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39 Days

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“Move to the right a bit. Your hair keeps blocking the dude behind you.”

Of course it did. Claire’s curls were nothing if not wild and in the way at the best of times. But here — on deck of a schooner floating a quarter mile off the coast of a remote Jamaican island, wind whipping, saltwater tang in the air — they were downright hazardous. Squinting against the harsh glare bouncing off the camera lens, she followed his instruction. 

“Another half step.” The director stood to the right of the camera and jerked his head in a gesture to keep stepping into the breeze until her bloody mane stopped hogging the shot. He bid her stop, then ducked to inspect a monitor on a tripod, cupping his hands around his eyes so he could see the screen. Leaving her to fidget. 

This was the part she was wariest about. Not the weeks stretching out ahead of her that promised to push her body to its limits. Not the scheming or the tribe dynamics or the challenges. But how to act in front of a camera. How to talk to it. How to not look at the damn thing when every brain cell and muscle in her body begged her to stare directly into its single eye. A manmade Cyclops. 

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp: Conqueror of the wilderness but terrified of some circuits and glass. 

When the director finally moved on to the next person in the line, she released a sigh and relaxed her posture slightly, leaning against the edge of the boat. Turning into the wind, curls flying out behind her, she studied the island. If she unfocused her gaze, the view dissolved into stripes of vibrant color. Navy water. White sand. Green leaves casting black shadows. Powder blue sky. 

She’d seen postcards that looked less perfect. 

Her stomach roiled. 

You can do this, she told herself for the umpteenth time. 

Her worst fear was that she couldn’t. That she would’ve left a good job and most likely destroyed a five-year-long relationship to do this, only to fail. If she had to return to Frank’s gloating about how right he’d been, how coming here had been stupid and irresponsible and embarrassing to boot, she might actually combust from pure fury. 

You’re a grown woman, Claire. Now’s not the time to be risking your entire life for some cheap reality show. 

Now’s exactly the time to do this, she’d retorted, shouldering her carry-on bag. And the risk is worth it. 

Oh, is it?

To me, it is.

A scoff and suppressed eye roll had been his only response. Because in his mind, that was a lousy reason. The air in the flat had thickened enough that he may as well have shouted it. Wouldn’t have been the first time.

Now’s the time, she’d repeated. I’m young. I’m strong. And I’m not leaving anything behind that can’t wait.

Their eyes had locked, and his lips had tightened. Eyes she’d so often seen sparkle regarded her with nothing but emptiness, revulsion even. With a dark chuckle and shake of his head, he’d muttered, Won’t wait, more like. 

A shrug to cover the boulder dropping in her stomach. Fine. Then don’t. And with that, she’d turned and left. 

Oh, yes. That was well and truly five years up in smoke. Lamb was likely thrilled, at least. Or would be, whenever she got the chance to tell him.

A flurry of motion near the bow drew her attention, and she watched as the director stood back at a distance, posing two women and an older man wearing a deadly grimace with the same minute instructions she’d just endured. The boat rose with a large wave and rocked a bit on the way back down. 

“Feckin’ Christ.”

Claire snuck a peek at the blasphemer behind her, the one who’d been so rudely obscured (or smothered, as the case may be) by her manic hair. His was stunning red in the too-bright sun. It had some wave to it too, though less tiny-animals-have-been-nesting-hereabouts and more all-roads-of-human-evolution-lead-here. An irrational urge to slide her fingers through it had her muscles tingling with restraint. 

Then there was the straight nose and strong jaw, the ice blue eyes, the six-foot-three (or four? tall enough, anyway) frame, and the abundant muscle obvious even under his t-shirt rippling in the strong breeze.

He was beautiful, truly. Even if he was slightly green.

“Are you camera-shy?” Claire asked under her breath. The wind, now at her back, blew dark strands into her face. She swiped up a hand to clear her vision and awaited his response.

His gaze, also fixed on the island they’d soon be “abandoned” upon, flicked to hers and he gave a single breathless chuckle. “Nah. I’m boat-shy.” As if the current itself could hear him, the schooner lurched again, and the ginger Adonis clenched his jaw and snapped his eyes shut. His knuckles were white where he gripped a rope strung above him. 

Claire snorted. “You…knew what this was when you applied, right?”

The stranger huffed with indignation, but his half-smile was good-natured as he opened his eyes again. “An island doesna rock back and forth,” he retorted. “I’ll bide on the damned boats when I must.”

She shrugged, frowned, and turned back into the wind. “Fair enough. But if your stomach gets the better of you, I beg you: aim firmly to your right.”




Dinna be sick, dinna be sick, dinna be sick

It was bad luck following a stroke of very, very good luck. The good luck being that, having initially been passed over for a spot on the show, Jamie had received a call not even two full days ago from a frantic producer asking if he could make it to Jamaica by the day after next. He’d been half packed before the call was over, pausing only to whisper a prayer for the poor sod whose broken wrist had paved the way for his own salvation.

