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'Survivor' premiere recap: 'May the Best Generation Win'

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Robert Voets/CBS

Survivor

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
32
run date:
05/31/00
performer:
Jeff Probst
broadcaster:
CBS
genre:
Reality TV

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wAIt, WhaT? SoRRY ab0ut thaaaat. Still getting used to this computer thingy. Being a member of Generation X, I am obviously unfamiliar with how computers — or any modern technology, really — works. Do I just keep punching these keys with my fingers like some trained monkey?

How can I possibly figure any of this out? I’m a Gen Xer! I’m all about putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and then retreating to my La-Z-Boy recliner while relaxing with a TV dinner and an ice-cold Schlitz! But these young whippersnappers with their Facebooks and their Tweeter and their Snapschat seem to be from another planet. And as Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer famously opined, their world scares and confuses me. What in the name of Kurt Cobain is an aging hipster to do?!

Watch Survivor, I guess. Yes, Survivor is back! Everyone bust out your orange baseball caps, because it’s time to embark on yet another island adventure, this one complete with cyclones, Legacy advantages, and terrible alliance names. Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X is upon us, and if you’re too old to be in either of those adult demos, then tough luck, sucker! See ya next season! You can go see what Murtaugh and Riggs are arguing about over on Fox’s Lethal Weapon. (My best guess is it has something to do with someone being “too old for this sh-t.”)

Okay, now that we’ve checked IDs to ensure all viewers fall within the range of appropriate ages, let’s get to it — I need to fly through this thing and save it all to a floppy disc that I can give to my editor for printing. Or maybe I should fax it in? Decisions, decisions. (Oh, and a word of warning to any new readers: Contrary to the statement above, I don’t breeze through anything. I’ll apologize in advance for any possible off-topic tangents involving — but not limited to — funky cold medina, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Rick Rockwell, “Where’s the Beef?” the USFL, Shasta McNasty, and O-Town.)

RELATED: Ranking Every Season of Survivor

This will be the battleground for a Survivor culture war! Those aren’t actually my words, mind you, but Jeff Probst’s as he introduces the new season. I suppose I should have put them in quotes. (Still figuring out this keyboard thing. Gen Xer, you know.) And which player will win the coveted First Quote of the Season award? Why, it’s Taylor, who falls right into line with this season’s theme by informing us that, “My generation, it’s all about doing what you want to do.” Taylor also tells us he’s a beekeeper, he’s brewed his own beer, he’s been a snowboard instructor, and he’s gone to North Dakota! I’m not 100-percent sure how that last thing fits in with the others, but maybe they drink a lot of honey-infused beer in North Dakota? We also meet fellow Millennial Mari, who plays video games for a living, and Zeke, who says Twitter is “the worst thing ever invented” and can currently be found @zekerchief.

And then there are the Gen Xers like Chris, who says old people “know how to get up and fight.” (Not to mention get up and pee three times in the middle of the night, but I digress.). And Sunday — the woman, not the day of the week — who comes straight from Fargo central casting and doesn’t understand adults who play video games all day. (Madden 17. Try it.) And David, who talks about spending 14 years as an assistant before finally getting a promotion to TV writer, which must make the fact that John Cochran landed a primetime TV-sitcom gig with no apprenticeship and exactly zero professional writing experience drive him positively INSANE!

But enough about David’s 14-year odyssey to get a job that took Cochran one day, thanks to a well-placed finale plug by Jeff Probst. Let’s go watch the Hostmaster General stand on top of a big island mountain in his super-boss orange hat while delivering the iconic “39 days” line! Love that shot. Like Colt 45, it works every time.

Speaking of which, when Billy Dee Williams claimed Colt 45 works every time, what exactly did he mean by that? Because rather than extolling the virtues of taste or texture, I’m pretty sure Billy Dee is just saying Colt 45 will get you laid. First off, that’s a pretty bold claim. Trust me, I’ve seen plenty of dudes drinking Colt 45 that looked nowhere close to getting any action whatsoever. Secondly, let’s be honest — Billy Dee Williams could get laid drinking whatever the hell he wants. He doesn’t need Colt 45. You know why? Because he’s Billy Dee Williams!!! The only unsmooth thing that man’s ever done is losing the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo at the Cloud City Sabacc Tournament.

