Season 33's conceit of the great generational divide gets a lot of support early on from the castaways. Proud Millennial Taylor Stocker tells us that despite his young age, he's had much life experience. He's been to North Dakota! Scratch that off his bucket list. If the Survivor producers wanted to give him the Debbie Wanner edit, they could change his chyron every appearance. Bee Keeper. Beer Brewer. Snowboard instructor. Midwest traveler! He calls himself a Peter Pan who will never grow up and if he can get away with it, good for him. He should be allowed to rock that silly hairstyle as long as he wants.
Mari Takahashi echoes Taylor's forever young sentiment. A professional video gamer, she plans to never grow up - which certainly seems like an early candidate for words that will come back to bite her, not in the game but probably in her forties. She tells us that she wants to spend her entire life playing and I'm thinking maybe she took that board game too seriously when she was younger. But she gives us the first "I'm going to win" confessional which means she is another Richard Hatch, accurately predicting the outcome, or another delusional player giving a soon to be ironic soundbite.
Immediate fan favorite, Zeke Smith, is dressed like he was blindfolded, dropped in a dumpster outside a Hawaiian-themed restaurant, and grabbed whatever he could find to wear. He is 28 but does not go full metal Millennial. He tells us he's a middle aged man trapped in a doughy twenty-something body and is not quite sure where he belongs. On my TV, Zeke, for the next thirteen weeks.
Chris Hammons has two strikes against him. He's an attorney, and no attorney has won Survivor. And he's a ginger whose lack of melanin means he'll probably burst into flames early on. But at least his tribe will have fire! He talks about being in the "older" group but as he's young enough to be my son, I don't hear anything he says after the word "older." I was in law school when you were born, Chris. Don't tell me about old.
Sandy Burquest is auditioning for Fargo Season 3 dontcha know with that cute Minnesota accent of hers (okay, unlike Taylor I don't travel the middle of America so I don't know that much about its geography, but I'm pretty sure N. Dakota and Minnesota are right next door). She is the mom of four and as a mom of two I salute her and hope she wins and then is invited back so she can spend another 39 days away from having to feed and clean up after that brood.
David Wright is a pale, nebbishy, frail guy with zero survival skills, crippling anxiety and a fear of just about everything. On his People blog, Stephen Fishbach called him his Dopplenerder and I don't think I can outdo that description. Cirie Field would call him a wuss. His idea of a nature walk is the Organic aisle at Pavillions. He hasn't had a backpack since high school. He says it took him 14 years as an assistant to finally get a writing job and it's probably because he spent all that time curled up in the corner trying to keep all the bad things away. David, whoever signed you up for Survivor has a sick sense of humor.
18-year-old high school senior (that is not a typo) Will Wahl is excited about the generational war and says may the best generation win. He's 18, so he doesn't yet know that the best doesn't always win. Didn't he watch Season 32? (I kid, Michele. But really, Michele??). The castaways are shocked to have a high school student on the show but not as shocked as the teacher who gave him the hall pass two months ago.
|Where's the oldest Gen Xer?|
CeCe Taylor makes a lot of friends over at the other tribe by insulting them with how they don't work for what they have and that everything is handed to them and the looks on the faces of the younger tribe can be summed up with a simple, "oh no she did not just say that." Each Millennial was thinking of the perfect eye rolling GIF they would tweet her if only they were in the real world right now. If CeCe wants to make it post-merge she is going to now have to work doubly hard because she is on the Millennial's radar. Did someone forget to tell her that the tribe divisions weren't for the full game?
Adam Klein gets off to a great start with Jeff. Jeff points to him and says "Adam," and he replies with a Cochran-esque "Probst" and we all fall just a little in love. Jeff, already on the hunt for this season's bromance, might have found his soulmate. Adam throws it down by promising that the Millennials will win the first challenge and show those old fogeys who knows how to work hard. It's a risky prediction that could come back to bite him, but just from sizing up the two tribes unless it's a program a VCR task, the Gen Xers are probably not going to win.