But that meant he’d spent fourteen hours on various last-minute connecting flights, before hopping onto a choppy seaplane to get to the show’s main staging area, before then stepping onto the none-too-stable schooner that would take them to the beach that would be home for more than a month, God willing.

Motion sickness had always been an issue for Jamie, uncomfortable but manageable. Now, though, all these various abuses to his wame had it protesting and threatening to undo him before he could even get started. 

Last thing I need, tae be labeled a pitiful whelp from the jump. 

Of course, if his godfather were to be believed, there could be an upside there. ‘Tween yer muckle size and yer way wi’ people, ye’ll be marked fer trouble right off, Murtagh had said when Jamie had told him he’d need a leave of absence from the stables. One line among many in the rapid-fire advice he’d shot off over the phone as Jamie threw half his closet into a duffel bag. Ye’ll need tae allay their worries o’ that, and fast

Still, puking before the cameras had even begun rolling would probably be a bit overkill on that front. But when a particularly vicious roll of the boat sent bile rising in his throat, he very nearly lost it, hissing, “Feckin’ Christ,” as he willed his body into submission.

The tall, fair woman with the mess of dark curls turned to him, amber eyes sizing him up. She was pretty. Breathtaking, even. But that had been part of Murtagh’s advice too: Dinna be fooled by pretty eyes or sweet lies, a bhalaich. The lassies’ll use that if they think ye’ll be thick enough tae fall fer it.

But chatting with her took his mind off the constant motion of the water, and it actually helped. The bitterness on the back of his tongue receded just a bit. 

So.” She leaned back toward him conspiratorially. “Do you think they put the Sassenach and the Scot next to each other on purpose?”

Jamie’s heart skipped a beat to hear that word spoken in a posh London accent. Before he could respond, though, a familiar face came up from below deck. Tanned skin, dark hair, and a quiet kind of command that made Jamie stand straighter. All eyes fixed on him. The man spoke quickly with the director before standing on a taped X, his back not two feet in front of Jamie and the Sassenach. 

The word clanged around his mind and sent his heart into mild palpitations.

“Ready, Jeff?” The man gave a nod, and the director counted him down. Now, Jamie’s stomach clenched for an entirely different reason. 

“Aaaand…” the director called out, making a final tweak to the camera angle, “action!”

Jeff Probst opened his mouth to speak. Jamie held his breath

For Da. And for Lallybroch. 




Jeff Probst: Forty-one seasons behind us, more than five hundred episodes, and the greatest social experiment of all time is still charting new paths! This season, we distilled down the two most vital qualities of gameplay into our two tribes: brains, and brawn. 

Our Brain tribe, with an average IQ of 130, uses their intellect and know-how to achieve their goals. 


Marsali, 24, Special education teacher: “Everyone looks at me, and they see blonde hair and a big ol’ smile, and they hear I teach little kids, and they say, ‘Oh, she’s a sweet little thing. I can trust her.’ And, well, maybe they can, maybe they can’t. So long as they tell me all their secrets, doesn’t really matter, does it?”


Claire, 27, Trauma nurse: “Every day, I think on my feet, or people die. Panicking isn’t an option. And neither is standing still. I am always thinking, always moving toward what needs doing. I don’t hesitate, and that’s what will bring me to Day 39.”


Jocasta, “Jo,” 53, CEO: “As a woman in the business world, I’ve had to be quicker and smarter than every other man to make it to where I am. No few men have tried to dethrone me, and I’m still here. You think it’ll be any easier for these fools? Puh-lease.”


Meanwhile, on our Brawn tribe, we have a rugby coach, a stable hand, an Olympic ice skater, a woodworker, and more — all depending on their physical strength to get the jobs done.


Jack, 36, Corrections officer: “Coming into the game, I know I’m the villain. I will lie, cheat, steal, and then make you believe whatever story I spin. I’m the guy the viewers at home are rooting against. But at the end of the day, it’s a million bucks. I’ll play dirty to get it.”


Gillian, 31, Pilates instructor: “I’ve never come up against an obstacle I couldn’t defeat. I always win. Puzzles lay down before me like lovers. They say I’m a witch, and who’s to tell them they’re wrong?”


It’s the ultimate showdown. Which side will come out victorious? And who among them has the lethal combination that will carry them all the way to the end?


Jamie, 23, Stable hand: “I’ve been tossed from horseback twelve times, been bitten and kicked. Stepped on twice. E’en survived a stampede or two. I’m hardy. Hard tae break. But e’eryone forgets that workin’ wi thousand-pound beasts means ye canna be stupid either.”


On the Brain tribe, we have Louise, John, Charlie, Phaedra, Marsali, Claire, Yi Tien Cho, Ulysses, Jocasta, and Kez. 

And facing off on the Brawn tribe, Doug, Thomas, Fergus, Jack, Jamie, Joan, Rupert, Gail, Gillian, and Joe.

Thirty-nine days. Twenty people. But in the end, only one can claim the million-dollar prize and the title of Sole Survivor.