Anyway if you don’t think that motto is all about malt liquor getting you laid, check out this classic ad:

Well, hard to argue with the results, I guess. Anyhoo, Probst greets the contestants on the beach and has them reveal their tribe-colored buffs and move to the appropriate mats. He then informs the players of the Millennials vs. Gen X twist, saying Millennials were born between the years 1984 and 1997, while Gen Xers were born between 1963 and 1982. 1963?! That seems awfully generous. Aren’t those Baby Boomers? Who cares? Older contestants often make for the most interesting contestants, so I say bring ‘em on.

NEXT: Choose your own Survivor adventure

[pagebreak]

To outline the differences, Jeff introduces us to the youngest and oldest contestants. There’s Will, who says he left high school to play this game — which, by the way, is something NO high-school student should ever do. And there’s born-in-1963 Paul, who tells us how “In our generation, we didn’t always get a trophy to win. You had to go through without an iPod and an app for this and an app for that. You actually had to walk to the store to get milk. In three feet of snow! With no shoes! While carrying your sick mother on your back! And the milk cost a nickel because that’s how much things cost before the world became an ungodly place! Hey, has anyone seen my heartburn medicine?”

Okay, I may have stretched the truth a little bit with the second part of the quote, but that’s basically the theme being repeatedly hammered home. Why, just ask CeCe, who speaks next and informs the Millennials that “They don’t work for anything.” Of course, the risk with staging such a generational divide is a repeat of Survivor: Nicaragua, in which the old-fogey tribe simply could not keep up with the youngins. Let’s hope this doesn’t prove to be a repeat of that misstep. (Give me a moment to get the visions of Medallion of Powers out of my head.)

It’s time to get the game started, and Probst tells the tribes they have two minutes to race into the jungle and grab as many supplies as they can. Ah, but there is a wrinkle. There are two stations for each team, where they must choose between two items to take. One station features a choice between chickens and scuba gear, while the other features pots and a hammer — and the latter of which seems relatively useless if you don’t have other tools to go with it. (Home-Depot-sponsored challenge, anyone?)

Regular readers know I LOVE whenever choices are offered in the game. It can lead to disagreements, second-guessing, regret…you know, the good stuff. Sure enough, playing up to the stereotypes, the Gen Xers pick the scuba gear that requires more work to see the benefit, while the Millennials go for the chickens so they can just sit back and eat.

But the real drama occurs when Gen Xer Jessica finds an envelope with both tribe colors on it and wisely sticks it down her pants. (There are a few things I would definitely not recommend you stick down your pants, but envelopes are not one of them.) We will learn later she has just come into possession of a Legacy advantage. Just one hitch: She has to last 35 more days in the game to get it. If she makes it that far, she will get some sort of mystery advantage in the game.

But here’s the twist. If she gets voted out, she must will it to another player. And if that person gets voted out, they must will it to another player. And so on. And so on. (I confirmed all this with Probst, as well as the fact that the willing of the advantage will take place privately, so unless someone blabs, nobody else will know who has it or that it even exists. Probst offers more details in our weekly Q&A, so make sure to check that out.) I generally like this twist, with one small caveat: as long as the advantage is not an advantage in the final challenge, because giving that much power in the final contest almost always makes it anticlimactic. But otherwise, I dig it. A potentially nice wrinkle. Okay, so Probst throws the maps to the tribes and dismisses them. Let’s go and check out the action at the beaches.

