I’m admittedly not a reality TV guy. But I did watch Survivor in its earliest days. Maybe five or six seasons of it, and then, I don’t know why, I just stopped. That means I missed roughly twenty-five seasons.
But the promos of Survivor, Season 33: Gen-X vs Millennials hooked me. I mean, the SECOND I saw that premise, I was in. Because I really wanted to see a structured format where these generations went head to head.
I’m a Gen-X’er, so I have a horse in the race, but I have lots of close Millennial friends and co-workers, and I was just fascinated to see how, if any, the different tribes would approach things like camp unity, backstabbing, reward challenges, immunity idols, etc. Would there be clear differences or, at the end of the day, are all of us just people with very human drives?
Honestly, it’s been a little of both.
First, the casting. UGH. The worst. The Millennial casting is great. The Gen-X casting is notably weaker.
This is not the Gen X varsity team. Some people have posited that it’s because anyone in Gen-X who would be on the Varsity wouldn’t be caught dead on Survivor, whereas being on a TV show, in the spotlight, for Millennials? It’s as easy as taking a breath. It’s their natural habitat. I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but the Millennial casting is definitely superior.
One other thing I noticed, after taking a shitload of time away from Survivor, is that people are now experts when they get onto the show. It wasn’t like that in the old days. Players have a HUGE knowledge of what to do and more often what NOT to do (and then they fucking do it anyway! mindboggling!) So that actually makes it more fun. Less dummies getting worked.
Let’s take a look at the teams, beginning with Jeff Probst’s overly kind assessment about everyone:
OKAY SO THE SPOILERS START HERE. IF YOU’RE GOING TO WATCH EPISODES ONE THROUGH SIX (and I suggest that they’re fun and worth it) GO HERE
Okay, so as I’m writing this, we just saw episode six last night. Let me just blast through my estimation of the players to catch you up.
Adam: He’s fine. This is his dream to be on the show. He gets the structure. Right away the Millennials split into Cool kids and Not Cool Kids. He was Not Cool Kids.
Figgy: The queen bee of the Millennials. She is a beautiful bartender who has mastered the art of flirting. She was running shit in the Millennial Camp from day one. Think 80’s movie bitchy cheerleading captain where the bitchy is masterfully hidden but somehow infects every fake laugh and playful tap. She entered into a power couple like instantly with Taylor. And they didn’t hide it! They were like “yeah we know these don’t usually work, but we’re different and we have the numbers.”
Hannah: Sort of repping the awkward Millennial demo. Has panic attacks. Not particularly athletic or outgoing or extroverted. Feels like a barista-in-training vibe. Wears knee socks.
Jay: Good ol’ boy with a super handsome face and smile. You have the sense that he’s generally well liked in his hometown. Not smart. Wooderson vibe. Pals up with Taylor and Figgy on day one but then talks to the cameras about how “have they never seen Survivor? Power couples don’t ever make it! Come on! Wake up!”
Mari: a professional gamer who was like “I just want to blindside someone.” She was the first Millennial voted off. (In week 2) That totally sucked. I liked her right away.
Michaela: (header picture) Probably my favorite person in the game. Or at least one of them. Just a fucking titan. A warrior. She has will like you never see. While outwardly abrasive, she’s a force of nature and doesn’t have time for simpletons. And there are a lot of them on the Millennial team.
Michelle: a Christian missionary recruiter. Her smile is Helen of Troy powerful. The combination of her funky head wraps and incandescent smile could destroy entire colonial worlds. And she’s fucking cagey as hell. Buddies up with the Cool Kids (Figgy, Taylor, Jay) right off the bat. She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Taylor: The Prom King. Figgy’s beau. Offered to marry her at Tribal Council last night after knowing her for two weeks. He’s as dumb as a sack of hammers. But crystal blue eyes and white teeth go a long way. They NAMED themselves, yo! He and Figgy called themselves “Figtales.” FUCKING BRUTAL. He’s so dumb and arrogant on the show that my head hurts watching him.
Will: The youngest person ever to play Survivor. He left HIGH SCHOOL to play the game. Seems like kind of a doofy, nice kid. Background player so far.