But before they compete, each team runs to grab supplies for their camp and they have some decisions to make (fishing gear v. chickens, a hammer v. pots and pans). Amid the chaos, Jessica Lewis, a 37-year-old district attorney, finds a note. She wisely pockets it and goes on gathering items. Jeff makes a big deal about the Gen Xers picking fishing gear versus the Millennials taking the chickens. Paul says the decision was about the long haul, planning for 39 days. Taylor had a better reason for choosing the chickens. "They lay eggs, Jeff." I bet he learned that in his travels to North Dakota.
Jeff gives both tribes some sobering news about an upcoming storm before he sends them on their way to fend for themselves in the elements while he goes back to his comfy climate controlled haven.
Mari has about a dozen confessionals about how awesome the Millennials are and it seems unfair that she gets to do here on the island what she does on the outside - talk to the camera about a game. Why don't they bring in some criminals for Jessica to prosecute while they're there? How about letting Michelle pour someone a coffee?
Taylor has found his brochacho. Jay Starrett, a real estate agent from Florida. They have a brotastic bromance the two broennials. They talk about which of them is the hottest and which of the two girls - Figgy Figueroa and Michelle Schubert - is the cutest and how totally rad it would be if the four of them were like you know a thing which would be for real so awesome. And so three of the four come up with a cute name for themselves, the three bromigos or something, and ignore that three or even four out of 10 is not what you should be looking for. Great for batting averages, not great for making past a jury vote.
Meanwhile, Zeke, my spirit animal, the light of my life, the cream in my coffee, the salt in my stew (yes, the last two are actual song lyrics. That Silent Generation sure knew how to write!) is telling us how he really doesn't fit in on his tribe and feels like the crotchety old guy yelling at those youngsters to get off his lawn.
Paul takes his role as the real crotchety old guy by bringing the tribe together to give a speech, which is going great until Ken McNickle decides to grab the mic away and give his old speech. For a chill, off the grid, go with the flow guy that was a little cold. Ken goes on to discuss his alternative living arrangements in the jungles of....Maui. He's picked up survival skills by braving the harsh unforgiving and wildly popular vacation destination. But he has pretty eyes, so we'll give him a pass.
Jessica wisely gives herself time to go off and read the clue she picked up earlier when everyone was scrambling to grab supplies and it's a Survivor first. The Legacy Advantage (sounds like something my financial planner might suggest). Whoever holds the advantage on day 36 will have an advantage in the game. If she is voted off before day 36, she can hand it over to someone else. Now we (and she) don't know any more specifics, all we can hope is that it won't be this year's Medallion of Power. It's great that they're shaking things up, but an advantage with three days to go in the game seems pretty lopsided.
I'm getting mixed messages from Figgy. Do you want me to think that you're a pretty face? If so, stop making ugly faces with the cameraman two feet from you. But I don't think that's what you want since in every preseason interview you dropped in that you didn't want to be another pretty face. Beauty fades, but being annoying is forever, so you have that to look forward to. Figgy is hoping to go the Amber route and find a husband and a million dollars, but just as Brett the Boston cop is no Rob Mariano, you are no Amber Brkich.
Now, I would give Jay credit for mentioning that if he, Figgy and Jay are a tight three they still need three more (giving them what we like to call a majority), but I would then have to take the points right back from him for never actually going to any of the others outside his core beautiful people alliance to have them join up. They bring in Michelle but that's it, leaving six normal looking humans on the outside of the people who would have chosen ANTM instead had it not been canceled. We could be in for some old fashioned Survivor showmances as Figgy likes Taylor's dreamy blue eyes and Jay thinks Michelle is super hot and suddenly this has the makings of a new CW show, The Triforce Diaries.
