The series takes a turn to the old west, says Ken Tucker, as Tom and Frank discuss manly issues
Brandon Quinton, Survivor: Africa
Credit: Survivor Africa: Robert Voets/CBS

Alliances crumble as Brandon gets the boot

Thursday night, ”Survivor: Africa” turned briefly into a scene out of ”Cheyenne Autumn” or ”El Dorado.” Genial but gruff-tough Tom and prickly, antisocial Frank started chewing on straw and engaging in man-to-man jaw-boning that wouldn’t have been out of place in an old Western directed by John Ford or Howard Hawks. There was talk about keepin’ yore word and handshake honor; it was alliance-building at its most engaging, and contributed to the best installment of this African competition so far.

Indeed, most of the hour was taken up with matters of masculinity. The ”reward challenge” was won by the team of Frank and Brandon, the two guys who dislike each other most. They won a trip away from the Moto Maji camp for an evening, as Jeff Probst put it, ”at the movies, ‘Survivor’-style”: a 35-millimeter-film camera unspooled ”Out Of Africa” while Frank and Brandon munched on hot dogs, popcorn, and (Jeff again) ”all the Mountain Dew you can drink.” (Just think: More people probably saw Robert Redford in fleeting glimpses of ”Africa” last night than have seen him in his last two feature films combined.)

Meanwhile, back at the camp, many giggles were had about the romantic evening these two antagonists might be having; implicit in the joshing was a blithe ridicule of Brandon’s homosexuality that was startling for the way it was so off-hand and cavalier.

Unfortunately, irritating Lex, who’s still gassing on about his stomach’s good instincts — his latest boast: ”My gut is still pretty damn accurate” — won the immunity challenge, so he lives to grouse and plot for at least another episode.

Brandon, who’d made the fatal mistake of alienating crucial votes when he turned against Kelly last week, got the heave-ho. But the intrigue — all bets are off now; alliances have evaporated in the hot African sun — is certainly making this show juicier. Frank said, ”People are changin’ their minds like they’re changin’ their underwear.” The sentiment was right, even if the simile was wrong: People ain’t changin’ their underwear very often out there, Frank.

And speaking of personal hygiene, what was up (literally) with that ”boil” on poor Tom’s neck? As Tom said, it was so big and angry-looking, it appeared as if ”I’m growin’ a horn.” Ouch. Producer Mark Burnett spent almost an entire segment on Tom’s boil, and when you can make skin eruptions engrossing, you’re not desperate — you’re some kinda genius.

Survivor: Africa
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