Zeke: The best person on the Millennial team by a pretty wide margin. He’s fucking awesome. Episode one he was talking to camera and saying “I look around at my team and I see a lot of people who have never had a job.” He’s right at the age cutoff between generations. He owns that he dresses like an 80 year old man. He’s fantastic. He’s as likable as Michaela is capable. I feel like if Zeke wins this whole thing, everyone will be happy about it.
Bret: Boston cop. I should love this guy, and in some ways I do, but I know like three thousand Brets in my daily life. They breed Brets like honeybees up here. He’s a solid B, B+. I’m a fan of how he’s played: engaged but not making himself a target. Very likable.
CeCe: I liked CeCe, but she was voted out in week five for no reason other than the fact that she was probably the worst person at challenges I’ve ever seen. She swam like a four year old, slapping the water around her in quasi-panic. She single-handedly lost at least two challenges for her team because she couldn’t walk on a balance beam. Now, I could go off on a fucking RANT about how there are only two black players (one on each team) in the ENTIRE GAME, and how, when they’re not sure who to vote off they fucking DEFAULT to the black player, but I’ll just take a deep breath for now. She got voted off not for anything racial, but because she looked like an old lady in the challenges.
Chris: Was on a national championship winning football team, and is a lawyer. He’s big and strong as an ox. And supposedly smart, but eh. He’s a little too innocent so far. But I really really like him. He has a new alliance with Zeke from the Millennials that kicks a ton of ass.
David: A TV writer who probably weighs like 108 pounds, and is truly the weakest, wimpiest person I’ve ever seen on television. He has the body of Olive Oyl and he is MAKING THIS SEASON. He is a fanatic Survivor player. His mental game rivals some of the wizards from the early days. In Episode four, Gen X had to vote someone off and they were basically going to pick off one woman named Jessica. But David and his one pal, Ken, really didn’t like this other player named Lucy. But basically EVERYONE was voting for Jessica and she didn’t know it. She actually BETRAYED Ken to tell Lucy what Ken was saying (that they were all voting Jessica off) and Lucy of course, lied to her face. So we get to tribal council and right before we read the votes, David — for some reason — decides to play a FUCKING IMMUNITY IDOL FOR JESSICA. It’s not like they were close. It’s not like they had an alliance. But he looked down the road and saw that Lucy had the numbers and that he and Ken would eventually be picked off. So he plays it and EVERY VOTE FOR JESSICA IS NULL. And they’re all for her. Except two for Lucy: David’s vote and Ken’s vote. So Lucy gets voted off. I was on my feet cheering. It was the most BALLER move I’ve ever seen on Survivor. Then David goes out the NEXT DAY and finds another immunity idol, which tells me that the producers want him in to the end …
Jessica: an assistant DA of no real consequence so far who was about to be kicked out of Eden before David and Ken saved her from extinction. She now has a rock-solid alliance with Ken.
Ken: A male model who is Blue Steel 24/7. He’s a looker. But he’s actually a great guy and not a dummy and has a ton of substance. Go figure! He’s also capable and introverted. You’d think a guy that handsome would be a cool kid and kind of run the show, but he didn’t. He’s a sensitive ponytail man. He has an ooey gooey center. Right away, the team was taken over by the lower middle class: an alliance between biker Paul, Cop Bret and football Chris. Three beefsteaks who just kind of muscled in. Sensitive Ken was left on the outside with terrified David and CeCe, who was black. Following the meatshields were Jessica, Sunday and Lucy. It was kind of awful to see, actually. Gen X immediately set up this patriarchal donglord fest and the three women, seemingly comfortable with that, just kind of marched along. UGH. FUCK THAT. At least Figgy and Michelle were in charge at the Millennial camp. My god.
Lucy: A kind of brilliant control freak who looked like a muscle hamster and played head-down mode until head-of-the-snake Paul was picked off in week four. Then Lucy roared to life, silently deciding that it was Jessica who had turned on Kronos/Paul and scheming to punish her for it. And she would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for this pesky kid:
Paul: This sort of barbarian mauler from Florida with about five cents worth of brainpower and five dollars worth of personality who immediately became the Boss Hogg of Gen-X. Not proud of that. He had a minor heart attack in week three before being shitcanned and blindsided in week four.
