Jeff Varner: Monty Brinton/CBS
March 09, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Jeff is booted from a listless ”Survivor”

Maybe anything would’ve seemed like a letdown after last week’s blazingly sensational episode of CBS’ ”Survivor.” How else to explain the latest installment’s listless feeling? With the Kuchas and Ogakors merging at equal strength, sparks should’ve flown. But so far, the new Barramundi tribe (named after an oft eaten Australian fish) seems pretty Barramundane.

Sure, somebody got booted — Jeff, the Internet projects manager from North Carolina. But even the extinguishing of his torch seemed to fizzle. How did this ”Survivor” inspire such a feeling of burnout? Let me count the ways:

Everybody was too damn nice. With the Ogakors still in the dark about which Kucha had been injured, even heartless actress Jerri seemed concerned. ”You don’t think Rodger had a stroke?” she asked, causing nurse Tina to gasp. Once informed that Michael’s injuries weren’t life threatening, Jerri confessed she didn’t know ”whether to celebrate or feel bad.” As the men and women shared separate meals, the sense of ”camaradity” (as chef Keith so ineloquently put it) was almost sickening. Keith was moved that the Kuchas had saved their last chicken for their rivals, while Jerri and personal trainer Alicia bonded over their cravings for hot dogs. Paging Dr. Freud.

What, no reward challenge? With the first half hour devoted to the unification of the tribes, there was no time for competition, so everyone got to enjoy a gigantic crate of cheese, crackers, fruit, and wine (even teetotaler Tina imbibed). True, Harvard law student Nick complained about everyone grabbing the food, but after last week’s immunity challenge was canceled, a greater sense of conflict was needed. Then again, no reward challenge meant no Jeff Probst for the first half hour, so perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.

The immunity challenge tested our endurance. Even if we hadn’t seen similar measures of stamina last season, ”the perch,” which exempted the contestant who stood still on a wooden pillar the longest, wouldn’t exactly have qualified as compelling television. Keith finally prevailed over Alicia and Tina after 10 hours and 18 minutes. Watching it seemed only slightly shorter.

Enough with the headdress already! Just when you think footwear designer Elisabeth couldn’t possibly be cuter, she does something adorable, like asking ”Is it Skippy?” when Probst tried to tempt her off the perch with peanut butter. Then she shows up for tribal council with those silly scarves wrapped around her hair again. Give it a rest, Liz — you’re not Erykah Badu.

Enough with the ties already! The first tribal council deadlock, which ultimately resulted in Mitchell’s ouster, was exciting in its unprecedentedness. But once Colby and Jeff received five votes each (with the ex- Ogakors and Kuchas voting on strict tribal lines), the handwriting was on the parchment for Jeff. Since he had already received a vote against him — and Kimmi had blabbed about it in front of the Ogakors — Jeff’s chicken was clearly cooked. But hey, it still beat watching a rerun of ”Friends.”

Read All About ”Survivor” 2 for EW.com’s comprehensive coverage.

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