TDT Survivor: Africa recaps

BrandonJust when you thought it was safe to settle back into your long winter's nap, secure in the conclusion that all of Mark Burnett's machinations with tribe switching had done little more than produce yet another tired, predictable Pagonging, the Evil Pecker himself springs to life, revealing he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.  No, we're not talking about Brandon yet, we're still referring to Burnett, who is now and always shall be not only an Evil Pecker, but the Evil Pecker. 


But he did at least give us, the jaded masses, a surprise or two this week, as his fancy-schmancy editing slowly lifted up the rock over Moto Maji, and the harsh light of the six-pointed sun revealed more than one snake slithering off into the manyatta.  Of course, the cynic would say, "that's because he's been hiding the actual conflict on the cutting room floor, and in those crappy Insider clips."  Which is, largely, true.  But there were a few clues in the past, like Brandon's declaration of independence after the merge, and the sudden explosion of Lex-Kelly antipathy on that same episode.  Which was, well, last week.  Of course, that's about five minutes versus seven hours fifty-five minutes of obfuscation, but they at least were there. Sorta.


So giddy was Burnett in his glee that not a single person in America knew this week's surprise ending, that he even dared to open with a tried and true tradition from Survivors past: Showing the bootee talking in the first scene.  Now, again, the cynic might say, "Yes, but he also interspersed it with clips of the two people he'd been fingering in his previews as the victims, Lex and Teresa."  And again, that's, well... true.  But that's just because he's an Evil Pecker.


Anyway, where were we?  Oh yeah, Lex, whose new motto is "The Villain Since Way Back in Episode 7," decides that, since someone cast an irrelevant vote against him, he'll get really paranoid and pissed off.  Okay, maybe it's the hangover from all that wine talking, but anyway, he then talks to... Kelly(!) to find out who voted against him.  Kelly takes this opportunity to break off into a confessional (!) about how much she hates Uncle Daddy Lex who treats me like I'm five years old, the big jerk.  (Hint to future contestants: no matter how secure you are in an alliance, don't let Mark Burnett film you in a confessional on the first day after a tribal council.  Say you have laryngitis, from breathing all that txic torch smoke, or something.  Broadly hint that "I have friends in OSHA, if you get my drift."  If they can't film you, you're safe!  At least until they edit your next day's confessional to look like the day before. But still, go with our first advice).


Sadly, Lex is not convinced by this display that Kelly is trustworthy, and launches into a tirade featuring lots of mixed metaphors about snakes and cancers and heads.  Maybe he was describing his tattoos, the sound was kind of murky, since they were (ahem) whispering again.  But anyway, everybody else thinks this is all very entertaining.  Brandon has a good laugh, and Teresa actually gets to talk on camera!  She's giggling with delight about her little secret, although she demurely adds that maybe she was just a bit naughty about fibbing.  Oopsie!  Well, surely nothing bad can come from telling a little white lie, eh?


Next, mastermind Lex, who a whole day ago had commented that Clarence and Teresa were cutting a deal right before Clarence got Rocked, takes the opportunity to politely tell Teresa that he totally trusts her, and well, if she happens to stumble across who voted against him, please let him know, so he can slit their throats.  This goes on for about forty-five minutes, as Lex makes the rounds of the tribe.  You'd almost get the sense that maybe, just maybe, Lex isn't going to let this drop.


Speaking of drop, it's time for the Reward Challenge, which involves dropping nine random things into a bucket, by way of a seesaw-type catapult.  The reward, which the tree mail promises "you've never seen [one] quite as cool as this," turns out to be... more goats.  Which you have to then convince local townspeople to trade for some magic beans. Which is, naturally, not really a reward (unless, of course, you're Tom, who hasn't had such a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step since he was busy ogling MamaKim a few seconds ago).  But that's okay, since it's not much of a challenge.  At least not if you're a professional athlete who spends his time jumping around and kicking things.  True, soccer balls and hacky sacks are not exactly catapults, but you get our drift.  Mostly, it's an opportunity for nine grown adults to act like rabid, performing chimps on national TV.  And this is before they have to get insulted on Letterman, or venture dangerously close to Bryant Gumble.  Eep eep!


Ethan bounces off to an early, commanding lead.  Shockingly, he later wins.  Phew, that was fun!  Well, okay, there were a few highlights along the way.  Kelly complains about being broke.  Then bored.  And could I get a new catapult thingy, this one isn't putting the stuff in the basket when I step lightly on it, unlike Kangaroo Ethan, who's seven things ahead of me (Mark Burnett swears Kelly's IQ is the highest they've ever tested... we're inclined to believe that).  Brandon reveals his personal strategy is to yell at the objects as they fly up, and scare them into the basket.  Surprisingly, this seems to work pretty well.  And Tom, well, he just kinda stands back, watches all the purty ladies jumping up and down, looks over at the goats, switches back to the ladies, back to the goats again, and smiles.


