Sydney Wheeler the sixth castaway voted out of 'Survivor: Tocantins'
By John Bracchitta, 04/03/2009
After lasting 18 days in the Brazilian Highlands, Sydney Wheeler, a 24-year-old model and interior designer from San Diego, CA, became the sixth castaway to be eliminated from Survivor: Tocantins during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
"I'm pissed I was voted off," Sydney said following her elimination. "Jalapao's in trouble if they merge, they are down in the numbers and I don't really see anyone from Timbira switching over, but they might try to do something. It was great experience, and being able to look back on it and saying I got to do that is a blessing in itself."
Survivor: Tocantins' sixth episode began on Day 15 with the Jalapao tribe returning to their camp from Tribal Council after the elimination of Spencer Duhm -- which didn't seem to have any lasting emotional effects on his former tribemates.
"It didn't bother me at all to see Spencer go, other than the fact that if we have a merge at [ten castaways], rather than going in at 6-4 we only have a shot a going in at 5-5," James "JT" Thomas Jr., a 24-year-old cattle rancher from Samson, AK, said before adding that Jalapao had become "united" together as the competition had progressed.
In what turned out to be an apparent gross miscalculation, Joe Dowdle, a 26-year-old commercial real estate broker from Austin, TX, personally reassured Sydney that he did not foresee her to be in any danger, telling her that the tribe would easily eliminate Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George, a 37-year-old from Nashville, TN, before her.
However despite the reassurance from Joe, Sydney sill seemed to have her doubts about her standing in the tribe.
"I definitely feel nervous about being a target if we end up losing the next Immunity Challenge, because the boys and I stick together. Joe is awesome in challenges, and [Stephen Fishbach, a 29-year-old corporate consultant from New York, NY] and JT are always hanging out together, so I feel like Taj and I are on the chopping block," she worried.
The following day at Timbira's camp, Benjamin Wade, a 37-year-old soccer coach and part-time orchestra conductor from Bolivar, MO, caused yet another stir with his odd behavior by adding river water to some beans the rest of the tribe considered cooked but he personally still considered undercooked, resulting in the beans having to cook longer to kill the bacteria in the water he'd added. The beans went on to overcook and burn, ruining them and angering Coach's hungry tribemates.
"If you want your beans a different way you should make them in a different pot," said an agitated Sierra Reed, a 23-year-old model from Los Angeles, CA.
While frustrated by his antics, Brendan Synnott, a 30-year-old entrepreneur from New York, NY, nonetheless said that Coach's actions were worth dealing with because his was so predictable with his odd nature.
"With Coach there's probably 5-6 situations like that where Coach does things and you're just like 'C'mon that not for the best interest of everybody,'" Brendan said. "While he does do some irritating things, I totally accept it because he's a predictable player, and predictable in this game is great."
Over at Jalapao's tribe, before leaving for the Reward Challenge Taj debated letting JT in on the secret that she had found the Immunity Idol. However, Stephen, who was aware of the Idol and also had the strongest alliance in the tribe with JT, convinced her not to do so in order to protect his standing as the communicator between Taj and JT without allowing them to get too close to each other.
"To the extent possible, I wanna remain that bridge [between Taj and JT" Stephen said later. "If they connect, I may become a less essential part of the group."
Both tribes then met with Survivorhost Jeff Probst for the Reward Challenge. Jeff informed the tribes that they would each be given five minutes to build a barricade inside of a specific area that the other tribe -- for the second part of the challenge -- would have ten minutes to toss ceramic pigs through without dropping or breaking them. The tribe that was able to get the most pigs through the barricaded course without dropping or breaking them would win the challenge and its prize: a trip to a nearby waterfall for a relaxing afternoon barbeque and the ability to send one of the opposing tribe's members to Exile.
After building their barricade and beginning the challenge, Timbira was able to jump out to a quick 8-6 lead. However Jalapao closed in and tied the score at 8 each. The two tribes remained in a tie until the final seconds of the competition when Timbira was able to slip one last pig through the course to win the challenge 14-13.
