Milk, it turns out, isn't the only potable fluid you can get from a cow
The Boran tribe is suffering.
“It’s like going to hell for 35 minutes. It’s hot, it’s uncomfortable and nothing good’s going to happen while you’re there,” Clarence says.
He’s talking about the weekly “tribal council” — in reality, it happened every three days when the show was filmed, back in September — the two tribes, the Boran and the Samburu, face going to each week. At the council, someone gets booted off the island … er, tossed out of the outback … um, asked nicely to leave the Kenyan nature preserve.
We remember that in the second edition of “Survivor,” the one in Australia, one of the tribes, the Kucha, was a lean and mean fighting machine. The other, the Ogakor, were sort of feckless and unkempt, had a sex maniac named Jerri who made all the boys nervous and distracted, and couldn’t win a challenge to save their lives. The only thing that saved the Ogakor in the end was when the leader of the Kucha, Mike, the psycho alpha male who killed a baby pig with his bare hands, fell into a fire and burned himself. After that the Kucha caved and eventually became extinct.
But for now, in this, the third season of the show, the Boran are looking positively Ogakorian.
Our Bantu dictionary, close by at “Survivor” recap HQ, says that Boran means: “Steals food. Buffoonish fat guy. Losers.”
Last week, you’ll remember, the strapping basketball coach, Clarence, was busted for food pilferage. First, he gobbled an extra (but, here in Africa, ineffably valuable and symbolic) cherry from a can the group was passing around. Then he broke out a can of beans without asking and hid the evidence. He got nailed easily on both counts, however. And tubby Tom, the goat farmer from Virginia, was merciless.
But instead of tossing him, the tribe offed doughty Diane, the mail carrier. Since those booted are required to go immediately, they didn’t have to worry about her going postal on them right then, though we remind Diane now that she still has the chance, with everyone in America distracted by threats other than those of disgruntled postal workers.
But they also gave a shot across the bow of Clarence. He ended up with two votes against him, one from Diane and one from Tom, who’s got an overloud opinion about everything,
“Just to teach him a lesson,” as Lex, the tattooed, be-earringed guy, puts it. “Just so he knows he needs to shape up.”
Clarence wavers between being properly repentant and still trying to assign blame elsewhere. He figured out Diane voted against him. “She was looking for someone to scapegoat,” Clarence tells Jessie. “It’s my own fault for being too nice.” He’s sticking to his story that he only opened the beans for Diane’s benefit.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Clarence whispers urgently to her.
“You opened a can of food!” she expostulates.
“All right, yeah yeah yeah yeah, you’re right, you’re right, you’re right,” he says quickly, running for cover.
Jessie’s not buying what he’s selling. “He was trying to get my approval for what he had done,” she sniffs to the camera later.
“Everyone knows what he’s about,” Tom says. “He can’t hide anymore.”
We think Clarence is a jerk for taking the food but we also think we’ve heard quite enough from Tom on the subject.
- – - – - – - – - – - -
Lots of shots of the local wildlife tonight — giraffes, lions, lion cubs, even ostriches. But not a single hyena. We’re suddenly worried that “Survivor” is being filmed in a hyena-bereft environment. This complicates our hopes for a scavenger/survivor face-off or two.
Our money would be on the hyena.
At the Samburu tribe, everyone aches.
“It’s a lot colder than I thought it was going to be,” Kim, the marketing expert from Pennsylvania and one of the tribe’s two indistinct young women, says. “Not one person has gotten a good night’s sleep since we got here.”
Samburu’s resident psycho alpha male is Frank, the army vet and general gun nut, who’s always bustling around and telling people what to do.
The group decides to build a roof over its circular compound. When Frank tells Kim to do something, she mugs for the camera: “Yes, captain!”
“He barks orders,” she tells the camera later. “He just wants things done right now his way.”
Often on “Survivor,” there are people who come in under the misapprehension that the name of the show is “Food and Shelter Will Come to Me If I Just Sit Right Over Here on My Butt.”
That’s Carl’s feeling. He’s the dentist from Florida and he, like Frank and unlike some of the younger members of his tribe, has a work ethic.
“I’ve been working my buns off. Frank’s been working his buns off. We’re always thinking the next step ahead and these guys aren’t,” he grouses.
“It’s like they’re on a vacation. They just straggle here and there,” Frank says grimly.
Indeed, there’s a big age difference in the camp. Frank and Carl are simpatico with Teresa, the go-getter flight attendant and real estate agent, and Linda, who works for the administration at Harvard and beat cancer. They are all in their 40s.
