him] in the game it could get worse," Jeff told the castaways. "He didn't wanna go, he asked if he could stay another day, but he couldn't stay out here any longer."
Jeff added that because of Joe's withdrawal there would be no Tribal Council that evening.
"Brendan live got see another day. I'm disappointed," Tyson said later after Tribal Council had been canceled. "The main thing about getting the plan [to eliminate Brendan] to work was keeping everybody quiet [about it] so that he didn't use the Idol if he had it. Now I don't know how much is gonna leak of what's gonna happen."
The next episode of Survivor: Tocantins will air on Thursday, April 16 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.