It's been seven days in the outback and the Survivors are hungry. They subsist on sticky rice and some flour. One tribe, Kucha, has figured out how to pull a few fish out of the stream in front of their camp.
The Ogakor are stuck with starch enough to start a laundry service.
The show opens with Michael, Kucha's self-styled leader and creepy Christian, slicing the head off a 2-pound fish. He's still nattering on about his tribe's needing protein. He's right, of course. But can't he just call it food like normal people?
All of Kucha just sits torpidly in its tent. Michael says he's going to go out and kill a wild pig. The rest pick his idea apart.
We know why the Kuchas are trying to dissuade him. We'd personally rather eat rice than listen to that Jesus freak crow about putting food on the table, as he did on last week's show after he caught the damn fish.
Still, the rest of the tribe are beyond lame.
"We just walk around and hope we run into a big pig?" snipes cranky Jeff.
Uh, yes, Jeff. It's called "hunting." It's what people did for food before there were out-of-work actors to serve it to you in trendy restaurants.
"Mike wants to go out and spend four hours a day looking for food because Mike is hungry," Jeff tells the camera later. "None of the rest of us are up for that."
Mike is an insufferable but focussed fanatic. Jeff is effeminate and bitchy. This is precisely how the Roman Empire was lost to the Christians, it seems to us.
Mike takes the team's only knife and starts fashioning a spear; this sends Jeff and dopey Elisabeth into paroxysms of exasperation.
"He wants to go spear a pig?" says Elisabeth. "Really? Have we seen a pig? I haven't seen a pig!"
"'I'm going to catch pigs.'" Jeff mocks. "Classic Mike -- he's an idiot. I want to see your pig. Go get me a pig."
Michael applies some war paint. Maybe he's a veteran of men's retreats and corporate seminars that teach CEOs how to act like bears.
Or maybe he is just way into "Braveheart."
Mike looks at his spear. "This is a pig killer," he says soberly.
He looks pretty stupid. The rest of the group must be trying to figure out why in the hell he packed war paint instead of, say, a Swiss Army knife, or a bowling ball.
You have to wonder how some of these people ended up on the show if they have no idea how to get food.
Jeff desperately wants to assume the alpha male position that Mike took as soon as they got off the airplane. Like the nearby bathing stream, he's as shallow as he is transparent. "I hope he loses that knife," Jeff says, "just to give us a reason to go off on him."
Like he needs a reason.
The segment ends with shots of fat black pigs rushing through the trees.
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The Ogakor is even hungrier. Kel tried to catch fish, but the group dumped him last week.
"I find myself craving food," Tina says. "Doritos. I want a bag of Doritos more than anything in the world."
How ... coincidental. Doritos is a sponsor of "Survivor."
The reward challenge promises an outback fishing kit. The contest is really complicated. Each team picks its strongest member: Rigid Mike for Kucha, dim but hunky Colby for Ogakor. The pair stand in a lake on little pedestals with massive yokes across their shoulders.
A series of balance beams stretch out to the two of them. The challenge sees the team members, each bearing their own yokes, carrying buckets of water along the balance beams out to the workhorses. The Survivors race to load up the other team's guy with the buckets.
It's fun watching some of the Survivors slip off the beams and hit the water. Once all the buckets are used up, the game is to see who can stay standing the longest with hundreds of pounds of water buckets breaking their backs.
The contest gets to that point; it's stressful to watch. Both men strain and grunt under their loads. It sure looks painful. And silly, kinda like late-night ESPN where steroid kings pull tractors with their teeth.
Colby grimaces, "This suuuucks."
"Mad Dog" Maralyn is the 51-year-old retired cop. She shouts out to the Texan: "We'll take care of you tonight, Cowboy."
A look of fear flits over the Texan's face.
Suddenly, the big, fat yoke snaps across Michael's back. It's a great scene. The Ogakor cheer, but it's obvious it wasn't Michael's fault that it broke.
