Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 8 Recap: Lady Lazarus

Pete Campbell is taking the train home and he gets the pleasure of enduring a brief, tedious conversation with a fellow suburbanite, Howard Dawes.   Howard is in insurance and he jumps at the chance to try and sell Pete.  But what he's really selling is not security, but fantasy.  And enough money for both.  With good insurance you can live your fullest life, without fear.  In his case, that ideal life is having a home and lovely, dutiful wife out in the country and also a little something extra in the city.  Pete is, or feigns being, disapproving, but note the firmly planted seed.

This is far from the first time Pete has contemplated cheating on Trudy.  Back in Signal 30, he let his imagination run wild as he dreamed that the cute coed in his driving class would be impressed by the older junior executive.  But he ended up realizing that he was not her fantasy and probably was not going to be any girl's fantasy.  Perhaps seeing a fellow schlub like Howard who is able to wrangle a girlfriend has emboldened Pete to dream again.

Pete has not been happy with being Pete since the first time we met him. He always has envied others for what they have that he doesn't.  Whether it's Don Draper's creativity and sexual magnetism or Ken Cosgrove's confidence and writing success, Pete has always measured himself against others and always has fallen short.  But maybe he has finally found someone who has what he wants that he can get the better of.

At the office, Megan acts sketchy when she receives a phone call, but she normally acts like a skittish kitten so we don't know what to make of it.  Meanwhile, Ginsburg does his usual great job presenting the Chevalier cologne pitch.  Once the clients leave and it's Don, Michael and Stan talking about what music to use in the commercial that would sound like the Beatles (without having to pay beaucoup bucks to the real thing), the younger two debate bands while Don looks on nonplussed, like the out of touch forty-something he is.  As the 60s march along, Don is looking older and acts less comfortable in his own skin than he did at the start of the decade.  But the most notable part of their interaction was how Don brushed aside their ideas and said he'd ask Megan for her suggestion.  She'd make the final decision.  The Missus is a source of some jealousy among her co-workers as she will always be the boss' pet.

When Pete gets off his evening train, wrestling with the new skis that Roger's client gave him, he meets a beautiful young woman.  It's Beth Dawes, Howard's wife, and she's locked her keys in her car.  Her husband was not on the train and she assumes he'll be staying at their apartment in the city.  Pete knows all about Beth, she's never heard anything about Pete.  But she feels comfortable enough to ask him for a ride home.  Pete knows why Howard is not there and that he's probably with his girlfriend right now, but of course he maintains the bro-code and says nothing.  She seems sweet, gentle, oblivious to what her husband is probably doing tonight.  She talks about not wanting to live in the city lest she see the hobos who need a handout and she be reminded what her father once told her, you can't help everyone.

Elsewhere, the mystery of what is going on with Megan is growing.  She was acting strangely, even for her, taking that call earlier in the day, being nervous about leaving Peggy at work, and now it turns out that the story she gave Peggy about meeting Don for dinner was a lie as was her story to Don that she was staying late at work.  Curious.

Once Pete gets Beth home, we discover she is not at all unaware of what her husband is up to.  And she wants to get back at him.  And Pete, who has long wanted someone to feel passion towards him, to make him feel virile and special, is not going to push her away.  This need has built up for so long and finally he can experience the excitement and danger that comes from an illicit coupling.  Afterwards, Beth is fine.  She's no longer upset.  This dalliance has helped calm her and Pete can now go.  But sitting alone in his car, Pete is the one who now looks in need of some comfort.

Peggy is still at the office when Don calls, again, looking for Megan.  Not wanting to get in the middle of their domestic strife, let alone play another game of Twenty Questions - Missing Wife Version, she does what any sane person would do.  Answer the phone in a strange accent pretending to be a wrong number.  Perfectly normal.  Megan eventually makes it home, lies some more to Don, and continues to look anxious and jumpy.

The next morning the big mystery is unveiled.  Megan admits to Peggy that she lied to her and to Don.  But not to sneak off to have a sexual encounter, a la Pete, but to audition for an off off Broadway show.  As an actress.  Considering how bad she is at lying and covering her tracks, it's shocking she got a call back, but apparently the bar is pretty low for off off Broadway shows.  At least they ultimately wised up and gave the part to someone else.  But Megan is not dissuaded.

Megan has apparently been holding on to her dream of becoming an actress despite her new career and marriage and she knows that Don won't approve.  She doesn't want to be a copy writer and wishes she could find the escape hatch out of Sterling Cooper.  Peggy is not a sympathetic ear, reminding Megan how lucky she is to have that opportunity and just how many people would kill to have her job.  But this means nothing to Megan.  It's not her passion, acting is.  So she quits.

The rest of the office deals with the repercussions of Megan leaving.  There'll be more work, of course, but the part that really stings is in seeing someone take what is so meaningful to you and toss it away like it's nothing.  Peggy works long hours and has given up having much of a personal life for the job, only to hear Stan belittle the struggle as a whole lot of work for "Heinz baked beans."  Pete's reaction is slightly different.  Megan's sudden departure is to him just another example of how women control everything and men are their powerless victims.  She can quit because she wants to and that's all there is to it, Don doesn't even have a say.  Of course, he's relating this to his brief dalliance with Beth and how she wanted him and then didn't want him and he had no say in the matter.

Don walks Megan out and it is awkward to say the least.  She is acting guilty and on edge and in whole making this uncomfortable moment even worse.  It's as if she knows she's making a terrible mistake and can't stop herself.  She knows that she's leaving the firm short-handed and killing Don's fantasy of his beautiful, brilliant wife being his partner at work as well as at home.  She knows that this new venture will take her away from him and that all the time they now share won't be the same in the future.  But it's what she wants more than anything.  Don tries his best to be supportive and not discouraging, but past his smile you see that he's hurt.

 They part at the elevators, with a lingering kiss that would have irritated real fellow building occupants waiting in the elevator but barely registered to the show's extras.  Then Don decides he wants to go downstairs too. To catch up with Megan?  To change her mind?  To arrange a quickie behind the building?  We'll never know because as the door opens, Don looks in to see only the shaft.  And unlike LA Law's Rosalind Shays, he does not plummet to his death but is hit in the face with some heavy-handed symbolism about the fate of his marriage.

Pete can't leave well enough alone and is still fuming about how he had no say in his relationship with Beth.  So he weasels his way into Beth's home, taking advantage of her hapless husband. We know he's a cheating cad, yet Pete's brazenness in the man's own home with him acting the genial host makes us temporarily feel for him.  Beth of course is shocked by Pete's forcefulness and runs off as any sane woman would under the circumstances.  Pete is playing with fire and completely off his rocker, having one of the worst midlife crises to befall a man of just 32.  He is obsessed with her and willing to risk getting caught just for a chance to be with her.  Remember, he has the beautiful witty Trudy waiting at home.  Pete just can't be satisfied with what he has.

Too bad Don didn't take the plunge into the elevator abyss earlier in the episode because it would have saved us all from watching that unbelievably uncomfortable presentation to the Cool Whip clients.  With Peggy subbing in for the absent Mrs. Draper, the Nick and Nora Charles witty/sexy banter now sounds more like Al and Peggy Bundy.  It's a disaster.  They have no chemistry, they didn't rehearse enough, and there's nothing for Ken to do but stand by and watch the presentation implode.  After the client leaves, Don and Peggy unleash all their misplaced anger at each other.  Don blames Peggy for driving Megan away, Peggy blames Don for his blind allegiance to his unappreciative wife.  They both want to yell at Megan but can't and so they take all their bottled up rage and hurl it at each other.

In the end, Don tries to be the good dutiful husband.  He rushes home to meet up with Megan before her class and he takes her suggestion to listen to the new Beatles' album.  As "Tomorrow Never Knows" plays we see a brief montage summing up the episode.  Peggy sharing a joint with Stan at work, Megan in her acting class, Pete once again getting very mixed messages from Beth, and finally Don stopping the record mid-song.  He doesn't get it, it doesn't mean anything to him.  Like the orange sherbet he wanted to share with Megan, their tastes are different and they reject what the other cherishes.  Is the gulf between them too large?


It's the middle of the decade and women have yet to burn their bras or have their own brand of cigarettes.  But the women of Mad Men, or at least some of them this episode, are standing up for what they want.  Beth, the long-suffering suburban housewife whose husband cheats on her regularly uses Pete to get back at her husband, to feel wanted, to exercise control over something in her life.  Similarly, Don's arm candy, trophy wife Megan doesn't want to play her role of Mrs. Draper any more, not in the office, not for the clients.  She wants to follow her muse and not what her husband wants her to do.  And both Pete and Don have no say in the matter.

