Welcome to the outback, land of crocodiles, kangaroos and cheap metaphors.
We are told there's an "out-of-control" fire in the outback. It started last week but we forgot to mention it, what with all the excitement about the chickens. Turns out it's a real fire.
The Ogakor tribe is engulfed in smoke. We think this might be one of those cheap metaphors.
At the last tribal council, remember, the Heather Coalition -- a budding voting bloc comprising Jerri, Amber, Mitchell and Colby -- was busted when cowboy Colby turned coat and nixed the whining Mitchell. The tribe had repeatedly lost reward challenges and, more important, three immunity challenges in a row.
OK, let's unpack the image: The members of Ogakor have been getting burned by the Kucha tribe. They need to put out the fire. But smoke has been getting in their eyes. And now all of the budding alliances are a little bit hazy.
The camera pans over to chef Keith and Colby, playing backgammon in their tent.
"I love this game," says Keith, who is probably talking about backgammon but who is edited in such a way that he appears to be talking about the game of "Survivor."
Meanwhile, Jerri -- ruling Heather and dowager empress of a puddle of evil from which all Ogakor's ills flow -- and her factotum Amber are rehashing what went wrong at the last ousting. Keith and Tina are a bloc, they figure. The two of them are another. That makes the big boy the swing vote.
Just in case we didn't get that, Colby picks up a white tile and says, "I'm playing from the center, dude."
"I'll squash this one," says Keith.
Colby and Jerri end up talking about the vote. Both of them gnaw on sticks throughout the conversation.
Metaphor -- or outback toothbrushes?
Jerri's still trying to sway his vote. Colby says he's not concerned about alliances, only about the team and winning the next two immunity challenges. He leaves.
The camera pulls back, centering on Jerri. In front of her, smoke lingers over the fire pit and flames appear to lick over her entire body.
That Jerri -- she's going to hell!
The first shot of Kucha starts with Kimmi, the Ronkonkoma bartender, leaning into the little chicken coop that contains three of the hens the team won in last episode's reward challenge.
"Good morning, stinkies," she says. "We gotta clean you out because you all so stink."
It's a quote that manages to weave together two of the three skeins of Kucha's issues in this episode: the chickens -- and Kimmi's own hygiene problems.
The third one is the cold. It's chilly at night and Kucha's fire pit is too close to its shelter. Last night, the fire popped and sent an ember onto New York Jeff's fleece jacket.
We'd like to think that this is another portentous metaphor and that Jeff, who is a sniveling, lazy, know-nothing complainer, is merely invoking God's wrath and liable to burst into flames at any moment.
The tribe members read it another way. They move the fire pit.
Meanwhile, Kimmi is talking to the chickens. She should be reading them rites. Without any of Mike's pig left, the tribe has decided to eat one of them a day.
All of them except for Kimmi, who is a vegetarian. A really annoying vegetarian. The kind who thinks that because she has made an ethically and environmentally justifiable decision to not eat flesh that the rest of the world needs to swear off cheeseburgers.
The only thing worse than these kind of people are veal farmers.
Kimmi winces while Kentucky Joe -- that's the tribe's pet name for Rodger, the older guy -- sharpens the ax. She leans into the coop and says that she has "brilliant hens."
Now, as far as we know, other than the stars of "Chicken Run" or the hen in New York's Chinatown that could beat anyone at tick-tack-toe, there is no such thing as a "brilliant hen."
On the other hand, one of your faithful "Survivor" diarists last week declared in similarly grandiose fashion that roosters were needed in the production of eggs.
We have since been disabused of this notion. It turns out you should get rid of the roosters first, because they're noisy.
Also because they just disturb the chickens.
Mike the martinet tells the camera that he has advised Kimmi to "let go of the chicken thing."
Hot-stuff Nick tells her that the blade is about to meet the neck.
Kimmi gets up and parades out of camp like, well, a rooster. She has a book in her hands. It's not clear where this came from, since all of the survivors are allowed only one luxury item and no one brought a book.
"Bye, chickies," she says.
"I feel the need to shed some blood," says Mike, who, amazingly, hasn't applied his war paint for the beheading.
The ax falls.
The camera switches to Kimmi, hunched over a rock.
Back over at Ogakor, the survivors are eating rice scraped off the bottom of a skillet. They haven't been catching fish.
Suddenly, it strikes us.
Maybe that's what this whole show is about.
