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?