Producers struggle to induce interpersonal fireworks, but have limited success, says Ken Tucker
Lindsey Richter, Survivor: Africa
Credit: Survivor Africa: Robert Voet/CBS

Samburu’s Lindsey gets the boot

Oooh, arrows on fire aimed at big, brightly colored African totems — pretty!

At this point in ”Survivor,” one takes one’s pleasures where one can, and last night’s immunity challenge (whoever lit five straw totem masks first won) made for a picturesque tableau. Last week’s production-ordered switcheroo, in which members of the Boran and Samburu tribes were reshuffled, has, it’s now clear, done nothing except make the show more confusing to the viewer. The gradual formation of personal and group strategies to survive — cornerstones of the mounting interest in the two previous editions of ”Survivor”– has been ruined. What’s left is a haphazard, who-knows? atmosphere among the players that can easily rub off on the audience.

Producer Mark Burnett was up to his old editing tricks last night, cutting the episode so that we thought Samburu’s Brandon would be voted out. Instead, Lindsey — the whiner, the layabout, the girl who, in Brandon’s words a couple of weeks ago, ”runs her mouth” — said a shaky goodbye, and who among us can say we greeted this with glee or sorrow?

That’s the problem with this ”Survivor”: The mean-spirited people (like autocratic Frank and self-righteous Tom) aren’t clever enough to enjoy as villains, and the likable people… well, at this point, the only person I’d pull a flaming arrow out of would be easy-going Ethan, and we haven’t heard enough from him to know whether he’s a clever player or not.

Oh, yeah, the food challenge, won by Samburu: It was sandwiches, pasta, cookies, and, crowed Jeff Probst, ”all the Mountain Dew you can drink!” Remember the good old days of ”Survivor,” when half-starved, dehydrated people used to get snockered on beer or champagne? It’s a tough new advertising market out there, guys: Caffeinated soda is the only way to get high now.

Who do you think should win ”Survivor”?

Survivor: Africa
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