See, the history of civilization is all about food. The people who had it, who learned how to farm it and store it, domesticate animals and slaughter them -- those people developed bureaucracies and hired armies.
The rest of the people chased food across the plains and rooted around for it in the forests.
The people who had a lot of food kicked the other people's asses.
The Kucha tribe, which has been eating fish from the start, then pig, then chicken, has been rolling over Ogakor. But at the same time, the full stomachs have created other problems. Physical trainer Alicia's middle management, for example. Jeff's leisure to bitch. Even psycho Mike's rampant blood lust.
Ogakor, meanwhile, is still untangling nylon line and arguing about where to dump the rotting fish guts.
Jerri seems to think that they haven't been catching fish because they've been dumping fish guts back into the water.
"That's why were not catching any fish," she says. The gilled cannibals are just eating the remains of their kin!
This seems preposterous to Keith. Given the size of the river, it seems a little preposterous to us, too.
But Jerri sounds convinced in her ignorance. Keith gets up to bury the guts.
Jerri doesn't catch anything.
Back at Kucha, we witness more of the pains of civilization. Kimmi is saying that perhaps the tribe should eat the chickens slowly.
Since she doesn't actually eat the chickens, it would seem that it's none of her business. She's a vegetarian and not to be trusted on matters of fowl.
Alicia can't take it. She walks out of the tent. Kimmi makes the mistake of pursuing the matter.
"I'm tired of these exchanges," says Kimmi.
"Excuse me," shouts Alicia. "Do you have a problem?"
"Yeah, I have a problem with your attitude," says Kimmi. "What's up your butt?"
In a beat, both are face to face.
We watch for the camera to cut away to two fighting lionesses. Wait. Maybe they don't have lions in the outback.
Well, turns out they don't have composure either.
The two fight a ridiculous fight that can only galvanize the rest of the team against Kimmi, even if Alicia is being a touch overbearing. Waving her finger, Alicia tells Kimmi that she shouldn't get emotionally attached to the chickens. She's right.
"Don't ever wave your finger in my face," says Kimmi.
"I will always wave my finger in your face," says Alicia, waving her finger.
The camera cuts away to a grinning Mike, who without any obvious buddies, benefits from a divided, hungry tribe that A) won't notice that he's psychotic as long as B) he keeps bringing food in.
After the showdown, the two fighters explain their positions to the camera.
"Give me a break," says Alicia.
"I will not be treated like a jerk-off," says Kimmi, her Long Island flag unfurling in the breeze.
Elisabeth sums up Alicia: "Alicia is in charge of telling people to do things," she says. "Alicia is also in charge of talking trash about people."
After a cold night's sleep, it's time for early-morning bathing.
While lithe Elisabeth washes out her clothes in the river, we hear a voice-over from Kimmi.
"The water here grosses me out more than anything," she is saying. "This crocodile creek is food and bathroom to fish and crocodiles and birds -- you know, all kinds of algae and bacteria. I dunno, I just find it to be incredibly gross."
So Kimmi, it turns out, is one of those vegetarians who would rather have her tofu delivered to her in a Styrofoam tray. Kind of makes you wistful for the glory days of gardens, green markets and Moosewood cookbooks. You know, back when being a vegetarian wasn't just another consumerist lifestyle choice.
The real issue is that Kimmi's fear of the gross water has gotten between her and a good daily scrub-down.
"The dirt is starting to stick to her," explains Mike.
Playing coach again, Mike advises her to clean up.
"She got real defensive," he says. "I said, 'If I had a booger hanging out of my nose and you told me about it I would say thank you.'"
We decide that if Mike was holding his pig-killing knife at the time, we'd just put up with watching the booger hang.
Turns out that the whole dirty-Kimmi story line thing might be a setup for the reward challenge. As a clue, the teams both get a large catalog of outback luxury items -- toilet paper, blankets and so forth. They get to pick two items, which they'll actually get if they win the reward challenge, along with the two items the other team wanted.
The team agrees that they want blankets and spices. Civilization marches on.
But first, they have to build a stretcher. They do so efficiently.
Not so the members of Ogakor, who, with a task that takes them away from finding food, argue with one another while Jerri, after a great deal of exasperation, ties knots and gets the stretcher made, managing to irritate both Colby and Keith in the process.
The challenge is based on a rescue. Three people are out in the bush. Two rescuers have to run with the stretcher, pick up one person and bring him or her back to the base, which actually has triage tables and prop medicines set out under a tent.