Hannah Shapiro is already writing her next blog while she's on the island, pointing out the emergency of the Kappa Kappa Survivor gang of gorgeousness. Now, Hannah is a cute if bookish nerdy girl but the beauty sub-tribe would make anyone feel insecure. But rather than let any insecurity get the best of her she's taken a page out of her former professor Max Dawson's Survivor rule book (subtitled: Do as I say, not as I did!) and is trying her best to bond with the group she doesn't feel part of. Keep an eye on that one!
Shelter building is often the first place where a survivor can make a bad game move. Being too bossy, too demanding is bad. Not helping, not showing your value is also bad. You have to find that sweet spot of working hard (or appearing to be working hard) and not barking orders. Paul and Rachel Ako immediately butt heads over how deep to build a hole. If you're playing a game for a million dollars, you shouldn't fight over the depth of a hole. And you shouldn't tell a grown man that he doesn't like to work, especially when he's made a point of how he's on the old hard working people tribe. You don't tell the old guy that you have to keep him focused. Basically, if you're playing a game for a million dollars do the exact opposite of everything Rachel does this episode. Too late to say spoiler alert??
David also has his own problem with oversharing. But in his case, it's not to tear down someone else but to bring self-deprecation to a new height. He goes way out of his way to tell his tribemates just how bad he is at any and all things that would help them as a tribe. Not since Prissy famously cried, "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" in Gone With the Wind has any character so loudly proclaimed just how useless they are for the job at hand. This is 2016, nor 1816, most people don't have any experience building a shelter, Dave. The standing and nodding part was good, the volunteering that piece of useless information, not so much. David then doubles down on putting an "easy target, first boot" sign on his ass by wincing and covering his ears when the men folk get down to the actual shelter building. But he'll redeem himself later, we all assumed, as he flies through the inevitable puzzle during the immunity challenge. Let's put a pin in that.
With his game on shaky ground, David then goes full paranoia mode by claiming that part of his team has already found the hidden immunity idol. He's driving his teammates crazy, but Chris hints at David's secret weapon. He's funny and he's charming. This is why there aren't a lot of buff, ridiculously handsome comedians. David has to hope that on the scale, the funny charming is outweighing the paranoid and unhelpful.
Back over with the young uns, Adam is the sober voice of reason, noting the impending storm and wanting to make sure they're prepared. Building a shelter should be a priority he thinks, but Millennials just want to have fun, so his tribemates all go off to frolic in the ocean while she stands on shore with Mari, the old married couple who can't control their rambunctious kids. Adam sounds like a Gen Xer and seems pretty concerned that he's with the Veruca Salt "I want it now" group.
|Just a little rain.|
The new day brings news of two things that have never happened - Jeff shows pity of the tribes and sends them each a tarp and whoever wrote the note that accompanied the tarp eschewed the usual poetry format. This must have been serious if they didn't take the time to find a rhyme for thunder.
Our first confessional with Michaela Bradshaw shows her to be a Survivor fan as she recognizes that if Jeff just hands you a tarp and doesn't make you run through a rope course, jump over a wall, dig through thirty feet of sand and put together a 3D puzzle first, something is seriously wrong. Despite both team's greatest efforts, the meager stick and palm frond shelters, even with the emergency tarp, are not going to protect them from what Mother Nature has in store. And so in comes "Jeff Probst" (as Zeke calls him as if there were another Jeff around) to tell the tribes that the weather has been upgraded to a cyclone and so they are getting the hell out of Dodge.
It's a Survivor first! Obviously, either the weather is the worst they've ever faced or they have a new insurance adjuster/legal team who is wary of getting sued when a falling tree impales one of the castaways. Anyone who is a fan of the show knows that they are now part of Survivor history in a good way, not in an Erik Reichenbach hand your immunity idol over and then get voted out way.
Using footage from The Perfect Storm lest we lose any camera operator (seriously, why did they leave some behind to film, who drew that short straw??) we see the castaways evacuate before the torrential downpour comes to wreak havoc on their modest shelters. The sky opens and dumps down on them with enough water to solve the California drought and it is not surprising the next day when they find out they would have been flattened like a baking soda-less pancake has they not been evacuated.
