“Survivor,” complete

Barfing! Backbiting! Richard's big white ass! An episode-by-episode guide to the Darwinian high jinks of CBS's island castaways -- right up to the surprising conclusion.

Topics: Survivor, CBS, Television,

Episode 13: The “Survivor” finale “You voting for the rat or the snake?”

Episode 12: “We’re not evil, we just play bad people on TV!”

Episode 11: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Episode 10: A long time ago, on an island far, far away…

Episode 9: Richard gets naked again

Episode 8: “Pagong” — Malaysian for “dead meat”

Episode 7: A shocking expulsion

Episode 6: Richard’s big white ass

Episode 5: What people will eat for money

Episode 4: Vomiting Ramona on the hot seat!

Episode 3: Rats! Yum!

Episode 2: Bye-bye B.B.

Episode 1: Meet the survivors

Episode 1:

The 16 survivors, divided into two eight-person groups, float their rafts to their respective beaches on the South China Sea island of Pulau Tiga. Ramona, the 28-year-old biologist, sits on the raft barfing. On the Tagi beach, tubby Richard, a 38-year-old corporate trainer, sits on a tree branch and tries to tell everyone how to process decision making; the other group members roll their eyes. Stacey, a cranky 27-year-old lawyer, doesn’t get along with Rudy, a 72-year-old former Navy SEAL and a real martinet as well. Sonja, a 63-year-old cancer survivor, plays a ukulele. The group can’t seem to get a fire going.



Over at Pagong beach, another crabby old guy, B.B., 64, assiduously builds a house and loudly notes who is and isn’t helping. Every three days, the teams must compete in some sort of grueling ordeal, with the losing team having to vote a member off the island — this is the “immunity challenge.” In this episode, the teams compete to run a raft through the bay in hopes of winning a supply of matches. Sonja falls down in the middle of it, and the Tagi team loses as a consequence. They have to convene later that night in a remote tiki hut for a “tribal council,” where, under the stern gaze of host Jeff Probst, they vote to eject one of their own off the island. Richard votes to off Stacey; Stacey, for Rudy. (“He’s a Navy SEAL and he couldn’t even start a fire.”) Stacey gets one vote, Rudy three; Sonja, who’d compounded the ukulele playing with the contest mishap, gets four. She’s history, and things don’t look good for Rudy.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the debut episode racks up ratings, enough to beat the previously impregnable “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in the most important demographics.

(B.W.)

Episode 2

On Pagong beach, Ramona keeps throwing up; B.B.’s dyspeptic nature isn’t improving. He doesn’t care if he gets thrown off, he says. Still, Pagong seems more tightknit than the Tagi troop. The two Pagong youngsters, Greg and Colleen, keep running off into the wilderness together; eyebrows are raised. Meanwhile, another relationship is developing, between Richard, who it turns out is gay, and Rudy, who exclaims that his military pals won’t believe he’s bunking with a homosexual. The “immunity challenge” is more gruesome this episode — islanders have to eat squiggly, dirty, thumb-size yellow maggots. It seems the gastrointestinally challenged Ramona is vulnerable here, but she gamely swallows the giant worm when her turn comes.

It’s her teammate Gervase, the brawny YMCA athletic instructor, who eventually balks when he and Tagi’s Stacey are chosen — as the most squeamish castaways — to go one-on-one in a chew-off. Gervase chokes, slapping his bald head like Curly of the Three Stooges as he tries to psyche himself up to swallow the wriggling beetle larvae. Stacey surprises everyone by downing her plateful, and wins the immunity challenge for Tagi. She’s rewarded with kisses from her teammates and a slap on the butt from Richard. But when the Pagong group meets in Bwana Jeff’s tiki hut to vote a member off the island, Gervase somehow escapes his day of reckoning. Instead, like their Tagi counterparts, the Pagong castaways vote solidly to oust their oldest member, B.B., with Ramona the runner-up.

(B.W.)

Episode 3:

Forget the survivors; the rats steal the show. After futile fishing trips for both teams, Greg, Pagong’s Brown graduate and one-time survival school program director, invents an ingenious spring-loaded rat trap. Gervase and Ramona watch Joel — we know very little about Joel — rip at the roasted rodents with suspicion. “As poor as we got in the ghetto, we never ate rats,” says Ramona. She’s later seen pulling the little loins with gusto.

Tagi members continue to snipe at one another, but the group is still too big for real voting blocs to develop. Stacey disses Rudy at every turn, and tries to persuade Kelly and Susan to vote in league with her. Susan plays along, but in private she tells the cameras that she doesn’t trust Stacey. A pair of harsh physical challenges convinces the team that it needs to stack its tribe with brute force.

The first challenge the tribes face is the most absurd yet. Both must swim out to a buoy, dive down to an underwater sandbar and drag a weighted treasure chest across the ocean floor. Pagong struggles together, but Gervase, who has just learned to swim, can’t pitch in. Tagi wins. The prize: snorkel gear and a spear. Dr. Sean and prayer-happy Dirk go out line fishing with Richard, but only the “large gay man with the fishing spear” manages to bring in anything worth eating. For the relatively sane immunity challenge one member of each team is strung up in a tree, as if they’d parachuted out of a plane and landed in the jungle. Each tribe must rescue its stranded member and return her to safety on a homemade stretcher. Pagong wins in a pinch, sending Tagi back to eliminate another member.

A storm sabotages some of the cheap theatrics at tribal council, prematurely extinguishing the torches that are supposed to symbolize each player’s life on the island. Probst cuts short a rap session where Richard, who for all of his team-building corporate-speak, emerges as Pagong’s Machiavellian schemer. “Don’t vote me off,” he says as the group faces tribal council. “I’m bringing in the fish.” Richard doesn’t have much to worry about. The team skips him and Rudy, and makes its second strictly Darwinian move, voting out a stunned Stacey, who lashes out at the rest of the crew and uses her final words to remind the team that she’d happily eaten the maggots. In what may be a harbinger of intrigues and betrayals to come, she complains that someone had switched his or her vote.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals mobilizes against CBS in New York. One activist claims that she was horrified by images of club-wielding islanders lustily chasing rats around the beach. The group doesn’t say anything about the maggots.

(J.S.)

Episode 4:

Tensions are mounting for Tagi, but Pagong has turned into an island lovefest. Pagong’s Greg is the acknowledged team comedian; he walks around talking into a coconut shell as if it’s a cellphone. Most are amused, including his cuddle muffin, Colleen, who giggles and giggles. Gretchen, the Air Force survival instructor, preschool teacher and mom, claims that Greg is more or less the team leader, but she’s the one who actually motivates the others to do real work. Her first task — take apart the shelter that B.B. bullied everyone into building. It was built too low on the beach, and flooded in the heavy rain. Gretchen wants to rebuild it underneath the protective canopy of the jungle.

