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[This article contains spoilers for the Wednesday, Nov. 16 episode of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.]
There’s a torch — because in this game, fire represents life — that Jeff Probst is carrying for this season’s Survivor theme, a determination to keep reminding viewers that this is still a season about Millennials and Generation X, even though every vote since the tribes were shuffled and then merged has been about the exact same things that every Survivor vote is based on — eliminating threats based on alliances or general aptitudes — rather than along demographic lines. If this season were really about Millennials and Gen-Xers, the Millennial tribe, which reached the shuffle with a prohibitive advantage, wouldn’t have since lost four out of five votes. At this point, the merged Vinaka tribe is just playing Survivor, but Probst is hung up on the theme.
Last week, we made it all the way to the start of tribal council before Probst asked the merged tribe about coexisting with people of different ages. Nobody had a good answer, because it wasn’t a good question.
On this Wednesday’s episode, we made it almost to the very end of tribal council. Maybe next week the theme won’t rear its head until the post-credits interview when the booted contestant will say, purely hypothetically, “Is this because I was born between 1963 and 1983?” kinda like the way Elisabeth Röhm’s character departed Law & Order. And then we’ll have a couple weeks of Survivor in which players just do things because they want a million bucks and not because they were raised on Schoolhouse Rock.
“Do you think that what Taylor is expressing is Millennial?” Probst inquired at the climax to one of the stranger, more uncomfortable, least effective tribal council counter-assaults in recent memory.
Having already ascertained that one of them was going home, Taylor and Jay decided their only play was to turn the tribe against Adam, who made it really easy for them because nobody on the tribe especially likes Adam.
If you’ll recall, last week Adam caught Taylor hiding two Mason jars of purloined merge feast in the sand and rather than trying to blackmail Taylor with the information, he tried offering up a secret of his own — that he had an advantage that would let him steal a reward at any point from any player — in some sort of pact. This was a bad idea, but Adam is a bad Survivor player and rather than giving himself any additional ammunition, he just gave Taylor new reasons to mock him and a bigger piece of leverage on him, especially once the basics of Taylor’s food-stealing came out at the last tribal. Let’s just say that whatever Adam hoped he might gain, he did not.
That was last week.
This week, everything progressed according to plan. The majority alliance was ready to pick off either Jay or Taylor, with some accurate fear about one of them holding an idol (Jay has an idol) leading to a probable vote split. Sunday, sensing a tension with Jessica that the editors have been unable to depict because whenever Jessica and Sunday converse the editors fall asleep, speculated briefly about protecting Jay and targeting Jessica, but that wasn’t going anywhere. So we had the potential for a really boring episode in which everything went according to plan for 40-ish minutes and a big group continued the process of voting out a little group.
Then Taylor blew everything up. Ineffectively. But it was still a hoot.
After Chris tried saying that if you’re in the minority the only thing you can do is try to find cracks, Taylor took out his crowbar.
He admitted that he’d hidden two jars of food and then added, “And Adam helped me do it.” Hannah started hyperventilating. Everybody looked confused. Jay agreed with Taylor’s version of the story and they added that Adam also ate the food. And here, Adam promptly proved that he’s just one of those people who looks more guilty the more innocent they are.
“You’re defaming my character,” Adam whined, using exactly the petulance anybody with common sense would know plays horribly in circumstances like this.
“All I did was keep your secret, Taylor. That’s all I did,” he protested, as Jay and Taylor just laughed.
It was a weird situation for two reasons: Taylor and Jay were the bullies here, picking on the nerd, but they were doing it from a powerless position, which made what they were doing have an odd mixture of pointless cruelty and underdog heroism. They’re picking on this guy with no reason to think what they’re going to do is have any impact other than making everybody else further dislike a guy they already dislike and whose greatest weakness is already his insecurity. That’s just straight-up mean. But what else were they supposed to do? They were going to be the targets regardless and I think they knew there was nothing they could do to make it worse, plus Taylor already knew that everybody thought of him as a food thief and, at least last week, THEY DIDN’T CARE. So Taylor, with the impunity of knowing that at least half of his worst sin had already been exposed, used semi-candor about that sin as a weapon to make Adam look shady and Adam, playing every beat of indignation incorrectly, looked worse and worse.
Taylor’s play exposing Adam’s secret advantage was even more hollowly nefarious, preying on the collective insecurity of the unknown. Nobody had a moment to process what Adam’s advantage really might or might not mean, so Taylor pushed on.
“He can steal your loved one’s visit,” Taylor leered. “Someone is going to get their loved one ripped from their hands even though you won.”
