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'Survivor': I'm in charge here!

Our correspondent (and longtime "Survivor" afficiando) Alec Peters of Raleigh offers his thoughts on this week's episode:

All season, our castaways have confused running their mouths with “being in charge of the game.” Ralph did it when he decided it would be good to tell almost everyone at Zapatera that he had a hidden immunity idol. Then after the Redemption Island duel, when Russell, out of the game forever (please!), went for one last dig at his team, Ralph decided to share news of his idol with everyone there, including Phillip and Kristina from Ometepe. 

That’ll show Russell who’s really in charge! Phillip assured Kristina that he could use this knowledge and his covert federal agent skills to improve her position with Team Boss Boston Rob by promising Rob to give him this intel at the merge. Instead, all Rob had to do was ask once, and Agent Underpants was singing like a canary, while Kristina was on her way to Redemption Island.  Meanwhile, Ralph might was as well have told everyone in Nicaragua that he had a hidden immunity idol.

Then at the last Tribal Council, Krista decided she had nothing to lose and might as well call out the Zapatera Alliance of Six, which we haven’t seen give much thought to long-term strategy beyond throwing a challenge so they could oust Russell. She named the duos and triads in the group, and it didn’t appear to be lost on David that he was odd man out while Steve was working two different duos.  But taking a cue from Ralph’s playbook, Mike decided that Krista’s last gasp couldn’t go unanswered, so he assured Krista (and host Jeff Probst) that they have indeed been talking strategy -- just not when she’s around.  Because, well, she’s not in charge of the game. I couldn’t help but wonder if all of this was news to David.

'Survivor': Love the way they lie

We're only three weeks into the "Redemption Island" season, but tempers are flaring and backs are being stabbed all over the place. And frankly, we couldn't be happier.

After the fairly dull season that was "Survivor: Nicaragua," it's good to have some contestants this time who are really playing the game. And that means telling some lies, which is not a problem for these folks.

Sure, they're dishonest about the important things, such as whether they have a hidden immunity idol or who they're voting out. But they also lie about dumb stuff, like who lost the first "duel" on Redemption Island. At this point, I'm not even sure I believe Phillip is a a former federal agent. (Would a former agent really wear those pink briefs?)

What to Watch on Wednesday: Time for your Raylan fix

Survivor: Redemption Island (8pm, CBS) - Matt and Francesca face off in the first duel on Redemption Island.

American Idol (8pm, Fox) - The Top 12 women perform tonight.

Modern Family (9pm, ABC) - With Claire preoccupied by a feud between Haley and Alex, Phil is free to enjoy a day at the spa. Meanwhile, Gloria is creeped out by Jay's designs on his-and-hers burial plots, and Cameron does research for a book about Lily's adoption. All of the ABC sitcoms are new tonight, and recommended.

Cigarette Wars (9pm, CNBC) - Brian Schactman reports on the business of tobacco, highlighting the farmers who grow it, the people who smoke it, and the elected officials trying to get rid of it. Schactman also reports on the growing black market for cigarettes.

Justified (10pm, FX) - Rachel's brother-in-law (Larenz Tate) escapes from a halfway house and the marshals must track him down, and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant, right) breaks up a Bennett family gathering, which doesn’t sit well with Mags. Meanwhile, Boyd mulls an offer in Harlan that could prove dangerous, and Winona's husband Gary tells her he wants her back, but does so in an unusual way. 

Restaurant: Impossible (10pm, Food) - The premise of this show is that Chef Robert Irvine must save desperate restaurants from impending failure in just two days with only $10,000. The restaurant in need of help tonight: the famed Mystic Pizza in Mystic, Conn.

'Survivor': Good sportsmanship, bad karma

It's Week 2 of "Survivor: Redemption Island," and producer Mark Burnett is up to all his old tricks. He's truly a master at misdirection in the editing room.

For example, when young Matt, right, the spiritual pre-med student, describes the Ometepe tribe as "Camp Harmony with Boston Rob," you know Rob will be unleashing holy hell within minutes.

When evil Russell says that hairy farmer Ralph is "the dumbest person on the face of the Earth," Ralph will soon do something brilliant.

And when certified crazy person (and former federal agent) Phillip declares that no one will beat him, prepare to watch him quickly lose. And to spout some nonsense about uniforms, gallantry and gorillas. Cause that dude is crazy!

'Survivor': The far-from-secret agent

"Survivor" is back for its 22nd season, this time with something new -- a "Redemption Island" twist in which ousted players could win a spot back in the game -- and two things old: Russell Hantz and "Boston Rob" Mariano.

Russell, arguably the show's biggest villain ever, is back for the third time. He's made it to the finals both previous times but ultimately lost because of his obnoxiousness. There's little indication he'll be more likable here.

Boston Rob is playing for the fourth time. (He also was on "The Amazing Race" twice, making us wonder whether he's ever had a non-reality-TV job.) Rob at least has transformed over time from pure evil to somewhat untrustworthy to charmingly sneaky. But don't be fooled by the ever-present smile beneath his Red Sox cap -- he'll do what it takes to win.

Russell and Boston Rob are upstaged in the first episode, though, by Phillip, a "former federal agent" (he says this at least 15 times) who is controlling, patronizing and can't keep his mouth shut. It's amazing that he isn't voted out before the first commercial break.