After lying around with a queasy stomach for weeks, Ramona seems to have regained some of her strength. She knows she’s vulnerable in an immunity challenge, and tries to show everyone what a team player she is. Her newfound helpfulness seems to largely consist of dragging pieces of wood from one spot to another and smiling a lot.

As for Tagi, Sean, the nipple-ringed surgeon, is proving to be a major pain; while the others work, he concentrates on building a primitive bowling alley. (Hey, those coconuts are good for something.) Sounds like Sean watched one too many episodes of “Gilligan’s Island.” Susan, the tough-talking, truck-driving matriarch of Tagi tribe, vows to the camera that she will vote Sean off the first chance she gets. Susan, Richard and river guide Kelly form a secret voting alliance, but is Susan to be trusted? The three approach Rudy. He turns down a loose offer to join the pack and continues to keep his mouth shut.

The teams undertake an SOS signal competition; the team whose signal is the most creative and easy to spot from the air will get a trunkload of creature comforts, including a hunting knife, pillows, a spice rack (to spice up the boring rice and rats) and a lot of towels with show sponsor Target’s emblem all over them, dropped onto their beach from an airplane. Pagong’s smiley face made out of tree branches and clothing is pretty lame. Tagi wins for writing “Tagi is groggy” in the sand in huge letters, coupled with castaways in yellow slickers lying on their backs in a circle moving their arms and legs to make a big pinwheel.

The immunity challenge this week: a relay race culminating in a dig for a treasure chest. Colleen swims a pathetically slow leadoff leg, from which Pagong never recovers; it’s made worse when Gervase chokes again, this time on the crucial run through the jungle leg. For the first time, Probst crosses the unsaid wall between the production staff and the castaways. At the tribal council, Gervase boasts that he will be invincible in the upcoming vote. Probst enumerates Gervase’s physical performance in the challenges and busts him slacking on the jungle run — a shortcoming that his team hadn’t witnessed. No matter: In the end, it’s a race of shame for Ramona and Colleen, with Ramona being the fourth castaway voted off the island. As her teammate and turncoat friend Jenna explains, Ramona’s sudden burst of energy was “a little too little too late.”

(J.M.)

Episode 5:

Pagong is still eating rats, and apparently saddened by having to dump Ramona in the last episode. Morale dips, except for Greg and Colleen, who are apparently humping like monitor lizards in the woods. “At this point, it’s all about sex,” Colleen tells the camera. With presidential language, Greg refuses to admit to the affair.

A smiling Jeff Probst announces a special prize competition and passes out weapons that look like props stolen off the set of “The Beach.” Alas, the competition is mishap-free: The two teams use the blowguns and slingshots to shoot fruit and clay pots instead of one another. (Sigh.) Probst promises the winning team a basket of goodies and a mystery food source. In the final round of the winner-take-all contest Pagong’s Joel hits the bull’s-eye of a large target with a spear. He’s the hero of the day! Pagong walks off with two baskets of fruit and three live chickens. They name them Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Tagi isn’t eating so well. Bible-thumbing Dirk and Dr. Sean can’t catch a fish to save their souls, and Richard, the pleasingly plump corporate trainer, is bringing in nasty-tasting eels with his spear. Sue is hunting tapioca roots in the woods. Apparently the rice is running out. Every establishing shot of wild birds or dangerous snakes seems a portent for an icky food scene. (CBS’s next hit: “What People Will Eat for Money.”) Dirk is losing a lot of weight, and talks about reserving energy between his prayer breaks. The Susan-Kelly-Richard voting bloc seems to have lost interest in jettisoning Sean, who was ridiculed for playing in the sand on the last show.

The immunity challenge is fairly simple. Each team has to pick one person to row out into the ocean and pick up “shipwrecked” survivors. The first boat to pick up everyone and get back doesn’t have to toss a member. Tagi chooses Kelly, the river rafting guide. Gervase — who doesn’t like the water, remember — goes in for Pagong. He sits back into the boat and, for the first time, comes through in the clutch, easily beating Tagi. Kelly is pissed that she got beat by a guy who can’t even swim.

At tribal council, Probst again betrays information gathered behind the backs of the players. With the whole team assembled, he asks Richard about how team alliances have come into play. Lying straight into the camera — and to his teammates — Richard deflects the probe and pretends that his secret alliance with Susan and Kelly didn’t exist. Brrrrr. The alliance, of course, does exist, and Bible-thumbing Dirk is martyred. In his final words in front of the camera, Dirk thanks God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and says he’s gonna go party.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, CBS talk shows are milking “Survivor.” Dirk shows up on Letterman wearing a sarong, and Dave flattens him with mockery.

(J.S.)

Episode 6:

CBS’s big plan is to have one more castaway jettisoned and then force the 10 remaining members of the two groups to merge. The two tribes busy themselves trying to set up alliances to deplete the other team once this dreaded merger is consummated. Pagong has six members, Tagi five: If Tagi loses today’s challenge, the 6-4 odds will doom them to being picked off helplessly, one by one, by the implacable Pagong.

Pagong is abuzz about male chauvinism. Gervase made some crack about women being dumber than cows. (It’s unclear how exactly he said it.) And cocky Joel, who’s looking more and more like the guy who fronts the band Sugar Ray, is viewed as insufferably condescending by the group’s four women. Gretchen, particularly, seems out for blood.

When it comes to Pagong’s three chickens, won last week, everyone’s out for blood. One hapless fowl is decapitated for dinner; the group plans to eat the other two before the merger, to keep any of the precious meat from falling into the hand of the loathed Tagi.

Tagi is grappling with its own problem, a big one: Tubby Richard has decided to go bottomless. An extra-large blurred spot supplied by CBS techies keeps the corporate trainer’s butt out of viewers’ sight. This is just another modern convenience not available to the Tagi tribe members.

CBS drops off some mysterious cans of food to both camps. It’s probably Alpo, the tribes decide. Pagong dumps the dog food in a skillet and gathers round to eat; over at Tagi, only Richard chows down.

In a potent bit of irony, Pagong’s last chicken is eaten by a monitor lizard. Joel gets upset. There’s also a mini feature on Gervase, who by his own admission doesn’t do a damn thing but somehow manages to not get himself booted off the island.