The rest of the group are chicks by comparison, including Brandon, the gay bartender; the two women whose identities we can’t keep straight; and Silas, who’s … another bartender. This is a group that could help us get a Jell-o shot in a San Fernando Valley bar but that looks well nigh useless in Africa.
Time for the first challenge. The prize is a bunch of new supplies. There are a pair of 20-foot towers. The challenge is for the groups to lug a series of massive logs through a long obstacle course over to the towers, and slide them into holes bored around it. The idea is to then use the posts as a sort of ladder to scramble to the top of the towers.
“I’m going to open up a can of whoop-ass,” blustery Tom vows. Boran really needs it: It will be humiliating to have to jettison another member.
It’s hot and unpleasant work. Dangerous, too — a dropped log could really hurt someone. The tribes are both close when Kim — the older, Boran Kim, that is — hits the dirt face first. That gives the other Kim, the one from Samburu, enough time to clamber to the top and win.
Boran Kim blames herself. We do, too. “I tried to give it my best,” she tells her dejected tribe mates, “but it was my day to screw up, so I’m sorry.”
“I’m proud to be on your team,” says Tom, by way of being comforting. Ethan, the hunky young soccer player, agrees.
The group has a bigger problem, though. Jessie, the sheriff’s deputy hottie from Orlando, where she presumably spends her time directing traffic into Disney World, is refusing to drink the tribe’s gross water. (The Boran water hole is basically an animal sewer. The group boils the water, but it apparently doesn’t help much.) She’s shaking. “I don’t know why I’m shaking, whether it’s lack of water or because I’m cold.”
The water, she says, “looks like tar.”
Kim’s worried that Jessie’s not drinking. “She says she’s all right, but … ”
“People don’t want to show they’re weak!” Ethan observes.
“The water does not taste great,” Clarence acknowledges, “but you just gotta take it.”
Ethan goes to Jessie. “Do you have a little appetite?”
“No, ” she says shortly.
“Just trying to help,” he says resignedly.
“The guys are being really good,” Jessie says dejectedly.
Her lips are crusted and mottled.
“They said it’s OK, but I don’t know at this point. I don’t know.”
- – - – - – - – - – - -
Back at Samburu, the youngsters are still playing the exciting reality TV show, “Twentysomethings Who Don’t Do Much.”
Lindsey is lying on the ground as people work around her. “You guys don’t mind me not helping?” she asks.
Brandon is sitting on a stump playing with two fun sticks. “Need any help?” he asks Teresa.
“No,” she replies.
“OK,” he says happily. He goes back to pretending to drum. Surviving is fun!
Now the group is actively plotting. Frank, Carl, Linda and Teresa have a pact. That’s four votes in the eight-member tribe. They’re trying to use Silas, who’s the bigger and stronger and probably the dumber of the two boys, to give them a majority.
The plotting is obvious and upsetting to the two younger women.
“There’s never a moment when someone isn’t whispering in someone’s ear,” Lindsey says.
Says Teresa: “I like the younger people but I need to be on the stronger side.”
Frank and Carl think it’s time to spell things out for Silas. They ask him to come fetch some water with them.
Silas the bartender says goodbye to his coevals by touching his fingertips to his lips and then extending his hand in their direction.
All of a sudden, we’re swept back to a memorably sultry evening in West L.A.
Future generations of archaeologists will be able to pinpoint the moment as the introduction of that particular gesture to Kenya, we’re pretty sure.
It’s a Judas kiss, too. Silas seems more than ready to throw in his lot with the oldsters and betray, symbolically, an entire generation. This is exactly the sort of moral decay that comes from listening to too many No Doubt CDs, we think.
But Brandon, Lindsey and the younger Kim seem to deserve it.
Out on the trail, Frank and Carl tell him that they have a solid block. “Linda’s so concrete she’s buried in the bottom of the Hoover Dam!” Carl says, somewhat infelicitously. “We want you on our side!”
Silas can’t see what else to do. “You can’t be a nice guy. Nice guys finish last, and that’s a fact,” he marvels.
More footage of lions and ostriches. We think the “Survivor” producers are telling us that someone has his head in the sand
Back at Boran, the girls think the boys are ganging up on them.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys are trying to get rid of the girls.”
“This game breeds paranoia,” Ethan says. “When people go off in the distance you’re sure they’re talking about you.”
Lex and Big Tom have a deal already. “We promised on our son’s names,” Lex tells Ethan. He wants him to join a long-term three-way pact. “If it’s the three of us, we don’t have to cannibalize each other until it’s three.”
Back at Samburu, Frank, like a lot of rigid gun-nut types, gets overexcited when he starts talking about offing someone. “Brandon — he’s outta here!” he tells Silas forcefully.
Lindsey overhears him. Bad move, Frank.
