Thursday, November 3, 2016

Survivor Season 33: Millennials v. Gen X - Episode 7 Recap

IPreviously on Survivor:  Zeke is giddy, Adam is undecided, Taylor is in love.  Jay and Will find a hidden immunity idol, Michaela finds Jay and Will with the hidden immunity idol.

Oh, who am I kidding, let's not bury the lead.

Michaela is gone.

Backstabbed, betrayed, blindsided.  A victim of her awesomeness.  Survivor has no meaning any more.  Life has no meaning any more.  Why play out the rest of the season, when its greatest contestant has her fire snuffed out too soon?   Even if you were a Cubs fan, you had to feel awful after that tribal council.  Thanks to Jay and Will, I have now entered my blue period.  I will reluctantly continue to watch the rest of the season, knowing that somewhere Michaela is winning at life because every single person watching last night thought that Jay made a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad move voting out a loyal, trustworthy ally.  But part of me died a little inside last night as the competition and confessional goddess walked down the lonely path of pre-merge oblivion.

Michaela - gone, but not forgotten.

When the episode begins, and there was still hopefulness hanging in the air, Taylor was pissed to the max, like totally, about Adam's blindsiding vote to break up the greatest love story Survivor had ever known.  Adam - forgetting how after being blindsided Zeke was not in the mood to chat - decided now was the perfect time to talk to Taylor about his betrayal.  Taylor, surprisingly, doesn't tell him to go take a walk into the ocean, but sits down to listen to his plea.

So what does Adam say to patch things up between him and Taylor?  "Taylor, this was in your best interest.  Showmances never last.  Without Figgy around, you've got a great chance to go far.  You weren't seeing clearly, so I had to come in and bail a bro out.  I'm totally with you dude, bros before, um, girls who could potentially mess up their game."  No.  Adam instead decides to fall on his sword, a grenade and whatever other weapons of destruction he can find and fuel Taylor's rage.

So what words does Adam offer Taylor to bridge the chasm between them, to start the process of healing and forgiveness and resolution?   "I screwed you.  I lied to you and I screwed you.  You are now in a worse position than you were before.  And that's my fault."  Adam, Adam, Adam.  Whoever told you that honesty is the best policy lied to you.  Honesty almost never works.  Especially not on Survivor.  But also not in the real world.  "Does this dress make me look fat?"  The answer is "No" without even looking.  No one wants to hear a bitter truth.

The dead - but pretty - eyes of the Terminator.
What does work?  Not reinforcing the angry, vengeful thoughts already percolating in Taylor's mind.  Taylor is furious, how does validating that feeling help?   How does stoking that feeling help?  Now Taylor knows, not only was Adam a rat who sold him and the love of his life out for a measly $1M, but that Adam knows that he did this awful thing and takes full ownership.  Why make an enemy for life who you have to sleep near for the next however many days, who will make it his life's goal to make sure you do not get to the end of the game?

For better gameplay, we go over to the orange tribe where David is always thinking.  His plan if they go to tribal council is to vote out Michelle next and he thinks the rest of the tribe is on board.  But he also knows that Chris is a reluctant ally at best and that his support - and vote - cannot be guaranteed.  So David works on building a bigger bond with Zeke.  He makes a risky move by telling Zeke he found a hidden immunity idol.  There are two schools of thought on the best way to play finding an idol.  One is the Kelly Wentworth/Carolyn Rivera approach of keeping it secret and using it tactically at tribal council.  The other, championed by Stephen Fishbach on the RHAP Know it Alls, is to use it strategically to create a feeling of trust and unity with another player.  David is potentially going down as the first player to use the idol both ways in one season.

We didn't have to wait long to find out that, at least as of day 20, telling Zeke was the right choice.  Zeke is now a loyal ally of David, willing to protect him and go far with him into the game.  David could not have hoped for a better quote coming from Zeke after the big reveal than "He has put his life in my hands and I'm going to take very very good care of his life."  That could not have gone any better.  David/Zeke final two.  Oh, what was that Zeke?  What did you tack on to the end of the sentence?  "For the time being."  Oh bother.

When the three tribes meet for the Reward Challenge, the Millennials are shocked to see that Adam switched over to the Gen Xers and voted out Figgy at the last tribal council.  Not shocked, but stoked, is Michaela.  Jeff reminds her how she had told the Millennials that there were three of them to two Gen Xers and if they couldn't figure it out they deserved to be voted off.  But today Michaela admits that she knew exactly what she was doing when she helped the orange tribe win immunity and that she knew exactly what she was doing when she helped send the purple tribe to vote someone off.  "It's been time for Figgy to go for a while."  And just in case no one picked up on the vibe, Michaela added, "Bye, Felicia."

