Boot Camp: Who's Getting the Boot? Episode 9: And the Winner Is...by David Bloomberg -- 07/10/2002
We enter the final episode of Boot Camp with Wolf leading Whitlow in the Gauntlet by a score of 3 to 1. It’s 8:00 a.m. and we are 32 hours into the Gauntlet. (If you missed last week and need to know what’s been going on or how they win, check out our summary of the previous episode to find out more.)
The next event is Meyer’s March. As the Drill Instructor (D.I.) says, Recruit Meyer marched to the beat of a different drummer. Now Wolf and Whitlow have to march (or walk or run or crawl) 10 miles with 20% of their own body weight in a backpack. They start from opposite ends of the distance and cross each other only once. The person who finishes in the fastest time wins, but they will not find out who that is until they reach Dismissal Hill.
Wolf has to carry 30 pounds, Whitlow has 26. It’s 41 degrees outside and neither of them has slept for 49 hours. But they walk the distance, and Whitlow even does a little skip when she passes Wolf, to show him that she’s still in the game. Still, Wolf beats her time by nine minutes, making it in two hours and four minutes to her two hours and thirteen. Wolf is up by a score of four to one.
Next up, at 2:00, is Jackson’s Hold. They have to stand, facing each other, with one arm extended through a ring in front of them. In that hand they each hold a set of Jackson’s dog tags over a tank of “blood.” The first person to get blood on his tags loses. It’s 45 degrees out and even D.I. McSweeney says the cold really takes it out of a person when they’re just standing there. After 21minutes, which seems to be a fairly short time (easy for me to say – I’m just sitting here typing), Whitlow realizes that Wolf has a stronger upper body and will beat her, so she gives up and lets the tags drop. Wolf is leading five to one (but remember, they don’t know the results of several of those events).
At 3:00, they get a meal break (MREs – military “food”) and chat a bit. Whitlow says she will take a lot away from Boot Camp – mainly that she wants to continue learning and bettering herself. Wolf says he’s grown as a person, has more respect for people who go through real military training, and for the D.I.s as well – even McSweeney. Then again, it has been 56 hours since he last slept, so he might just be delusional.
We get to hear some thoughts from the discharged players who will be voting. Moretty says she will end up deciding at the last minute. Thomson says Whitlow and Wolf are really the same person, which will make it hard to decide. Hutak says Wolf’s true colors came out during the D-ring incident (back in episode 4) when Yaney, the squad leader at the time, came back from the mission without his harness and the squad – and him especially – were punished for it. Pretty much everybody ended up blaming Wolf, but unbeknownst to any of them, the cameras caught the real culprit – Moretty.
Next is the second run of Coddington’s Crossing. Last episode, they ran this obstacle course and were only told at the end that the first run was a base against which their second run would be compared. Now it’s time for that run in the final event. Whitlow says she has to put everything else out of her mind because she can’t do anything about the previous events or even how people will vote later – she has to concentrate on this alone right now.
And they’re off! Wolf starts off slower than his first run (which would be expected since he’s been through a lot since then), getting to the mud pit 8 seconds later than the first time. Whitlow, meanwhile, hits the pit 10 seconds sooner. Wolf starts to pick up speed and is only two seconds behind his original time at the tires. Whitlow is 20 seconds ahead of her time. Then Wolf is 10 seconds ahead when he gets to the wall; Whitlow is 23 seconds ahead.
But Whitlow can’t make it up the rope to get over the wall. She fails on the first try and then fails and fails and fails again. As she tries and tries again, we hear from some of the D.I.s, who talk about how they couldn’t expect anything more out of two individuals who have gone through so much. These were everyday people off the street whose lives changed during Boot Camp.
Meanwhile, Whitlow is still trying. D.I. Taylor says she has hit a mental wall and can’t remember the skills she was taught to get her over the physical wall. McSweeney comes back to the wall to try to talk her over it, but she still isn’t getting it. At the other end of the course, Wolf has finished the kayaking portion and beat his first time by 28 seconds – which is quite a feat when you think about what he’s been through since the first run. But Whitlow is still at the wall, on her 12th attempt now.
Eventually, D.I.s Francisco and Rosenbum are told what’s been going on and head back to the wall to offer their support. She’s been there 43 minutes now and says she had considered quitting but when the other two D.I.s show up, she knows she can’t do that. As night falls it’s her 39th attempt, still nothing. After about an hour at the wall, and on her 47th attempt, she somehow pulls out the strength to make it over, with all four D.I.s cheering her on. She says she remembered back to the first day when they arrived on the bus, and D.I. Francisco told them that it doesn’t matter if they give up on themselves, because the D.I.s won’t give up on them. D.I. Rosenbum even says he felt a little shake in his eye because he was so proud of Whitlow.
So Whitlow kayaks the rest of the way, saying what a happy moment it was for her. She finishes in an hour and 27 minutes. D.I. Francisco says it’s a day he will never forget. Whitlow says she feels like she has already won because she crested the wall and didn’t give up. She adds that it would have bothered her for the rest of her life if she hadn’t kept trying.
Still, Wolf is ahead six to one going into Dismissal Hill. He only needs a single vote to win (though, again, they don’t know that yet).