Richard, deigning to wear shorts, blows the reward challenge that night, a hunt for junk in a deserted army hut. His teammates start looking at him the way the Pagong looked at their chickens. The prize is chocolate, among other goodies.

The immunity challenge is an arduous obstacle course set up by some Green Berets brought in by CBS. Tagi wins, sparing Richard’s big white ass for another episode.

At the tribal council that night, the Pagong meet to off one of their own. Jeff Probst tries to stir the sexism pot. He doesn’t need to though; Joel is toast. Jenna gets two votes, but one of them was Joel’s, so she’s safe for the time being.

(B.W.)

Episode 7:

The two attenuated teams come together in a new 10-person outfit. With one tribe, the immunity challenges now offer protection for only the player who wins the contest. It’s ostensibly every player for him- or herself, but the powerful Tagi voting bloc promises a bit of sanctuary for its four crafty members.

First, the teams need to sniff each other out. The plan is to have an “ambassador” from each camp scope out the other and then convene to decide on how the merge should proceed. Jenna represents Pagong, now comprising Gretchen, the canny and likable teacher; Greg and Colleen, who’ve been sneaking out at night for a little jungle boogie; and Gervase, Mr. Personality. Tagi’s man is Dr. Sean, who’s stranded with not-so-pleasingly-plump nudist Richard, sneaky Sue, cranky Rudy and comely Kelly.

The Tagi camp is much better appointed. (The Pagongs have always been a bit disorganized.) Jenna and Sean then get the show’s best perk thus far: a scrumptious dinner for two on a sand spit, and then a comfy night in actual beds! It’s plain the “Survivor” producers hope that four bottles of wine will put the two in the mood for some castaway hootchy-kootchy. No such luck.

The next day, the two teams join and try to rebuild the Tagi sleeping hut — or rather, the women do while the men sit around playing cards. Then it all falls apart. The group stays up late swapping sex stories; Dr. Sean says that he once had the chance to sleep with two women. Septuagenarian Rudy, standing in for the watching audience, walks off in disgust. That night it rains and everyone has to snuggle together so as not to get wet. Rudy isn’t happy.

The immunity challenge is a rather silly contest to see who can hold his or her breath underwater for the longest period of time. Challenges like this, emphasizing physical strength or endurance, seem rougher on the women, who in the event all come up first. (What’s next — arm-wrestling?) Three of the guys are then faced off in an underwater race for immunity. Dopey Greg wins an amulet that means he can’t be kicked off the island that night.

At tribal council the grim Tagi alliance — Richard, Kelly, Sue and Rudy — vote together. They knock out … Gretchen, a shocker. In retrospect it’s easy to see why: They identified her as the smartest and toughest of their new teammates and hence the biggest threat. In a way, Gretchen is responsible for her own demise. In the last show, she wouldn’t join up with a budding Pagong bloc. Without her as a linchpin, Dr. Sean and the others on the former Pagong team scattered their votes. The remaining five castaways outside the Tagi alliance have exactly one week to figure out what’s going on and band together to stop the Gang of Four.

(B.W.)

Episode 8:

Thanks to the ineptitude of the CBS employees in charge of the official “Survivor” Web site, anyone who was online Wednesday afternoon knew that Greg, the deceptively kooky, coconut-shell-phone-yakking castaway, was getting the boot in that night’s episode. A Richmond, Va., writer looking for “Survivor” information Wednesday afternoon discovered that CBS had prematurely gone live with the summary for Episode 8; within minutes, the news that Greg would be voted off the island was all over the Web.

CBS took down the site completely for a portion of the day to remove the fun-spoiling information. But the damage was done: The Greg gaffe lends credence to another, more serious goof that surfaced late last week — a hacker poking around in the “Survivor” Web site code supposedly found a page confirming the identity of the $1 million winning survivor. Viewers who at first dismissed that story as a hoax because the alleged winner was somewhat surprising might think otherwise now.

Anyway, Episode 8 began with the group rehashing last week’s shocking ouster of Gretchen by a voting alliance of former Tagi members Richard, Susan, Rudy and Kelly. Jenna astutely noted, “Last night looks like a conspiracy.” Well, duh. Rudy told the camera, “It was my idea to get rid of Gretchen because I thought she was gonna be the next leader.”

The logical thing for the five remaining non-alliance members (Greg, Sean, Jenna, Colleen and Gervase) to do would be to form their own voting pact, knock out the Gang of Four, and then go into the end game. Instead, their naiveti in the face of certain doom is shocking; they fail to form a united front.

Jenna’s strategy involves palling around with Susan trying to get on her good side. Susan tells her that no women are going to be voted out for a while; it’s the women vs. the men now. But she’s lying, as usual, chortling to the camera later, “As far as the women formin’ an alliance, it ain’t gonna happen.” Sean continues with his Einsteinian “alphabetical order” voting strategy. Greg tries to befriend Richard, even engaging in some homoerotic flirtation with the gay nature boy. But Richard is laughing at Greg behind his back.

Even without the CBS leak that afternoon, it would have been obvious that Greggie was going to be on the next plane back to civilization; not only had the Gang of Four pegged him as a potential leader, but his potential alliance-mates were whining about the change in his behavior since the tribes merged. “I’m seeing Greg in a much more devious way than I have before,” said Jenna, in another astute observation. The former Pagongsters still don’t get that it’s every castaway for him or herself now.

To make matters worse, food is running out; rice rationing is instituted. Richard remains the only one of the tribe who can actually catch fish; he, Rudy and Susan are clearly peeved about having to feed island layabouts Colleen and Gervase. Gervase continues to snooze or play cards. He is under the impression that his role on the island is to “entertain” the others. But Susan begs to differ: “Gervase is not that charming, trust me. He’s a slacker. He won’t be around that long.”

Setting up the reward challenge, Jeff Probst shows up with a TV and a VCR and plays snippets of tapes made by the castaways’ family members. It’s truly a Gilligan moment — like, where did he plug the stuff in? We get to see Richard’s adopted 10-year-old son sending wishes that his dad would come home soon. (This is the same kid who Richard was arrested for allegedly abusing when he got back by making him go on a predawn run to lose weight.) We get to see Mrs. Rudy, who is as taciturn as Rudy. We get to see Colleen’s cat, Susan’s chubby hubby, Gervase’s girlfriend and daughter, Sean’s car, Kelly’s laid-back boyfriend dude (“Peace”), and, in a harrowing scene, Greg’s sister, who confirms that madness runs in the family; she blathers on and on in some strange baby talk sort of language. Alas, poor Jenna, who has been moping around because she misses her two daughters, did not get a tape from home. She breaks down and cries because she misses her “beauties,” and it would have “done wonders to see my kids.” Yeah, well, you should have thought of that before you left home for three months, missy.

