Colby, Keith or Tina?

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Saviors? The 'Survivor' final three: Colby, Tina and Keith

So, Colby said something interesting a few weeks back — "My only loyalty is to Tina." Which could mean one of three things: One, that sweet-yet-ruthless Tina, using her nursing skills, has successfully Freuded her way into the Vexin' Texan's mama's-boy heart, and the two have agreed to face the jury together and let the first and second prizes fall where they may (heck, Colby's already got a car). Two, that Colby somehow doesn't realize that whoever can get into the Final Two popular vote-off opposite Keith is a shoo-in for the grand prize. And three, nothing whatsoever. The CBS editors have burned us too many times for anything on air to be taken at face value.

But we do know this: The winner of the final Immunity Challenge of "Survivor II" — set for some time after the 8:30 p.m. ET commercial break — won't necessarily be the winner of the million bucks, but he or she will be the swing vote to pick the one who finishes third. If Colby wins — and after acing physical and mental contests alike on his way to this point, it's hard not to make him the favorite — he probably ought to knife Tina faster than Tina knifed Maralyn, and take his chances against the chef. If Tina wins, she ought to do the same to Colby. And if Keith takes it, well, if Keith takes it I'll eat my hat.

The gourmet chef from the Motor City — and that ought to tell you something right there — is a one-man Three Stooges. He's ruined the Rice-A-Roni, gone wading after lost supplies with the tribe's precious matches in his pocket, and lost his padlock in the high grass while Colby scampered to victory. He's made it this far having won only two immunity challenges — and he had to beg Tina for one of those.

The guy got engaged over e-mail, for heaven's sakes. Not to mention those stupid sunglasses, and the fact that nobody likes him very much. The man is just not a winner.

So what's he doing in the final three? Mediocrity. There's always somebody else — more likable, more formidable, more something for the group to get rid of before they get around to Keith. And that's why even if he follows form and pulls up lame in the Immunity Challenge, it's not a bad bet that Tina and Colby will turn on each other to get Keith into the finals. Because who in that jury is gonna vote for Keith? Jerri?

Back on Super Bowl Sunday, "Survivor II" was full of Richard Hatch wannabes. Everybody was plotting, backstabbing, sniping and dreaming that somehow they were going to scheme their way to victory, or get a book deal trying. And just like last season, the post-merge world was dominated by original-tribe alliances (though the surprise emotion-based ousting of Jerri remains a shining exception).

But lately, the sequel of the biggest television show, reality or otherwise, in modern TV history has taken a somewhat different turn. Maybe it's the Outback.

There's been more storms, more disasters, more starvation — and if CBS knows what's good for it, it'll stop riding in with care packages and food-for-shelter deals, and just let nature take its course. The downside is that the group tends to bond and put backstabbing aside when real adversity hits — the upside is that this is supposedly a survivor show, and that bonding can be a dramatic weapon. The way the remaining group fixed bitterly on Colby when the rain washed away their camp while he was off eating stew and sipping crisp, refreshing, won't-fill-you-up-never-lets-you-down Bud Light — that's what this season has been all about, and when CBS has let the show run itself it's been just as good, in its own way, as the original.

Which brings us back to Colby. That resentment, that challenge-winner's curse, had the cowboy on the ropes for a while. But after eighteen (or is it nineteen?) consecutive challenge victories, Colby looks to have outran and outlasted the curse, and the betting here is that resentment or not, the jury has probably come around to the fact that without a schemer-in-chief to take the Machiavelli prize this season, the man deserves the million on physical and mental prowess alone.

Which of course means he'd better win one more, or else Keith and Tina — who've been natural allies from the very beginning — will surely realize they'd rather face the jury up against each other than the toothy Texan. Tina would probably win, but for Keith — who's actually more of a "survivor," in terms of pure can't-shake-him doggedness, than Colby, who's more of a "prevailer" — it's all about getting to the next round and seeing what happens.

But his only chance at the million bucks may be to show up to the final Tribal Council naked.