‘Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X’ Episode 1 Recap: Weathering the Storm

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Unlike contestant and television writer David Wright, I’m ready for Survivor!  The 90-minute Premiere Episode of Millennials vs. Gen-X blew in like a tropical storm just upgraded to a cyclone, and in its wake it scattered a number of likable castaways all over the island, representing two of the most annoying generations of America (I belong to one of them, so I can say this).  The “Survivor culture war” was on and within the first day, battle lines were drawn.

So let’s not take any short-cuts, even if Jeff Probst offers us any.  We’re about to dig right into Episode 1 of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X…and because this is a “recap,” that means that I’m either assuming you saw the episode, or you are wanting to know what happened.  I’ll always try to keep headlines and the first few paragraphs “spoiler free,” but spoilers are definitely coming if you haven’t yet seen the episode.  We’ll assume this pertinent information moving forward through the seasons.  So with that…

CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON FOR MORE, AND THIS IS YOUR LAST *SPOILER* WARNING!

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So here we are!  We’ve arrived at the first Survivor recap of the season, and overall I thought it was a promising episode!  As mentioned, there seemed to be several people worth rooting for, there were some new, mysterious twists introduced (the “legacy advantage” anyone?  More on that in a bit…), there was a creative challenge that presented the teams with some interesting choices, and with a “Survivor first” happening in Episode 1 of Season 33, the show once again proved why it’s the greatest Reality-TV Competition Show of all-time (I don’t care what the Emmys say!  And how in the heck is Jeff Probst not even nominated for Best Reality TV Host, a category that was created for him?  But I’m getting off-topic…).

This first episode was also not without some Survivor “norms.”  There are a few castaways introduced that clearly don’t belong (ahem, David), some that may belong but have zero chance of winning (Rachel, who proved this true by getting voted-out) and a handful who appear to be All-Stars-in-waiting (I see you Zeke, Figgy and Mari).  But unlike Premiere Episodes from recent seasons, this first episode didn’t do a great job at introducing us to all 20 players…there were several who were left on the cutting room floor.  Poor Lucy (if you’re asking, which one is Lucy? Exactly) barely even smiled, was the only one who didn’t raise her hand when Probst asked who felt like they were in danger, and an eye-roll at Tribal Council was her biggest contribution yet this season.  She’s not exactly getting the “winner’s edit” thus far (but for those keeping score at home, Adam definitely might have been).

But Lucy wasn’t the most unpleasant of portrayed contestants through the game’s first three days.  That award belongs to Rachel, who was voted out over meek TV writer David, a man who thus far plays Survivor with the same level of confidence a man would had he showed up to give a keynote speech butt-naked.  It’s never good when a player is shown barking orders during the “camp-building” portion of the show, as Rachel was, and Rachel was barely given any moments at all that would have made us care about her.  In her closing comments, Rachel mentioned she “had a lot of fun” during her time in the game…but we were not shown a single second of that fun.

As the episode began, it was interesting that Probst gave Survivor‘s definition of a Millennial and a Gen-Xer, almost as if acknowledging that people were going to cry foul with their “loose interpretations” of the words.  According to Probst, a “Millennial” is someone between the ages of 18 and 31, whereas a “Gen-Xer” is ages 33 to 52 (we will have to get back to what that would then mean for poor 32-year-olds trapped in-between…)  Even with this definition, saying that 52-year-old Paul is a Gen-Xer is a huge stretch, just as Zeke tells us that at age 28, he never considered himself a Millennial.  With Paul on one end of the age spectrum, 18-year-old high school student Will is the youngest player ever to play Survivor…he was just 3-years-old when Rudy was telling us that Richard Hatch was his friend, “but not in a homosexual way.”

