7:14pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Who 'Slayed The Survivor Dragon' In The Penultimate 'Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X' Episode?
[This recap contains spoilers for the Wednesday, Dec. 7 episode of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.]
After two of the best weeks in recent Survivor memory, Wednesday's hour, titled "Slayed The Survivor Dragon," was all about efficiency. Fans had been wondering how the heck we were going to get to a finale next week when we still had eight castaways remaining, so Wednesday's hour offered the rather simple solution: Double elimination, baby!
This was lean and mean and pure Survivor, more structure than narrative. Post-tribal reaction! Credits Immunity! Strategy! Tribal council! Post-tribal reaction! Immunity! Strategy! Tribal council! Closing credits!
There was no time for rewards, if they happened. There was no time for tribal council acrimony or drama, if any happened. This was such blunt and basic Survivor that it played a bit like a poorly dubbed '70s kung-fu movie, all direct statements and no obfuscation.
"Your Wu-Tang sword style is powerful. But can it defeat my Shaolin shadowboxing and hidden immunity idol?"
"I admire your Shaolin shadowboxing, which is why I must make an alliance with another samurai to at least flush your immunity idol."
"Alas, I entered the fight too soon! I respect your style and it has been an honor to be part of this experience. I die and go to the jury with honor."
<Both players bow respectfully.>
A ton of stuff happened in Wednesday's Survivor, but it whizzed by too quickly for any of it to make an impact.
On the whole, I could have used a lot more blowback from the last tribal council. How exactly did the players all know that Will had stuck with the alliance against Zeke, when the last vote tally we saw suggested that the impression might be that Adam had saved Hannah and not Will? And might things have worked out better for Will if he hadn't been credited with taking Zeke down? Like the ungainly juvenile giraffe he is, Will lurched back to camp convinced that he was now in charge of the game and that everybody would follow him, but that he also had the ability to flip back and forth until his resume was sufficiently buffed and polished for him to win the million. But it turns out that not everybody loves being bossed around and not every mature adult giraffe is going to hang out in the background waiting for the kid to get his footing and then take out their knees with a tire iron, taking control of the tower to do whatever it is that a tower of giraffes does.
I'm done with giraffe talk. I just wanted to call Will an uncoordinated giraffe and to mention that the collective noun for a group of giraffes is a tower. <The more you know.>
Seizing control of the game and following in his own often-stumbling footsteps from last week was Adam, who pushed to take out Will instead of David and found a receptive audience — even swaying Hannah, who felt regret at turning on Will after he saved her last week, even though Adam saved her too.
Will went home, crashing and burning just one tribal after his biggest and only significant move in the game. He was all smiles, because he'd been able to check off so many things on his Survivor checklist. Really, the only things he failed to check off were "Win Survivor," "Do A Badass Survivor Confessional That Doesn't Look Over-Rehearsed" and "Actually Be Good At Survivor."
So that was all in 20 minutes.
And in the next 20 minutes, with Adam leading the way again, the goal became to take out either David or Jay and to take Jay's idol out of the game. Instead, Sunday was voted out, for reasons that kinda confused me a bit. The choice came down to whether you target a threat or whether you take out somebody who might become a more and more enticing goat — "Tempting Goat" is the name of my new klezmer band — as we get closer to the end. The decision, which looks to have been proposed by Hannah and allowed by Adam, was to vote out Sunday, who made the mini-mistake of trying to say at tribal council that she was being viewed as somebody who might get shut out in the finals, but that she was sure she'd get votes. Sunday would not, in fact, have gotten votes. This looks like the kind of Survivor jury likely to reward gameplay — that's why they keep talking about David as a huge threat, even though David's most important moves were weeks ago and he's been scrambling (very admirably) ever since trying to move targets onto other people — over whatever it was that Sunday was doing out there. She would not have gotten votes, probably not even from her bestest buddy Bret.
I'm not going to say Bret and Sunday are among the dullest, least effective players to make it this far in this game. They're close to that bad. Bret had a few good moments with Zeke and whatnot. But has there ever been a joined pair that was as collectively powerless as those two have been basically forever? They were two-vote unit and they did nothing with that plausible power. They just floated around until they were broken up. Sunday wasn't getting anybody's vote and Bret probably isn't getting anybody's vote.
This episode seemed to be trying to suggest we're moving toward an Adam/Jay showdown, which wouldn't have interested me a month ago, but could now play out decently. Adam may have misread tribal council moments in consecutive episodes, leading to the wasting of two idols, but he successfully juked Jay into throwing away his idol for nothing in this episode. The conversations between Jay and Adam were easily the best scenes, especially Adam confessing about his mother's cancer and doing it with total candor and relative lack of manipulation. Did he know about Jay's mom's aneurysms? Did we? It was just instantly clear that Adam's story hit Jay in such a personal spot, when he pulled his buff over his eyes. And there you just had two young guys bawling about their mothers and bonding over shared concerns of maternal mortality. It was very sweet and sincere.
"He's not a weasel in my book anymore. He's a good freaking dude. He's a warrior," Jay said of Adam.
"Awww," say we all.
I think that Jay, David and Adam all have good cases to make to a final jury for why they deserve to win this season. Jury composition feels like it benefits Jay most of all, though. I'm not sure if Adam is boosted by the Millennial-heavy jury, or if he suffers from being the Millennial the other Millennials hated. And if Hannah goes to final jury against two Gen-Xers, do the Millennials even remember that Hannah was once on their tribe?
Heading into next week's finale, I feel like the pecking order goes Jay, David, Adam, Hannah, Ken and then Bret a distant sixth. I'm prepared to accept an argument that puts Ken ahead of Hannah with a possible jury. Jay can point to voting Michaela out as a huge move he orchestrated, and then he can remind people how long he lasted with a huge target on his chest, and then he can talk to the Wills and Taylors and Michelles on their Millennial wavelength. If he gets to the end, he doesn't lose. Of course, everybody knows that and the only way he makes the finale would be to win at least one more immunity, so that'll only improve his resume. Adam and David both have good, "Look at how much I've grown" resumes and Adam would be able to play the mother card if he needed to, but I don't think either would win the votes of the Pretty Kids Alliance if they're against Jay.
I hope that this really does become a jury that wants to talk about strategy and moves, without anybody getting irritated or sanctimonious. If we get a good jury that renders a correct verdict, this will go down as a very strong Survivor season, which I wouldn't have guessed five months ago.
A few bottom lines from a speedy, busy Survivor episode.
Bottom Line, I. It looks like Ken made it far enough that we're going to get to see him use the legacy advantage, whatever that is. Somebody should have made fun of Ken for last week's Will-related freakout. I'd be mentioning that every time Ken is around, just in case anybody starts to believe Ken is playing a good game. Ken is not playing a good game.
Bottom Line, II. No rewards this week at all? Do we think they didn't happen? Wouldn't it be funny if the rewards happened and they were edited out and Jay used his advantage for a hamburger and nobody felt it was important enough to show? I'd find that funny.
Bottom Line, III. This week's two challenges were entertaining, but also a wee bit budget-conscious, no? Embellishing the typical "balance things" immunity with a few obstacles was a good move and then making a puzzle while Jeff Probst yells "Balls!" immunity had fun moments and Adam's vaguely confusing decision to help Ken. Is the whole season going to hinge on whether Adam or Jay gets Ken's jury vote? I can imagine that. Ken views Jay as a young him, but I bet he also relates to Adam's awkward outsider narrative.
That's it for that! See you next week for the finale.