So there's a tie-breaking challenge, a simple race to get the most buckets to the platform. In the end, the Ogakor win and get the fishing supplies.
They whoop and high-five. "Let's get out of here," says Michael. "I don't want to hear them scream any more." Michael's not a very gracious loser. Maybe he should have brought that What Would Jesus Do? bracelet instead of his pagan war paint.
After commercial we see the fruits of the reward challenge. Last week, the Ogakor spent all their time ridiculing poor Kel's attempts to catch fish.
Now they see things differently.
Some do, anyway. Like the Kuchas, there is a portion of the Ogakor who seem to excel only in sitting on the sidelines carping.
Mitchell is quickly becoming our prime candidate for dingo bait.
"Something tells me there's not a lot of fish out there," he says.
Again, we remind readers that Mitchell is basing his analysis of Australian fishing conditions on his experience as a bridge-and-tunnel temp in New York.
"It sucks that they didn't give us the fish," he says. "They just gave us the means to catch the fish."
We wonder what planet, exactly, Mitchell is on. The show is called "Survivor," not "Hey Mom, What's for Dinner?"
The local fish, it turns out, are lining up to be caught. Now one of the tribe's other tensions can come to the surface again.
Keith, remember, is the professional chef who thought he would wow the tribe into love and affection with his prodigious cooking skills.
But he's had nothing to work with other than rice, flour and some sticks he found on the ground.
Jerri, the Heather and annoying bartender cum actress-wannabe, attacked him and made tortillas for everyone. She's been on his ass ever since.
Keith gathers up the fish and fillets them. The whole tribe gathers around, studying each move so they know exactly how to cut and bread the fish once they ceremoniously dump him.
The fish get cooked and the Survivors rave about the best meal they've ever eaten, which has a lot to do with the fact that they haven't eaten a square one in a week.
At the end of the scene, the camera focuses in on a big pile of fish skins, foolishly squandered on the beach: Chef Keith should know better -- that's tomorrow's soup.
Over in the Kucha tribe, Kimmi the bartender is preparing water for the crew. She's loud and obnoxious; she's a bartender like Jerri, in the other camp, and even looks a bit like her.
But Kimmi's already found out that being a big talker hasn't made her a lot of friends.
She lacks the nasty, Heather-esque instincts of her Ogakor counterpart, so instead of back-stabbing her way to the top, she's going to have to lie low. So she schleps and boils water.
The rest of the tribe is starting to feel out its first alliances. Elisabeth, the 23-year-old footwear designer, and Rodger, the 53-year-old high-school teacher, are becoming buddies.
Folksy Rog, whom the tribe calls Kentucky Joe, gives the cute Elisabeth a heart-shaped rock and wins her affection -- all within the bounds of proper behavior for a Kentucky church elder, of course.
If there's a sweetheart center to this whole damn game, it's the two of them. It's going to be sad to watch them get eaten by the sharks in their tribe.
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The next scene opens with a deep voice bellowing show tunes floating up the river. We figure it's Kucha's Jeff, but it turns out to be that scamp Mad Dog, the retired cop.
She's part of the other friendship, between her and Tina, the 40-year-old nurse with the silky Tennessee accent. They sit together in the water and later confide to the camera how much they like each other.
"I trust Tina," Mad Dog says.
Meanwhile, Jerri and cowboy Colby are sharing a little stream bath of their own. The two flirt intently. Colby ropes Jerri into a version of First Date Fast Track.
She likes cake and he likes ice cream, but it's pretty clear that if she keeps giving him back rubs and he keeps pretending he doesn't see how nasty she is that the two will soon be doing it like dingoes.
It's obvious that Jerri's the dominant one in the relationship, though. Colby surprises us by telling the camera that he's aware that she might be playing him.
That makes him seem smarter than the impression we get from his buff bod and the George W.-like looks of intense confusion that flash over his face from time to time.