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Jeff Probst has always stated that he loves moments where the contestants are given choices, and this thought was integrated in a major way during Episode 1.  We’ve seen tribes start the game needing to scramble for supplies, but never have they been given definitive choices to make as to what to take (cultural differences showed up immediately when the Millennials chose to take chickens and the Gen-Xers selected fishing gear…one planning for the short-term with the other looking to the long-term).  Another compelling wrinkle was introduced during the Immunity Challenge obstacle course, where the tribes could take short-cuts in exchange for having to solve a harder puzzle.  The Millennials showed great teamwork and a well-laid out plan, whereas the Gen-Xers took every shortcut presented to them…yeah, that sounds about right!  The teamwork and confidence of the Millennials paid off in a major way though, when they won and now sit with a 10-9 player advantage in the game over the Gen-Xers.

Tribe dynamics look very interesting this season, and cultural differences were prevalent when Probst arrived at camp to inform them that, for the first-time ever in Survivor history, the tribes were going to be evacuated due to a cyclone that was sweeping through Fiji.  Day 2 was a vacation day for both tribes (I’m sure they were kept without food and nourishment, but we weren’t shown how Day 2 was spent off-island) but the Millennials saw the storm as a new adventure, whereas David (sorry to pick on you bro) feared for his life.  We’ve always seen bad weather on Survivor, but this must have been the most serious threat ever provided by Mother Nature.  It did lead to the new anti-climactic Survivor hashtag on Twitter:  #dropyourtarps.  So there’s that.

We know that there are Idols in play (people wouldn’t have spent time getting paranoid about them if they weren’t), but what’s this whole “legacy advantage” twist all about?  Gen-Xer Jessica picked up an envelope during the supply scramble and was told of this new Survivor wrinkle:  If still in the game on Day 36, you get an advantage in the game.  But if voted out of the game, you must will it to someone else.  So here’s what we know:  The legacy advantage will come into play, probably during the Finale Episode.  Here’s what we don’t know:  Will possessing this advantage make Jessica a threat should others find out?  Can she use the threat of this advantage to help her game?  And if she is keeping it a secret but then gets voted out, how exactly does she “will” this advantage to a new player without putting a huge target on that player?  Time will definitely tell.

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Episode Take-Away:  What I took away from this 90-minute premiere is that Survivor is once again going to be awesome this season.  I think the twist works, although it doesn’t fit perfectly, and I think there were a lot of very likable players…mainly on the Millennial Tribe.  Zeke seems to be making the most of every second of screen-time and had the best one-liners, not to mention shirt and stache.  The “legacy advantage” is interesting but we will be waiting a long-time for its pay-off.    And if the Gen-Xers are going to compete with the Millennials, they need to lighten up a bit…not exactly a characteristic of the generation.

Strategic Move of the Week:  Forming good alliances is much more important than forming early alliances, and I’d put the “Triforce” alliance in the latter category.  So the “winner” this week for me is Jessica for her decision not to share her “legacy advantage” knowledge with anyone else.  It might have been Bret and Chris, who seemed to form a majority alliance within the Gen-X tribe and due to their screen-time, figure to be the bigger players within that group of six.  Keeping David around could backfire, but he is also a free vote, a shield, and the sort of player that will be in the game a very long time the longer he stays…meaning that the longer he’s in the game, the more he will become a player people want to take to the end, because he’d never win.  It at least got them through this first vote.  But dudes, you should never split votes when the minority has more votes than either side of the split…or in other words, 4 beats splitting votes 3-3.  

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Voted out this week:  Rachel

Vote:  5 – Rachel, 3 – CeCe, 1- Sunday, 1 – David

Next Week’s Episode:  I avoided talking about the “Triforce” alliance between Jay, Figgy and Taylor this week because their dynamic looks to be heavily featured next week.  Taylor and Figgy (“Tiggy”?  “Figler”?) seem to be on the verge of  a showmance…but it’s the threat of another medical evacuation next week that really looks to strike viewers in the heart.

TELL US – WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHT’S ON THE PREMIERE EPISODE?  WHICH PLAYERS ARE YOU ROOTING FOR?  DO YOU LIKE THE “LEGACY ADVANTAGE” TWIST?  WILL THE TRIFORCE ALLIANCE PREVAIL?

Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets

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