Today is another individual competition day which is never easy – it means we’ll be going from a group of 10 down to a group of 9, with either Kate, Joni, Richard, or Derrick going home (Johnny’s troll saves him from participating.)

On that note, in talking with Joni last night, I felt terrible about the way in which we managed to pull out the team competition win – while they legitimately missed two fairytale names and one item (which would have given them 10 points… plus the bonus would have given them a tie, and therefore the win)… BUT when Johnny, who is allergic to cats reached into the bag and felt a cat, he freaked out and said “it’s a cat!” which instantly lost them the point… which ended up being the difference maker. I feel terrible for Johnny… clearly the show should have avoided him going for the cat, but with a million other things going on and the random 1 in 5 chance he would get the cat, it’s understandable how it got missed. If anything, it’s a lesson in staying positive and knowing that literally anything can happen.

I’m pretty tired from staying up late journaling last night, but it’s a low key day for me with some interviews, and then an off day tomorrow in Oslo.

We’re driven about 15 minutes to a great spot overlooking Dalen and looking down the valley and fjord. It was amazing to see the fjord snake its way down the valley making up the Telemark canal.

After doing our interviews and grabbing some lunch, it’s competition time. We learn it will be the same format as week #2, every right answer will be worth two points. Wrong answers give everyone else the chance to pick up point based on multiple choice (much easier than getting the answer via recall). The only difference is that this week, after getting 5 points you’re greeted with a bucket of water to put out a fire that has enveloped your personal stave church. (Kudos to the prop department for some super cool mini stave churches.) I’m curious to see how the church burning goes with the Norwegian national audience – there would certainly be an uproar in the states.

Joni jumps the gun on question #1 giving everyone else a one point advantage right off the bat. Kate then starts strong with a quick answer giving her three points and a commanding lead. After a bit of back and forth, it’s Kate 4, Joni 3, Derrick 3, Richard 4. Joni nabs a correct answer (name of the dairy maid song – a “cool lock” which we had discussed in depth last night) to pick up the comeback “win” and keep her in Norway. Richard gets on wrong and Kate steps forward and gets to put out her church fire.

Now we’re in the same spot we seem to be in every competition. Richard and Derrick are tied at 4 points each, meaning the next point keeps one of them in Norway, and puts another one on a plane back to the states – needless to say the stakes are huge for a silly trivia question – particularly because you can’t afford to buzz in too early and let the other person have a multiple choice sending yourself home.

“In which county in Norway are you currently loc-“ Fridtjof starts. “RICHARD!” Richard shouts. “Telemark” he responds – and with that, the family loses Derrick who is not only physically huge, but a huge personality and a great kid who at 20 years old was truly the heart and soul of our group.  He’ll be missed in a huge way, but I know we’ll see each other again on the outside. From conversations with him, it was awesome to see how this trip opened his eyes to world travel, and ignited a bit of a fire within. This is especially because of all of us, at 20 years old he may have more opportunities in the near future for extended long term travel than the rest of us with more serious careers, obligations, or families.

We did our typical post competition interviews – Joni’s lasts 20-30 minutes. I can’t wait to see her sheer energy and enthusiasm oozing out – needless to say she’s happy to still be here.

I have a pretty standard post elimination interview – sucks to see another family member go but happy his travel bug was ignited. Astrid asks me about my streak of not being in individual competitions – “Shhhh!” I tell her, don’t jinx it! It’s so nice to just be able to enjoy all the country has to offer without having that feeling in my gut that the next day may be my last. I’m not religious, but I’m certainly counting my blessings.

We film our post elimination group scene as a picnic on the hill, and are greeted with apple juice and a kransekake! “This one has Norwegian flags, so it’s clearly from Norway!” I joke (though it also has party poppers on it.)

We share a cheers for Derrick, and dig into the kransekake, and I soon there’s something inside the cake… it’s the troll! We’re a bit confused, but after opening the party poppers we see some Norwegian jokes we don’t understand, along with 2 cryptic messages:

 

“A ray of sun turns me to stone

Which is why I hide in my deep dark home.

But when I smell Christian blood

 

Behold, I feel bold, and want to come out!

Either to eat you or treat you

With the Norwegian Spirit Award.”

 

AND

 

“It would be an atrocity,

If the one with curiosity and virtuosity

Was ferociously eaten by me.

 

So instead I still grant a week of immunity

To the restless explorer and creator of unity

In the little community

Of fellow contestants.”

 

This cryptic message could clearly mean any of us – we’re all virtuous and restless explorers, that’s why we’re here! (I wonder if these general lines were written ahead of time or with anyone in particular in mind.)

With Derrick out, it would be an even guy/girl split if the troll went to a guy – Jeff is overdue, or maybe Richard for his back to back 2nd to last place finishes? Based on wording of “curious and virtuous” I could see Joni getting it if it goes to a girl.

Fridtjof joins us to announce the troll. Typically his mini speeches are general and apply to most in the group making you think maybe it will be your week, before seeing it deservedly go to another family member. This week he says the troll goes to somebody who makes the most of their experience, and is “always incredibly grateful for each and every day” he says while looking at me. Wait what!? No.

This isn’t supposed to be my week – not after being on the winning team three weeks in a row – not after getting this lucky – no, no, no. But sure enough, there I am wearing the immunity Norwegian spirit award troll! Holy crap. I just locked up another 2 weeks in Norway! So what does this mean?

  • I’m here until at least episode 6!
  • Depending on travel days and off days, this will almost certainly be my longest trip ever!

Clearly my deep appreciation for this experience is showing – I always give my thanks to the crew – and even the post production editors and loggers who we don’t meet in person but are working their tails off. I’m absolutely thrilled to get the troll. It led me to a bit of a Sally Fields moment from the 1985 Oscars when she proclaims, “you like me!” It feels amazing to be validated by cast and crew, and obviously to guarantee another week in Norway.

Fridtjof tells us to prepare for a “dark week” this next week. No idea that that means (as usual) and frankly I don’t care because I know that I’m safe. My only hope is that I get to participate a bit, or at least be around the group, rather than being almost secluded like Kate was in Stryn during our ~18 hours of team challenge.

We all head back to Oslo where we learn not only is tomorrow an off day… but on Friday we’re staying in Oslo and doing another press day with TV Norge, so we’ll be in this hotel for 3 nights before traveling to start episode 5 on Saturday! After going really hard for 9 days straight this is incredibly welcomed.

After 26 days of traveling – I’m finally roomies with Johnny for the first time ever, though I may have the room to myself tonight if he stays with a friend nearby.

What a day, what a trip, what a world we live in! With that, I leave you with this…

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