Nick, the Devil and the Trouble With Paradise

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Nick leaves behind six survivors and more than a couple of pounds

And a wilted Nick was cast out of the garden.

A harsh Old Testament order was restored to the Outback on Thursday night in a Week 10 episode of "Survivor 2" full of hunger, weariness and Deadly Sins. The victim was Nick, who it should have been — not only was he the perfect candidate to reunite the spasmodic Ogakor alliance, he walked under the cursed cloud of envy known as "having won the last Immunity Challenge." (There's a certain way those things can make a target appear on your back, at least around the ol' watercooler.)

Besides, the guy had blisters on his tongue, he never went fishing and he could barely stand up. In this game, he who desiccates is lost.

Yes, it was a time of plague and great hunger as the Baramundi tribe began life A.J. (After Jerri). They had eaten all their rice, and as CBS taunted us with the possibility that Amber had not made it out of her dead Queen's shadow in time to feel safe with her fellow Ogakors, Keith and Colby were forced to wander the fields of the Outback in a comically edited ritual known to Colby as "grasshopper wrangling." Yet even as the bait ran them ragged, they could catch no fish.

"Everyone here would bring back Jerri if we had rice to come with her," lamented Elisabeth disjointedly. It was that bad. At the start of the episode, they'd high-fived over getting rid of the devil — now they were ready to sell their souls for a bowl of carbs.

At which point the real devil appeared at the crossroads, in the form of Jeff Probst. This wasn't contract time yet, mind you — just a getting-to-know-you, involving some of Old Scratch's favorite sins: greed and gluttony. For the Reward Challenge, Probst grabbed his gavel and held a food auction.

It wasn't exactly high drama, but it was fiendishly clever, in a hammy CBS sort of way. At a point in the show's life when it was clear the producers were going to have ride to the rescue of this version of Reality if they didn't want these seven slender TV-game-show contestants to start eating each other — or worse, the cameramen — they taunted them with pleasures of the tongue and teased out the greedy (Nick — could we stop feeding these people Doritos, please?), the foolish (Amber, falling for the glass-of-water "Mystery item") and the cagey. That last would of course would be Colby, holding out for a protein bar and laughing it up with Amber afterward when everybody started running for the john.

Then Probst appeared a second time, with the Immunity Challenge. It was a Rube Goldberg–type thing, with fire and water and buckets with holes in them, just to finish off the last of the tribe's physical reserves. (Colby won just to be The Man. We'll see if it comes back to haunt him.)

And then on his third trip, after the intermission, the devil-with-a-jungle-shirt-on came to close the deal.

"My role is a giver and a taker, and nothing comes cheap," Probst said, his eyes flickering fire. He scolded them a while for burning through their rations, and then he asked for their shelter — "the tarps and that big ol' Texas flag" — for a fresh supply of rice. The tribe held out for 25 fishing hooks. The deal was done. And suddenly the little piggies were eating fish, and building their second house, this one made of sticks. Spirits were high again.

"Maybe," chirped Tina, "it's not even gonna rain tonight." Cue the thunder.

Does anybody else miss Jerri? Episode 10 had a lean, mean, "Sopranos" quality to it. It was an hour of hunger and craven desperation, of crumbling spirits — Elisabeth, weepy and irritable, is the new deathwatch person now that Nick is gone — and it all had a certain sense of cosmic justice. At the Tribal Council, Ogakor returned to the strategic straight and narrow by sparing Amber (whose bland good looks are holding so well she may in fact be animatronic) and resuming its systematic elimination of the ex-Kuchas. Elisabeth is clearly being set up as next to go, and she'll make an ideal sympathy target. (Remember Jenna?)

Darwinism is back, social and otherwise, and that is the solid skeleton of this show. But the sight of Jerri and Alicia, the two women scorned, sitting on that growing jury was a pungent reminder that the entertainment value of "Survivor" does not lie with the ability of a handful of hungry people to get along while they starve. Jerri is missed. (And I'm not alone — 6 percent of respondents to a USA poll picked Jerri to go again, suggesting that people much prefer to vote her off than actually see her go.) With Colby seemingly in charge, and two hungry, hungry Kuchas to go, we could be in for two more weeks of lean entertainment pickings.

But then again, last week proved that Reality TV can work in mysterious ways.