So, at 11:00 that night, they join the six discharged recruits on Dismissal Hill for the final ceremony. D.I. Francisco begins by congratulating Whitlow and Wolf on an outstanding job. Then he reintroduces the six recruits who will be voting:
Francisco says they were all silenced when they were taken out of the game, but can speak now. Recruit Katherine, who quit in the first episode, gave up her right to vote.
All of them cast secret votes and then D.I. Rosenbum reveals who won the different events. Now Wolf and Whitlow both know that Wolf only needs one vote to win. So it’s time to hear from the six about how they voted and why.
Moretty is called first, and Whitlow is hoping for her vote because of loyalty. Moretty says she spent the most time with both of them, and she looked back at how they both got to the final two, who tried harder, who really had their heart in it. In the end, she ended up voting for Whitlow.
Next is Hutak. She says when she came, she had one purpose – to be in Boot Camp. The most interesting thing to her was to see the changes in everybody as it went along. She says she hopes to be in the D.I.’s position some day (she had previously talked about signing up for the marines for real after the show ended). Getting to the vote at hand, she says her decision came down to a single incident. She says she takes integrity and loyalty seriously, but the D-ring incident showed that Wolf didn’t take responsibility and let the team take the punishment. This lack of integrity hurt the team and so she votes for Whitlow.
Brown is next, and Wolf is hoping that since he plotted with her all along, she won’t take it out on him just because their plan backfired when Jackson discharged her. Brown says the two remaining people don’t give her an easy choice because Wolf was arrogant and she didn’t trust Whitlow. Still, the D-ring incident weighs heavily on her decision as well and showed that Wolf was not a team player. So her vote goes to Whitlow.
With Thomson next, Wolf hopes he can count on his vote as he was “one of the guys.” And Thomson does not that he and Wolf were close as people, though they were on opposite sides when it came to strategy. Still, Whitlow was consistent and he based his decision on that feature. His vote goes to Whitlow.
Pupo is next, and Whitlow hopes Pupo never heard what she had said about her. But Pupo doesn’t seem to care. In fact, she doesn’t seem to care about anything, including what kind of person she’ll look like on national television. She asks if they remember when “the pig farmer lady” (that would be Recruit Haar – nice little jab there) said Pupo wasn’t a team player. Well, she was absolutely correct, because there’s no such thing in this game. The only thing at stake was the money, in her opinion. She says she didn’t stay in long enough to form meaningful opinions of either of the finalists, but she did make some observations. She says she told Whitlow that the D.I.s were going to yell at them no matter what, so she didn’t push harder or move more quickly or do anything else. In the end, all the rest of the team players who did ended up bruised and still ended up going home without the win. So, she doesn’t really care who wins. She flipped a coin and Whitlow won her vote.
It’s all tied up. Wolf has got to be thinking to himself that this can’t possibly be happening. But it is. Yaney is the final vote. He begins by talking about how he was afraid of heights and falling when he arrived at Boot Camp, but he gained a lot of courage along the way. He is looking at two people who helped support him and to tell one of them that they can’t win is difficult. He emphasizes that his vote is not personal, but is a part of the game. He’s not voting for the best or most improved, but for one of the final two. Then he pauses so long that a D.I. has to tell him to get moving. In the end, Yaney lets the D-ring incident guide him as well, and gives his vote to Whitlow.
Whitlow gets all of the votes, and Wolf doesn’t get any. So even though he won six of the seven Gauntlet events, Whitlow still wins.
Wolf is the first to give Whitlow a hug, though the others quickly join in (well, not the D.I.s). In an obviously later interview (she looks well-rested and has longer hair and civilian clothes), she says she was just happy she could go home and crawl into bed. Yaney says he simply could not let Wolf win because he could have come forward and admitted he was wrong about the missing harness, but he let the squad suffer instead. I would really love to know what Yaney thinks now that he knows it wasn’t actually Wolf who was at fault there.
Wolf, in a similar later interview, blames Brown, saying she persuaded the group to vote against him. He says if it hadn’t been the D-ring incident, it would have been something else. All in all, he’s happy to be walking away with $100,000 – second prize.
D.I. Francisco orders off all the recruits who did not win Boot Camp, leaving Whitlow standing at attention alone. Later she says she did it for herself but there just happened to be a nice chunk of change at the end.
So, Wolf lost because of any one of several things. First, there was Pupo’s spiteful coin flip. But besides that, he lost because several of the others mistakenly thought that he was responsible for losing equipment that was actually lost by Moretty. It could be argued that Wolf still bore some responsibility since Moretty gave him her harness and he tossed it aside. But she was supposed to be responsible for her own gear. She was the cause of their punishment, and it could be suggested that she was also the cause for his loss. He only needed a single vote, and without that incident, he might have gotten it.
It’s difficult to say whether one of them “deserved” to win more than the other. Wolf had the physical aspect down, but he was, as Brown mentioned, openly arrogant. Whitlow overcame other obstacles to get to this final spot, but ended up getting at least some votes not because they were voting for her, but because they were voting against him. All in all, it could have gone to either of them, as they both showed themselves worthy of winning. But it’s Whitlow who comes home with the big win. So I send out my congratulations to her.