For the reward challenge, the castaways have an archery contest; the winner gets to see the full tape from home and make one to send back. Greg wins, and we see more footage of his psychotic sister. This week’s immunity challenge: a rope course through the jungle. Gervase takes this one, so he can’t be voted off the island tonight, but he’ll be the Gang of Four’s target next week, and he knows it; soon after the rope course, Gervase is seen trying to convince Sean and Colleen to form an alliance for that night’s vote.

But stupidity prevailed; Greg was voted off with six votes, the Gang of Four’s, plus Jenna’s (because she doesn’t like him) and Sean’s, which would have gone to Gervase under his alphabetical order “strategy,” except Gervase had immunity. “Good night, sweetheart, it’s time to go,” sings a gleeful Richard as he drops his vote for Greg in the bucket.

There was no word on whether any CBS Web site employees had been voted off the island for their screw-ups.

(J.M.)

Episode 9:

After all the water relays and phony rescues, the baton passing and the maggot eating, the physical challenges on “Survivor” are finally taking a second seat. At this point, the show’s scheming and betrayal rival “Richard III.”

In fact, tubby, false, scowling, naked Richard is our villain tonight, with an appropriately picaresque supporting cast of clowns, fools and rogues. Add Pulau Tiga, right out of the “The Tempest.” And as in any good tragedy, the blood of our heroes spreads on the floor at evening’s end. That’s what happens tonight.

Once more, onto the beach!

It’s the manipulative Richard’s 39th birthday, and he’s got just the outfit in which to celebrate. That’s right, Rich is back in his birthday suit. It’s the first time he’s gone natural since the two tribes joined together, so it’s Colleen’s and Jenna’s first glimpse of Pulau Tiga’s great white whale, if we can be excused for mixing our literary allusions. They are understandably a bit distressed.

CBS again trots out its extra-large blurry spot to be able to give us back shots of the great beast wandering around the island. Rich is not a solitary naturist. He is a gregarious one. There’s a front shot that shows Richard sitting on a log in the middle of the group, with the Hatch family jewels tucked safely away somewhere amid his fleshy white thighs. It’s a comfortable moment for no one.

“You never get used to seeing Rich naked,” understates Dr. Sean. Rudy says he’ll tell his wife about “a queer who ran around bare-assed half of the time.” The girls screw up their noses in distaste whenever he’s around.

Richard is looking pretty cocky for a naked man. The Tagi alliance (he, crafty Sue, grumpy Rudy and passive Kelly) have blown former Pagong members — Gretchen and Greg — off the island in two successive weeks. There are now eight castaways left and the foursome seems to be in control.

They are helped by two factors. First is Dr. Sean. He has vowed to exercise his vote to throw people off the island only in alphabetical order. This week it’s Jenna’s turn. He shares this with his fellow castaways. On the deck of the Titanic, Dr. Sean would be playing a kazoo.

The second thing that helps Tagi is the utter mental paralysis of their ever-shrinking pool of Pagong victims. It is the silence of the lambs.

Another literary allusion!

Richard starts the show chipper. “Outright lying is absolutely essential,” he says for the camera. He reveals that he’s been making a big deal of his fishing skills just to distract attention from his schemings. “I’m not still on the island because I catch fish. I’m here because I’m smart.”

He thinks, however, that the island isn’t appreciating his fishing skills. Rudy charred a ray he caught. He says that he’s going to hold out on them for a few days so that the group will appreciate him more. It’s a nasty plan — the castaways are rationing rice.

Later, the four women accidentally snare a catfish! Rich seems visibly distressed by the achievement. It’s only a dinner for two, but it’s a small victory of less evil over evil.

Everyone’s hungry. The reward challenge promises food to whoever wins a ropes-course game strung up in the jungle. It seems like it’s another opportunity for the stronger men to dominate, but Colleen wins. Her reward is a letter from home and a sizzling barbecue with all the fixin’s — with a guest.

She chooses Jenna, still sad over not having seen a video of her kids last week. Colleen wants the single mother to be able to see mail from her two kiddies. With Jenna’s homesick pathos on full display in the last episode, it’s a decision that can’t anger anyone.

In a good example of what sprightly editing can do for otherwise boring action, the show cuts between joyous shots of the two women stuffing their faces with juicy meat and the other members of the tribe silently spooning among plain bowls of rice.

The immunity challenge is a big brain teaser on a large grid of tiles. In turn, the players take a step to an adjoining tile, flipping over the previous tile they were standing on. If a player can’t make a move onto an unturned tile, he or she must step out. It’s not exactly maggot eating or a boat race but, as we said, this show is all about strategy now. Rudy wins; he can’t get voted off the island tonight.

The remnants of Pagong — Jenna, Colleen and Gervase — have a dim awareness that their numbers are shrinking ineluctably. In their slow way, they try to figure out why. Colleen and Jenna even attempt to do something about it, wooing river guide Kelly, who’s soon seen running around the island with the other two women in matching jungle outfits. (The aesthetics of this development are somewhat compromised by the fact that the trio uses fluorescent green “Survivor” tube tops as their fashion foundation.)

But the frolicking threesome has scheming Sue and malevolent Richard worried. Rudy, as old school as they come, speculates that the three are having lesbian orgies in the jungle. Rudy’s seeing homosexuals under every bush. Rich sure has him jumpy.

“Survivor” rules have the group winnowing itself down to two, and then the previous seven castaways coming back as a “jury” to award a $1 million prize. So Greg, tossed out last week, returns to watch the tribal council proceedings silently.

It’s the tensest vote yet. Sean and Sue spat during the preliminaries. Sean tries to defend his alphabetical voting plan. Sue is exasperated. “He’s just dumb,” she blurts out. It’s hard to disagree with her.

The three Pagong are targeting Rich. We know the Tagi alliance is bloc-voting as well. Kelly’s vote would seem to be decisive.

But Tagi is thinking on its feet. The alliance votes for Jenna, counting on Sean’s absurd alphabetical strategy. With his, there are four votes against her. If Kelly votes with the Pagong group, Richard will earn four votes as well.

But we never find out what would have happened in a tie.

Stupidity, it turns out, is a contagious disease on Pulau Tiga. After her fun with the Pagong women, Kelly casts her vote for … Sean.

Jenna’s toast. The stage dims.

Scene: A beach on the South China Sea. Richard stands center, with Sue and Rudy in attendance.

Richard: Conscience is a word that cowards use
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.