But Ethan does eventually have to win, and he accepts everyone's praise, and acts dutifully shocked when, as always occurs in "fun" rewards, Jeff Probst tries to sow the seeds of mistrust by forcing him to pick someone to accompany him on the reward.  And Ethan feigns complete spontaneity when he does exactly as Jerri did in the exact same situation in Survivor 2, and chooses the runner-up.  Who would be Lex.  And off they go


It's an exciting reward, because they get to go to a local village, where they are surrounded by poverty-stricken people eager to pawn their wares for hard American tourist cash.  Which, of course, they could have been doing anyway if they'd been voted off two days ago.  Marketing tycoon Lex quickly steps in to lead the negotiations: "It's okay, you can trust us. If you take our crappy hats and smelly shirts, and give us some cool trinkets to bribe our friends with, we could win a million dollars!  And for your end of the bargain, think of the hours of fun you'll have looking at our crappy hats we didn't want.  That'll fill you up when you're subsisting on that disgusting maize we complain about every day!  And did I mention all the money we'll get?  So who's first?"


Rich from their transactions, Lex and Ethan stop in at the local McDonalds for some french fries, slathered in rich, creamery butter, topped with bacon, and a small mound of thick, unprocessed lard.  Mmmmmm, lard.  Lex demonstrates his powerful gut by swallowing it whole.  Ethan, however, races off to the nearest outhouse.  The locals flock around, contemplating the humor value in knocking it over while Ethan's in it, but while they're busy pondering how bad the stench inside must be, considering how bad his shirt smells, Ethan is done with his lightning dump, and races back to finish his deep-fried butter sticks.  Before they leave, Ethan finds a group of small children, checks to see that no adults or police are nearby, then pulls out his sack.


Back at camp Moto Maji, everything is peachy.  Kelly, getting to be on camera again, seizes the opportunity to make fun of other people.  In this case, it's Kim P and the sad Samburus, who really think they can pull this thing out, even though they're down 5-4 (Teresa giggles again, ominously).  Kelly scoffs at their offer, "Have fun with your little coup," then goes off on a twelve-hour filibuster about how she hates every inch of Lex's skin, especially the parts not covered in tattoos.  "But I'll still vote with him, because he's been the villain since way back in episode 7.  Unless, of course, I don't." 


Now it's immunity time, and Ethan starts dreaming about the next reward challenge, when he and Jeff Probst get to ride off on horses, and eat Australian cowboy food.  Or the one with the locks, where he'll win because Keith is a fumblefingers.  Shaking himself out of his reverie, he stares at a bunch of random things (random things seems to be the theme of this episode), and remembers them.  As a memento for his double challenge win, Probst lets Ethan wear the toilet seat from the outhouse around his neck to the next tribal council.


Back at camp, it's decision time for Lex - who is he going to arbitrarily assign blame for voting against him? Brandon saunters over and whispers "It's Kelly."  In thanks for Kelly having won food for them, and for uncovering Lindsey's prior votes, giving Boran a 6-4 majority at the merge, Lex throws caution to the wind, and says, "Yeah, what the hell. Sounds good to me!  I have prior votes too, so let's make the next tribal council a 4-4 tie!  I've been a complete angel the last three days, and nobody would even think about voting for me.  Brandon, here's the secret handshake.  Make sure Kelly turns in her key to the Boran executive washroom, or else she won't get her deposit back.  Welcome aboard!"  So Brandon is in a quandary: does he vote with his new Boran power-broker friends, and be booted at the final five, or vote with Samburu, and be in the final four?


The suspense is palpable, as we wait through interminable Jeff Probst questions, anxious to get past how Kim P feels about something boring and on to which way Brandon votes.  It's Kelly!  He's a Boran now!  Except he says that he's only doing it to get to the final four, so he's still actually a Samburu, just screwing the dunces and sheep over.  Kelly, in her voting booth time, sneaks in a few last hour-long spiels about how Lex is the anti-Christ.  Then, brightening, she says, "Oh wait! I'm on the jury now! I can keep doing this on Insider, I'll bet!"  The votes are read, and shockingly, Probst manages to pull out four Lex and four Kelly votes.  What are the odds?  Since we've already seen Brandon's vote, the only suspense left is whether Kelly will impale Lex with her torch on her way over to see Jeff Probst.  Through clenched teeth, and much scowling, she fights her better instincts and is quietly snuffed.  Just barely, Lex escapes the stake.