TDT Survivor: Africa recaps

Lex and his poleMark Burnett, who also produces the Eco-Challenge, likes to think of himself (we could stop the sentence there, but there's more) as an environmentally friendly guy.  We suspect he's a big fan of recycling.  Which is actually a fairly safe guess, because pretty much this entire episode was recycled from Survivor: The Australian Outback.  This is because CBS is starting to worry about the show's sagging ratings, and is trying to re-kindle our connections with older, better shows.  So, we'll just go with the flow, man, and direct you to our review of that episode.  (Amber gets voted out, by the way). 


Oh crap. We didn't start doing these reviews 'til this season.  Dammit, it seems like so much longer.  All right, we'll see what we can throw together.


The action opens, as has been done before, right after the previous tribal council. Amber (oops, KimP) gets to talk again, so we know she's dead meat this time.  It appears KimP was unhappy about Brandon's non-betrayal.  This, of course, was told to us by Jeff Probst mere minutes ago, setting a new speed record for MB recycling.  Way to go, Mark!  Next, we see Lex scurrying around, making sure everyone's cool with him not voting with the tribe.  MamaKim swears they're still "solid".  This part was from Frank and Carl talking to Silas in Episode 2.


Eventually (still in the last episode), we move on to more scary, scary footage of Ethan being startled on his sentry duty by athsmatic lions.  As before, nobody seems to know why they're wheezing.  KimP swears that it means they've found food, and they're calling every animal in Africa to come and join the feast.  Drawing on her encyclopedic knowledge of the African survival manual they were given, KimP then attempts to scare the lion away by biting silently on her sleeve.  Judging from her chirpy rendition of the events in the flash-forward to her next day's confessional, this strategy appears to have worked.  Ethan manages to escape the incident largely without talking.


Finally, it's the first morning of this episode, and we get to see our bright-eyed Survivor friends.  (Oops, we forgot about that memo from CBS not to use the word "Friends"... sorry, Les!).  Except that everyone is skinny and exhausted.  People are lying on the ground, their stomachs yawning chasms.  Yep, that's Keith lying there with the gaping hole below his rib cage.  Nick and Elisabeth talk about how they can barely move any more.  Whoops!  Wrong show!  This is the Africa version, so the names are slightly different.  But you get the general idea.


Luckily, the solution for this problem (what happened to those chickens, by the way?  Did Kimmi set them free?) is exactly the same as it was in Australia.  Dispense with the action, and just give everyone food at an "auction".  Hooray!  The production assistants get the day off from set-building!  They even get to recycle the blood-drinking bar as the "auction block"!  This 15-minute visual platter of microwaved, year-old leftovers is sprinkled with some spices to dress it up for its second serving: We're not watching the Survivors get food for free, we're watching complex strategizing and alliance-building.  Like the rock-solid bond between Frank and Teresa.  Or so MB would have us believe.


Shockingly, everybody gets to eat something, although Frank never bothers to actually bid on anything, and sponges off of Teresa's hoagie.  And lest you think this batch of contestants is being pampered, being given tons of food at every reward challenge (yet still complaining about the horrific hunger), well, you're right.  Where was the cruel trick of bidding on the mystery glass of undrinkable river water?  Instead, we get yet another exhibition from the Tom Buchanan School of Interpretive Dance.  Oh well, at least we have all the rip-roaring digestive trauma stories to look forward to when they get back to camp: Rodger's holy leaf, the tent that smells of Nick's ass.  Ah, those were the days.


So they head back to camp. (Here it comes!)  Tom gives us a classic quote: "That beer was good."  We get to hear everyone talk about how Tom is not as dumb as he lets on, because he can beat them in checkers.  (For this week's episode, the character of Tom is played by lovable former Survivor contestant Rodger Bingham!  Welcome back, Kentucky Joe!) Lex, of course, is very smart, or so he tells us, and noticed Tom's brilliance right away.  Well, we're not ones to point fingers or anything, but the skeptic might raise the alternative hypothesis that Tom is, in fact, roughly as dim as he appears, and everyone else loses in chekcers because they're even stupider.  After all, studies show that the more competent people think they are, the less capable they actually are.  Now, we're not naming any names, here... Lex.  Anyway, they've been at this Tom-is-a-genius thing for a while, so the explosive diarrhea is just around the corner, right?  Sadly, no.  Just the ubiquitous twister embodying the pissed-off spirit of Mother Africa, preparing to suck away another Samburu.


To demonstrate Tom's impending acceptance into Mensa, we're shown that he has mastered the skill of filling jugs with water, then pouring them out.  On the plus side, this is accompanied by Kim P pulling out her top to reveal her, uh, Little Bits.  Judging from Lex's comments, Tom also gets to peek at Teresa and MamaKim, as well as the guys.  We're not so sure this qualifies as evidence of brilliance, but if Lex says it, then it must be so.  Apparently, this brief interlude of mild softcore T&A is this season's substitute for Rodger's leaf.  Apparently, this is partly because CBS is eager to keep this a family show, hence the episode title.  Yep, Moto Maji is a family, all right.  A borderline incestuous, gun-totin', boil-poppin', vaguely anti-Semitic family.  Home for the holidays. Welcome home!  Relax and enjoy this slow pan up from Kim P's ass!  Oh yeah, this part was recycled from unseen footage from episode 9.


Without further ado, let's move on to the immunity challenge, shall we?  Once again, we've seen this before, although last time it was at night and in Australia.  It's the Listen to Jeff Probst Without Falling Asleep Challenge!  Luckily, his story is only a minute long.  Unfortunately, you had to pay attention, and recall this simple information for up to two or three minutes, the answer questions with two whole multiple choices.  First person to get five 50-50 guesses right wins.  Obviously, a tall order for our gaggle of Einsteins. And they're off!  Almost immediately, we see Clever Tom saying "Aw, hail!" as he guesses wrong, mere seconds after the words dripped from Probst's tongue.  And there he is, guessing wrong again.  Oddly, Frank and Lex both eventually get four answers right. Lex then gets his fifth, and in a scene directly out of Survivor 2, drops the immunity-winning  token on his way to collect his prize.  Seeing this, Probst glares resignedly at the tattooed one, and yells, "Again? What is wrong with you people?  Why the hell did I give up hosting Rock and Roll Jeopardy for this?  Go back and find it!"


And in the first new footage of the episode, Lex actually manages to retrieve his lost ribbon just in time to beat a slowly-moving Frank, winning immunity for the second week in a row.  Oh wait, the challenge-whore that everyone wants to boot won immunity again.  Guess this part was recycled after all.


It's dawn of tribal council day, and Frank is up, looking at a brilliant bloody sunrise.  Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning.  Could Frank be the one to go?  Nah, this is episode 10, which is where Amber/Kim P goes.  Knowing this, Frank selflessly attempts to draw votes away from her, by reciting verbatim old Charlton Heston speeches from NRA conventions.  On and on he goes, for hours at a time. Everyone is pleased with this, except that it distracts them briefly from their enjoyment of their tasty feast of slightly-chunky, chalk-like gruel.  Suddenly, their mood turns sour, as, almost half a day after the immunity challenge ended, it dawns on each of them that they can't vote Lex off tonight.  Someone will pay for this, and Frank has his mouth open.  Seconds later, they've forgotten again.


But wait, all hope is not lost. Teresa is desperately trying to rally support with MamaKim, to turn on Ethan, since Mama is number four on Boran.  MamaKim tells her, "Sorry T-Bird, it's too early for that.  We've got to wait 'til next episode to pull the rug out from under the guys.  Right now, we need them to vote off Frank.  To prove you're down with us, why don'tcha vote for him, too."  Mark Burnett, of course, pressed for time due to the extra shots of Kim P's ass, shortens this to the first sentence.


At tribal council, Jeff plays a tape of himself from Survivor 2, asking everyone about whether tribal lines have been erased, and how do you vote people out, now that they'll be on the jury?  After reviewing old episodes, each person dutifully replies with Rich and Tina's answers, mumbling something about respect and playing the game well.  Probst sends them off to vote, starts reading the ballots, then sputters, "Okay, how many times do I have to tell you? You can't vote for Lex! He has immunity!  Now get back in there and do it again!"


Quite a while later, a legal set of ballots emerges.  Teresa appears to be sniffling for unknown reasons, but as Amber/Kim P grabs her torch, Jeff starts reading the ballots... "Frank?  Frank?  Are you sure?  Um, that wasn't in the script, you know.  All right, whatever, screw it, it's late and I need to get back to base camp.  Frank you're gone."  Frank gives a stirring final speech about family, to his family, as if his "reality TV" family never actually existed.  It's a family show, after all.  Even if we'd already seen all but the last ten minutes before.