[Exeunt, pursued by a monitor lizard]

(J.S./B.W.)

Episode 10:

Kelly, currently wanted for credit-card theft in North Carolina, is having a dark three days of the soul. She can no longer live with herself for being part of the back-stabbing Tagi alliance. She yearns only to follow her heart and cast her banishment vote according to whoever is pissing her off at the moment, not according to Richard’s master plan. “I feel like Luke Skywalker,” she whines, blaming Richard for pulling her over to “the dark side.” Right at the moment we hear Kelly saying those words, we’re looking at footage of Richard in a snorkel mask, breathing heavily through his tube at Kelly. “I’m your father,” we can almost hear Girth Vader rumble, or maybe that’s only the rumbling of the collective Rattana stomachs, because Girth, the fallen Jedi spearfisher, has decided to mess with people’s heads by withholding dinner.

There are seven tribe members left and trust is eroding. Richard thinks Susan and Rudy are still “solid” as far as the alliance goes, but wonders about Kelly. He spends much of the episode whispering sweet intimidating nothings like, “You’re seeming more down and serious today” in her ear. Richard is correct in doubting Kelly’s loyalty; she has come under the spell of Susan, who has a master plan of her own. Susan sees her and Kelly ganging up to boot Richard off when it gets down to the three of them — and she’s confident that it will.

Yeah, yeah, Kelly, your ass is grass if you believe that, we’re thinking, but then comes a stunning turn-about from the sneaky Susan. Talking to the omniscient cameraperson, Susan reveals that she’s only been pretending to trust Richard, but she trusts Kelly “100 percent.” Then she suddenly shows a glimmer of un-Susan-like genuine emotion. “My best friend died 10 years ago this Easter,” she says with a short sob. “And it’s been so fucking long [since she's had a good friend]. I ain’t gonna burn her [Kelly].” Tune in three weeks from now to watch Susan and Kelly, best friends till the end, stealing credit cards and driving a Cadillac into the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Gervase gets news from home: His girlfriend has just given birth to their second child, a boy. Cigars arrive in the Rattana tree mail pouch. We also learn that Gervase has two other children by a different woman, which sets the ever-diplomatic Rudy grumbling about out of wedlock babies: “In the old days, we’d send the girl out of town.” Just when it seems that Rudy is about to fetch his shotgun, Jeff Probst arrives with the reward challenge. The castaways must run a race on a grid of bamboo poles suspended over the ocean. The winner gets a slice of pizza flown in by chopper and the opportunity to call home “on the Ericsson world phone,” says Probst, getting in an all-important plug for one of the show’s sponsors. Gervase wins and offers his fellow Rattanites each a bite of his pizza. Rudy declines.

In the immunity challenge, the survivors each have to build a fire; Richard scores a much-needed victory. It’s clear that Gervase and Colleen were planning to vote Richard off, and trying to court Sean and Kelly to join them. “Watch his arrogance and swagger now, because he’s got immunity,” complains Gervase from his usual hard-working position in the hammock. In preparation for the tribal council meeting, storm clouds gather on the horizon and Gervase and Colleen decorate their shirts with targets and sitting ducks.

At the tribal council, Jenna returns, looking ready for her close-up, Mr. Hefner, in a ton of girly makeup. She sits silently beside Greg, shooting dagger eyes at Sean, whom she blames for getting her voted off last week. “Susan, is there an alliance?” asks the suave Probst. “America is run on alliances,” she answers. “The minute somebody gives money to the president for his campaign, a lobbyist — that’s an alliance.” Wait a minute, we thought CBS wasn’t covering the Republican Convention tonight! The votes stack up for Gervase: Richard, Susan, Rudy, Kelly and — abandoning his alphabetical order strategy — Dr. Sean. Gervase votes for Sean for not realizing there was an alliance (“For a smart guy, he has no brains”), as does Colleen (“He’s a putz”). Gervase’s flame is doused, putting an end to the Internet rumor that he was the big winner, and ensuring that we will be seeing Richard’s fuzzy white belly jiggling in slo-mo for at least another week.

But how will Kelly contend with Girth’s persistent mind games, and save herself if he deems her the next to go? Use the force, Kelly! And if that fails, steal his wallet.

(J.M.)

Episode 11:

When last week’s episode ended, Sue and Kelly were metaphorically skipping along the beach metaphorically holding hands while the theme from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” (“People let me tell you ’bout my beh-est friend …”) played, metaphorically, on the soundtrack.

What a difference a week makes! Episode 11 was whistling a different tune and it went like this:

They smile in your face
All the time they wanna take your place
The backstabbers!”

After pledging her devotion to Kelly (“I trust her 100 percent”) last week, Sue has discovered what Richard has long suspected about her new best friend — Kelly has a devious streak to rival Sue’s own.

Word has gotten around that Kelly had been trying to break with the Tagi alliance, while trying not to look like it, and start up a voting bloc with Colleen and the (now departed) Gervase. But Kelly is fooling no one.

“Me ‘n’ Kelly, I thought had a real friendship goin’ but when I turn around and see somebody stickin’ a knife in my back, that pisses me ahf,” quoth the Midwestern trucker. Colleen knows what’s going on as well: “Kelly’s a double agent.”

How does that saying go — the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or something? (Richard probably knows it — he’s probably got it stitched on a needlepoint sampler over his kitchen doorway.) There are six castaways left; this time, everything is personal.

More news from the Kelly Wiglesworth police blotter: Earlier this week, the enterprising SmokingGun.com dug up another tidbit to go with the earlier news that Kelly was wanted by the state of North Carolina for credit card theft. A few years ago, Kelly was accused of battery by her then-newlywed hubby (since dumped). The husband is supposed to have called the police after a domestic row in which the combustible Ms. Wiglesworth bit him on the nose, drawing blood. He later dropped the complaint, probably fearing for his life.

We mention this because Kelly’s bad girl side was in full view in Episode 11. The reward challenge is a variation of Trivial Pursuit, with questions all on the subject of survival; Dr. Sean wins in a sudden death face-off with Richard. His prize: a night on a luxury yacht eating real food, sleeping in a real bed, taking a real shower. Sean also gets to invite one person to the yacht for breakfast the next morning, and he tells Kelly it’s her.

But that evening, just as he’s leaving in the dinghy for the yacht, Sean panics. He realizes suddenly that if he invites Kelly, he’ll piss off people more powerful than her. Frozen with fear and indecision (“Get some balls! Make a decision!,” yells Susan helpfully), Sean tries to get Kelly to beg him to take her, but, not wanting to give envious rivals ammunition against her, she refuses.

