There is a special breed of television filler that is the bane of various series' fans everywhere. That would be the "special episodes" cobbled together using previously-aired footage. The Simpsons, for example, at least has the self-awareness to make fun of themselves for airing "Clip Shows," although recycled later-season Simpsons footage still has not composted long enough to emit "funny" fumes.
Not so Survivor, though. CBS promises their well-polished turds will shine like Silas' teeth, and fill the living room with the sweet aroma of freshy-picked jasmine. "50% new footage!" their previews beseech us. Yes, well, half of it being stuff we already winced through once may be all well and good for gushing, hearts-on-the-Trapper-Keeper "fans" of the show, but where does it leave those of whose interest is waning, and didn't like most of the people the first time we saw them? That's right, tuned to CBS at eight o'clock on a Thursday, same as always. Oh well. Our pledge to you: Almost none of the jokes you read here have been recycled. That's because they all sucked the first time, and we thought better of it this time around (hint, hint). So bear with us, as we wade through the first 21 days of Survivor: Africa. Again.
CBS promised, and even gave this episode the title "Look Closer" to further drive the point home, that this exercise will not be pointless. We will be allowed a deeper, more thorough understanding of these dear contestants, a peek into their inner machinations, nay, their very souls. So we open, of course, with Day 1's hike to camp. And learn, to our surprise, that the Samburu young'ns found Frank to be a tad bossy. Really? Well, at least that's what our notes say. Ah, that must have been some of the non-fresh footage. Let's skip ahead to the new stuff, shall we?
Still Day 1, and Boran is collecting water, looks familiar... no wait! This is in fact rare, priceless footage of Diane in a bikini! Oh, how we've missed Diane, and her paranoid, lion-hearing auditory hallucinations! And it keeps going. Diane is still afraid. Interest: waning, waning, waning... ah, now we're back at Boran, and they're trying to build fire again. Back to the old footage, but it's at least an opportunity to discretely film down Jessie's shirt as she bends over. Advantage: push.
Next, we have some more new footage, in which everyone in Boran gets the chance to join America in one of our favorite pastimes: making fun of Clarence and his warpaint. Lex thinks it's silly. MamaKim and Ethan do, too. Kelly has a good laugh, then starts jabbering away about sororities and padding her bra. But they do have a point. Clarence, in his defense, swears it was chosen by the producers from five things he'd brought, and he never thought they'd pick the warpaint. Yeah, but that's like listing every embarassing album you've ever owned, like Yanni, and letting them put that up on their web site. Oh wait, you did that, too.
More ancient footage of Elders vs. AllRats and sick, sick Jessie follow. But then there's a revealing session with Frank and his luxury item: deer antlers. Not surprisingly, this is an opportunity for everyone in Samburu to laugh at Frank. Probably because he is a damn weirdo. So to sum up: Boran doesn't like Clarence, and Frank is a bossy fruitcake. Our insight is deepening as we speak. Near Hoover Dam depth.
Phew! Up to Day 6 already, and we're working up a sweat. This is a good time to go the old water hole. Hey look, there's a troop of humorously cavorting monkeys! Nope, on closer inspection, that's just Samburu. And the high-pitched screeching was just Teresa giving them a "pep talk." This, of course, is more screen time than T-Bird has gotten in the previous seven episodes combined, so it must be new. But this beneficent gesture is, of course, balanced out by a verbatim rehash of the entire scary, scary sequence where Boran "interacts" with (well, hears somewhere in the distance) the wheezing lions at night. "It's real," a hushed Kelly tells us. Ethan swears it could happen every night. Yeah, well, if it did, why didn't the cameramen bother filming it on any of those other 41 nights, eh? Not only has this part aired in its entirety before, but all the shocking footage was used in that week's preview, as well. It's "real," all right.
Having just seen old footage, it's time for some more. A lot more. Silas gets a necklace. Both tribes make distress signals. A special encore presentation of the thong and butt-crack-with-feather scenes (we're pretty sure this was preceded by a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" logo). Lindsey gets dehydrated. Carl blows at inaccurate trivia. Lindsey freaks out, swiftly followed by Linda. On the plus side, CBS sticks it to the suckers who paid them $19.95 for "Insider" access, by broadcasting the exclusive "Insider" scene of Linda apologizing to Lindsey. Now, in the Survivor 2 re-crap show, Jerri was shown apologizing to Keith, warming our opinion of her, thereby softening the crushing blow of her departure in the following episode. We're going out on a limb here to predict that Linda and Lindsey won't make it all the way.
Next, we get some exciting new footage of Samburu receiving, opening, cooking, eating, and reminiscing about an ostrich egg. Teresa is even allowed to make a comment on-screen. Frank sums it all up by rubbing his belly, and concluding in a satisfied air that their hearty breakfast that morning will give them enough strength and energy to all but guarantee a Samburu victory in that day's immunity challenge. Except that Boran wins it (the physical house-carrying challenge, where Lindsey got her bruise). Then there's more old footage: the elders know they're toast. Lindsey screams, "Vote for me! I promise I won't call you all bastards and threaten you with 'don't fuck with me' this time! At least not until my confessional tomorrow morning!"
Linda gets booted. The twist happens. Tom, Kelly and Lex hate living at Samburu. Frank and Teresa have to clean their new buffs, they got so excited about being in Boran. We start to wonder what happened to that "50%" promise. And then it happens. A sensitive, heartwarming scene, in which naive, curious Tom sensitively, delicately asks Brandon: "Are you gay?" Tom then recounts his experimental college days in gay bars. Brandon compliments Tom's warm smile. Staring into the campfire, their talk turns to farm animals, orgasmic country foods, and then... the camera politely fades to black. Later, Tom swears he was thinking about women the whole time.
We smoothly segue into bondage and boot camp scenes. Seems Frank is good at barking orders, drill sergeant-style. Who knew? This part was sadly omitted the first time around because, well, it had nothing to do with the goat-herding challenge. Which Boran still wins against hapless Samburu. But now we know why Tom had that big grin on his face the whole time his team was losing. And we get deeper insight into bossy, kooky Frank, who appears to have military leanings. We'll have to make a note of that one.
Fifteen minutes left in the show, meaning of course that there's time to cram one new piece of revealing footage in before CSI. That's right, it's the white-knuckle thrill ride of Boran going to do their laundry at the water hole, in an attempt to kill time while waiting for the merge. Sadly, we are deprived of further MamaKim thongage, but we do get to see her washing her only two pieces of underwear. There is a God. Also, Teresa makes yet another guest appearance, this time in a swimsuit. We're not sure where all this washing is taking place, because MB has taken pains to visually catalog every piece of feces floating in the area beforehand. Several appear fresh.
But on closer inspection, they've probably been there a while. Much like the remaining twelve minutes of the show. Hold on, is that a new preview, at least? A fresh plug for Survivor Insider? Or a new Buff (TM) commercial? (Okay, there is a single new shot of a Moto Maji one). A new Survivor: The Interactive Game ad? No, no, mostly no, and no. We think back on all the exotic, scintillating facts we've learned tonight, and see... floating turds.