Spencer Duhm the fifth castaway eliminated from 'Survivor: Tocantins'
By John Bracchitta, 03/13/2009
After lasting 15 days in the Brazilian Highlands, Spencer Duhm, a 19-year-old college student from Lakeland, FL, became the fifth castaway to be eliminated from Survivor: Tocantins during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
"Well I just got voted out, I lasted 15 days but I definitely could've lasted a lot longer," Spencer said following his ouster. "I definitely made some friends while I was out there, and I hope they feel the same way. It just is frustrating that they felt I wasn't useful enough in the challenge. It was just a really bad challenge for me today."
Survivor: Tocantins' fifth episode began on Day 13 with the Jalapao tribe's Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George, a 37-year-old from Nashville, TN, revealing that she had only voted for Joe Dowdle, a 26-year-old commercial real estate broker from Austin, TX, at the previous night's Tribal Council because of a prior promise to Sandy Burgin, the castaway the rest of the tribe had voted for.
After receiving a clue during her last stay in Exile that all but confirmed that a hidden Immunity Idol was stored in her tribe's Tree Mail statue, Taj and Stephen Fishbach, a 29-year-old corporate consultant from New York, NY, traveled out to the statue and were able to find the Idol -- giving their cross-tribal "Exile alliance" with the Timbira tribe's Brendan Synnott, a 30-year-old entrepreneur from New York, NY, and Sierra Reed, a 23-year-old model from Los Angeles, CA, both of the game's hidden Immunity Idols.
"I felt a very huge sense of relief because everything is complete now," Taj said after finding the Idol. "We have the foursome in place, we have both Idols in place. All we have to do now is make it to the merge and with everybody intact."
Taj gave the Idol to Stephen to keep in his pocket. While willing to share it with his alliance, Stephen admitted that "as long as [the Idol] in my possession I'm gonna try to keep it in my possession."
Timbira's side of the "Exile alliance" was active as well, as Sierra confronted Brendan about not telling her of the alliance before she was sent to Exile with Taj following the last reward challenge. Brendan apologized and said he had meant to tell her but could not find the time before the challenge began. However, after explaining the alliance and telling her that he had found the hidden Immunity Idol any concerns Sierra had seemed to quickly fade away.
"We're going down to the end no matter what. We rule," Sierra said, before adding that she was proud of herself for rebounding from such a poor start in the game to becoming part of such a strong alliance.
Both tribes then met with Survivor: Tocantins host Jeff Probst for their Reward Challenge. They were told that for each round of the challenge one tribe member from each tribe would be strapped onto a spinning platform while another tribe member ran with a rope to a finish line that was wrapped around the platform, spinning it. Once dizzy, the tribe member would then have to gain their balance as they walked across a balance beam on their way to the finish line. The first tribe to cross the finish line would receive a point, and the first team to receive three points would win a trip to the "Charmin Cafe," which would feature coffee, pastries and a modern working toilet, as well as the right to send a member of the losing tribe to Exile.
However, Jeff added that, as per the season's next Exile rules, the losing tribe's member going to Exile would be able to pick a member from the winning tribe as well and keep them from experiencing the Cafe.
After splitting the first two rounds of the challenge, Jalapao took command and won the next two rounds, with Sydney Wheeler, a 24-year-old model and interior designer from San Diego, CA, winning the fourth round to win the challenge for Jalapao.
As usual, Jalapao chose Brendan to go to Exile. However, instead of choosing Taj, Brendan selected Stephen to miss out on the cafe to accompany him to Exile.
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"I love you," Taj mouthed to Brendan after being spared a trip to Exile and able to enjoy the cafe.
After watching Brendan's interactions with the Jalapao tribe, Tyson Apostol, a 29-year-old bike-shop manager and former professional cyclist from Linden, UT, began to worry that Brendan may have some strategy up his sleeve involving members of Jalapao.
"I don't know what's going on in Brendan's head, but he's made a lot of contact with the other tribe," Tyson said. "Whether he's built up friendships or alliances I don't know, but he definitely seems to have some of their respect and it could get dangerous."
Upon returning to camp, Tyson told his tribemates that he felt Brendan was "trying to build relations with the other tribe" and should be the next one eliminated. Debra "Debbie" Beebe, a 46-year-old middle-school principal from Auburn, AK, agreed and said not to tell Sierra that they had begun suspecting Brendan. Benjamin "Coach" Wade, a 37-year-old soccer coach and part-time orchestra conductor from Bolivar, MO, added that he did not want to be on the outside of a powerful alliance following the merge.
"If we merge, he has control of the game and I'm a bystander, and I certainly don't want that to happen," he said.
