On the seventh day, the creator, Mark Burnett, gave us a fair fight, and he didn't even need to redo the teams this time. After getting whipped by da Kota tribe in the two-hour season opener, Fang fought back and swept both challenges in impressive fashion. Still, while Fang grabbed momentum away from Kota according to Jeff Probst, this recap reporter (Paul Wolfe, subbing for the vacationing Rhoda Charles) thinks Kota will defang Fang up until the merge. Frankly, it's time for Mark and Jeff to divide the group into balanced teams instead of letting clueless elders choose sides. Harsh as it sounds, Randy has rightly pegged his tribemates as "complete idiots" when it comes to playing the game of Survivor.

Pole hugging and sand wrestling were the sports of choice in the best-of-three Reward Challenge (where was the mud?), as teams of two were charged with ripping a rival off of a pole and dragging them across a finish line. Kota dominated an all-male Round 1, as Charlie and Marcus man-handled a helpless Dan while G.C. gave up, again, while trying to help Matty tear Ace away from his pole. Led by an Olympic effort from Crystal, Fang roared back to win the next two rounds. First, she and Randy picked up puny Paloma and tossed her back to the finish line. Then Crystal teamed with Matty to drag Ace through the dirt and win their first challenge. Crystal may have won her Olympic medal (a gold in 2004) as a 4x400 relay runner, but after this performance it looks like she could go for the gold in weightlifting as well.

After losing the first three challenges, victory was sweet enough for Fang, but they also earned a surprisingly unsponsored comfort package (I guess the economic climate prevented the CBS sales force from inking an endorsement deal with Bed, Bath & Beyond). Pillows, blankets, a hammock and a mat (to wipe their feet before entering the hut?) were awarded to Fang, so hopefully they can now ignore all their snoring and get some sleep.

Fang also chose to send a little Sugar to Exile "Island." Like a blonde Dora the Explorer, Sugar gathered clues while traveling from Sandy Crater to One Tree Hill (a tree, not the CW drama) to Yonder Creek. Finally, she waded through muddy water (Watch out! There was a croc there last month!) and plucked an individual immunity idol from a tree. She made it look so easy that even she wondered why Dan struck out last week: "I can't believe I found it, and the lawyer didn't!" Smart play by Sugar, but I was disappointed later when she quickly shared her good fortune with Ace, who immediately claimed half ownership. "This is ours," he declared. "That just sets our game up so well until right to the end."

The Immunity Challenge featured the coolest water park in Africa. Tribemates slid down slippery slides (well, everyone but Corrine that is) and retrieved six numbered tiles from a seemingly friendly lake (no crocs or hippos here for some reason). Kota finished the relay first, but professional gamer Ken rallied to upset Professor Bob and solve a mathematical riddle and win immunity for underdog Fang.

Just when it seemed like Paloma was certain to be voted out, the always sneaky Survivor editing crew shared a little Ace animosity that surfaced before and during Tribal Council. Turns out, Corrine thinks Ace is a con artist with a phony accent, and Kelly considers him "almost condescending." Reversing a recent Survivor trend of ousting physically strong players asap, Kota almost unanimously agreed that Paloma was the weakest link and sent her packing by a 7-2 vote. Voting for Ace were Paloma and Kelly (not Corrine as my eyes originally thought), but Corrine appears to be a major player and clearly wants to shock Ace with a pink slip well before the merge.

Did you notice
" that Marcus was wearing an individual immunity idol, which I momentarily forgot he won way back in the opening moments of the premiere episode?
" that Corrine invited Bob to be the fifth wheel in the Onion Alliance but he didn't seem to commit 100 percent? He was smart to let her do all the talking.
" the stunning animal scenery (hippos and elephants and a really fast black cat, oh my!)? But will we ever see a player and an animal in a shot together? It just always seems like the animal scenes were filmed months in advance and just provide scenic segues to the next human scene.
" Sugar say, "I don't really know how to play this game"? Uh, why not? Dog ate your DVD player? Seriously, when I finally get picked to play Survivor (you know, after the supply of California's wannabe actors has been exhausted), I will know how to play the game because I've watched every episode of all 16 previous seasons. Even if you haven't been a fan from the start, once you get picked for the show the least you could do is have Netflix ship you every season so you can learn the rules and strategy.

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Edited by Rhoda Charles at 10/03/2008 6:21 AM