What to Watch on Wednesday: 'Criminal Minds' spinoff debuts, 'Survivor' returns

Survivor: Redemption Island (8pm, CBS) - The 22nd season begins with 18 castaways, including Russell Hantz and "Boston" Rob Mariano, arriving in Nicaragua and learning that ousted players are sent to Redemption Island where they live in exile and are given a chance to re-enter the game if they can defeat other banished players in head-to-head competitions.

Quadrangle (9pm, HBO2) - A documentary about two couples who fall in love and move their families in together in 1969 New York. Fascinating. Read more.

Modern Family (9pm, ABC) - Cameron is upset when Fizbo the clown is cut from the guest list for Lily's princess-themed birthday party, but the invitees do include Mitchell's mom (Shelly Long), who shows up with Claire's high school boyfriend (Matt Dillon).

Mr. Sunshine (9:30pm, ABC) - Nick Jonas plays a teen idol scheduled to perform at the Sunshine Arena. Kathy Najimy also guest stars.

Law & Order: SVU (10pm, NBC) - The host of a TV show that spotlights predators receives threats to her safety, and this reawakens her hunt for her sister's abductor. Debra Messing ("Will & Grace") guest stars.

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (10pm, CBS) - The premiere episode of the "Criminal Minds" spinoff series that follows an elite group of the Behavioral Analysis Unit using unique and aggressive methods to hunt criminals. Stars Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo.

Justified (10pm, FX) - Raylan and Tim transport a pregnant federal prisoner to a doctor's appointment, but things don't go as planned. Meanwhile, young Loretta McCready learns that she'll now be living with Mags Bennett, and Boyd Crowder tries to go straight, taking a job in a coal mine.

Top Chef All-Stars (10pm, Bravo) - The chefs bake cookies in an effort to impress Sesame Street residents Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Telly.

'Survivor' goes west for 'Redemption' [Updated]

After featuring a trio of North Carolinians for the Nicaragua season, "Survivor" producers have bypassed the Tar Heel State for the upcoming "Redemption Island" season. In fact, it looks like producers have bypassed most any state except California.

Of the 16 contestants introduced this week, a whopping 10 of them are from the Golden State. (The other six hail from Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Maine, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.)

There will be two more contestants -- "mystery" former players that producers won't announce until later. The blogosphere is rife with speculation that it's Boston Rob and evil Russell. Even though both have played before (Russell twice and Rob three times), we're OK with this because they're both good TV. And last season's contestants weren't always good TV. [Updated Thursday: Yep, it's Boston Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz. They will each join a tribe to compete. They may get voted out early, but remember the Redemption Island twist. Ousted players get a chance to re-enter the game at some point.]

'Survivor': Final thoughts on the season

Guess it stands to reason that the odd, disjointed, somewhat dull season that was “Survivor: Nicaragua” ends with an odd, disjointed, somewhat dull reunion show.

Most seem to agree that the best finalist -- lovable goofball Jud "Fabio" Birza -- won the million dollars. (Even if Chase Rice, the former Tar Heel football player, had to settle for second.) It also was nice to North Carolinian Jane Bright win the fan-favorite award and the $100,000 that comes with it.

But this season is not going to go down as one of the best. It may even be one of the worst. There were not enough really interesting players and too many ho-hum ideas. (Don't even mention that quickly aborted "Medallion of Power" mess.)

Thoughts from the reunion show:

'Survivor': And the winner of the Nicaragua season is ...

It’s the last hurrah for the somewhat disappointing “Survivor: Nicaragua” season, and one of our three Tar Heels, Chase Rice, is still in the running.

A strong physical player, Chase's main weakness is his wishy-washy behavior. His alliances with Shannon, Brenda and a fellow North Carolinian, Jane Bright, ended with him helping vote each of them out. "Chase has angered so many people that it is a wonder he is still in the game," host Jeff Probst notes as the finale begins.

Of course, the others in the final five also have their problem spots. Holly Hoffman, the swim coach who is the last woman in the game, initially flipped out and tried to quit. Then she made a lot of enemies on the jury. So has Matthew "Sash" Lenehan, the real estate broker who had side deals with just about everyone.

Jud "Fabio" Birza, the student, is likable but seems a little too goofy to win. Meanwhile, Dan Lembo, a real estate executive, hasn't made any enemies. Mainly because he's barely played the game. In challenges, Probst notes, Dan has been "ineffective or didn’t participate at all."

So can Chase, a former UNC football player, defeat Holly, Sash, Fabio or Dan? Don't read any further if you don't want to know.

What to Watch on Sunday: Tar Heel football alum in 'Survivor' finale

Survivor: Nicaragua (8pm, CBS) - The final castaways participate in their last immunity challenge and are questioned by the jury before jurors vote for the $1 million winner. The winner is announced in the 10pm "Reunion" show, where castaways also discuss their experiences. Only one of the original North Carolina natives who began the journey has made it to the finale.

Leverage (9pm, TNT) - In part one of the two-party Season 3 finale, Nate and his team hunt down longtime nemesis Damien Moreau before he kills a high skilled engineer and sells her work to global terrorists. In the 10pm conclusion, the crew tails Moreau to San Lorenzo and attempt to bring him to justice. Goran Visnjic and Elisabetta Canalis guest star.

Top Gear (10pm, History Channel) - GM cars no longer in production are put to the test, and Tony Hawk gets on the test track.

Ricky Gervais: Out of England 2 - The Stand-Up Special (10:30pm, HBO) - If you missed it last night, the Ricky Gervais show taped at the Chicago Theatre. Gervais talks about Noah's ark, the recession, famine in Africa, gay marriage and acts of God.

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