The Beatles' Revolver came out in the US on August 5, 1966.  It was their seventh studio album and their most ambitious to date.  Now Number 3 on Rolling Stones' list of the greatest albums ever, it was "revol"utionary at its time, experimental and unexpected.  The happy, jingly Beatles addressed new topics and took tonal diversions that signified a change reflected in society at large.  “Turn off your mind; relax and float downstream; it is not dying. Lay down all thought; surrender to the voice: it is shining. That you may see the meaning of within: it is being.”

Don is shown time and again to be losing his connection to what is current.  He's become an old man - out of touch with the younger generation.  When he confuses some 50's pablum with the Beatles, you're embarrassed for him.  And when he doesn't appreciate the genius of John Lennon's music, you can't understand how he can be so wrong.

Pete's attempts to copy all of Don's mistakes continues.  He pursues a married woman, the wife of a casual friend no less.  In her he has invested all of his hopes for happiness.  She is the answer to his ennui.  He keeps looking outward for someone to make him feel like the man he wants to be (which is Don).  Years from now, he'd sing along to Skee Lo's "I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller," because that's all he can do.  Think about how things could be better while never appreciating the good that exists.

Megan could be a stand-in for the woman's movement, or she could be just another bored rich man's wife.  It's not clear at this point.  She claims to have a passion for acting, but it's not something we can fact check at the moment.  But we do know she had a head for the advertising business and was a natural.  Is it a good sign that she can give up the job she's good at to pursue her dreams or is it a slap in the face to the women like Peggy who paved a way for her?

Is Cool Whip a metaphor for Beth and Megan's acting?  That thing that is a substitute for something else, sold as just as good if not better than the original.  Who wants their old boring wife when you can have an affair?  She's younger, prettier, and more important new!!  Who wants to be successful as an ad woman when you can be an actress?  Everyone has a job, but how many people get to try to be be on stage, on TV, in the movies?  Sure you've had the original, boring and reliable old whipped cream, but that's so passe.  Try something new!

It's great how over it all Joan is.  Don wants his young bride to have a job at the agency despite her lack of experience.  Sure.  She wants to quit to become an actress?  Sure.  She's watched the revolving door of wives, whether it's Don's or Roger's, and they always get their way and things always work out for them.  And Joan still plugs away at the office.

How sad was that last lingering image.  Don, alone, in the apartment that was supposed to be full of joy and love with his beautiful new bride.  He had it all just days ago.  They rode in to work together, rode home at night, exchanged kissed during the day as they worked together to make magic for the clients.  And now she's gone and he's alone once more in that empty apartment with music he doesn't understand recommended by a woman he may know less about than he realized.


Roger: See anything you like?
Pete: Are you asking if I ski?
Roger: No.  I want to know which skis you want.  Or take them both.
Pete:  Do they explode or something?
Roger:  Yes, Allen Funt sent them over.

Don: Is Megan there?
Peggy: Isn't she with you?
Don:  Yes, we're playing a hilarious joke on you.

Beth:  I've had men paying attention to me since before it was appropriate.  They don't care what I say.  They just watch my lips move.
Pete:  I'm listening to every word you say.

Beth: It didn't bother you to see the earth tiny and unprotected, surrounded by darkness?

Beth:  You're taking away all my fears.  I mean, suddenly I don't think about the fact that you ride with my husband on the train twice a day and that you live 20 minutes away and I'd see your wife at the market, if I ever went.

Don:  Sweetheart, sometimes we don't get to choose where our talents lie.  I mean, what you did with Heinz. It took me years to be able to think that way.
Megan:  Well, I can't explain it, but I felt better failing in that audition than I did when I was succeeding at Heinz.
Don:  Because that was about making the client happy. Wait till you walk down the street and see the work on a wall or on TV, that's when you feel something.

Joan:  Well, I'm sure she'll be wonderful.

Megan: I'm not going to work here anymore.
Ginsberg:  Did he fire you? That son of a bitch!

Peggy:  That takes a lot of guts.
Ginsberg:  I'll tell you what takes guts-- Never having money for lunch. She owes me, like, $15 at this point.  What am I gonna do, ask Don? Call her? I think it's clear why she left.

Pete: They do whatever they want, even to Draper.
Harry:  Well, the good news is we don't have to look over our shoulders anymore, wondering what she's gonna tell him.
Pete:  They work it over in their minds, turn it off and on when they feel like it, and we're just there, waiting at attention.  It's not the way it's supposed to be.

Pete: Have you seen those pictures of earth from space?
Harry: Of course.
Pete: Do they make you feel small and insignificant?
Harry:   No, Jennifer does that.  And I'm not small, Pete. Don't know if you've ever heard that about me.

Pete:  Why do they get to decide what's going to happen?
Harry:  They just do.

Ginsberg: Turn it off.  It's stabbing me in the fucking heart.

Joan: Peggy, she's going to be a failing actress with a rich husband.

Roger: I sure as hell didn't get to choose what I wanted to do.  My father told me.
Don: I was raised in the '30s.  My dream was indoor plumbing.

Spoilery Observations (Don't read until you've watched the whole show): 

Don says, of Megan, "I don't want her to end up like her mother."  At that juncture, Marie was unhappy, saddled with an overbearing husband who she didn't love.  But little did he, or Roger to whom this comment was directed, know, but Marie would end up a much happier woman, with the suave, loving, and French-studying Roger as her new beau.

Don was surprised that Ginsberg cussed at the office, but the actual sounds coming off of the record player probably did cause Ginsberg physical discomfort.  Now we may not know why he's so vulnerable and reactive, but as we learn more about Ginsberg - for whom the whirring sounds of computers was enough to send him over the edge - it does make sense.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Survivor Season 33: Millennials v. Gen X - Episode 13 Recap

Previously on Survivor....  I've got the numbers, I'm sitting on top of the world.  Fare the well my old chum, David.  You gave me your Survivor life, and now I shall end it.  Hold up there, Zeke.  I'm a big boy.  Big boy makes big move.  Yes, little grass hopper, you have passed my test and earned my trust.  Let me now go and break yours all over the camp.  I thought you were my bro, bro.  Stay with us, Will.  We have soda.  No Will come back to us, all will be forgiven.  Sitting me in the middle of tribal council was pretty subtle.  Here's my big move.  Wait, what is Adam pulling out of his crotch?

Coming back from tribal council, Will has just had his Survivor Bar Mitzvah.  Today he is a man.  He's changed his LinkedIn to add dragon slaying as a skill.  He tells us that he's got this game on lock.  He can flip back and forth, voting out the power brokers one by one, to the end.  But in the famous words of Dan Foley.  Flippers.  Never.  Win.  Or at least eighteen year old flippers named Will who are playing on a game stacked with super and super duper fans.

Bret is frustrated with the young man.  He doesn't understand his decision to flip at all.  That's fair.  Will was in a good spot and had a close ally in Jay.  I don't think he needed to Make a Big Move™.  What I don't understand is the following quote from Bret: "I'm used to tribal council going my way.  Again, it didn't go my way."  So which is it?  Maybe this best describes Bret's game thus far, he is badly playing his way to the end and somehow still here to talk about it.  Confusingly.

So, it's us three to the end, right?
While Will is telling us what a great move he made and how his Survivor resume is shaping up, Adam is working on his next move.  With Zeke vanquished, his team - Bret, Sunday and Jay - would seem to be next in line to the gallows.  David and his minions - Adam, Hannah, Ken and now Will - can pick them off one by one.  But Adam sees a problem with this scenario.  David is closer to Hannah and Ken than he is; in that fivesome, he is in the minority.  So Adam realizes he needs to move against the new king sooner than later.

 He easily gets Zeke's old allies on board.  Right now, Bret and Sunday would write down anyone's name so long as it wasn't theirs.  Hearing that Adam would like to turn on David now is music to their collective ears. Adam adeptly gets Bret and Sunday to buy in on David, Jay and Will being the three most dangerous remaining players and ignore that perhaps the young, smart, super duper fan with the great idea may be your biggest threat.  They're on board and agree that David is public enemy number one.

Good thing they didn't choose Jay as their target as he made short work of the immunity challenge, flinging the disks through the holes with near surgical precision as David weakly sent them randomly down the ramp.  While putting on a challenge clinic, Jay had time to notice just how ineffective David was.  So afterwards, when he and Will plan their next move (part of Will's flip-floppy operation pendulum), Jay suggests Ken as the next target.  He is the most physically fit competitor and Jay's biggest competition.  But Will knows that Ken will win precisely zero votes, not even a pity one from his friend Jessica, if he makes it to the end.  He wants the target to be David.  Jay's fine with that.  He knows that it won't be, can't be him.

