Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X - Jeff Pitman's recaps

Smoked by Jay


Michaela's exit right before the merge was shocking, especially since she'd received extensive narrative investment in her reasons for playing, and her (previously) successful attempts to overcome in-game adversity. To be fair, the halo had started to slip a bit, particularly when she was shown yelling at Hannah mid-challenge in the last episode. But since Probst does that all the time, this was not exactly the most egregiously negative edit. We'll dig deeper into the move in a bit.


Before that, we should take a moment to appreciate the uniqueness of that Tribal Council. Michaela interrupted Probst's vote reveal to yell and glare at Jay (and Will)! That just doesn't happen. And Jay responded, as calmly as can be expected, owning the move in the moment. Meanwhile everyone else was making faces of dismay. Not only that, but she turned her back on her own snuffing. And then she hit a tree on the way out. Importantly, all of this seemed completely organic, Michaela was just visibly processing her emotions, not making a scene for the sake of drama. In an era where four-time players are becoming common, this kind of raw, unfiltered reaction has become increasingly rare. Bravo to all involved.


Was Jay's big move a good one?

Jay's move


As with all Big Moves™ in Survivor, this quickly divided fans into "stupid move" and "good move" camps, with the majority taking the former position. This is a pretty brave position to stake out, since 19 out of 20 of these people are going to not win. Having had a few more days to mull it over, we're inclined to go with an even braver position: The middle ground of "a decent move, but probably ultimately unsuccessful." The True Dork Times: Our hot takes are blazing.


The Pros: In a lot of ways, Andy Baker's assessment seems about right: Jay needed to make this move in order to win (whether or not he actually ends up doing so is a different question). He couldn't continue marching through the game with Michaela, making the same moves she did, because she was clearly a star in challenges, was thinking far ahead into the game, and everyone seemed to like her. That would be like hitching your wagon to J.T. in Tocantins and just hoping everyone votes for you at the end. Furthermore, as Rob Cesternino and Kass McQuillen discussed on the RHAP voicemails this week, unhitching that wagon right at the end and hoping to jump off for an easy victory--by voting Michaela out at final five or six-- was also destined to fail, because Michaela stood a really good chance of winning immunity through to the end, if she was allowed to get deep into the game.


Michaela presented other threats as well: She knew Jay had an idol, and in a merge situation, there was absolutely no guarantee she'd keep that information to herself. Furthermore, as he hinted in a pre-Tribal confessional, he must have had some sense that she would not take his betrayal well, and if he could take her out before the jury, he could avoid a situation in which Michaela sets every juror reaching Ponderosa on an anti-Jay crusade. So in light of all these considerations, Jay needed to make this move, and this was perhaps his best opportunity to do so.


The Cons: Having said all that, this move holds a high probability of backfiring on Jay. Michaela was 100% committed (as far as he or the audience could tell) to having the Millennials decimate the Gen Xers post-merge, then battle it out amongst themselves after that. As someone who is himself a strong challenge performer, Jay was already a potential post-merge target, and a Pagonging of the Gen X tribe was probably his best bet to escape that. Given Hannah's reaction to being left out of this decision, that chance of that scenario playing out now seems particularly remote.


Being a tousled-haired young guy might have also provided Jay a bit of a post-merge shield, but this move also torpedoed that possibility. In taking out an original tribe member who had shown loyalty to him, Jay exposed himself as a cutthroat player, right when he needed to hide that. Going forward, he will probably never be trusted by Bret and Sunday again, instead, he'll be targeted. Had he just sat back and let Bret or Sunday leave, he could play himself off as a harmless, happy-go-lucky Taylor clone. Instead, he'll be at the top of everyone's threat lists.


What does the show's editing suggest we should think about this move? It absolutely buried Jay. In his discussion with Will, Jay is shown listing all the reasons not to make this move, but he went ahead and did it anyway. Michaela had been slowly built up as a flawed hero. Jay has now carved himself out a spot as an illogical villain. Which is a pity, because, again, it was arguably a good move, and Jay's aggressive gameplay has been a welcome surprise from an unlikely casting slot. He's not dead yet, but he's close.


A Michaela post-mortem



Last week, we considered several past contestants as potential closest comparable player to Michaela, eventually settling on Rupert (specifically, Pearl Islands Rupert). Given the fan reaction to her ouster, that comparison seems to have held. Compare and contrast Michaela's reaction to receiving a vote from Jay to that of Rupert's "WHO VOTED FOR ME?" interrogation of Fairplay. Michaela's loyalty was her ultimate downfall, and as with Rupert, that could be an asset for her if she plays again. Just please don't go building any subterranean beachfront shelters, Michaela.


All in all, Michaela was a solid player and an entertaining character. Her major flaw as a player, as she correctly identified pre-game, was saying exactly what was on her mind. This, coincidentally, was what made her so popular with the audience. If she can rein that in just a tad by keeping it in confessional, she could have the best of both worlds. Her other problem, of which her exit interviews suggest she's now perfectly aware, was that she trusted people she shouldn't. She also really bought into the idea that original tribes are supposed to stick together, which is clearly a dated concept strategically. This is also something that having seen herself on TV, she could easily correct if she returned. A Michaela playing in Season 35 or beyond could easily be seen as a mark by other returnees, hoping to prey on her loyalty, and if she wanted to, she could play that mis-read all the way to the end.


