Jessica deBen becomes the first castaway to exit 'Survivor: Fiji'
By Steve Rogers, 02/10/2007
Deemed to be the weakest link in a resource-starved tribe that would need all the strength it could get in order to have any hope of defeating its plush-living rivals, Jessica deBen, a 27-year-old fashion stylist who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and is originally from New Orleans, LA, became the first Survivor: Fiji castaway to be eliminated from the game
Thursday night's broadcast of Survivor's fourteenth Fiji edition premiere began with the season's nineteen castaways already set adrift in a single double canoe raft and paddling the several miles to their target beach. Once there the castaways -- surprised that they were still all together and had not yet encountered Survivor host Jeff Probst -- began exploring the island and introducing themselves to each other.
A little while later, Jeff -- who had done his season-opening introduction from a sea plane flying over the paddling castaways -- surprised the increasingly anxious contestants by parachute dropping a small wooden crate into their island's lagoon.
After about half the castaways paddled out and retrieved the crate, "brains" -- similar to last season's Cook Islands finale -- once again triumphed over "brawn" when Yau-Man Chan, a 54-year-old California computer engineer who was raised in Borneo, quickly opened the wooden box that James "Rocky" Reid, a 28-year-old bartender, and Kenward "Boo" Bernis, 34-year-old construction worker, had been trying to smash open by dropping a boulder on it.
"[It was] very simple physics, the weakest point was to drop it on the corner so I dropped it on the corner twice and the box opened up," Yau-Man explained. "It took a real man to do it," Earl Cole, a 34-year-old advertising executive, joked after watching Yau-Man quickly succeed where Rocky and Boo's cavemen-like techniques had failed.
Once the crate was open, the castaways discovered that it contained firemaking flint, blueprints for a constructing luxurious camp, a map to where the building supplies that they would need could be found, and a cryptic note that stated "your future in the game depends on successfully competing this task."
Since 52-year-old Sylvia Kwan is an architect, the rest of the castaways decided to put her in charge of the construction of the shelter, kitchen, and outhouse that would comprise the elaborate camp. Shortly thereafter, the game's initial alliances began building, with Erica Durousseau, a 27-year-old non-profit fundraiser from Lake Charles, LA, using the solitude of a supply run as an opportunity to ally herself with Jessica, another Louisiana native.
By Day 2, the camp was done and the castaways had become increasingly anxious about the shared and unexpectedly comfortable living situation they had found themselves in. "We have a shelter [with] a floor and a roof... a kitchen... [and] an outhouse with an actual toilet -- it's really surprising to have so much on Day 2," Michelle Yi, a 23-year-old student from Cincinnati, OH, explained to the cameras. "We're feeling pretty lucky right now... I'm scared about what's coming," Jessica confessed.
That night, tensions rose when some of the castaways -- exhausted and trying to enjoy a decent night's sleep in their newly completed shelter -- made it clear that they were tired of Andria "Dreamz" Herd's frequent trash talking. "Dreamz kinda came out of nowhere like late when we were trying to sleep... he was just going off on little rants like every fifteen to twenty minutes," Rocky explained the next morning.
When Dreamz began to rant about "the white people" and question Rocky's ethnicity, Rocky -- frustrated that Dreamz wouldn't shut up and let the rest of the group sleep -- confronted Dreamz in a heated argument. "I hate to do it... [but] what am I supposed to do," Rocky lamented the next morning.
On Day 3, the castaways -- still living together in one giant tribe -- traveled to the site of their first challenge. Once there, Jeff asked them about their initial days on the island and got the castaways to acknowledge that Sylvia had emerged as the tribe's early leader.
After she was done dividing the castaways into their new tribes, Jeff had another surprise for Sylvia -- since Melissa McNulty's last-minute decision to quit the game before it began had left Survivor: Fiji with an odd number of castaways, Sylvia wouldn't initially be joining either tribe. Instead -- similar to what happened to Survivor: Panama castaway Bruce Kanegai when Panama's four initial tribes were merged into two tribes after the game's first elimination -- Sylvia would be exiled to Exile Island and then become a member of whichever tribe lost the game's first challenge and had to vote off a member of its tribe at Fiji's initial Night 3 Tribal Council session.
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Once Sylvia departed for Exile Island, the two new tribes competed in their first challenge, a mental and physical competition that required all nine members of each tribe to race chariots across a quarter mile of mud flats, have their chariot's two passengers retrieve three bags of puzzle pieces that hung over the course, grab a tribal flag, and then race back to the starting line. Once back at the starting line, four members of each tribe would use the puzzle pieces to solve three puzzles that displayed three numbers needed for a combination wheel. Once they had the numbers, they would use the numbers to find a knife that could chop a rope and free a tribal banner. The first tribe to unfurl their banner would win the challenge.
