Survivor: The Queen Is Dead. Long Live the Queen.

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Queen no more: Jerri

The Queen is dead.

In a very romantic-French-novel Week 10 episode that proved the reports — here and elsewhere — of the decline of "Survivor 2" were greatly exaggerated, the Ogakor alliance abandoned its sensible lockstep and abruptly swallowed Jerri in a delightfully shocking Tribal Council. Then it spit her out. It was just the icing on what, undoubtedly, was this "Survivor's finest hour.

No wonder CBS thought it could get away with taking last week off. The suits knew ahead of time that it was actually going to follow the Way of Drama and come down to this, the moment when four of the former members of Ogakor were going to look at Elisabeth and Rodger, and look at each other, and get rid of Jerri. For the sole purpose of making their time in the Outback a lot more pleasant.

But first they fooled her, and the editors fooled us. Jerri'd actually announced on the way to the vote that lithe, adorable Elisabeth was going to be the one to go. Tina had done the dance for the camera, telling Elisabeth with her usual whipped-up velvet-hammer sympathy that keeping Ogakor whole was "the safe way to go." And in the firelight, with the cameras in close, Elisabeth came a flicker away from breaking down in tears.

"You guys got me," Jerri said as she stood up. "Good game."

Good episode. Week 10 opened in full-on doomed-romance mode, our eight remaining castaways rain-besotted, running out of rice, and just waiting around for another Kucha to take it on the chin. Keith was spouting, Rodger and Tina were bonding, Nick had a bumpy tongue. And then the reward challenge arrived — which of course involved a sumptuous buffet, somewhere — and the Baramundians needed to split into four guy-girl teams. Just pick 'em out of a hat like good summer campers, right?

"I don't think so," said Jerri. She wanted Colby, of course. "This game isn't fair."

They picked out of a hat. And she got him anyway. And they won, taking three heats of an obstacle-course sprint, with Colby frequently grabbing Jerri's belt and dragging her over, under and through like a sack of dirty laundry.

And then the cowboy Cary Grant and the low-rent Grace Kelly went to the Great Barrier Reef by helicopter — see you later, Amber, I got work to do — for a big lunch and a snorkel. And there amid the coral occurred a great, G-Rated Romance, Hollywood-style. (Fast-action "happiness montage" included.) They were destined to be together, you see, and besides we had a subplot to plumb: Jerri making her move (and her moves) on the king of the tribe that maybe needed a reason to keep her around. Very "To Catch a Thief," with maybe just a touch of "Pretty Woman." (Though the repartee was more like "Home Improvement." Sample conversation, on the way over: Jerri, her teeth on full blast: "Wow, we are in the middle of nowhere." Colby: "I really got to get me one a these choppers.")

They snorkeled. They laughed. They played with shells. And they didn't talk about the game. "It was very, very romantic on top of everything else," Jerri said, with faux-"Titanic" music swelling in the background. "I got a tender side too." And when they got back Colby reached into his bag of charm and produced a special souvenir piece of coral for all the campers that had had to stay behind. ("Look, Tina, it's orange, for Tennessee!") Gee, that Colby sure is a super guy.

And Jerri just smiled a cold, cold smile, and said, "With that maneuver, he's got one up on me for sure."

Oh boy, did he. The Immunity Challenge, a single-elimination, competitive-balance affair with rope-tugs on pedestals, plank-shaking and other vigorous nonsense, ended with Nick outdueling Colby for the necklace. And it was supposed to matter. Nick was supposed to have pulled off a Jenna-style stay of execution, and the camera was already settling on the sweetness-and-light pairing of Rodger and Elisabeth.

Oh, the heartstrings: We were going to have to say good-bye to one of those dear sweet people, because strategy dictated that Jerri wouldn't have to really fight for her life until both of them and Nick were in the back of the cave with Alicia. It would still have been a heck of an episode — predictable, maybe, but emotional too, and with a very interesting Colby-Jerri climax only two short weeks away.

And then they pulled the switcheroo, and the Queen was dead. Jerri was this "Survivor"'s early pace-setter, the oh-so-aspiring-actress aspiring actress whom the Outback had basically turned into a sex-starved savage. She had waded in and taken over, but she ruled irritatingly and her subjects rebelled. All her old clique had been voted off, like Mitchell, or sidled away, like Colby. Amber, ever loyal, sent off her mistress with an honorable Elisabeth vote, but right now she's gotta be grateful she's been blending into the scenery for weeks.

For voting with their hearts on behalf of their nerves, the remaining seven can now settle in for a kindler, gentler stretch run. "Based on that vote, the game has changed," Jeff Probst intoned as Jerri departed. "And a new tribe has finally been born." Wow. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

But at what cost? The next one's got something to do with food, and sacrifice. Emphasis on Rodger. Suddenly I feel the boredom coming on again.