Lindsey starts freaking out. “The game became real to me!” she squeals.
Frank uses the passive voice to avoid admitting that he’s screwed up: “There were some discussions; the younger group overheard somehow.”
Silas does his best to lie his way out of it. “We have to get rid of the older people!” he says earnestly to Lindsey. “Trust me on this!”
He’s not very convincing, but Lindsey admits she has no recourse.
- – - – - – - – - – - -
Time for the immunity challenge! The letter to the tribes make a reference to a cafe. Everyone’s seen the other “Survivors” and knows what’s in store.
“It’s the gross food challenge!” says Kelly. “Bring it on!”
“Hey, there’s nothing I won’t eat,” she says later. “Beef brains, goat testicles. Whatever!”
The goat testicles remark, we’re sure, is a Freudian slap at Tom, the goat farmer.
They assemble for the challenge. Jeff Probst, god love him, gives them a zinger.
“You’re going to feast as the tribes out here in eastern Kenya have feasted for thousands of years,” he tells them. “The tribes around here don’t eat vegetables and they don’t eat meat. They rely on milk from cows and blood from cows. We want to show you exactly how the tribes do it.”
Some local African tribesmen, in full get-up, enter, dragging along a hapless cow.
“When I first saw this done it seemed brutal to me,” Probst says. “I spent some time with these guys and found out it’s precisely the opposite. They would never do anything to endanger a cow.”
What we like about Probst is his utter moral vacuity. He could be talking about a baby facing the same outrage the cow is about to and we’re sure he’d say it with just the same sincerity.
And then, unbelievably, the tribesman shoots an arrow into the cow’s neck, which begins spurting blood.
The cow reacts the way you would expect, by jumping about three feet in the air.
But Jeff told us it wasn’t brutal, so we feel OK about it!
Still, it’s one of “Survivor’s” finest moments — making the contestants drink still-warm blood, fresh from the neck of a cow.
“They’ve tested and quarantined this cow,” Probst says. “The blood is completely clean.”
As we’ve said before, we basically trust the reality of a lot of “Survivor” — there’s no reason for it to fake anything — but we suspect that when the definitive book is written we’ll find out there was some sort of sleight of hand with the blood. It’s hard to believe that there aren’t some dangers drinking something like that fresh from a raw neck wound inflicted with, we suspect, a not-too-clean arrow.
Still, it’s as icky as “Survivor” has yet gotten. The challenge sees the members of the respective tribes downing shots of the stuff until someone can’t take it. Everyone saw the gross food segments in the first “Survivors”; they all know how to open their mouths and stick out their tongues to show they’ve downed their blood ration.
Neither side cracks, however. Indeed, quite a few of the guys, accustomed to doing shooters, get it down nicely.
The tiebreaker is a drink-off. Each tribe gets to pick the most skittish member of the other tribe to gulp down a big jug of the stuff as fast as possible.
Linda and Kelly (the Boran member who’d boasted about eating goat’s testicles) are the selections; in the end, tough Linda downs hers the fastest.
The Boran are losers yet again — and have to vote off another member. They’re three for three!
Back at the depressed Boran camp, Clarence tries to stir up resentment against the women. “We got beat!” he says excitedly. “They’re beating us with their girls.”
“I feel like a big loser,” says Kelly. “I couldn’t chug beer in college and I can’t chug blood out here.”
Yet another example of how our system of higher education is letting down the next generation.
But now the boys are fairly decided to get rid of one of the women, not Clarence. “We need Clarence’s back,” is how Tom puts it.
They head off across the prairie to the tribal council
“I never expected anything to be this hard,” Jessie tells Probst that night.
Probst asks the group about Clarence again.
“We’ve had a couple of speed bumps,” Lex says.
“We’ve done nothing but do better since then,” Tom says generously. “I think he’s proven himself.”
Still worried, Clarence? Jeff asks him.
“I think you have to put it in perspective. All of our issues in regards to me are in the past,” Clarence says hopefully.
During the vote, Tim dings Clarence again. “This is another reminder!” he tells the camera.
It’s a smart move. The way “Survivor” works, if there is ever a tie in a tribal-council vote, earlier dings begin to count. Tom’s being smart to give himself an edge, just in case something weird happens a few councils down the line.
In the end, the group gangs up on Jessie, the comely sheriff’s deputy from Orlando who couldn’t drink the water.
“The tribe has spoken,” Probst tells her.
She leaves the land of the duplicitous hyenas and heads back to the arms of the Mouse.
- – - – - – - – - – - -
If you like Salon’s reality TV show coverage, please take a minute to click here to read a note from the Arts & Entertainment staff about Salon Premium.
Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio. More Bill Wyman.
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