Buoyed by this conversation, Will then puts his Make a Big Move™ Part II into effect.  With his confessional playing in the background we see him pull Bret, Sunday, Hannah and Jay in on his plan...his target David.  And then, because the Survivor gods do not mind boasting or hubris, he tells us that no one is calling the shots there, no one is telling him what to do, he is in charge.  

David of course sees all these conversations and quickly notices that they are all going on without him.  And without his closest friend on the island, Ken.  He also knows that the last tribal council pitted him against Zeke as a clash of kings.  With one conquered, it is now time to take out the other.  But David is not one to just accept his fate.  So he, off screen apparently, prays to the Survivor gods to send him an angel.

Here comes Adam.  He sees that David is still a threat, but he's an obvious one.  He's on the radar.  He's been a bit defanged of late and his position of power is more illusion than reality.  But Will, that young man is starting to let his new found power go to his head.  Suddenly, the High School senior is schooling the college grads and seemingly running the show.  Adam decides that Will is a bigger threat right now than David.  And this is true, especially for Adam.  David and he have a loose alliance whereas he and Will have until the last vote never been on the same side.  Adam can foresee Will turning on him sooner than he can see David doing that.  David is predictable, Will is not.  And that makes him the bigger danger.

Hannah, just once can you vote my way?
So Adam goes back to work on Bret and Sunday and the three recommit to their new alliance.  Adam then goes to Hannah with the new plan, but she's momentarily forgotten that she's playing Survivor.  She likes Will and, more importantly, she feels she owes him for him swinging his vote to their side and keeping their alliance whole.  Adam reminds Hannah that Will did what he did not for them but for himself and that he thought the move was in his best interest, he wasn't trying to save her.

But Hannah is still troubled.  She feels she owes Will for voting out Zeke.  She feels she owes David for going to rocks for her.  She feels like she owes Aubry for not winning last year so they decided to give the nerdy adorkable girl another go.  She has a lot of obligations and she can't pay them all back.  Survivor is hard.  But not for Adam.  He can say things like "Hannah and I are in a power position" and it not come back to bite him.  Someone is looking more and more like the winner.

At tribal, the jury comes in.  Michelle looks cute, Taylor looks goofy, Chris looks pissed, Jessica looks Ponderosa hot and Zeke looks like he should sue his hairdresser.  Most are happy to see Jay has the immunity idol.  Jeff does a little recap and the focus is on Will and his Make a Big Move™, then Hannah puts his move in perspective.  Everyone has at one time worked with people and against them.  As the game goes on, especially as it moves to the end game, "you want to work with the people who want to work with you."  Similarly, Adam says you want to think about who you will sit with at the finale, but you also have to think about getting to the finale. And at that point, Will should have been worried.  Because what Hannah and to a lesser extent Adam were saying is choose loyalty over the Big Move™.

Mom, I just played Survivor.
Going back to camp after voting out young Will, Jay is feeling pretty bad.  Anyone who aligns with him is dead in the water.  Maybe he should make a final two deal with David, if he really wants him gone that bad.

Jay does bounce right back every time he's knocked down.  As soon as they get back to camp, he asks Adam to go off and chat.  Jay knows he's good for at least one more vote since he has the hidden immunity idol and with his physical prowess he might even make it two more tribal councils.  But he also needs to at least try to make something happen to get himself up from the bottom. He tries to mend the demoslished fence between them, telling Adam that theirs has been a Yin/Yang type of relationship, butting heads while sppreciating the other.  And we certainly have seen that dynamic play out as they time and again failed to come together and consistently targeted one another.

Adam plays Jay like an old Sega game (I'd assume fiddles are harder to play) and gets him to believe that David is his main target.  But Adam knows that he has to get rid of Jay and his hidden immunity idol before anything else.  To make this happen, step one is to make sure that Jay does not win the next immunity challenge.  And so, with the challenge going and Jay starting to pull into the laad, Adam gets the idea to help Ken.  He keeps his eye on Ken's ball (obligatory ball reference, nailed) while Ken is trying to remember how to spell Millennials and, eventually, Ken does win.  It does not go unnoticed by anyone, especially not Jay, that Adam wanted Ken to win, but the story Adam conveyed to him was that it was David who was getting close and he had to make sure that he didn't win.

Jay knows where he is in the tribe and so is upfront with everyone.  I'm voting out David.  Please join me.  You can vote me out later, but I just have to outlast David and Will.  Nice try, Jay.  They may not think they can vote you out tonight, but they're not going to keep you around to win your way to the finale.  But Adam's play tonight is a little "b" big move.  In a perfect world, he gets Jay to play his immunity idol and David goes home.  That takes out the biggest strategic threat and gives them the chance of being able to take out the biggest physical threat before the end.

But Adam knows, acutely, that this is not a perfect world.  This is a world where his mother is fighting for her real life back home while he is here fighting to give her something to look forward to.  So he has to keep his wits about him and figure this all out.  How best to move the pieces around to get to the end so this can all be worth it.  It's a tremendous amount of pressure that he has put on himself and it's no wonder that the before and after of Adam after 35 days looks a lot like the before and after of Barack Obama after eight years as leader of the free world.

David, don't look but there's a cameraman right behind you.
David is scrambling as much as Adam is as he knows his name has been on everyone's lips.  Even if Jay is the target, if Jay plays his idol, David will go home.  So he needs to come up with another name.  He throws out Bret and Ken is fine with it, but Hannah has another idea.  I don't know if it's a case of "I want to be the last girl standing" or just that she has slotted herself in the "take me to the end" goat spot, but Hannah wants Sunday out next.  David, who is so desperate to stay, does not push back at all.  If Hannah wants Sunday, it's Sunday.

So she and Ken talk to Adam about the plan.  But Adam's idea is a slight tweak on Hannah's. He wants to put the votes on David.  Ken is not happy with that.  David is his closest ally left and he doesn't see him as a threat at the end.  David is his friend.  Hannah is not happy with that.  David is her closest ally, well, you get the point. David has played a masterful game of building real, tight, solid, impenetrable bonds and Adam is having trouble breaking them.  Hannah wants to vote out Sunday instead as the backup should Jay play his idol.

Adam is worried.  His worst case scenario is coming back from tribal council with David and Jay (plus his idol).  How to keep that from happening while not losing the support of Hannah and Ken?  He works on the bond that he and Jay have built, and the fact that they are too familiar with one another and too far into the game to BS each other.  So he tells Jay, you're going to have to play your idol.  I'm not going to vote you out, but I'm not going to let you hang around with that much power.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship
But Jay isn't fooled.  "Adam always lies to me."  He realizes that this could all be a plan to flush out the idol and that his name won't even come up at tribal council.  But is he willing to take that risk and leave the game with an idol in his pocket ... or wherever the Millennials are stashing them these days.  He begs Adam to work with him.  He wants it to be the two of them to the end.  It means a lot to him and he has to get there.  Adam understands.

And then in one of the best moments of television I've ever seen - not just in the reality TV genre, but in anything broadcast over the last fifty years - the two young men have a real conversation.  It's so raw and painful that I felt like I was invading their space to even watch it, but I know it's a story that Adam wants to share.  Yet the first surprising thing we all discovered as he started talking was that this was the first time Adam was speaking these words to anyone in the cast.  Adam told Jay his secret, what he's been holding in all these weeks.  About his mom.  About what his brother told him.  About what she means to him and what making it to the end means to his whole family.  And Jay understood and related on a deep, personal level.  And the game was put into perspective and they were two young men playing for their mothers, not for fame or the money or as a lark.  They don't want to get to the end, they have to.  And the two formerly squabbling Millennials forged a bond that will far outlive this game.

We wipe away the tears and the game talk continues as Hannah and Adam powwow.  If Adam and Jay are bickering brothers, he and Hannah are an old married couple.  He tells her what he wants and she says that's nice dear but this is what we're going to do.  She does see David as a threat but she also sees David as her friend.  As much as Jeff said at last tribal council that being liked won't win you Survivor (tell that to Michele from Season 32), Hannah tells us that she can't vote out David because she likes him.

She then says that if you can get people to change their minds and vote the way you want them to, that's how you win Survivor.  So who will get their way, Adam or Hannah?