In retrospect, probably too much information.  If you're in an alliance one of the key things you want from your allies, besides fidelity and honesty, is secrecy.  No airing dirty laundry for the other side to see.  Michaela was way too open about everything and became the Wikileaks of the Millennials, dumping information for the other side to pour over.

The orange and green teams win the Reward Challenge, but the most notable part of this scene was what Michaela said after she, once again, led her tribe to victory.  "It makes me nervous when I help the team win.  I don't want people to think that I'm the one to beat."  Too late, Michaela.  Way too late.  While Bret responded to her win by looking like a proud papa, Jay was feeling some combination of intimidation and fear.  And every Survivor super duper fan had the feeling of impending dread.  That was too dangerous and too accurate of a quote not to be meaningful.  #foreshadowing #whydidntyoufigurethisoutsooner

Over on the losing purple tribe, Taylor is scrambling.  And for the chill, seemingly clueless, surfer dude, he's actually doing a good job trying to save his game.  On-coming bus?  Check.   Grab Adam?  Check.  Throw him under the thundering wheels?  Check.  He lies like a lying liar to Ken and Jessica that he was completely betrayed by Adam who had sworn his undying fealty to him and Figgy, had promised to be the best man at their wedding, and had offered to name any future offspring FigTayls.  He conveniently forgets to mention how Adam was on the bottom of the Millennials' totem pole and that he was the next to go if they had ever lost a challenge and that he and Figgy had no alliance/deal/arrangement with Adam other than their placement on the generational spectrum.

Do they look convinced to you?
He gets Ken and Jessica to make a handshake deal with him, he'll never write their names down, they'll never write his, blah blah.  And I'm momentarily worried until I look again at their body language during this discussion.  Whatever Taylor is selling them, they don't look like they're buying.  Ken is not a Survivor strategist, he's a loyal, stick to your word kinda guy.  He bonded with Adam and I'd guess that means something to him.  He has totally zoned out from what Taylor is saying and would not turn his back on Adam.  Jessica, on the other hand, is a lawyer and so she's thinking what's best for her game and not about loyalty.  She'll consider the fact that keeping a savvy player like Adam versus a clueless guy like Taylor may not be best for her game.

It's Day 20, past the halfway point and for once I wish the producers weren't giving me more Michaela sound bites.  This isn't good.  She's saying funny and empowering Michaela things - about being strong, mind over matter - and I can't help but worry about her safety in the game.  It's dangerous to show strength, especially if you're also smart.  And especially if you're also a woman.  That's a threatening combination to a lot of guys.  And when you start comparing yourself to Steve Jobs and Michael Jordan, you might scare a few people.

Hannah is still Team Millennials and feels good about the 4-2 tribe split.  She likes Sunday but she's suspicious about Bret.  He looks like a cop, sounds like a cop, walks like a cop.  He's a cop. This "funeral director" cover story is not convincing anyway.  She interrogates him and he does not hold up under the scrutiny.  She can use this syllogism to her advantage. If you can't trust him, you can't trust him.  But what Hannah doesn't suspect is that Bret is not the most untrustworthy person on her tribe.  Or in her "alliance."

Then, the unthinkable happens.  Michaela and her team loses a challenge.  It's as shocking as Cubs fans having something to celebrate.  And any hope that I had that the Millennials would stick together and vote out Bret or Sunday was dashed the second that Taylor said, "Sorry, Bret you've got to go."  CBS advertisers are not paying to run their commercials before a boring, predictable outcome.  And no one wants to watch ten minutes of the easy, obvious vote.  Well, in retrospect, that would have been awesome.

So the green tribe comes back after the loss and literally no one says anything for a half an hour.  The two on the bottom know that they're dead in the water.  Which is ironic since they're standing, alive, in the water as they come to this realization.  They hate that fate isn't in their own hands, but the numbers are the numbers.  While Sunday and Bret are resigned to one of them going home, Michaela pulls together the four Millennials for an unnecessarily complicated strategy session  While coming to the conclusion that it doesn't matter which of the two Gen Xers are voted out, Michaela shows more attention to detail and military strategizing than Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Eisenhower put together.  It was overkill.  There's four of you, two of them.  Vote out either of them.  By planning maneuvers and playing with people like chess pieces, she showed herself not only to be a physical threat in the game but a strategic one as well.  .

My brain just went boom.
So Jay has an epiphany.  First, he realizes that he knows the word epiphany.  Second, he realizes that Michaela is his biggest threat post-merge, not Bret or Sunday.  He can easily beat them in competitions.  But Michaela?   She's smart, physical, personable and strategic.  A deadly combination.  Michaela got him thinking down the road with her sea shells, but what he sees down the road is a rough ride while she's in his way.