Looking as if he’s about to loose his bladder into his camp shorts, and with an endless loop of Keye Luke in his head advising, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, Grasshopper,” Sean suddenly screeches, “Rich! You like scrambled eggs?”

Episode 11, continued:

An uneasy Sean spends a night of splendor on the yacht. (Highlight: The Seinfeldian moment where he asks the beautiful Malaysian masseuse, “Does my ass look as bony as it feels?”) Prankster Jeff Probst comes aboard to pull a good one on Sean; he takes him to meet the ship’s captain but, hey, that ain’t no captain, that’s Sean’s dad — flown in all the way from New York in less than a day! How did they do that?

Tender scenes of father and son bonding are intercut devilishly with shots of the gang back at the beach dishing out meager portions of rice and cursing Sean into the night. When Richard leaves for breakfast the next morning, Kelly follows him into the surf yelling, “Tell Sean he’s gotta deal with Wiglesworth when he gets back!” Ouch, Sean! Hope they taught you how to suture your own nose in med school!

The immunity challenge is a test of endurance. The castaways have to balance on a line of planks, bundled narrow side up, over the ocean; Probst periodically paddles out to slide a board away, until those who remain are precariously balanced on the edge of one plank. The last one standing wins.

Probst tells them that they can’t touch each other while on the planks, but they can “taunt all you want.” Richard takes this instruction to heart, obnoxiously bellowing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” until Rudy cracks like Noriega after a week of Twisted Sister. Yes, we’ve finally found the one thing more unpleasant than Richard’s naked ass — his singing.

Confident that he won’t be voted off that night, Richard tanks it after an hour on the planks and “falls off.” He and Rudy then sit on the beach watching the contest, with Richard doing play-by-play commentary about the tribal council fate of the others. He’s like a cross between John Madden and Caligula. Richard decrees that Kelly shall die tonight … but wait! The balancing contest has come down to Kelly and Colleen and Kelly is refusing to fall off!

After nearly three hours (the beauty of “Survivor” is that, unlike “Big Brother,” it doesn’t force us to watch people standing around doing nothing for the whole three hours), Kelly wins immunity. Richard and Sue’s evil plan thwarted, the alliance has to decide on a different lamb to shish-kebob on a tiki torch. Hmmm, Colleen or Sean?

No brainer! Dr. Sean’s last-minute invitation to Richard to share his bounty on the yacht was by far the smartest move the increasingly terrified looking neurologist has made in the entire series. (I’d hate to be on his operating table when the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder kicks in.)

Rich spares him for another week. Colleen gets four votes (Rich, Sue, Rudy and Sean). Kelly, still pissed, votes for Sean (as does Colleen). Again, the non-Alliance members display a pathetic talent for feeding on each other instead of fighting back against the implacable force picking them off one by one. Indeed, tonight was their last chance; with the castaways’ number reduced to five, the Rich-Rudy-Sue troika seems invincible.

“Play fair!” the valiant Colleen warns her former island mates as she departs. But it’s not all bad — at least now she can get a doctor to look at those open festering sores on her legs.

As for Sean, he now must face the wrath of Wiglesworth. By God, Richard is setting his enemies on each other like wild dogs! Mwah-ha-ha-ha! Richard metaphorically throws his head back in a Dr. Evil laugh, convinced that he is one step closer to getting his hands on one meel-ion dollars. Or is he?

(J.M.)

Episode 12:

Everyone on the island is listless. A key flaw in the producers’ conception of the show is that, as it turns out, the group doesn’t fight to survive. There’s no real impetus for the castaways to hunt, fish or even build a shelter. They sit around in the sun all day, count the days until the ordeal is over, and eat plain rice. When it rains, they stand under trees. It’s pretty pathetic.

Now that sweet Colleen is gone, we’d like to vote all the survivors off the island. Seriously. Not one person should win that $1 million prize. Dr. Sean is an idiot. Trucker Sue is an obnoxious, plotting liar. River-guide Kelly is a waffling coward. Rudy is a crusty homophobe who will most likely will the cash to the National Rifle Association. And Rich, well, we don’t even have to worry about Rich. Even if he does make it to the final two — which, however probable, would still be disturbing — there’s no way that a jury of his peers, each one of whom was subjected to his arrogance, his back-stabbing and his fat white ass, will let him walk with $1 million. Palu Tiga will see a blizzard first. Give the money to noble castaway Gretchen’s favorite charity. Buy beach chairs for the people of Borneo. Put diapers on snakes. Whatever. No one here deserves to win.

But, boy, do each of them want it. Dr. Sean is from New York and he says the group is “the most conniving bunch of people I’ve ever met in my life.” Everyone can smell the cash and they’re playing out every possible scenario behind each other’s backs.

All of the players know that Rich is the schemiest, and each approaches him with a plan or a promise. Rudy’s is the best, and the most straightforward: He’s willing to follow Rich until the end. Besides, he’s given his word. “My word is good, and their word better be good,” Rudy says. “If they betray me, I’ll get even with ‘em.” Behind Rudy’s back, Rich mocks this tough-guy threat. We like the idea of Rich getting roughed up in an alley by a gang of septuagenarian Navy Seals back on dry land, but later in the show realize that if someone crosses Rudy, he’ll more than likely just forget about it. But we’ll get to that later.

Rich, in turn, tells each of the other players exactly what they want to hear: He tells Sean that he could hope for no better partner than Rich. He promises Rudy that the two of them will join each other at the final council, then tells Sue that old man Rudy threatened him. He promises Kelly that she has nothing to worry about, then rolls his eyes for the camera behind her back.

Of course, he’s playing each of them. They’re all just tiny planets in his vile plot to rule the universe. You can almost hear a deep, rumbling laugh emanating from his belly. “For me, this maintaining some kind of a thumb on all of these people’s personalities that I care very little about is exhausting,” he tells the camera.

Meanwhile, Kelly and Sue, buddies from the start, are tearing into each other on the beach. When the two tribes came together, Kelly flirted with Colleen and Jenna. Now she’s paying the price. Kelly insists that she was only trying to sidle up to the Pagongs to keep them from suspecting an alliance. But Sue’s not buying it.

“That tiff between Kelly and Sue has been coming, and it plays to my advantage,” says the evil Rich. His eyebrow arches.

The reward challenge is a mud-bathing contest. The winner, we’re told, will get an ice cold beer (we’re not going to repeat the brand name) in a mysterious bar. The survivors must move mud from a giant mud pit — we’re told that it is part of the volcano that created the island — to a bucket, using only their bodies. At the end of five minutes, the person with the heaviest bucket wins.