That person is then "healed," and all three can go out to rescue the next person, then again repeat the process for the third person.
Because of the disparity in numbers between the two teams, Kucha benches Kimmi and Rodger.
Kucha wins comfortably.
They win the stuff they wanted, plus a box of toiletries provided by a certain sponsor that we won't mention here.
They open up the box of goods. It includes shampoo and deodorant. Also, a tube of toothpaste.
Finally, Kimmi has something to eat.
Ogakor is bummin'. Amber cries. Keith looks pensive. Colby gnaws on his bottom lip.
"I'm so tired of losing," says Amber.
"I am getting very frustrated," says Colby. "If we don't turn up the heat and turn this runaway train around there may be a meltdown for the Colbster."
Over at Kucha, they're gloating.
Alicia wants to demoralize the Ogakor members. Jeff wants to rip out their eyeballs and feed them to Mike.
Alicia: "Winning the reward challenge is just one more nail in the coffin."
They all jump into the stream for a group bath -- even Kimmi, who keeps her sneakers on.
The tribes are told about this week's immunity challenge. It includes the words "You'll be rats in the maze for this little test." (Jerri: "Ohhhh, a maze.")
Ogakor sits down for a little team rally.
Amber says that the team will have to rely on their minds and their hearts, and that they really have to believe.
Jerri talks about the pressure, but wants to have fun. Colby says something about the challenge taking every ounce of "keenness, strength," etc. to win. He sounds like he's talking about the Olympics. "It is going to be one hell of a show today," he promises.
The team members lace up the shoes so generously provided by one of the show's other sponsors, which we'll also decline to mention.
The next shot is an aerial one of two massive mazes laid out in the sand. They're way impressive. Dingo Jeff tells the survivors that they are looking at 46 tons of lumber, three miles of burlap and two weeks of construction. He says that it's 110 degrees outside.
It's as good a time as any to point out that the "Survivor" challenges have been far more elaborate this season, with multiple props and full sets often built around them. Last season, the survivors were schlepping mud with wooden buckets in the jungle. It's nice to see that the producer has funneled some of his CBS zillions back into the show itself.
The tribes have to go in the maze and collect a series of five medallions and get out as a team. Dingo Jeff says that because there is no clear advantage for more members, the seven Kuchas will run together against the five Ogakors.
They all dart into the maze. It's really narrow in there. There seem to be a lot of scenes of the tribes running into dead ends and all having to turn around. It looks like turning five people around in a tight corridor is easier than turning seven people around in a tight corridor. It looks like Ogakor is quicker.
The last quarter of the show is an extended ruse to make us think that there might be some reason why the entire Kucha tribe isn't going to toss Kimmi like a salad at the tribal council that night.
It's no secret that Jeff and Alicia will be voting for her. Kimmi has annoyed Jeff since she yammered on about masturbation their first night in the tent. Alicia is gonna turn the chicken incident into gravy.
Mike tells Kimmi that he isn't in a pact with Jeff and Alicia. Kimmi was apparently too absorbed in the lives of the chickens to notice that Mike and Jeff don't like each other.
Rodger says that everyone assumes he'll be voting for Kimmi, but that he most likely will not. He's cute.
Elisabeth, Rodger and Mike bitch about Alicia in the boat.
It starts to rain just as the tribe sits down at tribal council. Mike, in war paint, fields Dingo Jeff's first question. Mike wisely says that he's not the leader of the tribe. Everyone's been a leader, he says.
Alicia says that she's not a leader, but a "motivator." She says it comes natural to her because that's her job. (She's a personal trainer.)
Jeff asks Kimmi about her role in the tribe.
"I don't know," she says. "Just like with anything it depends on the day or the weather. [Nervous laugh.] Every day you feel close to somebody and then you feel a little bit separated and it's, um, it's weird."
Translation: "I am so fucking fired."
It's a rout. Kimmi votes for Jeff because she "heard other people were voting for Jeff." Everyone else votes for her.
Because of the rain, her torch is already out.
Jeff Probst, Lord of All the Dingoes, is unflappable. Soaking wet, rain dripping off his cute little forelocks, he raises his extinguisher over her torch and lowers it to where the flame should be.
"The tribe -- and Mother Nature -- has spoken," he says.
Kimmi turns for the walk of shame.
Tofu dogs howl in the distance.
-- Jeff Stark