Right out of the gate, Jeff brings it back to friendship and alliances versus strategy.  David, naturally, votes overwhelmingly for friendship.  And why not?  That's what he's worked on cultivating all game long.  Form episode one's "Bret, Chris, I trust you. I trust you," David has worked on building strong interpersonal bonds.  But his success is what makes him a threat.  The ultimate double edged sword of Survivor.  Have fewer friends, you're not that much of a threat, but then there's no one to fight to keep you around.  And that is squarely where Sunday finds herself.  She cultivated precisely one tight ally, Bret.  So when her name came up, there was no one to argue against it.

Still, David is not in the clear.  Not only does his name come up, but Adam makes a great case for why he should be voted out.  He has friends, he works hard around camp, he's made a stunning personal transformation.  If he gets to the end, no one has a better Survivor story than David.  He almost sells it too well and, if Jay were paying attention, he might have thought he was safe and kept his idol for another rainy night.

Kids, I just lost Survivor.
But tonight is not David's night to go home.  Hannah worked her magic on Adam and convinced him to keep the threat and boot the goat.  I listened to some podcasts before writing this recap, which I usually avoid doing, so I'll try not to be tainted by Stephen Fishbach's tirade against Hannah and her move.  I thought it was inspired.  David is one of her closest allies and will never target her.  Going on she has a close relationship with David, Ken and Adam, which means that she should be safe going to final five (where Jay or Bret are voted out) and then four.  And she should also survive a final four vote as Ken and David would likely take her over Adam.

Did that constitute a "Big Move?" Not exactly, but she made a move, swung a vote, protected an ally and got rid of someone who stood in her way.  I was impressed.

Did Adam do the right thing?  If he voted out David, he, Jay, Bret and Sunday would be the tight majority and Hannah and Ken would have been on the outside looking in.  Neither of them have any relationships on the other side of the tribe and would have been easily picked off next.  Then the only question is would Jay have won the final four immunity and then joined with Bret and Sunday voting off Adam.  I'm not sure that either vote was the better one for Adam.

Going into the last two hour episode of the season, there are six players left.  And, as if preordained, there are three Millennials and three Gen Xers among them.  As we split up the remaining six, winning immunity seems more important than ever.  Ken has an advantage that he can use on Day 36 and we will finally discover what it is.  If it's something that can help him win immunity, then he's on to the final five.  The vote will then come down to who is perceived to be the biggest threat.  Jay, who can win challenges and has friends on the jury, David, who has the strongest remaining bonds, Adam, who secretly has been playing an artful social game, Hannah, who looks like the goat but actually has a pretty strong resume, or Bret who has flown under the radar, making few enemies along the way.

Looks like it will be a fantastic finale.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Survivor Season 33: Millennials v. Gen X - Episode 12 Recap

Previously on Survivor: Chris is the biggest threat, no Jessica is, wait Zeke could win this whole thing, we have to target David NOW.  Jay wonders, am I invisible?  Do I really exist?  Hannah hyperventilates, Ken is hot and I'm the target.  I can't be voted out before I can profess my love.  Bret and Zeke bond, Zeke runs off to see if his gaydar needs new batteries.  Bret likes booze.  Sunday does not like Jessica.  Must vote out Jessica.  Adam wonders, am I invisible?  Do I really exist?  Big guy is blindsided, Zeke and David split up.  Who gets Hannah?  When two tribes go to war, someone will be collateral damage.  White rock good, black rock bad.

So Zeke and David both seem like smart guys, who've probably read up at least a little on 20th Century history.  They have to be aware of the concept of mutually assured destruction.  As the great Google machine defined it for me: The Mutual assured destruction, or MAD, is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender.

Imagine it on a smaller scale.  A duel.  Each side turns and aims.  What is to be gained if you both shoot simultaneously and with precise accuracy?

When you find yourself in this position, cooler heads are supposed to prevail.  You realize that it is in neither of your best interest to fire, to set off the weapon of choice.  It will lead to your demise.  Thus we get, hypothetically, deterrence.  A reason for neither side to strike first.

That is the lesson that Zeke and David did not learn or if they learned it they failed to implement it on the island.  While their decision to launch full scale mutual destruction resulted in each of them leaving last week unscathed, there was collateral damage - poor black rock grabbing Jessica.  But the direct damage was only held in abeyance for the moment.  And it only took a few days for the bomb to hit its intended target as Zeke headed out of the game and down the ramp of regret and rethinking.  What if.

Zeke's journey from the bottom to the top to out is a great lesson for future Survivor players.  When you're at the bottom, you scramble.  You make something happen.  And that was what he did when he found himself on a five person tribe when he and fellow Millennial Michelle was outnumbered 3-2.  He built a rapport with Chris, based on their Oklahoma connection and their mutual love for the Sooners and Zeke's hero worship of one of the championship members.  He also built a strong bond with fellow outsider/nerd David.  Zeke went from the bottom of the Millennials to a solid position with these two Gen Xers.

After the merge, Zeke was sitting very pretty.  He reconnected with Hannah and they rebonded (albeit warily) with Adam.  But Zeke was not on anyone's radar.  He was close with Chris (who had in his pocket Sunday and Bret), he was close with David (who had in his pocket Ken and Jessica).  He was in the majority nine-person alliance and on the other side of the pariah foursome of Michelle, Taylor, Jay and Will.  He could have let the majority take out each of the four Millennials.

How would the remaining nine have broken?  Ken and Jessica were a solid two.  Bret and Sunday were a solid two.  Those four had their sights set on each other.  The remaining five, Chris, Zeke, Hannah, Adam and David could have moved back and forth in flexible voting blocs to let those four take each other out.  And then with five left, Zeke could have targeted David.  Hannah and Adam would have been amenable to getting their Gen X counterpart out and letting them be the remaining angsty neurotic people left on the island.  Zeke knew that Hannah was having doubts about Adam and Chris was in his pocket, so at four he had a great shot at getting rid of Adam.  Now he's final three with two people who would take him if it were a final two.

But no.  Once Zeke tasted power he got, as we Big Brother fans like to call it, HOH-itis.  No longer operating from behind, he had no idea how to put on the brakes once he was in the lead.  You keep speeding, you're going to hit a wall.  Or a Wahl.  Get it?  Will Wahl??  I'll wait.

At the tribal council when Jessica was rocked out, the tribes were split between David's side and Zeke's side.  But despite the nomenclature, no one sees David as having or running anything.  David doesn't appear to be in control of his gross motor functions, it's not likely he can control a group of Survivors.  But Zeke, Zeke is smart, calculating, a chess master capable of moving pieces at will.   He is a threat.  David is only a threat to himself, no one sees him as anything but a frightened puppy curled up, quivering in the corner.  But Zeke, Zeke is the one you have to watch out for.

And so young Luke Skywalker, with the voice that probably led the show's sound mixer to take up heroin, decides that he must take down the season's greatest threat to catapult himself into the winner's spot.  Going into the vote, there were nine players left and "Zeke's team" of Jay, Will, Bret, Sunday and Zeke had the numbers to pick off "David's team."  They decided on Ken as he is the clearest physical threat of the four.  But Will does not like being told what to do.  He's a big boy now and he can stay up as late as he wants.   And he's not going to pick up his clothes, he likes them wadded up on the ground.  And he can keep playing Final Fantasy, he doesn't have to do his homework.

Will is feeling his oats.  So he goes to the other side and tells them that he wants to Make a Big Move(c) and that Zeke is going to win the whole thing if they don't take him out now.  They are giddy.  David was 100% sure he was going next and now there's hope.  Adam figured he still had a target on him because of his advantage and now he doesn't have to worry he was next.  Hannah had her name written down five times last tribal and now she doesn't have to worry that she's next.  Ken sees a butterfly and marvels at the beauty of the universe.

Oh Ken. You gorgeous specimen.  Possibly when you were living off the grid you ate too many suspect mushrooms, maybe you smoked too much pakalolo.  Remember a couple weeks ago when you were on the Gen X tribe and you told Jessica that she was being targeted and she didn't believe you but instead went to Lucy, Sunday et al and told them what you said?  Remember how we all called the lovely, smart attorney a dumb ass?  Remember how it almost got her voted out, but for David's largesse?

No, Ken did not remember.  After grilling Will like he's auditioning to play Mr. Miyagi in the road company of the Karate Kid, he then goes to the other alliance.  The group he's competing against.  The five that voted against his four two days previously.  And he outs Will and tells them that Will tried to turn on them, tried to align with Ken and his group, and ratted out that they were going to vote out Ken.  Ken blew up Will.  Ken blew up his own alliance.  And Ken blew up any chance anyone would ever talk to him, let alone trust him, again.

