But ''Africa'' is offering no strong personalities and no competition for ''Friends'' and baseball, says Ken Tucker
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Linda Spencer, Survivor: Africa
Credit: Survivor Africa: Monty Brinton/CBS

Samburu’s Linda gets ousted at Tribal Council

Up against a pumped World Series and a Sean Penn-ed ”Friends,” the Nov. 1 ”Survivor” suddenly seemed like a show whose production had been hijacked from master showman Mark Burnett and handed over to PBS. The reality series was rendered tedious, ”educational” (”Tribes of East Africa are nomadic,” lectured host Jeff Probst), and picturesque for the sake of being picturesque (so many pretty long-shots of landscape, so little human drama).

By now, you begin to notice how LITTLE impression some of the contestants are making — not a good sign for a game show predicated on manufacturing strong-willed celebrities. Grumpy brunette Kim, of the Samburu ”tribe” (as opposed to the perennially exhausted-looking blonde Kim of Boran), is a prime example. It was only because she was given a little camera time to bemoan her team’s lack of unity (”Can we get it together?” she bleated) that we realized how little she has impressed her personality upon the show.

This week’s physical challenges were unimaginative: leaping across a bouncy net for the food, relocating camps for the immunity challenge. And the squabbling pre-Tribal Council kick-off proved to be ineffective filibustering, most of it conducted by the super-pectoral Silas. It took Probst to explain to Samburu the basic logic that their tribe should stop the fighting, because once the two tribes merge, ”You need numbers” — i.e., unity against the increasingly superior-in-every-way Boran bunch.

In the end, Linda was voted off, supercilious to the end (”Play nicely” were her last words). Probst closed out the hour by quoting Silas (who himself got three ouster votes to Linda’s four) as saying, ”This game changes minute by minute.”

It’s getting so some of us wish it would change at least a few times in an hour. For the first time, I thought that if CBS aired ”The Amazing Race” on Thursdays at 8 p.m. instead of ”Survivor” the exciting, funny, better-edited ”Race” might be this season’s new ”reality” phenomenon.

”Don’t miss the first 15 minutes of ‘Survivor”’ next week, implored the announcer over the closing credits. Sounds like CBS knows NBC’s ”Friends” is making its longstanding alliances far more appealing than they’d ever dreamed.

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