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Denver's Jim Rice survives Survivor after first episode

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Posing in front of 20 pounds of marijuana got High Level Health/Discount Medical Marijuana owner Jim Rice on Survivor.

But strategic moves and a bit of politicking kept him in in, at least through tonight's first episode.

Tonight was my first step into Survivor, and though I've avoided it and pegged it as just another game show for years I have to admit it was pretty damn cool. Appropriately, I had a bowl of Island Sweet Skunk loaded in the bubbler -- something a few of the contestants sure could have used.

First thing: Where the hell are they all coming from? Why is everyone dressed up like they fell out of an airplane? My wife said this has been the opening for some time now, and to her memory they never have explained it. Also, there are two returning players, Ozzy and Coach, one of whom people like and the other people don't. I couldn't get a feel for either in the first episode, but this Coach guy must suck judging by everyone else's reaction.

On to the game: Rice, dressed in a soggy khaki suit and light orange shirt, was clutch in helping out through the first challenge, giving returning player Ozzy key instruction in figuring out the final puzzle. The intense and loud Rice doesn't come off as a stereotypical slow, mellow stoner at all.

But later, when the team was relaxing in the ocean after the win, Rice is set up to be a crafty player. Everyone goes around the circle telling what they do back in the real world, and when Rice comes around he says he's a professor of forensic science -- a far cry from the "Medical Marijuana Dispenser" title producers peg him with. Also, Rice formerly worked in finance and spent a few years on the professional poker circuit.

Rice explained his decision to withhold marijuana had nothing to do with being embarrassed, but more to deal with existing prejudices against cannabis. After talking with him, I understand why he kept his real profession secret. But I doubt a large chunk of Middle America sees it that way. Ironically, they will probably make the very assumptions he was trying to avoid, and people will associate marijuana with the gambling and call him a liar on top of it all.

And who can blame him? On his team is a former police officer. Granted, he's recently out of the closet and come to terms with himself, but he's still a former cop. Also, there was the nervous PTA mom, Dawn. She seemed like the type of worrywart that is rallying against dispensaries right now in Ft. Collins.

Pot aside, it seems that Rice is playing game intense, but very smart. He's not the most athletic guy, as his floundering over the wall in the team competition showed, but he is a strong guy and clearly doesn't like losing. He was the key voice in getting weak-ass Semhar kicked off and sent to live by herself, despite Ozzy politicking to keep her around for eye candy. She deserved to go, and anyone who doesn't see that wouldn't do well in this game.

Rice's comment, "the only people who are good losers are people who are used to losing" sounds like something Vince Lombardi would have said, but he's right. He may have come off as a dick to some people, but keep in mind this is a competition for $1 million.

And for now, Rice is still in the running. We'll catch up again next week and see if his strong presence is a good thing, or if it gets him sent off.

Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on CBS. Below is a video of Rice in a promo spot for the network:

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