Will is caught with his hand in the cookie jar and he knows he's a dead man.  If he stays with Zeke's group, they will remember and they will make him pay the first chance they get.  If he goes with David's group, he loses his one true ally, Jay, with whom he's been tight since the beginning.  And he's now allied with someone unpredictable who could blow up his game in an instant.

Before we get to Will's decision, and the play that made his decision, moot, a moment on the loved ones' visit.  This is always a high point for the season as we get to see the human side of the players, the tough guys who become softies and, in Hannah's case, the big bundle of exposed nerves who becomes calm and reassuring.  We see how lucky some people are in the genetics game as both Jay and Ken reveal similarly attractive siblings and we see the cruel side of the gene pool as Adam now knows where his hairline is destined.

 As touching as all the family reunions were, Adam's time with his brother was of course the most poignant.  How's mom?  Such a powerful question and how for his brother to answer?  Adam is thousands of miles and still many days away.  What words can sum up what's been going on back home in the time of one brief embrace?  Adam wants, needs, more, but he tearfully tells his brother and the rest of the families that despite aching for more time, he will not use his advantage to deny anyone their loved one's visit.  And we all fall in love a little bit more with Adam.

After Jay smokes the competition, he gets to pick who will join him and his sister on the reward.  He picks Will and then Sunday, all while Adam is pleading.  Jeff tells Jay he can pick one more and showing himself to be capable of putting the game aside and be a human being, Jay says that despite their many differences, he will choose Adam.  Adam had impressed him by promising not to use the advantage and he rewarded that selfless act.  And any taint that Taylor had left on Jay is now completely gone.  Jay has rapidly moved up to be one of my favorite remaining players.

Out of respect I won't delve deeper into Adam's talk with his brother, but I will say that his sharing this most painful and private moment probably will help many people watching.

I will say kudos to the challenge producers this season.  We have yet to have a repeat winner of any individual immunity challenge and we have had an equal mix of expected comp beast wins - Ken and Jay - and less likely winners - Will, David and Adam.  With Adam's win, and Ken having blown up Will's game, it looks like it will be four votes for Zeke, four votes for Ken, and Will the decider.  But with Will having said earlier in the episode that he's voting out Zeke, I know that Zeke is not going this episode.  It's NEVER the person they mention before the immunity challenge that actually is voted out.  And Zeke is WAY too big a character this season to go out without a huge episode devoted to him.  No, there's is ZERO chance that Zeke is going.  So, I prepare for my eye candy to be voted off as we head to tribal council.

The producers lay it on pretty thick at tribal, what with Will sitting in the middle of the warring sides.  Adam is safe and for some reason David is not on Zeke's radar any more.  But Zeke's side tries to be clever and out-think the other side.  It worked great last time, as they managed to convince David's side that they were targeting Ken.  So if it works once, it should work again.  They want the other side again to think they're targeting Ken, but again they will write down Hannah's name.  This way even if David has found his fiftieth idol this season, he'll again misplay it and this time Hannah will go home.

But Zeke failed to calculate two things.  One, that David's group would suss out their true plan and play the idol correctly.  And, more importantly, that Will would realize that once his game was blown, it was in his best interest to flip and vote against Zeke.  And so not only did David's side launch their nuclear weapons at Zeke first, they also used the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense to neutralize any nukes Zeke sent their way.  5-0, Zeke was voted out of the game.

Adam may have wasted his nutsack idol, but he gained respect and undying loyalty from Hannah and, with Jeff not revealing all the votes, he looks like the savior to the jurors, rather than Will who actually cast the vote that mattered.  It wasn't that long ago that everyone was targeting Adam.  But he graciously didn't play his advantage at the family visit, he ended up giving the advantage to Jay as an appreciation, and he gave up his immunity idol for an ally.  Someone's star is on the ascent.

Going to Day 34 there are still eight players left, interestingly four original Millennials - Adam, Hannah, Jay and Will - and four original Gen Xers - Bret, David, Ken and Sunday.  Jay is the only one with a hidden immunity idol and Ken, if he can make it three more days, will have the benefit of the Legacy Advantage.  Based on the vote, Bret, Sunday, and, to a lesser extent Jay (who might be able to reconnect with Will) would seem to be on the outs, but as this year has proved (especially the last few episodes) things move pretty fast on Survivor and you can't predict the future.  With Zeke gone, is David the biggest threat left?  Or will the Survivors focus on Jay who is a physical threat, has the most friends on the jury and still has an idol?

Here's Zeke's day after video:

Want more Zeke?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Survivor Season 33: Millennials v. Gen X - Episode 9 Recap

Previously on Survivor: I hope I can get my freakin' revenge, I'm ready to play.  Hannah, the gods have heard you, it's time for a merge!  Hugs all around.  And food, a lot of food.  And Mason jars.  You all feast, I'm going digging around -- there must be a pony in here somewhere.  I found...a really awful advantage.  Gee, thanks.  Clang clang.  I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that and go back to sleep. I'm going to go out and bond with my old friend TayTay over stolen food.  You have a secret, I have a secret, let's be secret friends.  Nah, dude, bro, I'm like totes voting you out.  Let's undermine the kingpin, who to target? Well, we could go after Will.  Scratch that.  Well, we haven't voted a woman out in two days.  Adam is the worst ally ever.  I was thinking the same thing! Taylor stole food! That's such a Millennial thing to do.  Bye Michelle.

You have to feel sorry for the Survivor editors this episode.  Obviously, Taylor is the next to go.  He's close to Jay (whom everyone views as a huge threat), he's been caught stealing food (though the magnitude of the theft is only known by Adam at this point), and he only has two people left in his alliance (Will who is not seen as a threat and Jay who many suspect may have an idol).  So how to pad the hour?  A little misdirection, a lot of filler and a little explosiveness right at the end.

Can you believe we lost someone who we trusted so much?
Jay comes back from Tribal Council particularly salty.  He calls out his former Millennial tribemates for being stupid, allowing themselves to be the bottom three of a nine person alliance.  But Adam correctly notes that, at least for him, being at the bottom is still preferable to being voted out, which was Jay's plan for him that night.  If Jay was so concerned about the Gen Xers having the numbers, perhaps he should have rethought his decision to vote out the most loyal Millennial out there, Michaela.  As that great philosopher Taylor once said, "There are only so many people you can trust in this game and when they're gone it sucks, Bro."

Jay can't believe the Gen Xers trusted Adam over him, but he doesn't realize that no one trusts Adam at this point.  I doubt Adam trusts Adam.  Adam has run back and forth between the two sides so much that on the Google satellite picture of the Vinaka beach you can see the rut he created.  But he is an easy later boot, he's not winning any challenges and he has no one at this point.  By contrast, the tight four person, now three, about to be two, Triforce alliance was a bigger immediate threat.

We - and I speak for every viewer out there - already are over Taylor, so we didn't need another confessional of him gloating about having stolen half of the merge feast and playing guess the fruit in the dark.  If the purpose of the scene was to make us all stand up and cheer when he's eventually voted off the island, we're already there.  Taylor boasts that his secret is safe because the only one who knows is Adam and Adam has a bigger secret that Taylor is keeping.

While Taylor is stuffing his face with soggy pretzels and mystery fruits, Hannah is reveling in turning the table on Jay.  Remember Jay how you kept Hannah in the dark about your plan to blindside Michaela?  You told Hannah that you couldn't tell her ahead of time and you were sorry and you'd let her know next time?  Well, guess what Hannah gets to say?  I'm sorry Jay, but I had to do what was best for me.  Sorry I couldn't tell you ahead of time.  Maybe next time.  Ah, sweet revenge.

Right after Hannah's "I'm really playing the game" quote, she comes way back down to earth after the Reward Challenge.  Charged with putting a team together, school-yard pick style, she went for potential allies instead of brute strength and her team was smoked by the unbeatable Chris-Bret-Ken combo.

Is this Survivor or Club Med?
The winning team feasts and drinks to their hearts' content.  Except for Will who were are told, about a hundred times by my count, cannot partake even though the legal drinking age in Fiji is 18.  Apparently, the Survivor contract requires you to abide by the laws of the U.S. regardless of where the show is filmed.  This is because the blue haired cat ladies who watch CBS will have a fit if they see that sweet young boy get his first (hahahaha) taste of demon liquor right before the next police procedural.  But Bret happily takes Will's share and gets wasted, though luckily not drunk enough to forget to come up for air after his epic cannonball.

