TDT Survivor: Africa recaps

Hugs!There were quite a few themes covered in this episode: boredom, tears, boredom, hating Lex, liking Lex, hating Lex, and of course, more boredom. It's easy to see where the boredom comes in - there were four Borans and one Samburu left, so guess who's getting voted off?  Well, if you believed CBS's previews, it was definitely one of the Boran men.  Thankfully, nobody believes CBS's previews any more, so the entire viewing public got exactly what they were expecting: a rerun of the second-to-last episode of Survivor 2.  That would be where Elisabeth, the last of the Kuchas, failed to win the SUV reward, failed to win a combination of past challenges, and didn't get the immunity that would save her from a predictable ousting.  And while we would never suggest that these things are scripted (no, never, not us), this one went according to script.


We open and move to a shot of the immunity necklace hanging on Lex's torch.  This is a little odd, since Tom last won immunity, but they showed the same shot immediately after Tom won immunity in the last episode, too.  So either Tom can't figure out that his torch is the one with the raccoon testes hanging off of it, or this is some sort of creative "foreshadowing," by which we mean Mark Burnett showing "reality" footage out of chronological order.  But we digress.  The important thing, as Ethan tells us, in case we have trouble counting to one-hand totals, is that there are five people left.  And by five, of course, he means the four Borans sitting around chatting collegially with each other - plus Teresa, who is wandering around the campsite uncomfortably, much like Big Red, the almost-escaped chicken.  Both will soon be Lion Tom's dinner.


But first, we need to see the large pile of turds an elephant has left in the water hole.  Lex talks at length about this, and rightfully so, because CBS will use this as evidence that he was aware of the risks, should he ever take them to court for his case of amoebic dysentery.  Especially once he figures out next week that he didn't win the jury vote (we suspect he will come to this realization a couple of hours after the votes are read... with luck, it may happen before the end of the reunion show).  It's also here because, well, Mark Burnett likes putting fecal matter on national TV.


Next, it's time for some misdirection.  Usually, this starts in the segment before tribal council, but since there's no chance Teresa wins immunity this week, MB gets a head start.  Basically, everyone in Boran, uh... Moto Maji, hates everyone else, so there's no chance they'll vote for Teresa this week.  Tom talks about his theory that MamaKim's leathery, hide-like skin comes from her ritual bathing in the elephant toilet water.  Being the big man (ahem) he is, Tom has nobly stopped telling her this every day.  We think it's actually that they ran out of paper the last week, when MamaKim made cards, so Tom is now forced to communicate with his tribe verbally, and he just got tired of repeating himself enough times for MamaKim to understand.  Ethan, for his part, thinks Tom's feet stink.  Not as bad as Mama "eau de elephant piss" Kim, mind you, but pretty bad nonetheless.


Tired of sitting around, waiting to die, and suffering the long slow torture of the discussion of Tom's shoes, Big Red makes a break for it.  T-bird, seeing the opportunity, thinks if she follows the chicken out of the boma, and only shows up for the challenges and tribal council, the Borans will forget she was there, and vote out one of their own instead.  Sadly, Tom swiftly chokes the chicken, and another sparkling Samburu strategy is foiled.


Having beaten the boredom drum for a while, it's time to switch to another trusty Survivorstandby: tears.  Long-time viewers will note that, Jenna and Kimmi episodes notwithstanding, the fewer the remaining contestants, the greater the percentage of the episode devoted to crying.  And this episode is no exception.  We start the lachrymation off with letters from home.  Lex sobs.  Teresa bawls.  MamaKim sniffles, then reads a long poem about someone named 'Kippy Grant."  Somewhere in America, someone spends way too much money to register the currently available "" domain name.  Sensing this tragedy in the making, Mama cries again.  Teresa reflects happily that soon she will be free of these people.


