Sole survivor of Ulong: 'I will not give up'
By Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY
Can one person make a tribe? Survivor: Palau, the 10th season of CBS' hit reality show, is about to find out.
Survivor drama unfolds: Stephenie LaGrossa is the last person left in the Ulong tribe.
In the middle of an unprecedented turn of events, one of the two tribes battling for survival, the Ulong, is down to its final member.
Week after week, the humiliated Ulongs have lost a physical or mental contest, forcing them to vote one member after another off the South Pacific island. After 21 days and an original team of nine, Ulong has only a solo representative: athletic underdog Stephenie LaGrossa, 25, a pharmaceutical sales rep from Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the eight members of rival Koror sit happily gorging on shark, enjoying their comparatively luxurious shelter (they won it after a bathroom-building reward challenge) and not worrying about drinking water (they won a 55-gallon drum's worth along with Crest toothpaste, Scope mouthwash and Pantene shampoo).
"The cliffhanger to last week — what you are going to see for the first time ever — is one person returning to camp alone," Survivor host Jeff Probst says of tonight's episode. "Stephenie doesn't have anybody to help her. If she can't find food longer than a day, she's in trouble."
"I'm so scared," LaGrossa said in last week's previews for the show (8 ET/PT) titled "I Will Not Give Up."
In responding to criticism that the show was getting too predictable, Survivor's producers decided from the start that the tribes would not merge at the point they have in the past, Probst says. That led to the lone-camper situation.
Bobby Jon Drinkard, 27, a waiter from Troy, Ala., and the last Ulong to be booted, says he expected the tribes to combine on Day 12. "Instead, " he says, it became "a pity party."
He adds: "You know conditions are going to be hard, but they're a lot harder than you imagine. Day 1, you think how grateful you are to get the chance to be on the show. But by Day 2 or 3, you're thinking, 'Why did I do this?' "
Probst, who won't confirm that a merge takes place tonight, says, "The risk if you don't merge is that one tribe decimates the other, and you have this horrible situation, and that's exactly what happened. What we anticipated as being a disaster turned into one of the greatest dramas we've had."
Among other "firsts" this season:
• The game started with 20 contestants instead of the usual 16 or 18. Two were eliminated as the tribes were formed.
• The contestants received no information or tools to start.
• The challenges have been more physical, many testing underwater stamina.
Survivor: Palau is consistently a top 10 show, with an average 21 million viewers. At least one person is voted off each week; the lone survivor wins $1 million. The finale airs May 15.