Before leaving for their barbeque, Timbira selected Joe to go to Exile. In a strategic move, he responded by selecting Erinn Lobdell, a 26-year-old hairstylist from Waukesha, WI, whom he later stated he would try to flip into an alliance with him for insurance once the merge occurred.
After arriving in Exile, Erinn received the clue regarding the hidden Immunity Idols, which all but spelled out that they were hidden in the Tree Mail markers back at their individual tribal camps. After debating it to herself, she decided to share the clue with Joe and develop an alliance with him to try and find the Idols -- which the did not know had already been found by Taj and Brendan -- and use them to help each other once the merge occurred.
Back at Jalapao's camp, Stephen and Taj both realized that Joe would likely go looking for the Immunity Idol and decided to concoct a fake Idol to put in the statue though throw him off. However, after Taj used the Idol as a reference point for her fake Idol -- which she created and put in the statue -- she didn't hide it well enough, resulting in JT easily finding it in a supply bag while he was looking for fishing equipment.
When asked about the Idol by JT, Stephen admitted to knowing about it, but then sought out Taj and told her to offer an alliance to JT while pretending not to know that he had learned about the Idol.
After talking with JT, Taj was able to alleviate any potential problem by adding him to the alliance as well.
The tribes then reconvened with Jeff for the Immunity Challenge and were informed that one member of each tribe would be given a slingshot and told to hit three separate targets, each of which would release a package of puzzle pieces to the tribe. After gathering each of the puzzle piece packs, two members of each tribe would have to use the pieces to complete a puzzle, with the first one to do so winning immunity for their tribe.
JT manned the slingshot for Jalapao while Tyson Apostol's, a 29-year-old bike-shop manager and former professional cyclist from Linden, UT, represented Timbira in the first part of the challenge that was rarely close as Timbira jumped out to a large lead and was the first to collect their puzzle pieces.
Timbira maintained their lead in the second part of the challenge, as Erinn and Brendan made short work of the puzzle to win the challenge and immunity for their tribe.
Following her tribe's loss Sydney hoped that Joe's earlier promise of her safety was indeed true.
"It's not a good thing to go to Tribal Council," she said. "I've been told by Joe I'm safer than Taj, but no one is safe at this point and it really just sucks."
After returning to his camp from the challenge, Joe quickly went out to the Tree Mail statue and discovered Taj's fake Idol and mistook it for the real thing.
"It's a great relief, now I feel like I got a great shot at extra time in this game." Joe said happily.
As the tribe deliberated on whom they would be sending home, both Sydney and Taj felt confident that they would be surviving the upcoming elimination. However, Taj's blunt assessment of how she saw things turning out at upcoming Tribal Council would later be revealed to be the more accurate prediction of the two.
'I think Sydney believes everything is gonna work in her favor because Joe is gonna protect her, but I'm pretty confident tonight I'm not going home."
Upon arriving at Tribal Council, JT was not optimistic when asked by Jeff to sum up the current state of affairs for Jalapao.
"[It's not looking] real good or Jalapao right now. We're down two members after tomorrow, and if there's a merge we're down and out," he said.
Joe added that, with the merge in mind, he was basing his decision on who to eliminate based on whom he could trust in the tribe.
"To go into the merge I want someone I know I can share information with, they share information with me and it won't leave outside that."
Aware that she was in direct competition against Taj -- who had spent a great deal of time away at Exile and away from her own tribemates -- Sydney attempted to play up her ability to loyal and trustworthy to her tribemates in a last ditch effort to guarantee her safety.
"Well it's not like I spent [time in Exile] with a bunch of people on the other tribe, so I definitely bring loyalty to these people," Sydney said.
However, it turned out that Sydney's pleas were not enough to save her, as Taj, JT and Stephen voted for her elimination while only she and Joe voted for Taj's ouster.
"Well there was a lot of discussion tonight about the possible merge. If indeed you merge down two members, you got your work cut out for you," Jeff told the remaining Jalapao tribe members.
The next episode of Survivor: Tocantins will air Thursday, April 9 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.