But then, guys like Colby always get eaten alive by women like Jerri in the end.
Indeed, Jerri, for her part, tells us she would knock him out in a second. Time now for a commercial, but not before a quick shot of a big old spider weaving her web.
That Jerri: She's a black widow!
Back over in Kucha, cranky Jeff and physical trainer Alicia are also scheming. The two of them seem way ahead of themselves; they're already planning on whom they want with them in the final four.
Here we remind readers that, once the two tribes reduce themselves to a total of 10, they combine into one tribe and continue the eliminations from there.
One thing Jeff and Alicia know is that they can't ride with sweetheart Elisabeth -- she'll beat either one. The camera cuts to a snake slithering in the grass.
Neither one of them trust beautiful Nick. "Nick is very lazy," says Jeff.
That's the thing about those 23-year-old Army officers who are going to Harvard Law School. So lazy.
In all of his laziness, Nick has built a kitchen, fashioned a chair and made a patio. Jeff says that's because Nick doesn't want to do anything else.
Jeff, of course, hasn't done a thing. Jeff's 34 and has a B.A. in journalism. Like Mitchell, he doesn't seem to understand that he's in a TV show, not just watching one.
On the first "Survivor," it seemed like there were two tribes, Good and Evil -- the Pagong and the Tagi, respectively. Of course, the Pagong were feeble and ineffectual and not very bright, and the Tagi, sure as socks, had them for lunch.
This time around, both tribes are nasty at the center.
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It rains all night. Everyone is tired and still hungry. Mitchell, a world-class sit on your ass and complain type, isn't sure if he can compete in the challenge. Walking up the hill makes him feel woozy.
He was wet last night, he whines, making it sound like the rest of the crowd were holed up at the Four Seasons.
The big challenge is a long obstacle course. The catch is that all of the team members are roped to each other. It seems simple enough, but it's longer than it looks. By the end of it, most of the Survivors are clawing toward the finish line -- even buff Alicia.
Kucha practically has to carry old Kentucky Joe. Ogakor actually does carry Maralyn, who apparently hasn't chased down a criminal since the early '70s.
But Kucha flops across the finish line first. Ogakor has to kick another person out tonight.
Maralyn cost the group the contest and looks like dead meat. Besides that, last week, she was the only tribesperson who expressed reservations about its demonizing of poor Kel.
It's pretty clear that Jerri, the queen bee, will oust her.
Jerri has Colby tucked comfily in her pocket, of course, and clumsy Mitchell, too.
Mitchell, in rationalizing voting for Maralyn, notes that she lost the tribe the immunity challenge. If Kel had been there, he notes, they probably would have won.
Mitchell is incapable of taking the reasoning a bit further, figuring that perhaps Jerri's manipulations have more to do with earning herself a million dollars rather than helping the tribe.
It's possible, actually, that Jerri could be digging her own grave as well as the tribe's. If the Ogakor is smaller than the Kucha when the two groups meld, they run the risk of being voted off systematically, just as the implacable Tagi did to the feeble Pagong.
Then there's Amber. We haven't seen or heard much from her. She's 22, lives with her parents and is agreeably sheeplike. She's not going to challenge the ruling Heather.
That leaves Mad Dog; Keith, the ostracized cook; and Tina. She's Maralyn's best pal, right?
At the tribal council, Jerri's calm; she seems to have the votes.
And the Mad Dog, it turns out, is indeed gunned down. She takes it well, and you feel a bit bad for her -- even Tina turned against her.
Just as in last year's edition, people like Tina, who are in line for the scaffold right behind Keith in upcoming weeks, acquiesce, with a sort of ovine complacency, in the plans of more ruthless people, in this case Jerri.
Then again, last week Mad Dog said she'd stick with Kel and ended up going with Jerri and back-stabbing him.
These new Survivors. We can hear the final speech now: They're all a bunch of wild boars and crocodiles.
It all couldn't be happening to nicer people.