We here at Big Break headquarters go to great lengths to ensure the secrecy of each series' location until the time comes to announce it publicly. But privately, family and friends are always concerned to know which general direction you’re headed for the next few weeks. (They're funny that way.) My answer is usually a cryptic reference to the geographic area in question—in this case, 'The Bahamas'—and their response is always the same: 'Must be nice!'
This time, 'nice' barely scratched the surface. So I hear.
The Atlantis, Paradise Island is, as a certain dolphin might tell you in episode 3, 'more amazing than the myth'. The Big Break invaded the resort for a little under a month, but in truth it would probably take more to fully explore all that Atlantis has to offer.
If Willy Wonka was a beach bum instead of a candy connoisseur, this would be his place.
I was told you can not leave Paradise Island without exploring the Aquaventure water park and its 20 million gallons of thrills and refreshing chills. Marcela, Kelly and Aubrey were fortunate enough to play their way into Aquaventure, and it certainly appears they made the most of their afternoon!
Atlantis boasts myriad swimming areas, and based on what I've heard they make most resort pools look like chlorinated rain puddles. Then there's The Dig, a staggering underwater recreation of the lost city of Atlantis which should be on any visitor's to-do list. (No shovel required.)
In addition to the aquatic adventures found all over Paradise Island, there's a vast network of restaurants, spas, shops, bars and, of course, the casino – home to hundreds of table games, slot machines and, proudly, zero of my dollars.
Alas, swimming, dining and shopping were not the reasons we came to Atlantis. It was all about the golf. We covered every inch of the incredible Ocean Club Golf Course in search of this season's worthy Big Break champion, and the action did not disappoint.
Unless your name happens to be Zakiya Randall.
This particular day was long, even by Big Break standards, but arguably no one had a longer day than 'Z'. She discovered that, while Big Break golf is unlike any you'll ever play, some golf axioms still vividly apply. Like this one: it's a game of inches.
Zakiya was sitting pretty in the first Immunity Challenge and looking like the third member of the Aquaventure excursion team until Aubrey so deftly knocked her off her perch – by two inches. Rumor has it that's thinner than the glass at The Dig.
Pity, really. That spandex would have transitioned nicely to the water park.
Even in the midst of Big Break's 17th season there's a palpable sense of surprise and intrigue on set when such a game-changing moment occurs. The ensuing chain of events ultimately landed Zakiya in the Elimination Challenge. The rest is Big Break history, and a perfect example of what's at stake on each swing.
Try playing Jenga at gunpoint, or doing surgery on your favorite pet during an earthquake. That only begins to depict the pressure that the ladies of the Big Break are feeling over every shot. And even when you rise to the occasion, somebody else might be two inches better.
Being a part of the planning, development and production of such a series is almost as exhilarating as the sheer drop down the 'Leap of Faith', the watery plunge from Atlantis' Mayan Temple. Or so I'd imagine.
With so much excitement on the course and a dedicated, professional crew putting it all together the long days somehow tend to fly by. Then it's back on a plane headed home a mere 43 shades lighter than the tanning mom.
Upon my return, when family and friends give me the standard 'must be nice' reaction, I return serve with my old stand-by response: The hours are brutal, but the office is amazing.
And I definitely plan to go back to Atlantis, to finally see what I was missing the whole time I was there.