I would describe this play to blatant, thoughtless, empty emotion as darned near Trumpian. Taylor could have played to their brains and reminded them of the possibility of an auction with an advantage and told them that leaving Adam in the game with that potential gateway advantage might be hugely dangerous because of all of the past players who have used that auction win to escape eviction. But why do that when you can pull on heartstrings and warn people about confiscated moments with friends or family? Let’s leave out that Adam is a bad player, but he’s not stupid and he knows that taking away a family visit would guarantee him a lost jury vote, so he probably would hesitate to do anything so dumb. Even still, Adam taking a loved one’s visit would cost ONE player from the remaining group family time. Chances are far better that you’d lose that challenge naturally than that Adam would have taken that away from you. But stealing that auction advantage would hurt both the one player who wasted their money, but also every other player suddenly in a disadvantage. That hurts everybody. Making that appeal, though, wouldn’t have helped Taylor at all.
And making the play he made didn’t help either. It sure got everybody squirming and, down the road, it’s bound to make Adam a target, but Taylor was playing short-term not long-term and in that, he failed.
“Do you think that what Taylor is expressing is Millennial?” Probst asked of Taylor’s not-exactly-a-confession.
“I think Taylor is looking for a pat on the back,” Jessica agreed.
“Here’s a trophy,” Probst fired back, but nobody really wanted to play.
What Taylor did wasn’t Millennial. It was just young and dumb and, really, irrelevant. He was voted out for being a strong player and being out of the main alliance and harboring resentment about Figgy’s eviction, not for being 24.
It made for a fun and silly tribal council, though, didn’t it?
A few other bottom lines:
Bottom Line, I. The vote itself ended up a little odd. Jay, for example, voted for Taylor, which seemed to indicate that he’d been assured there was no point in voting for Jessica, so self-preservation kicked in. Will voted Jay. And Taylor ended up being the only person to vote against Adam, when self-preservation would have caused him to vote for Jay. But a lot of the vote from the majority remained in place. A ballsy play, one that would have failed, would have been for Jay to believe that he and Taylor had sufficiently moved a target onto Taylor (and away from a split with Jay) and then Jay could have given Taylor his idol. He didn’t do that because he figured the person with the second most votes would be him and he’d go home and he would have been right, but it still feels like the gutsy “All in” play if you think you manipulated everybody sufficiently. I wonder if he gave any consideration to that or if he knew that for all of the theater, the tribal council hijinks accomplished nothing. I can’t tell if Jay becomes the target next week or if that alliance is sufficiently decimated that Sunday will be able to get her way and try weakening the dangerous Gen X splinter group. I still have hope of a nerd uprising, with Adam kept around as a goat. And I don’t really think that Adam is a jerk or an asshole or any of the other charges leveled against him. I think he’s just very bad at reading social cues.
Bottom Line, II. Was it endearing or sad — the pride with which Hannah announced she decided to finally play the game to win last week, a change of course in which she essentially went along with the majority. Yes, Hannah actually knowing what the vote was going to be last week was a tiny triumph, but it was a REALLY tiny triumph. She’s still several steps away from fully avoiding goat status herself.
Bottom Line, III. Bret’s drunken romp at the resort reward was another example of boorish reward behavior without any real payoff, like how Michelle being dainty at one reward had little to do with her eventual eviction. Bret didn’t even seem to be hung over after enjoying a large amount of booze with his chums. Shrug. Speaking of that reward, it was fine and well to announce they did the teams via a schoolyard swap, but without seeing the actual draft, it was hard to know how we ended up with those two teams. Yes, I can guess. But in this episode, we wouldn’t have lost much by spending a minute seeing if David was selected last, etc.
Bottom Line, IV. How was this episode not titled “My Best Idea Ever”? Taylor’s giddy pleasure at both the stealing of the food and then at how the stealing of the food left his body more capable of absorbing more food at the reward was both hilarious and, of course, doomed. Does anybody have any guesses on what Taylor’s second and third best ideas ever were? My hunch: Things he was successfully able to turn into bongs. And as for his doomed excitement about buying a boat with Figgy and going off on adventures? Sigh. Poor Taylor.
Bottom Line, V. I think we definitely need a strategic realignment next week. Or I hope we get one. Picking off The Pretty Kids Alliance one by one hasn’t been a bad play, but if it’s just going to be Jay next week and then Will the following week before we can start playing Survivor, we could reach a conclusion in which it’s really hard to decipher who really has played the best game. I need Ken and David to make a charge in a different direction now. Just to mix up the narrative.
Bottom Line, VI. Presumably there’s a legal/contractual reason why Probst had to keep taunting Will with his youth and reminding him that he had to drink soda pop both on the reward and when he and Zeke dropped out of the immunity challenge to eat grilled cheese and beer? I don’t know my law here, but they’re shooting in Fiji and the drinking age in Fiji is 18. So if Will walked off the set to a nearby resort and ordered a drink, that’d be legal, but if Will went to a resort as part of Survivor, he apparently couldn’t drink. Did getting Will out of high school require Survivor to have a different relationship over his well-being? Is this an in loco parentis thing? Just curious.
That’s all for this week…
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