All five leap into the pit, coating themselves with slick, gray mud. Mud-wrestling is considered a turn on by a certain population of drooling perverts — and, dammit, where is comely Colleen? But we are certain that Richard’s jiggling flesh, smeared with goop, has wiped that fetish off the planet tonight. A slow-motion shot of him leaping into the air — and the loud squish his body makes when he lands — is excruciating.

Kelly, unaffected, piles the mud on her head, her hair soaking it up like a mop, and wins.

Episode 12, continued:

Afterward, all five dip in the ocean. Kelly and Sue groom each other like bathing monkeys. They’re friends again. We’re treated to proof in a quick clip of Kelly popping a zit on Sue’s back, a shot grosser than the worm-eating contest.

Tiki Jeff, the host, picks Kelly up later that night in a boat. In a blindfold, she’s led to the mysterious bar. There’s a neon light calling it the “Survivor Bar,” which suggests it was built for the occasion. Jeff orders some beer by its brand name. Kelly’s game for the sponsor’s brew, but she really wants food.

Kelly and Jeff chat a bit. Kelly talks with her mouth full. Jeff tries to appear interested. She gets off one great line: “We’re not evil, we just play bad people on TV.” We’re not buying it.

The next morning, Kelly and Sue agree to be civil. Sue can afford to — she knows the alliance is going to vote Kelly off the island first chance it gets. Meanwhile, Dr. Sean muses about the next vote. “I’m winning this thing, the whole show,” he says. His plan is to win the immunity challenge. If that doesn’t work, he’s going to try to “read people.” Could it be? Yes, we’re pretty certain: Amazingly, he still doesn’t realize that Rich, Rudy and Sue have a pact. He’s doomed.

The immunity challenge is an unclever take on the “Blair Witch Project.” Rich thinks it’s cool. Bwana Jeff sits the players down and tells them five “local” ghost stories and rituals about the jungle. For example, “Malaysian custom says that sacrificing a goat can bring about good luck.” The challenge is for each of the castaways to run into the jungle with a video camera. They must find five different masks, each with a question about the bogus mythology written on it, and read the answer into the camera. The first one to get all five answers and all five masks wins immunity.

The actual contest is all shaky cams and silly stories. The producers go after Rudy. The camera follows him as he repeatedly reads a question into the camera and then spaces out on the answer he learned just minutes ago. It’s a sad moment for any of us who will be fortunate enough to grow old.

Again, Kelly wins. It’s her third win in a row and, again, she’s saving herself from certain death.

There’s more plotting, but most of it is an obvious red herring. At Tribal Council, with the jury of the dammed looking on, Jeff asks Rich what he thinks the American people with think of him when they see the show. Rich says something about him being some guy who’s known what he wanted all along. He has no idea that we all, from David Letterman to the intern at the water cooler, hate him.

Rudy offers that the “whole Atlantic fleet” is behind him. We wonder if Rich is worried. Nope, he reminds Rudy that his military buddies might not like that he made friends with a “homo.” “When we’re done with this,” Rudy says, “I’m going to shake his hand and hope I never see him again.” See, the problem with most homophobic people is that they don’t know any gay people.

Sue points out that they’re all after the money. “It can make life a little easier if you’re struggling,” she says. We realize that she’s thinking a few steps ahead, when she and someone else will have to come up against the jury. Give the money to the truck driver, not the corporate guy, she seems to be saying. For a lying redneck, she’s pretty smart.

The anticlimactic vote finally happens. Kelly votes for Sean. Sean, who’s been telling us that he’s really been working on his strategy, marches up to the camera and tell us that he’s voting for Sue “for no particular reason.” Idiot. And guess what? His torch goes out at council! Spookiest!

We’re not surprised to see him go, only that it didn’t happen long ago.

Next week, we’ll see the “Survivor” finale and one of the Tagi four walk with all of the money. We don’t want any of them to win, but we can’t wait to see it happen.

J.S.

Episode 13, the finale:

No one wanted it to end this way. We envisioned Richard, some episodes ago, as Richard III, proudly but fatefully disdaining the bounds of conscience and honor in pursuit of his goal. We found him appropriately misshapen and prone to disturbing fits of misbehavior, like nudism.

We looked forward to casting his last words as a variation of “A vote, a vote — my million for a vote!”

As the final episode of “Survivor” approached, the “Survivor” Richard, too, seemed bothered by demons. The main question seemed merely who would deliver his comeuppance:

Crafty Sue, the truck driver, who with Richard had formed the core of the searchingly successful alliance but who was poised to win a one-on-one showdown?

Crusty, adamantine Rudy, who never professed anything but loyalty?

Or Kelly, the cipher, who through sheer force of will had, by winning immunity challenge after immunity challenge, kept herself in the game long after she was marked for death?

In Wednesday’s Salon this writer explained, with no little supporting data, how Sue would in fact play the role of Henry Tudor.

In the “Survivor” endgame, the last seven castaways would return as a “jury” to sit in judgment of the final two, and vote to award one or the other a $1 million grand prize. (The runner-up would get $100,000.)

The important thing was to end up face to face with the person on the island more dislikable than you — and for Sue and Richard, the other came closest to fitting the bill. And in the end, it seemed likely the other castaways would favor Sue over Richard.

As it happened, this analysis turned out to be somewhat flawed.

But let’s talk about less happy events, and recount the final, two-hour episode of “Survivor,” the show that against the odds kept the surprises coming down to the very last seconds.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

The first minutes are filled with the final four in a state of stasis. The castaways have little impetus to do anything but lie around, uncomfortable and hungry, picking at their plain rice like animals.

We see Rich laughing at Rudy’s increasing disorientation.

Sue is steeling herself for the ordeal. “You sleep next to your enemy and you eat next to them. It’s all you can do,” says Sue with typical matter-of-factness. “I can deal with it all for the chance to win a million dollars.”

Episode 13, continued

All have experienced big weight losses; Rudy estimates his, with amusing exactitude, at 22 pounds. Richard says he’s lost as much as 30 pounds. In what will unfortunately be one of the show’s more indelible images, he’s seen jiggling the formidable love handles that remain and in the process managing to prompt a disturbingly high percentage of his exposed skin area into large kinetic waves of motion.

Says Kelly: “I’ve lost a lot of muscles and a chunk of my sanity.”

The procedures for the last show are a bit different. Host Jeff Probst leads the quartet directly to the tribal council, where an immunity challenge called “Fallen Comrades” is played.