Before leaving our discussion of Ep. 7, one other tragic side-effect of Michaela's blindside is that Hannah finally had a solid episode. She took note of her potential peril within Ikabula's power structure, then deftly acted to undermine Bret's position in the tribe. Her gambit worked, too, as the Millennials agreed to split their votes, then pile their re-votes on Bret after a likely tie. But alas, all this was for naught when Jay decided to blindside Michaela instead.


What does the merge hold in store?

The merge!


As was made clear in the preview for next week, the merge is now upon us. And it should be a good one. Despite this originally being a two-tribe season, it appears that the swap has succeeded in splitting apart feuding factions within those initial tribes, then exacerbating those divisions, stoking what should be an explosive final seven episodes. In every swapped tribe, the larger group from the initial tribe voted out one of their own, while the people from the smaller group survived, like three mini Jalapaos taking down mini Timbiras (in Tocantins). Putting all those contentious subgroups back together via the merge could lead to any number of new alignments and hostilities. Here, as best as we can figure it, are the core remaining alliances:


  • The Triforce: Hey, they're almost down to actually being three people now! Here we have Jay, Taylor, and Michelle. Plus probably Will, although it's never been clear where his real loyalties were in the first place, since we never hear from him. With or without Will, this group does (or at least Jay does) have an idol.
  • The Freaks and Geeks: Adam and Zeke, plus probably Hannah. This seems like the second most likely former group to reunite, after Jay, Taylor, and Michelle, and they're shown maybe doing so in the preview. They also have an idol (Adam's), and knowledge of a second one (David's, via Zeke). If they could pull in Will, they'd have knowledge of all three.
  • The Gen X original allianceists: Bret, Sunday, and probably also Chris. No idols here.
  • The Gen X outsiders: Ken and Jessica. Maybe also David, who does have an idol.
  • David and Friends(?): This group includes David, who has been his own perpetual motion machine from the beginning. Maybe, via his idol, he can also pull in Zeke. Maybe Ken and/or Jessica. Maybe Chris. Or maybe this group includes only David. And his idol.


So there are three groups of three, two of whom have an idol, plus a Millennial straggler (Will), a group of two Gen X-ers, no idol, and David (plus idol). There are so many different combinations possible here, it's really difficult to process.


Of the various groups, the Gen X people seem the most likely to be willing to work with each other, at least temporarily, for the mutual benefit of all involved. Ostensibly, they're down 7-6 in numbers to the Millennials, but that's only if the Millennials all vote together, which seems unlikely. Even so, odds are that Ken will chafe at any hint of leadership by Chris (or Bret, or David), and everything could fall apart fairly quickly. With Ken and Jessica having weak ties to Adam and to Taylor, they could also flip one of the Millennial sub-alliances (as could David). And that's assuming Ken and Jessica even continue voting together. This could potentially rival the Philippines merge in its utter chaos.


Okay, fine. Who's in the most danger?

You don't stop


Perhaps more simple than predicting who will vote together is who be voted against. There are several strong players left, and few of them should have any interest in facing the jury next to each other. (Although we really wish someone would try that in a non-returnee season.) So chances are, there will be a lot of jostling for power in the short term. Who is in the most immediate peril? Here's a short list:


  • Michelle: If the Triforce is targeted, she's the most logical victim, especially if the opposing alliance knows Jay has an idol. (Nobody does currently, but all it will take is him telling Taylor, and all hope will be lost.) She's also a logical early post-merge target, because she's great at puzzles, which could plausibly be common immunity challenge elements post-merge.
  • Chris: The biggest target, literally. He's been huge in recent challenges (sorry). Gen X is outnumbered if the Millennials stick together, even briefly, and Chris is the obvious person to take out as soon as possible. But... now that he and David are back on good terms, could David save him with an idol play, as he did Jessica? Something to consider.
  • Taylor: Jessica gave a compelling reason for keeping him around: He's barely aware of the game, and says exactly what he's thinking. But that's only useful if he doesn't have anyone else around to follow. Taylor combined with Jay is dangerous, especially when Jay has an idol. Since Taylor will probably also be good in challenges, and won't see a blindside coming, any time you can take him out is probably a good time to do so.
  • David: (But he has an idol!) Zeke knows he has it. But Zeke ominously added a "[*dramatic pause*] for the time being" to his pledge to "take very very good care of his life." He probably has a bit more time left, especially since (as we tweeted) that confessional actually came post-merge, but still... something wicked David's way comes.
  • Bret: One possibility: the Millennials could decide to band together for one vote, and all vote Bret (or split their votes between David/Chris and Bret, at which point David plays his idol for himself or Chris). Or some Hannah-led coalition could seek vengeance for Michaela by taking out Bret, simply because he was supposed to go last time. That might make some sense if Hannah suspects Jay has an idol, and Bret pledges loyalty to Jay for saving him. In terms of the edit, Bret's sole purpose post-swap has been to talk about how great Michaela is. That position has now become dispensible.


Or, obviously, it could be none of these people, because we know nothing.




Okay, that's enough of that. On to the vidcaps!


Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X Episode 7 vidcap gallery

Millennials vs. Gen X Episode 7 recaps and commentary


Exit interviews: Michaela Bradshaw

  • Gordon Holmes at (11/3/16): "Michaela: 'It's Better to Hit a Tree Than to Hit a Person'"
  • Josh Wigler at (11/3/16): "Michaela Bradshaw Breaks Down That Explosive Tribal Council"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP (11/3/16): "Exit Interview | Latest Player Voted Out - 11/03/16"
  • Dalton Ross at (11/3/16): "A 'super-betrayed' Michaela on why she was 'devastated' by the vote"


Episode 7 Podcasts