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The sun sets in Africa, Australia, China, Nicaragua, Panama, Vietnam, Micronesia. The sun sets in 21 different location. The sun sets 39 times, every time. But now, there’s 50% production reimbursement, so the sun sets in Fiji. It’s only a fraction. Count the 39 days steady: from your couch in Dallas in 2006, from your couch in Denver in 2020. On the beach, bound by buffs, 20 players or 18 players or 16 players—however many build the best season. Old favorites, new faces.

Booming voice overhead: Jeff Probst, five feet, ten inches. All khaki and blues hanging from the landing gear of a helicopter over the ocean as deep as his dimples.

Somewhere Stacey Stillman weeps on her couch, scraps of paper and torn manilla envelopes collect at the dust ruffle. The original blindside, the first betrayal.

It’s old school versus new school. Teachers versus students. Chefs versus the people who always send food back. Earthlings versus aliens. Children versus babysitters. Jeff narrates the whole thing. Shouting from the beach, the sand, knee deep in the ocean. Immunity, reward up for grabs. A boat draped in hammocks, spotless shower cells, bar soap, endless barbeque, biodegradable golf balls to whack into the ocean, exclusive screenings of Adam Sandler movies.

Back at camp, acid gurgles in their throat, stomach turns over. Bowel distress after starving off rice for weeks. Water dumps hip high in the South Pacific.

Somewhere Joe Del Campo avoids red meat. Avoids spas. Avoids spending 34 days on a beach. Bending his alliance, leaving them vulnerable.

Final tribal council is unrelenting, is jealous. The final three, final two, sit on stumps and let each insult crash like waves. Like their camp. Give a heartful speech—I am proud of myself, I did more than I thought I could, I did betray you, but yours is the only one I truly regret, it’s a game, I just played it like a game, I am sorry, I am sorry.

Inside their heads, do they tell the truth? I outwitted. I outsmarted. I outlasted. 

Somewhere Richard Hatch fires his tax accountant.

Jeff goes to tally the votes, but he will not count them. They will wait for the live finale, where he will fly in on a helicopter over the New York skyline or jetski from the Amazon to the Statue of Liberty.

Everyone is plump. Sparkling clean. Shaven. He’ll count the votes. The parchment untouched from months of waiting. For at least a moment, anyone could be the winner. But there is only one. It’s a repeat contestant or a chef or a child or a student or an alien or Aubry. Their name rolls off Jeff’s tongue like butter, like sand, like half a cup of white rice.

Somewhere Jonny Fairplay tucks his daughter into bed. Rupert Boneham buttons his tie dye pajamas. Sandra Diaz-Twine rests her crown on her pillow. They all pull their blankets up, boards on their beds, unable to find comfort in their cushion any longer.