The four get 10 questions on the particulars of the ejected castaways: Who did this bandana belong to? What were the names of Jenna’s children? And so forth.

In the recent immunity challenges, Kelly’s physical grit helped her persevere; here it seems that she’s capable of conjuring up mental grit as well. After Sue barely manages a tie, Kelly dusts her in a tiebreaker by recalling the last name of Sonja, the first castaway bounced, more than a month before.

In its own way this is quite an achievement — it’s her fourth immunity challenge win in a row. And for the fourth episode in a row as well, Sue and Richard are not able to vote her off the island.

Probst makes the four cast their ejection vote immediately. The alliance fractures along gender lines. Rich and Rudy vote for Sue, Sue and Kelly for Richard. It’s the first tie at the tribal council. Probst says that Rudy and Kelly must vote again to try to break the tie.

Sue and Richard are allowed a quick plea for mercy. Sue talks at Rudy, Rich to Kelly.

“You know me, you know how I operate,” says Sue. “Whatever.” She knows she’s not changing Rudy’s mind.

Richard says he wants to stay in the game and says, “I love you, Kelly.” She’s repulsed.

It’s not clear what will happen if the pair hold to their original votes. But Kelly does some thinking and decides that she and Richard can dump Rudy in the next round. She then will end up in the final with the more dislikable Richard. She switches her vote to Sue and Sue is ejected.

Rudy, Rich and Kelly are left.

Sue gets a few moments to talk at the end of the episode. Her envoi is almost touching: “Living on the island was easier than driving a truck to Chicago every day.”

- – - – - – - – - – - -

For the final immunity challenge, Tiki Jeff bursts into the trio’s tent to rouse them before dawn. “Wear something comfortable,” he says.

He tells them they’re going through a “final rite of passage of this whole ‘Survivor’ experience.”

The three are told to paint themselves in island volcanic mud, and then walk through a path of fronds waved by suspiciously pale-looking “natives.” The three then hit a forest of burning torches, each one representing a departed castaway. We get a quick photo-album shot of each — Stacy eating her worm, Jenna crying and so forth.

Episode 13, continued

They then have to troop through a pit of live coals; none seems the worse for the experience.

Then comes the immunity challenge proper, an oddly cosmic one. The three have to stand on stumps and hold on to a wooden pole. Last one standing gets immunity. It’s a tough chore for aged Rudy — he stands stooped right from the start.

Probst stands around taunting the three. Suddenly, Richard gives up. No way he’s going to outlast Kelly, he realizes. He then sits on his fat ass, leaving Rudy, a man nearly twice his age, to go up against the determined and athletic Kelly.

Richard figures Kelly will win, and given the choice will go before the tribal council against him rather than Rudy.

It turns out he’s right. Probst periodically tells Rudy and Kelly to revolve around the pole. After more than three hours Rudy loses by absent-mindedly letting his hand slip off while he’s moving.

“That just cost me a million dollars,” he says.

He’s probably right, too — though it’s not clear he could ultimately have outlasted Kelly.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

We get a reflection from Kelly — “I knew 100 percent I was going to make it to Day 38.” She just won her fifth immunity challenge in a row. (She also won the last reward challenge.)

Kelly is indeed, as Probst says, “the queen of the island tonight.” She dutifully votes the formidable Rudy off the island.

The jury of seven former castaways is realizing that the choice before them is surprisingly unattractive.

“No one here is saying, ‘Gee, I’m so glad Kelly made it to the finals,’” says Colleen disgustedly.

We’ve mentioned before that “Survivor” was a tabula rasa, capable of serving as a metaphor for just about anything. Here’s the saddest one: The last round of the first “Survivor” series may go down as the Michael Dukakis-George Bush race of reality TV.

At the final tribal council, Kelly and Richard get to talk to the jury, and then have to answer questions.

Kelly says: “I hope we’re not judged on how we play the game; I hope we’re judged by the kind of person we are. I hope the better person will win.” She’s referring to herself.

Rich looks at things differently. He says he played the game best, so he should win. “From the beginning I tried to figure what it would take to get through 14 ejections,” he says. “It got really complicated, and I couldn’t plan it as well as I thought. But I certainly had a strategy and I came to play the game.”

During the question period, Gervase asks if either would do anything differently. Rich again is oddly wrapped up in strategy. “I got too comfortable believing who I could trust,” he says. “I got surprised.”

Kelly says she wishes she hadn’t joined the alliance.

Jenna asks them whom they’d have in the winner’s circle in their place. Richard says Rudy and Greg. The latter mention is a political move; a few episodes ago, Richard was ridiculing Greg’s flirtatious efforts to ingratiate himself with the alliance leader. Kelly gives props to Sonja and Gretchen, strategically bad choices because neither was there to vote for her.

Sean, the chuckleheaded internist, doesn’t ask a question; instead he babbles a bit about Richard. “Go figure — what do I know?” he concludes. He and Kelly have a bad history — a few episodes ago, he promised to share a reward challenge with her and then suddenly shared it with Richard instead.

Colleen asks the two what character traits got them where they are. Kelly says faith and “a tinge of likability, I hope.” Richard says, “Self-awareness, observation and ethics.” He keeps a straight face through all of it.

When his turn to talk comes, Rudy says, “I don’t have anything to say to these two except how dumb I feel after the mistake I made.”

Greg asks the two to pick a number between one and 10; it seems he’s going to vote for whoever comes closest to a number he had in his mind.

Sue speaks last and best. She lambastes both Kelly and Richard in a scorching, minutes-long jeremiad. The gist is that Richard is a snake, but snakes are at least upfront about their nature. Kelly’s a rat — “and she just ran around the way rats do.”

“If I found you thirsty by the side of the road I wouldn’t give you water,” Sue tells Kelly. “I’d let the vultures get you.”

That would seem to be a vote for Richard.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Finally, the votes.

We see six of the jury members write down their choices. Three for Rich, three for Kelly. Greg’s is the only vote we don’t get to glimpse.

When Probst counts the votes, we discover Greg went for Richard. (After the show, Greg says Richard’s guessed number was closest.)

Colleen, Jenna and Gervase voted for Kelly, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Rudy stuck by his man, and so did Sue.

As he votes, Sean remarks that “this has all generally degenerated to who’s the least objectionable; I feel that strongly.” Then he screws over Kelly again and votes for Richard.

Richard gets his million dollars. Yuck. All the castaways start hugging. Sue walks over to Kelly.

Kelly walks right past her.

B.W.

Joyce Millman is a writer living in the Bay Area.

Jeff Stark is the associate editor of Salon Arts and Entertainment.

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

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