From there things unravel quickly and we plow forward on an inevitable trajectory.  We don't need Will chiming in that Jay is right, that Michaela is dangerous to their game.  And we certainly don't need him telling us how great and loyal an alliance member she is but how she strategizes too hard and she knows about their hidden immunity idol.  And we don't need to hear how much Will likes Michaela and he'll hate to blindside her and also blindside Hannah.  Because we know what's coming.

Jay throws out a little misdirection, lest we think his vote is in stone.  Michaela is in my alliance.  She is loyal as the day is long.  She's never lied to us.  Bret has lied to me and is not in my alliance and is instead part of the Gen Xers.  As of this moment, there are six Gen Xers remaining: Bret, Chris, David, Ken, Jessica and Sunday.  There are eight Millennials: Adam, Hannah, Jay, Michaela, Michelle, Taylor, Will and Zeke.  With Adam and Zeke being wobbly at best, keeping Michaela would keep the numbers.  Plus, she would act as a meat shield as she's such an obvious threat after a merge.  So he should vote out Bret.  Right?

At tribal council, Jeff opens his big fat mouth and points out that each time a tribe has come to tribal since the tribe swap, a member of the majority has been voted out.  Thanks for reminding them, Jeff, and giving Jay another reason to target one of his own.  Michaela tells Jeff that she's not concerned about what the other tribes have done, her four is strong and loyal.  Jay suppresses a laugh.  The longer tribal council goes on, the bigger the hole is for Michaela to fall into.  Or, rather, to be pushed.  The game has evolved.  Loyalty and alliances are not necessarily what will get you to the end.  You have to be flexible.  You have to trust your gut. Now Michaela picks up a shovel and made the hole even wider - the merge is coming soon, she reminds everyone.  Who do you want to go to the end with?  Me, the female Joe Ingram, or the out of shape Gen Xers?

Everyone talks about loyalty and how sad it is to break up this loving tribe.  And Michaela offers regret at having to vote out Bret or Sunday and offers an olive branch to whoever stays.  She doesn't want to, but she has to.  She's loyal.  They go off to vote and Hannah is having a mini-panic attack, but at least she knows who to vote for.  She says she wishes she and Bret could have gone farther in the game.  Be careful what you wish for.

Jeff comes back with the votes and reads off two quick Brett votes.  Expected.  Now it's time for a Sunday vote, right?  He opens up the next vote and it's for Michaela.

The anatomy of a blindside


Did you do that?


Like a boss, Jay just looks Michaela in the eye and admits his role in her demise.  It's Brutus stabbing Caesar, Ollie stabbing Jon Snow.   It made Ciera voting out her mother look like child's play (see what I did there?).  Jay is one cold-hearted SOB.  And if you thought his age and unwieldy hair meant he was not a cut-throat competitor who came to play, you were mistaken.  That cold, steely look in his eyes was that of an unapologetic assassin.  Ice water has replaced blood in his body.  He probably doesn't sleep at night, just swims back and forth.   Waiting for his next attack.  Russell Hantz seems warm and cuddly by comparison.

Hannah is shocked, confused, and doesn't know what to do, where to look, how to process what just happened.  Not unlike her panic attack during a challenge she wasn't even playing in, Hannah can't help but make Michaela's blindside all about her.

Michaela, never one for hiding her emotions, did not take this game move in stride.  She called out Jay, she looked at Will, she was not going to go quietly into that good night.  But it was all too late.  The die was votes were cast and it was over.  She was dead woman walking.  She failed to understand the "new Survivor" game.  She relied too much on loyalty and didn't remember that this is a game for money and there are no rules besides get to the end.   She recognized she could be seen as a threat, yet did nothing with that information.  She knew Taylor and Will had an idol.  She could have easily made an alliance with Bret, Sunday and Hannah to get rid of one of them and the idol.  But, again, loyalty kept her from even considering that as a move.

Michaela played an old school version of Survivor, the same one Mike Holloway played.  But, unlike Mike, she was not one of the boys and she was clearly not just a physical threat, and so she was an easy target.  But I, and most of Twitter, hated Jay's move.  I think it was premature and, worse, gives him a distinct numerical disadvantage going to the merge.  He makes an unnecessary enemy in Hannah who has two friends, Zeke and Adam, still in the game,  And none of those two were all that close to Jay.  Plus, Jay now needs Secret Service protection from what I've seen to deal with the threats that have come his way after he disposed of a fan favorite so unceremoniously, so calculatingly, so gleefully.

This was my face when she was voted out. :(

Goodbye Michaela.  You will be missed.  If you ever come back, be a little more circumspect and a little less trusting.

Of course you want more Michaela!
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