NEW YORK (AP) _ A can of beans became the pivotal issue when ``Survivor'' returned, this time from Africa. But will viewers care?
Joining a glut of other so-called ``reality'' fare, ``Survivor: Africa'' may not win the loyal following it enjoyed for its first two installments, especially with the nation in a somber mood after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Scant buzz ushered in this edition, and a preview special last week drew just one-third the audience of NBC rival ``Friends.''
Then far graver issues of survival dislodged the show from its scheduled 8 p.m. EDT start time in the Eastern and Central zones Thursday. Deferring to President Bush's televised news conference, the premiere didn't begin until about 8:45 p.m.
Diane Ogden, a mail carrier from Lincoln, Neb., was the first to be voted out.
Ogden and Clarence Black, a high school basketball coach, had sneaked a meal of beans, much to the anger of their fellow tribe members. In the resulting dispute over who should take the blame, Ogden was banished.
The last of the remaining 15 players will win $1 million.
As in previous editions, CBS' new ``Survivor'' stranded a diverse band of castaways from all over the United States in the middle of nowhere _ this time Kenya's dry, grassy Shaba National Reserve. Then they were divided into two competing tribes: Boran and Samburu.
Trudging with supplies to their campsites, they soon were complaining. And butting heads.
``Excuse me! Africa!'' barked Samburu member Frank Garrison, a telephone technician from Odessa, N.Y. ``We're not down at the mall with our lattes.''
``Frank, like, he was trying to hurry us along,'' said Kim Powers, a free-lance marketer from Conshohocken, Pa., ``and that's not my style. I like to talk to people.''
Their first ``immunity'' challenge was a race to light three fire towers. Samburu won, which meant the eight members of the opposing Boran tribe had to appear before host Jeff Probst at tribal council, where Ogden became the series' first casualty.
``Survivor: Africa,'' which was taped last summer (and whose winner CBS is jealously guarding), follows two wildly popular editions. The first ``Survivor'' became a national craze in summer 2000, and ``Survivor: The Australian Outback'' was TV's highest-rated series last season.