After he revealed the details of the challenge, Jeff had one more surprise for the castaways -- in addition to determining which tribe would win immunity and not have to attend the evening's upcoming Tribal Council session, the challenge would also determine which tribe would get to remain living at the luxurious camp that all nineteen castaways had spent their first two days constructing. In addition, the winners would also receive some further rewards -- goblets, cutlery, hammocks, a bush shower, and a comfortable couch. Meanwhile, in addition to having to attend Tribal Council, the losers would face the added burden of building a new camp on a new beach equipped with only one pot and one machete.
Both tribes opted to put women on their chariots, with Michelle and Jessica serving as Ravu's riders and Lisi and Stacy serving as Moto's riders. While both tribes reached their first bags at about the same time, Ravu fell behind when Jessica struggled to untie her tribe's first bag. Ravu began to close the gap when Michelle took over the tribe's bag retrieving responsibilities, but it wasn't until Moto's returning chariot got caught on one of the course markers that Ravu managed to pull back into the lead. However, despite being the first tribe to reach their puzzle table, Ravu fell back behind when Ravu's puzzle team of Jessica, Michelle, Rita, and Mookie struggled to complete their final two puzzles. In the end, Moto managed to retrieve their knife and free their tribal banner before Ravu could even finish their third puzzle, winning their tribe both immunity from Tribal Council and the massive reward of luxurious camp living.
Meanwhile, over on Exile Island, Sylvia arrived on Exile Island and discovered that, according to the initial clue left on the island, this season's hidden Immunity Idol was not on the island but instead hidden somewhere "back at your camp."
Once Ravu arrived on their new camp, it didn't take long for the castaways to begin breaking into groups and discussing who should be the first person voted out of Survivor: Fiji. Although the tribe had nine members, Rocky, Jessica and Erica somehow came to the conclusion that, if they stuck together, their three person alliance could determine who would be going home. "Me, Jessica, and Rocky are really tight, we could swing the whole thing," Erica gushed to the cameras.
When the subject of should go home later came up during a conversation with Earl, Rocky made it transparently clear who he had already aligned himself with. "It's not going to be Erica or Jess," Rocky told Earl before continuing to explain that, since Michelle was "a little ninja" and Sylvia -- another woman -- would be replacing the game's first bootee, Rita should be the one sent home.
Afterward, Rocky, apparently confident that although Earl's addition still left his group one vote short of the five vote majority needed to control the upcoming Tribal Council vote, his alliance was safe, asked Jessica to make a new pact -- that should they ever hear that the other might be "on the chopping block," they would let each other know.
Jessica -- apparently equally confident that Rocky's four vote block was somehow going to control who was going home -- quickly agreed to Rocky's request. "I just feel so safe with Rocky... I feel good now that it's not me, because I was working on that puzzle and we lost on the puzzle," Jessica confessed to the cameras.
However unfortunately for Jessica, the five other members of the newly formed tribe had their own ideas about who should go home. "We're thinking Jessica.. she's responsible, the third puzzle was hers," Mookie, accompanied by Michelle, told Earl and Erica while Rocky and Jessica were off gathering wood and establishing their new pact. While Earl initially attempted to question whether the third puzzle might not have been harder, he (presumably not willing to sacrifice his own hide for a nascent ally) appeared to back off when Mookie insisted all three puzzles had been equally difficult.
Meanwhile Rita, probably sensing that she was likely to be the target of Rocky's group, approached the 56-year-old Yau-Man -- who, although weak himself, personally favored keeping all the tribe's strong men -- and suggested that since she was "flying under the radar," Jessica should be the one sent home.
Although Earl and Erica both continued to passively attempt to convince Mookie and Michelle that the tribe shouldn't send Jessica home, their case suffered a fatal blow when Anthony joined the conversation and also voiced his support for Jessica's ouster.
"They just came to the conclusion that Jessica has to be voted out," Erica lamented to the cameras after the group's discussion ended. "[But] I won't write Jessica's name down, I'm not going to do it."
When Erica informed Rocky that the five other members of the tribe had decided that Jessica would be the first castaway voted out of the tribe, Rocky -- apparently still unable to grasp that he would need a five person alliance to control the evening's vote, not just four -- refused to believe her. "Who? No she's not!," Rocky exclaimed.
Like Erica, Rocky insisted that he wouldn't go along with the rest of the tribe's plan. "I'm not putting her name down, I won't put her name down," Rocky, clearly frustrated that his plan had crumbled, vented at Erica. "Me neither," Erica, equally frustrated and powerless, shouted back.
However although Rocky ultimately remained true to his vow to not cast his Tribal Council vote for Jessica, he failed to honor their other pact and did not let her know that the rest of the tribe had decided to vote her out of the game.
"I guess if you're going to get backstabbed, it's good to get it done in the beginning when you don't know people that well -- I was absolutely shocked," Jessica vented to the cameras after Jeff revealed that she'd been voted out of Survivor: Fiji via a 6-1-1-1 vote in which Rocky and Erica (presumably seeking to both not vote for Jessica yet also not jeopardize their own place in the tribe) cast throwaway votes for Mookie and Yau-Man instead of Rita, their original target. "I felt like I worked really hard so I don't know where I went wrong."