It seems like years ago that the last new episode of Survivor: China ended with Jeff Probst telling the post-Tribal Council contestants that their work wasn’t done. Remember that? I sure didn’t.

Pre-credit sequence. Thursday’s (Nov. 29) episode picks up immediately where we left off, as Jeff explains that they’ll be competing for a Reward Challenge. James is mostly relieved that Probst didn’t spring a second elimination. The winner will get to spend a night at the Shaolin Temple, where they’ll get a kung-fu demonstration, a vegetarian meal and a peaceful night. The winner will pick two people to join them… but not before CBS sells some products.

True or False: The Chinese government represses independent thought and free expression. The challenge is based around a series of questions about Chinese culture. It’s every bit as hard as last night’s Bonanza City trivial on Kid Nation. "True or false, China is big country of glorious contrasts." "I’m gonna say ‘True,’ Jeff." Peih-Gee beats Todd and James for reward, selecting fellow ex-Zhan Hu-er Erik and frequently neglected lunch lady Denise.

How you like them apples? The winners are roused early the next morning. Denise is happy to go, but sad to leave. She’s right to be worried, because the second the three winners are off, the remaining castaways look around and they collectively announce that this is the Final Four they want. There’s ample nodding and agreement and James says, "I just want us to frolic all the way to four." He explains that if Adam and Eve had just been content to frolic in Eden, everything would have been lovely forever, but they ruined everything by eating the apple. In this case, the mostly likely potential apple-eater is Amanda (misser of a disturbing number of Chinese trivia questions), who tells the camera that she isn’t comfortable going to the Top Three with any of these folks. She’s ready to upset the apple cart or whatever other apple-based metaphors you might want to employ.

Denisemartin_survivor_china_240Shaolin shadowboxing. The winners embark on a lengthy journey to the Temple, via boat and charter jet (complete with all-you-can-eat pistachios and champagne). Peih-Gee points out that if they can lure James to their side, they can take control of the game. Denise nods politely. The Shaolin Temple is a stunning structure, 1500 years old. Peih-Gee relates due to her Chinese roots, but Denise has more at stake, as a near-Black Belt in kung-fu herself. The martial arts demonstration is impressive, especially the one guy who did The Worm and the other dude who jumped rope on his rear. After the pros do their thing, a group of color coordinated children strut their stuff, followed by a demonstration from Denise, who leaves the kids agog with terror. "This is a happy place," Peih-Gee observes, as she rests her head on a plush pillow.

The cave is a metaphor. Meanwhile, it’s pouring back at the camp and the Fantastic Four is cowering in a muddy hole. "I’m done with the rain," Todd says. "Done. Oh my gosh." When the winners return, only Amanda comes out to greet them. Of course, if the mountain won’t come to Peih-Gee, Peih-Gee will go to the mountain to talk about cookies and airplanes and comfort. "Cave is my happy place," an unhappy Courtney says. "What I don’t like is when everyone and their damn mother decides they like the cave too." Though Courtney is being snarky, Todd makes nice to Denise and is rewarded with news of Peih-Gee’s plotting. "Peih-Gee is not my idea of fun," says Todd, before declaring he now hates her guts guts. Erik is trusted with approaching James, who insists he’s not going to abandon the Happy Five for the Evil Two. James vows he won’t flip on anybody.

Like Ned, she’s a piemaker. Just as Todd is so done with rain, Courtney has had it with bamboo. Her discomfort, though, is relieved by a walking invite from Amanda, who presents the idea of blindsiding James at the next Tribal Council. Amanda’s theory is that if they basically give James a free pass to the Top Three, even she’ll figure he deserves the million dollars, so they have to take him out now. Amanda explains, "I’m not only ready to bite the apple, I’m ready to make the whole frickin’ pie." The only thing that can go wrong is James winning Immunity.

Erikhuffman_survivor_china_240Immunity. For immunity, they have to play darts, only instead of darts, they have throwing stars and instead of a dart board, there are human targets. Well, not live human targets, though you can be sure that the Chinese government approached the show’s producers to see if they wanted to use a few actual journalists. Courtney and Erik and James and Amanda lead after the first round. Individual immunity goes to Erik, as James can’t hit a target on his final throw.

Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Returning from Immunity, James is pretty sure that Peih-Gee is done. Maybe he should be watching his alliance mates, because Amanda is sneaking off with Todd to broach her anti-James maneuvers. With Todd, Courtney and Amanda all on board, Denise is willing to go with the group. Meanwhile, Peih-Gee is feeling defeated until she discovers James’ Immunity Idol and approaches Amanda to see if she knew about the Idol. Amanda cuts off Peih-Gee’s blathering with a curt "I’m not stupid, Peih-Gee." Winking and nodding, Amanda assures Peih-Gee that it’s in her best interest to just nod and stay on the down-low. With Peih-Gee curled up in a corner, James announces that if he gets past tonight, he’s good, but he says he’s bringing the Idol anyway.

Jamesclement_survivor__china_240Tribal Council. Will Jeff be able to get anybody to say something sketchy enough to set off James’ internal radar? Alas, not really, though James probably should have read something in Peih-Gee’s unnatural cockiness about the Immunity performance of the Zhan Hu veterans. She doesn’t seem like a defeated woman. James, though, says that he can trust people as long as they share a common goal.

The vote. We see Peih-Gee vote for Todd, James vote for Peih-Gee and Todd vote for James. The only question is whether or not James will play the Idol. Even with Todd making funny suspicious faces, James keeps the Idol in his bag. Big mistake, big guy. After his name appears for a second time, James knows he’s gone. Everybody is amused, including the members of the jury. The only person without a sickening smirk is Amanda, who orchestrated the whole thing. Her play was a smart one, but the overall smugness was pretty disgusting, so I’m an Amanda fan from here on out. Points to James for graciously admitting that the error in strategy was his.

Was this the right move? Are you going to miss James?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg