'Survivor:' The Sugar is Dead. Long Live the Spice.

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CBS

Sent packing: Elisabeth

As the ingenue's hair goes, so goes the ingenue. With her newly-shaven Outback daddy, Rodger looking grimly on ( both he and Richard should have kept their beards) the Ogakor alliance held together tighter than Colby to his mother and sent a softly unraveling Elisabeth out of the tribe. She took it with spunk, doing an emotional version of Alicia's I'm-too-strong sass over the credits: She knows Colby, Tina and Keith did it out or fear — cause everybody loves her.

Oh well. Sweetness, cuteness, and the Rodger-would-have-wanted-me-to-win pathos angle only gets you so far in this business.

But boy, wasn't that some kind of cool car? Yes, the Vexin' Texan kept right on ridin' in the penultimate week of "Survivor II" (but don't panic — there'll be an extra week of Doritos and Budweiser commercials when CBS sops up the last bit of ratings with the homecoming-themed "Back from the Outback" in two weeks!). For outracing his tribemates through a sort of Greatest Hits obstacle course (I think these guys are running out of new ideas, aside from putting Probst in blue this week), he got a Brand New Pontiac Aztec, With a Tent That Goes On the Back.

The Colbster says: "It's got the neatest amenities a car ever had."

For the endorsement, Mr. Outrun Outjump Outlast got a nice meal and a hot shower, and — oh my gosh — a visit from his mom.

They hugged endlessly. She slept in the truck with him. Afterward, Colby likened the experience to a "conjugal visit."

Colby loves his mom.

Which brings us to the emotional depths this show is willing to plumb. Last week's Outback Internet Café was bad enough as an Apple ad and a Hallmark prize, but at least it was mercifully short. Some tears, a marriage proposal, a couple of smiley faces and it was over. This time, Colby's mama didn't just come for dinner, and smear a little mascara over how thin he'd gotten. She stayed over. She came back and hugged everybody back at the camp. Everybody back at the camp cried a lot.

Colby was ravenous — "There's a look in his eyes that bothers me a lot," said mom — and Tina was just super nice. Elisabeth called her the "token loved one" and fell apart in her arms. Then Mom handed over the care packages, and that got Keith going.

And this is a survivor show? It's more like "This is Your Life," with Oprah hosting. There are only two ways this can go from here: Tina gets a visit from her wholesome brood, or Keith and "Asparagus" shack up in a Sydney hotel — on camera! (The "unrated" version will be available by mail.)

So here's hoping the producers and editors of "Survivor" realize what they've got left, and go with it. Three toughened, hungry veterans glaring each other in the sunken eye. (It's "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" meets "Treasure of the Sierra Madre"!) Tina, the Stepford Mom, Colby, the champ, and the chef.

OK, this could be simple. Colby did say "my only loyalty is to Tina." (after his mom) and Keith is clearly starting to lose it. He seems to spend his days either lolling against a tree and muttering, or going on long hikes to contemplate death and redemption "if my legs hold out." He sounds like he's ready to go.

But I always saw Keith and Tina together, drawing a generational line in the sand when it came to surviving. It'd be dull, even distasteful, but there's also a delicious irony in it. I mean, how many bags of Doritos is Keith gonna sell for CBS?

They'd have to stop Colby first, who's been Hoovering up the free food and prizes for weeks and long since stopped apologizing for it. And the guy looks like he could be ready to run the table. There's always the jury, and lord knows they've been trying to get rid of him for weeks. But if he sweeps the challenges, even his victims, the ones who leaned on him for too long, will have to hand it to him. And we'll watch the Colbster drive away in his Brand New Pontiac Aztec, with stray bills fluttering out the windows, and we'll wave, and shake our heads. It's not like Tina and Keith are all that likable.

Then again, the way this season is going we could be getting set up for an three-hankee-emotional, family-friendly finale, in which Tina and her family hug each other a lot and buy a farm or something. Cue the violins.

Which sort of makes you want to root for Keith — whose only victory came in the weight-loss challenge — to somehow stagger across that great finish line in the sand, just so he can blow his nose one last time . . . and give everybody the finger.