Okay, David, I'm sorry I said you blew your chance at the game with your obvious weakness, your unbridled paranoia and your unrelenting fear of absolutely everything. You see the words coming out of your mouth and you can't stop them from flowing. I get it. I also get the existential angst. But you have to pull yourself together. This is your shot to play the game you love. I'll give you one weepy confessional but then get back out there and play the game! But, wait, don't play it so hard and so openly. David goes out waving a flag that says follow me to find an idol and starts very obviously searching around camp for salvation which only increases the target on his back three fold. If he isn't gone next, this will be one hell of a redemption arc. Because right now he's a candidate for the suckiest survivor ever.
While David is wallowing in his insecurities, Zeke instead is overcoming his. He is by his own words rising to his potential and my love for him grows exponentially. He made fire without flint, dude. This is what you hope to see on the show, someone who tests their limits, who puts themselves in an awkward, unfamiliar position and surprises themselves with what they can do. We have the "no participation trophy for us" Gen Xer who can't get his act together, and the "que sera, sera" Millennial who pushes himself to do something outside his comfort zone. And you start to think, maybe these generational constructs are pretty arbitrary.
Hannah pulls in Mari and starts to create a Freaks and Geeks narrative with the awkward turtles banding together to overtake the beautiful swans. She's lucky that the gorgeous Mari considers herself a geek gamer. She works on Adam and Michaela - also both very attractive but still feeling on the outs of the four person alliance - and convinces them to let their freak and geek flags fly and take down Regina George (Figgy) and her minions.
The immunity challenge has a nice twist where you have a choice to make at two places along the course. If you choose a shortcut then the puzzle at the end becomes harder. It does not go unnoticed that the "work hard" Gen Xers take two of the shortcuts, the Millennials only one. The puzzle at the end, as it usually does, allows someone to shine while others become the goats. In this case, it's Figgy and Michelle who bask in glory while it is Rachel who takes the brunt of the loss even though she was not the only one on the puzzle and rather than insisting she do it (as she is later blamed for) she volunteered only after no one else wanted to.
So Millennials beat the "old people" (including someone two years older than their older member) and it's the Gen Xers who are first at tribal council. David of course looks like the obvious one. He was there at the puzzle, in fact he was the first to volunteer. He swapped out when it was clear that he hadn't a clue where to put any piece. He's as paranoid as a tin foil hat wearing 9/11 truther. He's as useless as Jeff Probt's white shirts. Plus his tribemates think he found the hidden immunity idol. The one smart thing David does is tell them that he absolutely does not have the idol and that if they spare him he will forever be in their debt and will be the most loyal person in the history of Survivor.
As questionable as David's game is, it's the Tony Vlachos of games when compared to Rachel. She sees a bunch of people talking, knows that an alliance "is forming," yet does nothing to confront them, infiltrate them, work with them or even just talk to them. She and CeCe build a solid two person alliance which she somehow thinks will protect her in a tribe of ten people. But other than that, Rachel stays far away from the discussion about who is tonight's target, doesn't strategize with anyone besides CeCe and does not capitalize on the fact that David has done a lot wrong these first four days.
At tribal, Jeff says David's name and he jumps out of his skin. The whole tribe jokes about how he's afraid of his own shadow and Jeff gets the vibe that maybe he'd be happier out of the game and into a nice warm (but not too hot) bath. But David fights back. He wants to stay in the game, he tells everyone. And in the biggest understatement of the episode, he admits that "my biggest enemy is myself." David is a friendly, funny, trustworthy guy. The only thing that will ruin things for him is his own insecurities. And so he makes a plea to stay and have the chance to stop the self-sabotage.
|Who is not going home tonight?|
Want more from Rachel?
Interview with Josh Wigler/Parade.
Interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Interview with RealityTV World.
Interview with Gordon Holmes/Xfinity
Interview with GoldDerby.