So everyone on the winning side is well fed, well lubricated, and happy, right?  Not so much.  Sunday is fretting about the fractured Gen X tribe.  Despite their unified vote at Tribal, she sees the six as two warring groups of three with David, Jessica and Ken on one side and Sunday, Chris and Bret on the other.  Sunday wants to make a move before the other side does and she's convinced Jessica is gunning for her.  So she wants to put Jessica's head on the chopping block as soon as possible.  We sure didn't see this cutthroat person behind that Fargo-esque "donchaknow" voice, the mom of four persona, and the unruly mop of curly blond hair!

While Sunday may be an under the radar strategist, Adam is waving huge red flags wherever he goes, drawing unneeded attention to himself.  He suggests to us that maybe...MAYBE?????...he's been playing too hard.   Ya think?  So what does he do to slow down?  He takes Jay aside and tries to strategize with him.  Adam tests the waters with Jay, explaining his vote, discussing his thoughts going forward.  He doesn't apologize for flipping against one of Jay's allies as he was Jay's target.  Okay, fair point. He goes on to tell Jay the truth, that Taylor pisses people off and is the number one target and that  those aligned with him are by the transitive property of annoyance also going to be targeted.  That's why you, Jay, and Will and Taylor are at the bottom.

This somehow is a bombshell to Jay.  He is flabbergasted.  I'm at the bottom?  He asks this incredulously, after one of his closest allies was just voted off in a 9-4 blindsiding vote.  Somehow it is a complete shock to him that he, one of the remaining three in that alliance, would be at the bottom in a tribe of twelve?  Simple math would have told him he's at the bottom.  But he acted like Adam kicked sand in his face, then stomped on his head, chortling all the way.  His overreaction to Adam explaining obvious facts to him was hard to comprehend.  How oblivious was Jay to his surroundings that Adam telling him the truth was seen as mocking, ridiculing, and insulting him?

Jay, you can do math, right?
So the rift between Adam and the Triforce grows exponentially at this point.  Adam is now a "huge jerk" for telling someone whose ally was just voted out by the majority alliance that he is in the minority.  I cannot even fathom how this was misinterpreted.  But kudos to Will.  When Jay came to him and said that Adam rubbed it in his face that they were at the bottom, Will asked "What did he actually say."  Will realizes that there's a difference between the words said and how someone interprets them.  That may be a key moment in Will's story right there.  He didn't just react, he questioned.  He is wise beyond his years and someone to keep your eye on.

After Taylor and Jay catch up and Jay informs him of his conversation with Adam, the camera pans back and we see that both Hannah and Zeke were around for this anti-Adam bitchfest.  And they are more than happy to join in.  Jay and Taylor may be at the bottom and one of them may be going next, but nobody trusts Adam.  And nobody sees how dangerous it is to keep someone around that you can't trust and targeting obvious targets instead.  So they all join in Adam bashing, yet two of them are still going to are putting off dealing with him until later.

One person does want to switch up the target and that's Sunday.  She confides in Jay that Jessica is her real target and he's more than thrilled to promise her his vote against Jessica or pretty much anyone she mentions.  This is the crack in the majority alliance he's been hoping for.  Sunday next tells Bret she'll do whatever the majority wants, but she would rather get rid of Jessica.  Since for us the viewer it's been months since the two were on the same tribe, we don't understand why Sunday is afraid of Jessica and why she wants her out so badly.  But whatever bad blood existed on the old Gen X tribe is not long forgotten, at least not for Sunday.

The Immunity Challenge was a balance upon balance contest and Jeff offered the Survivors a choice.  Compete or feast.  Only two opted out of the challenge, taking the bait and trying to live down Jeff's repeated suggestion that these two feel awfully safe to give up a chance at immunity just for some delicious sandwiches and beer. But not for Will, who's only 18 in case you forgot.  Put down the phones, ladies, Will will be drinking a nice safe soda pop.  Zeke rightly points out that he had zero chance of beating the boarders (surf, snow, skate, any plank you have to stand up on) in a balance challenge and that he was better off refueling for a challenge he might have a chance at later.  But Jeff would not let it go unnoticed that you had to feel pretty darn confident not to try for immunity.

Your obligatory Ken photo.  You're welcome.
In the end it was down to Ken, the surfer with the abs of steel, and Taylor, the snow board instructor who has been secretly chowing down so he could crush challenges.  Ken pulls out the win, giving him all of his screen time for this episode.  I know he's boring, but he's so purdy to look at.  Damn you Survivor editors who only care about strategy talk!

So Taylor and Jay realize it's down to them in tonight's vote.  Taylor decides to share with Jay his hidden jars of food and they have their island Last Supper.  He tells Jay that Adam knows about the stash and that Adam has a secret of his own that he's going to blow up at Tribal Council.  He's doing this for Figs, his woman.  He will avenge her!  Until he breaks her heart by breaking up with her after the show, but for now, he will avenge her!

At Tribal Council Taylor, Jay and Adam act like immature middle schoolers.  Jay says it was rough being blindsided, Adam says welcome to my world, Jay says, well welcome to Survivor, and they go back and forth seeing who can be more petty and more whiny.  It's a tie.

While Jeff points out the obvious - the three who voted wrong last Tribal are now at the bottom - Chris throws out a lifeline.  You can be on the bottom (like he was) and you can fight back.  There are cracks.  That's a hell of a lot of information to slip out at Tribal.  Chris is admitting that the nine are not tight and a savvy player can find and take advantage of the rifts.  Taylor misreads the situation and decides that the crack Chris is talking about deals with Adam so he puts all of his energy in trying to undermine Adam.  The problem with this is, the tribe could have voted out Adam if they had wanted to last week.  He is not seen as the biggest threat and he is not currently the biggest target.  This was a shot that Taylor, and Jay, tried to take last week and they missed.  They should have worked to find a new target, maybe even Sunday's target.

Happy, hyperventilating, confused, giddy
So Taylor goes balls to the wall on the offensive against Adam, and it gets some traction.  He admits to not only eating food at night at the camp, but stealing large amounts and burying it to eat later.  Everyone is shocked, but even more so when he adds that Adam helped him and joined with him.  Now we know this is not true.  But Adam is not blameless.  While Taylor is lying about Adam helping him bury the food and partaking, Adam did know that Taylor hid food from the tribe, did not stop him, and did not tell anyone.  Those are big enough red flags without the lies added on.  In fact, had Taylor not lied and just laid out the facts, Adam would have had nothing to say in his defense other than "I was being sneaky and trying to create a secret alliance."

But now the entire tribe is in chaos.  Hannah needs oxygen lest she have another panic attack.  Will can't believe that his ally kept this secret from him.  Michelle thinks this is hysterically funny.  And the rest of the tribe isn't sure who to strangle first.  David wants an accounting of what food items were stolen.  Sunday wants to know if anything remains.

But wait, there's more.  Taylor then tells the tribe that not only did Adam know about the food stash (which Adam admits), not only did he keep the secret (which Adam admits), but he did so because ADAM IS KEEPING HIS OWN SECRET.  He's Batman.  No, that's not it.  He's got a secret advantage which he can use to drug and rape your women, murder your children and wipe out your bloodline. When your loved one comes to the island, he can have them murdered and their bodies used as chum to summon sharks while you look on helplessly.

Taylor tries to make Adam having found an advantage that anyone could have found the moral equivalent to stealing food from your hungry tribemates.

Just when things cannot get any crazier, Jeff lays a wet fart in the middle of the proceedings and tries to connect Taylor's brazen selfishness and audacity to the Millennials v. Gen X theme.  But he's wrong.  Taylor is not espousing a Millennial position, he's being a jerk.  He has not played Survivor since he first decided to hook up in a showmance on day one and he's still not playing Survivor.  He's playing, have as much fun as I can while I'm out here, and he's the only Millennial who has taken that approach.

So not Millennial is Taylor's approach that his best buddy Jay rips him for it, calling him a dumb surfer, no offense.  Taylor doesn't take offense at being called dumb, only at being called a surfer.  He's a dumb snow boarder, bro.  But not Jay.  He has hopes and dreams and is willing to work for them.  And to his credit, he is and has been playing Survivor and not Fijian Fantasy Island.  Maybe the best thing for Jay's game would be for Taylor to be gone.

