Survivor: China: Week 1 Recap: Mmmmm — Tastes Like …

Yesterday on … Survivor:

After being whisked from Shanghai and through the Chinese countryside, the contestants arrive at a 400-year-old temple and go through a Buddhist welcome ceremony (well, most of them go through it — Leslie the Christian talk show host decides that despite assurances that the ceremony isn’t worship, she can’t participate. I’ve gotta say: When a decision involves weighing Jeff Probst’s assurances on one side against the stirring in your soul on the other, I’d go with the soul-stirring, too.). Courtney, the petite New York City waitress who looks like a cross between Gwen Stefani and Winona Ryder, has no patience for the ceremony, rolling her eyes at the monk and later telling the camera, “We bowed for, like, days!”

Probst tells the Survivors to leave behind their worldly possessions (in the form of their luggage, which, apparently just to amuse the show’s producers, they had painfully carried up the steps to the temple) and go to their camps with only the clothes they’re wearing (or, in the case of bra-less Jaime, aren’t wearing).

The two tribes are Zhan Hu (pronounced “John Who,” causing the tribe to echo back, “Who?”) and Fei Long (pronounced like “Fay Wray,” only with “Long” instead of “Wray”). I can’t always remember who’s on which tribe, so I won’t say a lot about that, but I will say that I really enjoyed the Charmin ad during the first commercial break — animated bears, one red and one blue, jogging on the beach toward porta-potties to the tune of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Those of you who skip through ads with your DVR — these are the surreal moments you’re missing! (Not to mention the amusing juxtaposition that followed, with an ad for depression. Well, the ad wasn’t really for depression, exactly — I think it was for some drug that can help you out if those toilet-paper-hugging bears failed to make you smile.)

Other interesting scenes:

* Leslie tutors the amazingly athletic James on how to be more sociable, as he says his lack of charm may hurt him in this game. I can’t decide if he really thinks that, or if he realizes that women can find it charming when a man humbly admits his lack of charm.

* WWE powerhouse Ashley gets all sick and shivery and fetal, but makes a comeback.

* In the opening credits, when Chicken is shown, I think I can hear the call of a chicken in the theme song. Or an eagle. Some sort of bird, anyway. Nice touch.

* When Chicken tries giving feedback on building a shelter, he is met with responses such as “don’t be negative” and “be proactive.” This drives Chicken into his turtle shell (or eggshell? Which came first — the Chicken or the eggshell?), and then he’s afraid to give any opinion, even when asked. At one point, he shrugs and says, “I’m just along for the ride,” which is the latest addition to the list of phrases guaranteed to put your torch on the fast track to snuffdom.

And chicken Chicken is voted out, long before his name could be fully mined for wordplay. And then, in probably the only chance for such opportune ad placement this season, Quiznos airs a commercial for their Chicken Carbonara sub, and we are saddened to realize the full impact of Chicken’s lost potential endorsement deals.