There are times when ''Survivor'' contestants just overthink the whole game, obsessed with strategy and long-term goals and not looking at the short-term harm they are doing. That was the case last week, when a tribe ousted a strong member who could help in the immediate challenges and kept people who were much weaker. It happened again this week, when an early alliance in one of the tribes -- now down to two -- decided it was more important to maintain its voting bloc than get rid of an obvious loon, Shane.
You remember Shane, don't you? He's the guy who thought it would be a good idea to quite a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit by going on ''Survivor.'' Even though he said he wanted to leave -- homesick after just four days on the show -- and then changed his mind, and spilled the existence of an alliance to non-alliance players, and was generally presented as a liability, he stayed in the game. Melinda, meanwhile, who was neither a liability nor a threat, was sent home.
What might get interesting, though, is that Melinda's place in the tribe will be taken by Bruce. (After a boy-girl choose-up of two new tribes, Bruce was the one unchosen player; he was given immunity and sent to Exile Island during the challenges, with the understanding that he would replace the player voted out -- so keeping both tribes at even strength for another round.) If Bruce joins the other three members of Shane's alliance, they don't need Shane. They probably don't want him, either.
But I am impressed with Cirie's game-playing so far, not only in her avoiding elimination a week ago but in her (Probst-prompted) shedding of tears this week. The show is therefore kicking into gear pretty early, in entertainment terms. And the challenges, though not dazzling, are simple enough to follow and physical enough to be really challenging.