Adam is becoming apoplectic and you expect him to burst a blood vessel in his brain as everything seems to be crashing down around him.  Taylor admits to stealing, hoarding and feasting on the tribe's food.  Jay admits to eating some of the stolen food.  Yet the focus is still on Adam who did not partake of even a crumb.  Keeping Taylor's secret is becoming a bigger crime than what Taylor or Jay did.  This Kafkaesque drama is about to torpedo Adam's game and he feels powerless to stop it.  Until secret cop Bret puts this all into perspective:  There were a lot of errors made, we have to determine who's the most culpable.

And with that, the tribe votes.  Shockingly, Jay does not play his hidden immunity idol, but when all the votes are shown we discover why.  Knowing the tribes would be splitting the votes, he thought it would be 5-4.  If he voted for Taylor, as he smartly did, at worst it's a tie.  But it was pretty clear to him that the 5 would probably go for Taylor, the "most culpable" of the two.  And so it did.

Gnarly man.  
What Jay may not have anticipated was that his ally Will would read the writing on the wall and vote with majority, casting his vote against Jay.  Regardless, it was Taylor who saw his torch snuffed as his horrendous gameplay at long last caught up with him.  Or as Jeff put it so well, sometimes the vote at Tribal Council is all about consequences.

Want more Taylor? Check out these post-eviction interviews:
TV Guide
Josh Wigler - Parade
Gordon Holmes - Xfinity
Entertainment Weekly
Rob Has a Podcast

Ponderosa Video:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Survivor Season 33: Millennials v. Gen X - Episode 8 Recap

Previously on Survivor: Taylor, I know I blindsided you, backstabbed you and ruined your chance of giving Figgy the final rose but... what point was I making?  Adam, I will destroy you.  And your little dog too.  Jess, Ken, let's shake on getting Adam out because handshakes are totally binding.  Zeke, I trust you, here's my hidden idol, my SSN, all my passwords and a full body scan.  Michaela saves the day again, what would we do without her?  So here's my plan for the next three weeks - let me show you via some sea shells, a slide show, a hand puppet and an interpretive dance.  Michaela is dangerous.  Ya think?

So the day after Jay and Will executed their plan to get rid of Jay's biggest threat, Michaela, Hannah is in her usual position of out of the loop cluelessness.  She is not happy to have been the only one not in on the plan to blindside Michaela.  This shows her to be firmly at the bottom of her so-called alliance and proves to her that Jay is not someone she can trust.  She swears her revenge, which now makes two people (adding Taylor's plan to avenge Figgy) in the Inigo Montoya role this season.

But before anyone can put a plan into play, it's merge time.  Adam, who has been our guide through most of the season, puts this moment into perspective.  "This is the point when alliances and loyalties are tested and the great players are separated from the mediocre players."  He of course misses the most crucial meaning of the merge.  They're all date-able!

There are hugs all around and jubilation as old friends come together.  Michelle is lofted into the air by Hannah and she tells us she is thrilled to have her old allies back so she can be back in the driver's seat.  She was at risk in her small four person tribe, but with Jay, Will and Taylor back, how could anything go wrong?  Cue the dark clouds, rumbling thunder, maybe a lightning strike or two?  Too obvious?

The Survivors enjoy the merge feast and the opportunity to become reacquainted with old tribe members and get to know new ones.  While they feast and and share stories, they are unaware that someone from production worked very, very hard to hide a clue to a secret advantage right in plain sight.  There, on the inside of one of the boxes, is a message to decode.

Look I'm a clue.  Read me!
Look at all the words below "congratulations you have made the merge."  More specifically, look just at the initial letter of each of the words.  They have to mean something.  They probably spell something, right?  Otherwise, why so many random adjectives?  Unless some intern was studying for their SAT, there's no reason for words like gregarious, right?  So what does it spell?  "Mail brings advantage.  Find it first."  Aha!  So, likely, there is something by the location of the tree mail.  Surely, one of the super, maybe even a super duper, fans will see the message, figure it out, and find whatever is hidden there.

Or Adam can just bypass all that, make all that hard work for naught, and just use his general Survivor knowledge to go root around for a hidden something while his fellow tribemates gorge themselves.  And so lo and behold, Adam finds a first of its kind advantage.  It gives him the power to take away someone's reward, also known as the "Make an enemy for life" advantage.  He is thrilled as he knows that this is something new to Survivor and as a super duper fan he will now be in SurvivorWiki as the first person to find the hidden steal a reward advantage!  Maybe it'll be named after him, like that god forsaken Tyler Perry Idol.  Adam then gives us a perfect soundbite, that he will use this advantage at the perfect time later in the game.  And now we have Chekhov's advantage to keep our eyes on.

With the merge comes some major evaluations of what is the power structure.  Who has whose back, where do you fit in your alliance, who is dangerous, who can you trust.  So, naturally, we get a few confessionals of people assessing their place in this brand new tribe.  Jay is sitting on top of the world.  He is Il Duce, el jefe, the boss of all bosses, or, as he puts it, the kingpin, meaning, apparently, that he is a vertical bolt used as a pivot.  Best of all, no one knows how godlike he is because he's so humble, unassuming, and covert.  No one has any idea that Will would fall on a grenade for him, that Taylor would give him his left nut if he asked for it and that Michelle looks to him as her guiding light.   Nope, Jay is sitting pretty.  He's got them, plus Hannah and Sunday and Bret (who he just saved and who owes him his life).  That's seven.  That's a majority.  That's a wrap.

Only... Bret the cop has noticed that Jay and his fellow Millennials are thick as thieves and he starts to get suspicious whether going with Jay is a good idea.  He reconnects with Chris, who tells him that he and David are tight and hoping to get back together with him and Sunday.  That's four.  They also have Zeke.  But they need more if they want to be in power.  Oddly, he doesn't immediately think of Ken and Jessica and it's easy to wonder if there might be some residual distance there from when they were on opposite sides of the Gen X tribe.  Time to put those differences away!

We got this, we totally got this.
Meanwhile, the old nerd crew has reunited and they bring together perspectives from each being on a different tribe the last few days.  Zeke, Adam and Hannah have the bond and the intel and could certainly direct how this game goes from here if they're smart. And since they went to Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern, respectively, they should have the brain power to pull this off.  That or our higher educational system has some 'splaining to do.

Zeke, like Bret, has a Jay epiphany.  This charming, magnetic bro could completely dominate the game with his magnetic charm.  Jay is dangerous.  And charming.  Both mostly dangerous.  With his perfect teeth, unruly hair and twinkling eyes, Zeke realizes that everyone will fall into Jay's charismatic gravitational pull.  And Zeke worries that if the majority of bro'y bros join together, he might be back on the bottom of the totem pole.  Jay has to go.

In the wee hours after the feast, there is scrambling around the campsite.  But it's not for a hidden immunity idol.  Nope, it's for banana chips.  Taylor tells us that he is a MacGyver of the Mason jars and that he uses them to create a super secret stash of food just for him.  Because nothing says loyal tribemate like stealing and hoarding food.   Not surprisingly, he make enough noise to wake up half the camp.  Bret and Adam each see him but take different tacks in how to deal with this information.  Bret pretends to be asleep and just file away the information for later use.  Adam decides to get up and go over and use the information to create a bond with Taylor.

The person who he had just blindsided and backstabbed.
The person whose girlfriend he had just voted out.
The person whose game he had just destroyed.
The person who had just vowed that Adam was his mortal enemy.
The person with whom he was never aligned even back when they were on the same tribe.

This was the moment where I completely lost my faith in humanity.  Not the election.  That was more understandable (if more horrifying) than what Adam did next.

So you want me to bag on my closest ally? Gnarly.
Adam decides to have a midnight bro-down to build an unlikely alliance with Taylor.  Adam admits it's unlikely based on their fractious history.  But what Adam completely, totally, utterly, entirely misses is that isn't not an unlikely occurrence it's a never in gazillion years even if you were the last Survivor player in the galaxy occurrence.  No matter how hard you try, no matter what you say, Taylor will never ever ever ally with you.  Ever.  Never.  Adam, you're a nice kid.  You're a smart kid.  But don't try to fit a square peg in a round hole.  You're a nerd.  Embrace it.  Revel in it.  Don't try to cozy up to the cool kids, they'll be working for you soon.  You don't need Taylor's help to run this show.  Look around.  You, Zeke, Hannah, join with Dave, Chris, Bret and Sunday.  Boom that's seven.  Get rid of all the physical threats - Jay, Taylor, Ken - you're home free.