Upon arriving at the Charmin Cafe, Jalapao enjoyed their coffee and pastries. However they were each brought to tears of joy when Spencer found a group of letters from home for each of the tribemates
"[This is] the most important reward we've had so far," Spencer said of the letters, which he said reminded him that there were things such as friends and family outside the game.
At Exile on Day 14, Brendan said that he had picked Stephen to come to Exile with him in order to tell him about Sierra and the intricacies of the alliance. While happy to be included in the alliance, Stephen said after speaking with Brendan that he still had some hesitations about fully relying on Brendan and his alliance.
"I've known [Brendan] for five minutes, I can't place my entire faith in the game in him," he said.
The following day, after being asked by Sydney if he had any girls in his life, Spencer -- a gay man -- told her that he didn't and wasn't really looking for a serious relationship at this point.
Later, he told the cameras that had decided to not tell anyone in the game about his sexual orientation.
"In our culture there's nothing really to gain by people finding out that you are gay," he said, before adding that he suspected that some contestants from less gay-friend cultures such as James "JT" Thomas Jr., a 24-year-old cattle rancher from Samson, AK, could potentially vote him out of the game solely because of his sexual preference.
Both tribes then met with Jeff for the Immunity challenge, where the contestants were told that two members of each tribe would alternate launching balls onto course with a large slingshot. The remaining members of each tribe would be on the course with nets and attempt to catch the balls. Every time a tribe member caught a ball, regardless of which tribe had launched it, they would receive a point. The first team to receive five points would win the challenge and receive immunity.
With Sydney and Stephen launching for Jalapao and Debbie and Erinn Lobdell, a 26-year-old hairstylist from Waukesha, WI, launching for Timbira, the challenge then got underway.
JT and Brendan both combined to catch the first four balls in the competition, tying the tribes 2-2. While diving to catch his third ball to give Jalapao the lead, JT lost a tooth, causing a temporary stoppage to the game. Undeterred, JT responded by catching his fourth ball on the next turn to put Jalapao on the brink of victory with a 4-2 lead.
However, with Spencer unable to properly guard him or tackle him to remove him from the competition, Tyson was able to lead a comeback for Timbira, catching the next three balls to win the challenge for his tribe 5-4.
After retrieving his tooth from Jeff and throwing his net in frustration, JT made it clear who had to go home after their poor performance in the challenge.
"I'm doing everything I can to win. [I broke] half of my front tooth off, but I'm just saying that some people [haven't] given it [their] all," he said. "I don't wanna get rid of anyone, but it's gotta be Spencer."
Tensions were high as Jalapao returned to camp, with Taj angry about losing and Joe nursing a knee he injured during the challenge.
Taj admitted that she was "hot" after losing the challenge and vented to Joe that she was finding it hard to trust him because he had never attempted to ally with him. Joe responded that it was a "two-way street," to which Taj responded that she had not meant it as an attack and was just "pissed" before storming off. Joe considered leading a charge to get Taj eliminated, but was somewhat calmed by Stephen, who told him that Taj was just having an emotional outburst. JT also lent his two cents, saying that he felt Spencer needed to go because of his challenge performance.
Prior to leaving for Tribal Council, and well aware that he was on the chopping block, Spencer sought out JT to talk to him about who he wanted to sent home. JT admitted that he was considering either Spencer or Taj for elimination. Spencer said he was aware of JT's clout in the tribe, and asked him to consider sparing him from elimination, however JT responded with a noncommittal answer.
"It's rough around camp, it's very, very tense," Spencer said later. "It's scary for sure because everything switches so quickly in this game."
At Tribal Council, Jeff asked Spencer about how he felt he had performed in the Immunity Challenge.
"My performance today was pretty pathetic, I definitely felt that I let my guys down," he responded. "I was very upset with myself the whole time."
Taj added that she thought the loss had frustrated the tribe and admitted to "blowing up" at Joe, but nonetheless tried to remain positive.
"We can definitely feel the effect of losing, and of course everybody's frustrated. So we're just trying to believe that the next challenge we'll be able to tie it up and go into the merge even at least," she said.
Taj also said that she was aware she may be considered for elimination, but said she was not too worried because she had put "110%" in all of her challenges.
Spencer also admitted to having a gut feeling that he may be in trouble as the elimination vote approached.
"Absolutely, it definitely changes when you get back to camp and you know your head could be on the chopping block. I have the same feeling because of my performance in the challenge, and the frustration with JT during the challenge. I came back very well knowing that I could be going home tonight."
Spencer ended up being correct, as the vote that ensued after revealed that, with the exception of his own vote for Taj, he had unanimously been voted off of Survivor: Tocantins.
The next episode of Survivor: Tocantins will air on Wednesday, March 25 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.