When one of this season's more agreeable Survivor contestants, Dawn, tearfully declared, "I don't want to be here" during Brandon Hantz's epic and ugly tirade of a meltdown last week, I imagine she was speaking for many of us. This genre may thrive on conflict, and it's well known the more outrageously one acts out on camera the more famous one tends to become — just look at the overexposed Jersey Shore cast and any number of Real Housewives — but shame on Survivor's producers for continuing to stoke the ego (and in Brandon's case, exploit the instability) of the Hantz clan, of whom I hope we've seen the last sorry vestige on this show.
Brandon may have thought he sent himself out of the game in Braveheart style, but his delusion wasn't entertaining, just disturbing, as his Bikal tribe of "favorites" turned on him en masse and forfeited the immunity challenge, staging an instant Tribal Council to get him out of their lives before he could do more emotional and physical damage. Maybe this week's episode (Wednesday, 8/7c, CBS) can erase the ugly aftertaste, as the tribes are rearranged, shaking up alliances — it's about time — and causing one team to emerge with a noticeable strength advantage. Next step to making this season more palatable: limiting loudmouth Phillip's air time. That act is getting old.
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In other reality-competition news, how refreshing to see three of this season's very best singers — Candice, Angie and (nice surprise) Kree — land in the Top 3 after last week's voting on Fox's American Idol. Maybe there's real hope that the male stranglehold on the winner's circle will be broken this year. (Despite Nicki Minaj's protestations, the judges were right not to use their "save" the very first week on Curtis.) This week (8/7c), the remaining Top 9 tackle the John Lennon-Paul McCartney songbook, and maybe we'll be amazed by the results.
SEX-PIONAGE: We've moaned a lot in this space about the sorry state of this year's midseason TV, but that doesn't apply to FX, with a sensational season of Justified airing on Tuesdays and joining the lineup this winter, the much darker intrigues of The Americans on Wednesdays. This fascinating series presents another taut episode (10/9c) in which a dangerous mission — trying to stop an assassin hired by their Russian bosses — is complicated by the married-in-name-only spies' continued doubts about their relationship. "If you start thinking of your marriage as real, it doesn't work," Elizabeth's handler warns her sternly. "Better to live in reality... Better for you. Better for us, too." But is it really better for Elizabeth and Philip (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, both terrific), especially when the latter is deeply enmeshed in a long-game seduction with an FBI office worker? They're just doing their jobs, and what's love got to do with it? There's an unusual amount of sexual activity in this episode — FX shows are nothing if not frank — but passion, feigned or otherwise, always comes with a price in a world where nothing and no one are what they seem.
CRIME STORIES: Rape charges are hardly a rare occurrence on NBC's Law & Order: SVU, but this week (9/8c) they're aimed at one of their own: skeevy undercover cop Brian Cassidy (recurring co-star Dean Winters), who's accused by an escort just as he's about to testify against a notorious pimp. ... CBS' CSI (10/9c) spreads the wealth to its supporting cast this week, with the focus on assistant coroner David Phillips (David Berman) as he attends a high-school reunion where, naturally enough, the prom queen ends up dead.
THE WEDNESDAY GUIDE: After a long post-sweeps pause, The CW's Arrow (8/7c) and Supernatural (9/8c) are both new, with the Huntress returning to Starling City to complicate Oliver's life, and Castiel reappearing to the Winchester brothers, sending them on a quest to find Lucifer's Crypt. (It's always something with those boys.) ... On USA Network's Psych, Shawn tries to make nice with Juliet's stepfather (Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor). ... It's another rough tour of duty for the cops on TNT's Southland (10/9c), with new mom Lydia especially shaken after witnessing a baby's death. ... A&E's Duck Dynasty (10/9c) celebrates its 5 millionth duck-call transaction by throwing a "Casino Night" party, with Si spending his $2000 grand prize on a massage chair that rubs his buddies the wrong way. In a smart programming move, A&E is using this unexpected hit to give its new drama Bates Motel an extra boost, with an encore of the pilot airing at 11/10c. ... In KKK: Beneath the Hood (8/7c), Discovery gets up close and personal with Ku Klux Klan members and their families, interviewing them about their beliefs and practices, including cross-burning.
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