Now it's time for the traditional Reward Challenge That Gives The Challenge Whore A Really Big Prize.  In many cases, this actually backfires.  Kelly Wigglesworth had to go on a date with Jeff Probst.  Colby got stuck with the first of his two Azteks (on the plus side, he did get that conjugal visit from Mom).  For Lex, it's no different.  This challenge is mental (at mention of which, Tom yells, "we're screwed!"), in the sense that the placemats kids draw on with crayons at McDonalds are educational conundrums.  Yup, it's the Jumble (TM) challenge, slightly altered to include Swahili words, as well as an extremely discrete product placement in the final solution.  (Word has it that next season's merged tribe will inexplicably select the tribe name "Cingular Wireless" for themselves).  Naturally, Lex finds all twelve words and unscrambles the SUV name in roughly the time it takes Tom to realize that the words on his mini-chalkboard may bear some relationship to the letters in front of him.


Like we said, winning this challenge is not without its downside, and Lex appears to be girding himself for just such an eventuality.  But a sincere joy is evident in his voice once he realizes that the wheels and chrome he sees concealed behind a bush do not belong to a Pontiac Aztek.  "Hallelujah!" he cries, kissing the ground.  Thankfully, this euphoria gets him through the rest of the day, which he has to spend with Jeff Probst, hauling heavy boxes around while his teammates disparage him in his absence.  Here, there is a brief flip-flop in the editing, as we learn that "Lex is really a nice guy," as we see him helping HIV-positive orphans, and missing his kids.  Meanwhile, we learn that "Ethan is really a petty, whining bastard," as we see him pissed off that there haven't been any soccer-based challenges recently, and missing his curling iron.


With that out of the way, it's back to the misdirection.  Everyone, it seems, hates Lex.  Tom, who forgets that he broke away from the tribe and voted for Clarence twice, is still smarting that Lex voted with Brandon once.  MamaKim, perhaps spliced in from the night prior to the next tribal council, tries frantically to get Ethan not to vote for her, and backstab Lex or Tom.  Lex comes back, and tries to interest his buddies with stories of charitably-funded HIV clinics in Africa, to which everyone replies, "Screw you, hippie!  Can't you see we're busy talking about how much we hate corn meal, and, uh... you?"


Eventually, after several more minutes promising that Lex will be voted off tonight, the immunity challenge approaches.  But not before Teresa reminds us that she's the last Samburu left.  O...kay, T-bird.  We hadn't noticed.  Anyway, this challenge is a combination of all the previous physical challenges, designed to give immunity to the person who is the most well-fed at this point.  Colby won this challenge in Survivor 2, and, of course, Lex does so rather handily here.


The previous 45 minutes of obfuscation now obsolete, Mark Burnett now pulls out the stops, switching gears to suggest it's really Tom that's going this week.  To clue us in, MamaKim is a party to the plotting, much in the same way that she was a part of the "female alliance" that never materialized in the last episode.  Teresa tells Lex that she cast that vote for him way back at the merge, but Tom's been gunning for him.  We see vibrant scenes of bug-eyed Lex, forehead vein throbbing, threatening to cut Tom's throat.  MamaKim herself derides Tommy's selfish game-playing.  Meanwhile, 20 million or so pairs of viewer eyes roll heavenward, and say, "Get on with the Teresa boot, why dontcha?"


At the tribal council, Jeff Probst tries to distract from the obvious by saying, "Hey everyone! Let's stare at Kelly's chest."  Tom's speech is spliced in digitally from the episode in which Lindsey got booted.  Frank, now clean-shaven, shows to America that you can't trust anyone from Odessa, NY (where they claimed he returned with a full beard).  Finally, Teresa tries the last-ditch attempt of trying to convince Tom that he doesn't remember she was originally a Samburu.  After a few minutes of thoughtful braying, Tommy concludes that he forgives her original tribe, but by God he had to live in that slum while she was enjoying a carefree life in Boran, so he won't forget.  Teresa joins her fellow brilliant Samburu strategists, who a mere four episodes ago should have had an unbeatable 4-3 majority, on the jury.  Is it over yet?  Nah, one more week.