7:00pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Tribal Shakeup Hits 'Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X' in "Idol Search Party"
[Warning: This recap contains spoilers for the Wednesday, Oct. 19, episode of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, titled "Idol Search Party."]
Farewell at least to the formalized theme of Survivor: Arbitrary Generational Distinctions and hello to regular, old-fashioned Survivor, where players don't align based on being Millennials or Gen-Xers, but rather they come together based on age, prettiness (see also, "age"), worth ethic (see also, "age") and shared interests (see also, "age").
In short, welcome to the new status quo, basically same as the old status quo, especially if generalization-spewing Millennial Jay has anything to say about it. Either Jay's never met a generational stereotype he didn't want to embrace and articulate, or else Jay's a super-genius who figured out immediately that the best way to get screentime in this season was to begin every confessional sentence with, "Millennials are like..." or "Gen-Xers think that..."
As was teased at the end of last week's episode, the Millennials and Gen-Xers are no more and with that, I lose the handy ability to describe teams without misspelling tribal names or getting confused by who's in which tribe.
After a random draw, our two tribes were split into three, with the resulting squads being:
Takali: Figgy, Adam, Taylor, Jessica and Ken. Yes, this tribe got the powerful FigTayls showmance, but staying together could be either the best or worst thing to happen to these lovebirds, especially with Figgy withholding intimacies, at least for one day, so that they can remain ineffectively secretive. This tribe also has Ken Doll and Jessica, who forged an alliance at the start of this episode with Jessica thanking Ken for saving her even though Ken had literally nothing to do with saving her and actually wrote her name down. Maybe Jessica also thanked David, but we didn't see it and only Ken got to find out about Jessica's legacy advantage. It took no time for Adam to realize that even though this tribe has a Millennial advantage, he's the swing vote and since I've decided I like Adam, that's amusing.
Ikabula: Michaela, Bret, Jay, Hannah, Will and Sunday - This tribe got stuck on a new beach with no infrastructure, but they got an extra player, which doesn't feel like any sort of advantage at all when you have a tribe of collectively middling strength and an 4-2 Millennial advantage. Unlike the other two tribes, there are no real established duos here, though there are a couple loose alliances.
Vanua: CeCe, David, Michelle, Chris, Zeke - This would be the only tribe with a Gen X advantage if David hadn't been part of two straight votes that blindsided Chris and turned him into a floater. David and CeCe had been allies, but they're also the two weakest players in the game, physically. It takes a lot of Chris to make up for CeCe and David.
In the first immunity challenge, there turned out to be insufficient Chris, as David proved so bumblingly inept that his fellow castaways suggested, only partially in jest, that he might be throwing the competition. That led to a pretty one-sided loss and sent Vanua to tribal. [Jay and Michaela's swimming and Michaela's basketball skills led Ikabula to victory and Ken carried Takali to second.]
Last week, David partially and potentially blew his immunity idol protecting Jessica, who surely wouldn't have done anything to protect him, showed no gratitude that we saw and then promptly was shuffled off to a different tribe as part of the realignment. Unfazed, David promptly went out and found a second idol, which is impressive and put him in the position to make a second straight idol error this week, but he did not, which doesn't mean that what happened at tribal was well-played.
If you believe that early tribal alliances are important, Chris made a big blunder this week. Millennials reached the shuffle with a numbers advantage, but the only new tribe with a Gen X advantage lost, meaning they definitely could have and probably should have voted somebody young out. Chris' smartest play, by my calculation, would have been to reassure fellow Oklahoman Zeke that he was protecting him, while also getting a sense of whether or not Michelle had valuable alliances with the other Millennials. With the right kindnesses, Zeke would surely have given up that Michelle was an important part of the pretty people alliance that protected Figgy earlier when Figgy should have been doomed. Is Michelle a better physical player than David or CeCe and therefore a better asset to Vanua for as long as we keep these tribes? Absolutely, but thinking long-term, getting her out of the game weakens a potential Millennial juggernaut down the road, gives him strong footing with Zeke (and probably Adam) at the next stage and reassures CeCe and David for a while that Gen X solidarity means something.
Instead, Chris willingly jumped ship and gave the Millennials an advantage that will be tough both when it comes to post-merge voting, but also the composition of the jury. Even if Figgy, Jay, Taylor and Michelle don't win this season, they're going to play a big role in who takes the million if somebody doesn't chip off a piece or two from that group before a merge.
Chris stuck with David and led the charge to get CeCe out because in guilt-tripping David into being loyal and also giving the impression he was protecting him, Chris has a connection to Ken and Jessica later, should he need it. David could have played the new idol for CeCe and Michelle would have gone home, but then Chris never would have trusted him again. Basically, I think Chris, working as the swing vote, made neither his best nor his worst move in what was a decent episode.
Some bottom lines from Wednesday's Survivor...
Bottom Line, I. If you're not rooting for Michaela, at least for now, don't talk to me. She wears her emotions on her sleeve — See both her inability to hide her disappointment at her weak tribal situation, but also her tears after successfully starting fire. She's smart, funny and one of this season's two or three best go-to confessional interviews. The fire-making proved she's survival capable and her ongoing performance in challenges has been beyond outstanding. She was manipulated a bit easily by Michelle to prematurely abandon an alliance that should have voted Figgy out, but that's her only demerit thus far.
Bottom Line, II. You did not see the Chris-Zeke friendship coming. Don't lie. You thought Zeke was a Brooklyn hipster and you've been slightly confused by Chris' mixture of blue collar athleticism and his trial lawyer profession. It turns out that Zeke grew up partially in Oklahoma and was a big fan of the Oklahoma Sooners football program, while Chris was a captain of the 2000 Sooners football team that went undefeated and won the national title. It's hard to imagine that Zeke has any memories of Chris' pigskin contributions — he was a tight end and special teams player — but his giddy enthusiasm definitely made clear that he was a fan of that team. Odd couple alliances are always my favorites and I hope Chris and Zeke find a way to work together going forward. Ditto, actually, with Ken and Adam, who aren't quite the odd couple that Chris and Zeke are, but they're still unexpected, like that iguana and that sloth who are best friends. [Don't bother googling for fun videos. I'm just projecting.]
Bottom Line, III. "On the Millennial side of things, everyone says we're just dreamers, but the truth is most of us are relentless," Jay said. "I have the drive to get through tough times in life and not to quit," Bret said, claiming this was an attribute of being Gen X. So basically we're all the same and need never discuss this again, right?
Bottom Line, IV. The three-way split made for drama, but it also limits the amount of time we're likely to spend this way. I figure we have one more week (elimination) in this configuration, two max. And the Millennials now have a 9-6 advantage. If Vanua had gotten rid of Michelle this week, they'd have been weak enough to probably lose the following week as well, setting up an easy merge at 7-7. So much for Gen X pride.
Bottom Line, V. Following on something I said last week about rooting for the Gen-Xers, but preferring more individual Millennials, I feel like mentioning that as much as I hate this season's theme, there are no individual players who I hate, even silly FigTayls.
Bottom Line, VI. Hannah and Will have basically vanished. One more week and I'm sending out a search party.
And that's it for another week of arbitrary generational distinctions!