9:33am PT by Daniel Fienberg
'Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X' Offers Toplessness and a Tiger Mom in "Who's the Sucker at the Table?"
[This article contains spoilers for the Wednesday, Oct. 12, episode of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.]
I'm sure it's just a coincidence that three of the first four contestants voted off on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X were Asian women and I'm really not insinuating anything about this season's contestants or about the show's institutional racism or anything, just noting an indisputable fact, raising my eyebrow at it and moving on. Perhaps Jeff Probst has an explanation for how it's generationally relevant, but I don't particularly want to hear about it.
Wednesday's Survivor: Arbitrary Generational Distinctions episode was probably the best episode of the season because it was the one that featured the fewest arbitrary generational distinctions. In fact, the biggest banal absurdity relating to the characteristics that are truly associated universally with age and not with any one or two particular generations came courtesy of Jay, who glibly said that the definition of Millennial is "A young person with a lot of dreams ready to go out and conquer the world," unaware that he'd uttered a notable tautology. The only definition of Millennial that matters on Survivor this season is "a young person." Anything else is BS, but Survivor is so desperate to get wisdom like this into episodes that Jay's comment made it on-screen even though it related only to a quixotic search for pigs that were actually goats and that nobody caught. If Jay's reaction to everybody going out for pigs they didn't catch had been "Me want bacon," we probably wouldn't have known there was pig-hunting that took place at all (other than the time it gave Adam for his idol quest that eventually yielded idol fruit, but more on that later).
But yeah, this episode of Survivor was pretty good because when everything went pear-shaped for the Gen-Xers, it wasn't because of anything characteristically Generation X. It was just a typical Survivor combination of paranoia, irrational truth-telling and a really questionable idol play.
Honestly, I have very little to say about how Lucy went from invisible for two weeks to barely visible and loosely related to blindsiding Paul last week to a Tiger Mom autocrat in need of humbling this week. That's editing, pure and simple and I'm guessing Lucy's exit interviews will have a thing or two to say about that. Lucy got a taste of something resembling power, it went to her head and she bossed around Ken, who doesn't like other people all that much to begin with and certainly doesn't like being bossed around by them. So Ken went and told Jessica exactly how and why Lucy was planning on having her blindsided — Lucy got a taste of something resembling power and was able to scapegoat Jessica because Jessica made the mistake of acknowledging she had something resembling power — and Jessica didn't believe Ken and told Lucy exactly what Ken told her, which was exactly what Lucy had said. Nobody lied to anybody, but somebody had to trust somebody and Jessica didn't trust Ken and why wouldn't you trust Ken? The guy is odd and anti-social, but he's not untrustworthy. So Jessica blew a plan to blindside Lucy, which would have also left Chris and Bret clueless for a second straight vote.
Instead, David used his idol to protect Jessica, sparing her from eviction and sending Lucy home, but I was left asking... To what end? Jessica had proved she wasn't a useful or trustworthy ally for David and his alliance. David hadn't really done anything to alienate Lucy, who blamed the tribal chaos on Ken. So David was safe with Lucy and would have proven as much by voting with her and all David's trying to do at this point is bluff his way through the game until a merge, having already told several Millennials that he'd betray his former tribe in a second. So at this point, why did David want to or need to do anything other than stay in the game and stay in the game with his small, devoted alliance of Ken and CeCe? And if that was going to happen one way or the other, why rock the boat? And why rock the boat and throw away an idol on somebody outside of that three-person alliance in the process? The idol was David's best bargaining chip either at future tribals or in a post-merge situation and he used it to save somebody who was in an alliance against him until the previous tribal and betrayed his alliance before this trial. Heck, Ken didn't even vote with David and CeCe. Ken wrote down Jessica's name even though she didn't trust him. To me, the only way this works out for David is if Jessica now is so grateful that she somehow becomes a powerful ally, lasts in the game until Day 35 and then gives David that legacy advantage thingie she got in the premiere. Otherwise, it's not that what David did was overtly stupid, but it wasn't clearly smart in a way that I understand. And if David isn't clearly smart, I don't know what he is (and his struggles with puzzles in several challenges have already indicated that he may not be Survivor smart, either).
It all means that I don't have an answer to Chris' tribal council question, and the title of the episode, "Who's the Sucker at the Table?" David may be the sucker or he could end up looking brilliant, but my guess it's that it's more likely he'll be closer to the former than to the latter.
Since this recap is already late, due to Yom Kippur, let's just get to a few Bottom Lines...
Bottom Line, I. Thing I find odd: For reasons of generational bias, I'm rooting hard for the Gen-Xers as a tribe and against the Millennials, but once this becomes an individual game, I'm rooting for more Millennials than Gen-Xers. Adam's story about how he's doing this for his equally super-fan mother who was just diagnosed with cancer and how this whole experience is a dream and a nightmare coming together was enough to put me on his side. Michaela willingly sacrificing her bikini top and all modesty to dominate a challenge, plus her confessional candor, have me rooting for her. Once you get past Zeke's mustache, he's funny and smart and surprisingly good in challenges. And I'm still giving Michelle credit for orchestrating the vote that saved Figgy when that never should have been possible, so I respect her even if she's now gone two straight episodes with near-Lucy invisibility. There are several Gen-Xers I could eventually root for, including David and Ken, but I'm not enthusiastic yet.
Bottom Line, II. David's idol now goes back into play and that should cause a little amusement with the Gen-Xers. An interesting footnote looks to be that David found the idol in a marked coconut without finding a clue to that idol, as opposed to Adam, who found a clue and then that led him to the idol. I hope Survivor just leaves the clue to the first idol out there to confuse people.
Bottom Line, III. I liked Adam calling his idol "what dreams are made of," because I want to believe he was paraphrasing that classic Millennial film The Maltese Falcon, because then I can call it The Millennial Falcon. Sorry, but these are the sort of things that make me happy.
Bottom Line, IV. The challenge that Michaela dominated, even though her tribe lost, was amusingly physical and there were some good, competitive moments, but Jeff Probst nearly getting wiped out by a wave was easily its highlight. Next time, Probst. Next time.
Bottom Line, V. You just can't expect me to believe that Lucy's Tiger Mom schtick came out of nowhere in this episode and this episode only. Editing, man. Editing.
Bottom Line, VI. CBS had so many pictures of sausages that I could have run with this recap. Instead I just used people wrestling in the water.
Bottom Line, VII. I'm keeping my Millennial/Gen X jokes to a minimum in this recap, because I went a little too far last week. But based on the scenes from next week's episode... Let's just say... "Yay!"
That's all for now...