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Kelly is booted by a tight 5-4 vote

Lex’s gut instincts, says Ken Tucker, lead to backstabbing and a bright future for nimbus-haired Ethan

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Kelly Goldsmith, Survivor: Africa
Survivor Africa: Robert Voets/CBS

Kelly is booted by a tight 5-4 vote

First things first: The line of the evening on Thursday night’s ”Survivor: Africa” had to be host Jeff Probst’s cheery re-introduction of an African citizen: ”You guys remember Charles, from when we drank blood?” Oh, you mean the time Charles shot an arrow into a steer and the ”Survivor” crew gathered ’round to swill it down — sure! How’s it been going, Chuck?

Beyond this, the hour was dominated by perrennially peeved, Sideshow Bob-ish, tattooed Lex talking about his good instincts, a.k.a., his ”gut.” ”You know my gut is good,” Lex told Tom. ”My gut is telling me” to vote against Kelly, he said. And in the throes of trying to find out who cast a vote against him two weeks ago, Lex told Theresa, ”My gut told me you’re the real deal.”

Well, his gut was playing mind games with him, to mix physical metaphors — it was in fact Theresa who had voted to boot the grumpy stomach-truster. Finally, addressing the camera during the vote, Lex remained faithful to his metaphor: Holding up a ”Kelly”-scrawled card, he said, as if talking directly to her, ”My gut tells me that you’re stabbing me in the back.” Lex, are you sure it wasn’t your back telling you Kelly was stabbing you in the gut?

No matter the exact location of the wound, Kelly did vote against Lex last night, but in a surprisingly tense 5-4 squeaker, Kelly lost, and Lex survives to let his gut do what his brain should be doing until the next tribal council. The night’s shining star was that cute, nimbus-haired Ethan, who won both the reward challenge and the immunity challenge. With his shy-guy grin and slinky hacky-sack moves (he seems to charm everyone, from his fellow castaways to the locals), the young soccer player is looking more like the ultimate Survivor every week.

Heck, even before the credits rolled, one of the show’s sponsors, Cingular Wireless, ”saluted” Ethan for his wins last night. My gut is telling me that, even if he doesn’t win the million bucks, Ethan’s the only one in this grizzled bunch who’s going to pick up any of the commercial endorsements previous ”Survivor” contestants have scored.

Of course, I could be wrong — that may just be a crick in my neck talking.

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