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Survivor: "Ready To Bite The Apple" (plus Amazing Race)

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So did anybody else watch the recap show last week? Even though I didn't blog it, I'm a sucker for unaired footage, so I plowed through the whole hour, thoough all I really learned was that the survivors have eaten some weird crap, and that Courtney's impressions of her tribemates reinforce that she's a terrible, terrible person. And then, at the end, a reminder of the previous week's cliffhanger….

Since the last "next time on Survivor" showed pretty much all the castaways, it was obvious that the cliffhanger wasn't going to involve another vote-off. Instead it was a surprise reward challenge, offering the winner a chance to visit the Shaolin temple, where they would be forced to work their way arduously through all 35 chambers.

Okay, I made up that last part. Instead they get to watch a kung fu demonstration and enjoy a vegetarian feast. (Because all these people do is eat.)

Meanwhile, back at a rain-soaked, muddy camp, James, Todd, Courtney and Amanda marvel that their planned final four are all still together. Or are they? Amanda, showing an unexpectedly Todd-like propensity for scheming, crunches the numbers and realizes that with two immunity idols, James is bound not just for the Top 4 but the Top 3. And given how much work he's done around camp, and how well-liked he is, James is almost guaranteed to win the million. James, meanwhile, brings back the "apple" metaphor, stressing once again that Adam and Eve would be "frolicking naked in heaven" right now if they hadn't been convinced that they knew more than God.

In the end, Amanda does play God, and engineers James' ouster before he can put either of his idols in play. In theory, this is the right move, but it's not exactly a safe one. If Peih-Gee's smart, she'll be the anti-Amanda, and point out to Denise that while she may be in line to make the final four, there's no way that the clique-y Todd, Amanda and Courtney will let her make the final three. If there's going to be another power-play, it pretty much has to happen next week. Which makes me worry that next week might be the last interesting episode of the season until the finale.

And given how high-school-ish everyone has acted thus far, that finale should be amusingly contentious.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

-Why did it take so long to get a shuriken-throwing challenge?

-I was glad that James took his ousting like a man, with no hard feelings. He gambled that he could hold onto his idols a little longer, and he lost. It's a game, after all, and he understood that. I also liked James' final line, that "trying to hold these Froot Loops together has been killing me." According to the rumor mill, the next season of Survivor is going to be an All-Star edition, and there's no way they can pass up James as a player, can they?

Bonus Amazing Race observations (two weeks worth!):

-I grew to like the blonde beauty queens who appeared on the last two seasons, but I don't expect to have any such sympathy for Shana and Jennifer, who keep apologizing for their lack of make-up, and literally turning up their noses at the natives. ("What's that perfume you're wearing?" they say behind the back of some malodorous train passengers. "Salon d'Afrique?") That said, even though they probably didn't need to use their "U-Turn" this past week, I don't get the moral outrage of their fellow players. This is a game, and "U-Turns"–like the "Yields" before them–are legitimate strategic elements in the game. Getting mad at a team for using them is like getting mad at them for running faster than you. (Which also happened this week, actually.)

-The Goths didn't do anything overtly goth-y over the past two weeks, unless crying over the poverty in Africa counts.

-One of my favorite aspects of The Amazing Race is the creative use of ADR. The producers try to convey necessary information–like flight delays and the like–in the most convincing manner possible, so they hire some voice actor to read an announcement in a French accent, to approximate the sound of something official.

-This past week's dance competition struck me as a little freeform. It doesn't seem fair to penalize teams for something as subjective as, "Your movements lacked creativity."

-Line of the past two weeks, from the pre-Thanksgiving episode: "You've got to be gentle. You're handling nipples."

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