Rachel: Rachel was the first person on the show to go. If you could bottle annoyance, it would be Rachel. She was so horrible and no one could stand her. At the first tribal council she was like “um, you guys, like sorry I I like said anything to offend anyone or whatever.” Like she was shocked that people wouldn’t ‘get’ her. I was happy to see her go.
Sunday: She may be my least favorite person on the show. Imagine Marge Gunderson with a more nasally voice and ZERO charisma. Maybe she’ll surprise me but I have yet to see anything that tells me she’s a thinker of any kind. Like, if you told me she’s voting for Trump and would say “aw c’mon he’s not a bad guy,” I’d believe you. She is chum for sharkier players.
So week one Gen-X loses the immunity challenge and they vote off Rachel. No surprise.
So week two the Millennials lose immunity and they blindside Mari. She was shocked. Totally engineered by the cool kids at tribal council. Somehow Michelle, while they’re sitting there in front of Jeff Probst, convinces idiot Hannah to turn on Mari from the Not Cool Kids and vote Mari out. From then on the Cool Kids have numbers over the Non Cool Kids. Hannah is an idiot. Figgy and Tay-Tay celebrate and make out in the open. “If they don’t like it we’ll just vote them off.” Says Taylor.
Week three: Gen-X loses again. Because of CeCe. She’s going home until David and Ken arrange to have everyone vote off Paul. Paul is blindsided. Chris and Bret are fucking PISSED. What’s this world coming to when fat white men ain’t in charge no more? (That’s my editorializing — they never said that. They’re both actually not bad guys.)
Week four: Lucy takes over the tribe like Marc Antony. She tells people who to vote for: Jessica, who backstabbed Paul (even though they all did). She tells people not to sneak off and talk to each other or she’ll be pissed. David plays the immunity idol for Jessica and Lucy gets the shock of a lifetime, voted out with two votes.
Week five: Everyone on Gen-X is licking their chops to punish David, and then BOOM — DROP YOUR BUFFS. A ‘swap.’ They made a third tribe. Everyone has to pick a new color. This is how it shakes out:
Taylor (a.k.a. “Tales”)
Figgy (a.k.a. “Figgs”)
So Gen-X is basically foooooked because except for Vanua, Millennials have a numbers advantage on two of the three teams. So what happens when Vanua loses immunity?
Gen-X’rs Chris and David vote off ANOTHER GEN-X’R! GAAAAAHHHHH! Cece is just painfully horrible at challenges. And Chris (who is super easy to vote for) really really likes Zeke. They’re both from Nebraska or Louisiana or something, even though Zeke is a NYC guy.
Week six: Takali (purple) jumps out to an insane lead in the immunity challenge. It’s one of those ones where players are blindfolded and one “caller” has to lead them through a maze and shit. The caller for Takali is of course Figgy, and she fucking BLOWS IT.
But it’s fine. Someone has to go home and there are three Millennials and two Gen-X’ers, so it’ll either be Ken or Jessica because Millennial Adam will surely side with FIGTALES™ YO!
Except that, as a student of the game, Adam is no idiot. Power couples don’t last for a fucking reason.
At tribal council, FIGGY IS VOTED OUT. It feels like a mini-November 8th to me. I was clapping like a fucking ape and hooting at my TV as Figgy walked away shocked and STARTED CRYING WITH HER MIC ON.
OH GOD FIGGY! YOUR TEARS ARE LIKE WINE. CRY ME A RIVER! CRY ME TO BURGUNDY YOU MEAN-SPIRITED, CONNIVING TEMPTRESS!
Goddamn, that was so satisfying. My god.
So that’s where we stand. Adam is going to feel the wrath of the Millennials next week, which I’m guessing will feel like being hit with a slice of warm baloney. But now he has an alliance with Ken and Jessica and Tales-yo is in fucking dire straits.
Smarter players are starting to take over the game. It’s fun.
This may very well be the last Survivor piece I ever write because I suspect that most Pajibans are not actually watching it, but I got hooked by the premise and this season has been a phenomenal appetizer of light fare for those of us who need something to help us turn off our brains after the Westworld of it all.
It’s fun, and Jeff Probst never ages, and the vistas are out of this world and the production values are as high as ever. It’s professional entertainment and doesn’t leave me with that itchy taking-advantage-of-mental-illness that you get from other reality TV programming.
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