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'Survivor': When Chase met Jane

Despite having a record three North Carolinians on this season's cast, we haven't been treated to any Tar Heel talk until the tribes merge this week. That's when Chase Rice, the former UNC football player, finally gets to spend time with Jane Bright, the Moore County dog groomer.

And boy, do they hit it off, quickly swapping stories about Southern accents, dogs and shotguns. It's like Tar Heel old home week right there on an island in Nicaragua.

The lovefest brings out the worst in Jane's nemesis -- the arrogant, detestable Marty, who openly campaigns against her. He even throws in some anti-Southern stereotyping, just in case we didn't hate him enough.

But Marty isn't the most awful person of the week. That honor goes -- once again -- to the angry, vindictive NaOnka. She's a rare combination of mean and clueless. Really, NaOnka, you thought stealing food and cookware was a good strategy?

All this, plus Dan still can't walk. And you won't believe who gets sent home.

'Survivor': Thank God she's a country girl!

It's one of those weeks when "Survivor" leaves you with more questions than answers. Questions like:

--how can Marty be both incredibly obnoxious and amazingly stupid?

--why would anyone try to mess with our North Carolina homegirl Jane?

--is Fabio really a Freudian scholar?

--why are there always snakes slithering around Tribal Council?

--and who exactly is "Purple Kelly" and where has she been all season?

Let's get right to it ...

'Survivor': What would Guillermo Vilas do?

What a difference a week makes! With this season beginning to drag, "Survivor" producers performed a drastic reboot last week, shuffling the tribes and jettisoning the creaky older vs. younger concept. That paid huge dividends this week, as we got what was easily the most entertaining episode of the season.

There was Machiavellian scheming aplenty on both tribes. There was lots of Tribal Council trash talk. There were two Tribal Councils, one of which ended in a tie that forced a revote. And there were moments that made you scream at the TV, "What the $#@*% are you people thinking?"

Alas, when all was said and done, one of our three North Carolinians went home. As that great chess master Guillermo Vilas might say, "Checkmate."

'Survivor': Shake it up

Mark Burnett is no dummy. When the "Survivor" producer sees a season of his long-running hit about to go south, he's not above stepping in to try to turn things around and keep viewers tuned in.

And drastic action was definitely needed on "Survivor: Nicaragua." The old vs. young competition just wasn't working, mainly because the old folks kept losing. Plus, celebrity contestant Jimmy Johnson was gone way too soon. (Dang, Coach, we still miss you!)

So producers mixed things up this week, randomly picking new captains and having them select new team members from the other tribe. The result was a more interesting show, with some cocky competitors taken down a peg. (We're looking at you, crazy-hair Marty!) And our three North Carolina contestants? Well, the switcheroo was a big gain for each.

'Survivor': Despicable them

Is there some new prize on "Survivor" this season for being the most awful, annoying person ever to appear on the show? I mean, how else to explain some of the bad behavior we see this week. Sure, past seasons have given us evil Russell, "black widow" Jerri, obnoxious (and naked!) Richard and grumpy Randy. But this Nicaragua group may top them all.

There's NaOnka, a detestable schoolteacher (be afraid if your kid is ever in her class). She's nasty to just about everyone, but she's particularly mean to her tribemate Kelly Bruno, our North Carolina player who is an amputee. "Not even a one-legged person can stand in my way," NaOnka crows. (Nice, huh?)

Let's not forget Marty, who engineered last week's ouster of Super Bowl-winning Coach Jimmy Johnson because he viewed Johnson as a threat in the leadership department. Of course, Marty doesn't seem to have any discernible leadership skills himself, beyond pointing out the flaws in others.

And there's Jimmy T., a fisherman who thinks he's a better leader and coach than Marty or Jimmy Johnson or anyone. Just ask Jimmy T. He'll be glad to fill you in on his strengths. And his experience. And anything else. Because Jimmy T. -- how do we say this nicely? -- doesn't shut the heck up! Ever! For even a second!

'Survivor' host keeping his eye on two North Carolinians

They may not end up winning, but two of our three North Carolina contestants on "Survivor: Nicaragua" are considered players to keep an eye on by host Jeff Probst.

Writing in the Oct. 8 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Probst listed Kelly Bruno, right, of the younger La Flor tribe, and Jane Bright of the older Espada tribe among his six players that really bear watching this season.

Of Bruno, the UNC medical student, Probst says she's "obviously an inspiration." But he worries that her tribemates see her as a threat. "They're voting her out because she has an artificial leg and it makes them uncomfortable because they think she'll garner too much sympathy."

"Survivor: Nicaragua" photo gallery: Farewell, Jimmy Johnson

We've posted a gallery from last week's "Survivor: Nicaragua" (better late than never!) which had former football coach Jimmy Johnson saying adios.

The gallery also features pictures of our three local players, Kelly Bruno (pictured here), Chase Rice, and Jane Bright. Click the photo of Kelly at left to view the entire gallery.

Then check back after this week's episode (Wednesday nights at 8pm on CBS) for a recap and more photos.

'Survivor': Put me in, Coach!

So, you're Jimmy Johnson. You've coached football teams to collegiate national championships and Super Bowl victories. You've been a trusted and entertaining TV football analyst. You've made commercials for, ahem, "enhancement" products. (OK, that's probably not your proudest moment.) But still, you've got a lot going for you. So why do you want to be a contestant on "Survivor" and have a bunch of whiny, conniving, 40-and-over reality show contestants question your coaching abilities?

The inane comments of Johnson's Espada teammates on this week's episode of "Survivor: Nicaragua" are enough to make him shake his silver-haired head in disbelief.

Of course, the 30-and-younger La Flor team doesn't behave any better, as Tar Heel contestant Kelly Bruno learns when she gets in a brawl with a teammate that leaves no banana unsmushed.

'Survivor': No more Mr. (and Ms.) Nice Guy

We're only on our second week of "Survivor: Nicaragua," but things have taken a decidedly nasty turn on both the 40-and-older Espada tribe and the 30-and-younger La Flor tribe. (The 31-39 demographic is apparently not that important to CBS this season.)

Shoes are damaged. Socks are stolen. Sexual preferences are questioned.

And our North Carolina homeboy Chase Rice finds himself torn between allegiance to his Alpha Male buddy and an increasing attraction to a flirting female. "I am definitely in a mess right now," Chase says at one point. I'll say.

'Survivor': Meet Rock Star, Clueless and Survivor MacGyver

For its 21st season, "Survivor" takes us to "remote, mysterious, dangerous" Nicaragua, host Jeff Probst tells us. And right off the bat, we're treated to a disturbing HD image of birds picking apart some sort of animal carcass.

But that's nothing compared to some of the other oddities we get in the opening episode: A really dumb jock who wears the nickname "Fabio" like a badge of honor. A crazy-eyed fisherman who surely wandered in from the set of a horror movie. And a Super Bowl-winning NFL coach dispensing motivational advice -- when he's not throwing up on national television.

At least our three North Carolina contestants make fairly good first impressions, though there are warning signs about how long two of them will last.

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