But, no, Adam, suffering from heat stroke, island madness, or an old fashioned brain fart, decides instead to tell Jay's closest ally that his best move is to vote out Jay's henchman Will.  Now, I kinda get the logic behind what Adam was saying.  You get rid of Will and Jay will come running back to Taylor.  That's what he was selling.  But Taylor was not afraid of Will, Taylor did not see Will as a threat to him, Taylor did not doubt Jay's loyalty, and Taylor did not want to shoot himself in the foot by voting out one of his own allies.  AND, if Taylor voted out Jay's closest buddy, Jay would be hella pissed and very unlikely to mend fences.  No, on second thought, I don't see the logic behind what Adam was trying to sell Taylor.

And then to double down on the dumbest moment of Adam's Survivor experience, he then tells his mortal enemy about his secret advantage.


Sorry, didn't mean to shout.  Well, that's the end of Adam.  He had a good run.

Taylor vows quick revenge on Adam and the thought of him outlasting super duper fan Adam makes me queasy.

But the Gen Xers are here to save the day.  They're pissed at Taylor's cavalier attitude about the tribe's food and concerned about his strong alliance with Jay, Will and Michelle.  They start talking about Taylor as a potential first post-merge boot.  They do the math, they have the numbers.  This should be easy.

You have the gnarliest hair.  No you do.
Taylor and Jay are strategizing, which means Taylor is throwing out random words and Jay is thinking tactically about what is best for their chances.  Jay wants to keep it Millennial strong, and plan for the Gen Xers to target one of their own.  There are seven Millennials - Adam, Hannah, Michelle, Jay, Taylor, Will and Zeke - to six Gen Xers - Bret, Chris, David, Ken, Jessica and Sunday.  If the Millennials join together, they can wipe out the Gen Xers.  It's simple math.  But life on Survivor is never that simple.

So Taylor tells Jay - after getting him to promise he won't tell a soul - that Adam has thrown around the idea of voting out Will.  He doesn't tell Jay that Adam's stated reason is so that Taylor and Jay can be closer, he tells Jay that Adam is doing this to target him.  So in a few minutes, Jay has gone from thinking he has a nice, tight, final seven with his Millennial peers to finding out that Adam is gunning for him.  Jay, who was so set on sticking together, at first cannot process what this means, then eventually comes over to forgetting Millennial Strong agreeing that Adam has got to go.

Luckily for Adam, Zeke is in the right place at the right time and overhears the conversation between the two dudes.  In the first known use of the word "coterie" in 33 seasons of Survivor, Zeke tells us that Jay and his cool kids clique now have their sights set on Adam and he needs to get in there and work to save his fellow nerd.  All he has to do is get Adam back in line and get him to forget any idea of building an alliance with the surfer dudes.

Will was minding his own business, content knowing that he was in the majority post-merge and that his school vacation would continue while his fellow seniors were waiting on their college applications.  Then Taylor tells Will that his name has been thrown out there, by Adam no less, and Will is now scared.  And also super duper motivated going into the immunity challenge.  And we know what often happens on Survivor when there's one player who really needs safety more than anyone else.   It's a test of strength, balance and, coincidentally, will, and it come down after an hour to two more unlikely players - Will the youngster and Jessica the determined.  It's a tremendous showing for Jessica, but in the end, youth wins out.  Let me take a moment to give a shout out Dave for not being the first out and actually lasting pretty long in the competition.  He's really coming into his own!

Someone is not happy with the plan
After the challenge is over, Jay, Taylor, Hannah, Michelle and Will talk about their next move.  The men want to vote out Adam, even if it cuts the number of Millennials down to six.  Michelle, who in the second episode proved herself to be a keen strategist with her flip to get Mari vote out, is not convinced.  She thinks it's too early to target one of their numbers and that they should instead weaken the Gen Xers first.  But this is personal for the guys and they want Adam to pay for what he did now.  Reluctantly, Michelle goes along.

Zeke takes Adam aside and tells him everything.  What he overheard, how Will knew he had to win the challenge, and how Adam is now the target.  Adam suggests that maybe he played too hard.  If by too hard he means really stupidly because he never should have trusted Taylor with any information because he is not his friend, then, yeah, that was too hard.  If he means naive and risky telling Jay's closest ally that he wanted to vote against him and expecting that would not come back to bite him then, yeah, that was too hard.

If you ever go on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" make sure Zeke is your phone a friend.  This guy is the ultimate lifeline.

But Adam, instead of kissing Zeke's feet for bailing him out of the huge mess he's made, thinks that because the Gen Xers can't decide who of the Taylor/Jay/Michelle group to target (since they're worried, rightly as we know, that Jay has an idol and would, wrongly, play it for Taylor), HE SHOULD TRY AGAIN WITH TAYLOR.

I'm sorry, was I shouting again?

Adam, becoming the most frustratingly oblivious player this or perhaps any season, thinks he has to do some weirdo voodoo, some crazy magic trick rather than simply realize that NINE PEOPLE are united in getting one of the three out.  And if you as a super duper fan know anything, you know the number one rule of Survivor is "anyone but me."  That's what Queen Sandra would tell you.  So if it's not you, just go with the flow.  Adam, you told us not long ago that maybe you're playing too hard. You know, you might be playing too hard.

Give it up, Adam.  He's not that into you.
Adam, please do not go back to the Taylor well.  It's dry.  Sahara desert.  No, make that the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.  Because I googled driest place on earth and I saw that.  Coincidentally, next to it was a picture of Taylor's dead blue eyes.  There's nothing for you there, Adam.  He wants no part of you.  No bygones, no alliance, no secret pact, no final whatever.  You voted out his girl and Taylor is not playing Survivor he's playing Avenging Boyfriend.  Still, Adam tries and gives Taylor another chance and it goes just as badly as possible.  Worse, he does it in front of the tribe!

Dave asks Hannah, incredulously, "You don't think Adam would try to flip on us, do you?"  Yes, David, yes he would and yes he is - trying, at least - because he is playing too hard.  But please, David and Hannah, join with Zeke and save Adam from himself.  Because when his fever goes down and his brain goes back to normal he will thank you for keeping him from blowing up his game.  "Adam is the worst teammate ever," says Hannah. "Adam a bad alliance member," says Zeke.  "Adam is the most frustrating person ever," says Zeke and every Survivor fan watching.  Adam is actively trying to grab defeat from the jaws of victory and make something simple very complicated.  And it is only a matter of time before even those fighting so hard to keep him in the game will get tired of bailing him out and just let him drown.

But fortunately for Adam, all of the Gen Xers and the nerd herd from the old Millennials all want to break up the foursome of Taylor, Jay, Will and Michelle.  They dislike Taylor and are afraid of Jay, the other two are just numbers.  Will is off the table thanks to his immunity win, and their fear that Jay has an idol that he would play on himself or Taylor lead them to Michelle as the likely target. Zeke has never trusted her and their time together on the orange tribe did nothing to bring them closer together.  Plus, he and Hannah know Michelle is the brains of the triforce alliance, a dangerous player as they go forward, so she's the target.  Unless everyone is fed up with Adam and his vacillations in which case he'll get an invite to the blindsided club.

At tribal council the discussion first turns to Taylor secreting a stash of food for himself to feast on while his tribemates followed the rules.  He makes zero friends as he explains that he took what he wanted because he could and because it was there and because he decided he deserved it since the merge feast did not include any gold stars.  This causes most of the tribe to bristle, but Taylor just continues to laugh that stupid laugh that he uses to let everyone know that he doesn't give a damn and will do whatever he wants whenever he wants with no repercussions.

Jeff notices how completely at ease Taylor is with all the negative attention to his late night snack hoarding.  Hannah calls Taylor a chill bro and he actually gives the "rock on" sign as he gleefully laughs at the fact that he can eat more than his share of the food and not be at all in danger of going home tonight.  And he does that even after Zeke reminds him that this is a game for a million dollars and that making unnecessary enemies, or bringing unnecessarily negative attention to yourself, could be a million dollar mistake.  He doesn't care.  Taylor's gonna Tay.

After a discussion of whether tribal loyalty is more important than interpersonal trust, it's time to vote.  Prophetically, Michelle couches tonight's vote thusly:  trust will be broken with some people and strengthened with others.

Why did I stick with Jay and Taylor?
Michelle was a smart player, had a good social game and was great at challenges.  But she stuck with the wrong alliance, failed to reestablish a bond with Hannah, failed to recognize the numbers were against her and ignored the need to pull more people in.  Her instinct not to target Adam was good but she didn't fight hard enough to go with her gut and get the Millennials to agree on a Gen X target.  And so, she's off to Ponderosa as the first member of what will be a very large jury!

Want more Michelle?
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