Over at the Gen X beach, Rachel is talking. A lot. And not in a social, happy-go-lucky way, but in a can-you-imagine-living-with-me-for-39-days way. Not a good start for her. Speaking of bad starts, David is busy telling us how he doesn’t like sleeping outside. Or bugs. Or water. Or the ocean. Wait, a nerdy TV writer who is uncomfortable out in the elements? Doesn’t sound like anyone I know. (I’m almost shocked David didn’t come out and demand Probst address him by his last name of “Wright.”)

Like Cochran, who suffered one of the worst first Tribal Council performances I have ever seen (you only saw a bit of it on TV), David makes the mistake a lot of superfans do by coming out of the gate way too fast and way too strong — and in this case, becoming paranoid tribemates Ken and Paul have found a hidden immunity idol. He’ll later compound the problem by getting busted searching for the idol himself. An inauspicious debut, to be sure.

NEXT: Another bro-down throwdown?

[pagebreak]

Meanwhile, over on the Millennials beach, Taylor is telling us he really likes Jay because “I can tell he’s just a bro.” That may be one of my favorite Survivor quotes ever. “I can tell he’s just a bro.” See, for many people that would not exactly be an expression of praise and admiration, but coming from Taylor’s lips, there’s no doubt it is a compliment of the highest order. “I can tell he’s just a bro.” Of course you can. And of course he is.

Oh, and serving as the cherry on this hot sundae of incredibleness is Taylor’s comment that he likes Figgy “because she’s pretty dang cute.” Of course you do. And of course she is. (Just to reiterate: Her nickname is Figgy. And yes, I realize a guy named Dalton is in no position to comment on such matters.) Wait! THIS JUST IN: Taylor also likes Michelle because “I am a sucker for pretty girls.” You don’t say?

But not everyone on the tribe is a “bro.” Zeke says he’s dismayed by his tribemates, especially when “I’m dressed for the singles mixer at the Miami retirement center. I’m an 80-year-old man at heart.” THIS ALSO JUST IN: Zeke is the best. Love that guy already. Zeke goes on to dis and dismiss his tribemates for never having a real job and not being able to do anything. Hold on, he sounds like a Gen Xer! TRAITOR! In related news, could we please get a tribe full of folks from the Miami retirement center, pronto? And can they all wear the same shirt as Zeke?

Remember Figgy? Of course you do. How could you forget? Her name is Figgy! Anyway, she’s telling us how she’s used to being the center of attention (MILLENNIAL!!!) and is really flirty and good at manipulating men. Unsurprisingly, Figgy, Jay, and Taylor are solidifying their hot-person alliance, only they’re calling themselves the “Tri-Force.” Michelle also appears to be part of this alliance, because Jay has now followed Taylor’s lead in telling us how hot she is. (Because why on Earth would you ever select an alliance partner on any criteria BUT hotness?)

Jay says the Tri-Force is “invincible,” but Aubry… I mean, Hannah, has different ideas. She wants to take down Kappa Kappa Survivor, but first they need to go finish that shelter before the darkness and rain fall. Whoops! Too late! Instead of working on their roof, the Millennials do the most Millennial thing imaginable and chill down in the water even though the skies clearly indicate a major storm is coming. They stay in the water until after the sun sets, which would have had me losing my mind with worry had I been there (which I suppose proves I am a Gen Xer, at least according to the stereotypes laid out before us). It’s too little, too late, as their super-lame shelter immediately collapses, leading to what Hannah describes as “the longest night ever.” Hey, it could have been worse! (#SevereGastrointestinalDistress)

Don’t worry, Hannah. It actually is about to get worse. That night’s rain was just an appetizer. Which is why something very odd is happening as both tribes receive tarps with their tree mail. And this isn’t one of those trade situations like when Probst gives them more food in exchange for something else. Nope, total free-tarp situation. At this point I become clairvoyant and see old-school Survivor contestants from coast to coast shaking their fist at the screen and yelling “Back in my day…” (Which, by the way, also makes them total Gen Xers.)

NEXT: The storm before the storm

[pagebreak]

But tarps are not the only thing the show’s delivering, because a bit later Probst also delivers…Probst! The host arrives at each camp and tells them that “For the first time in 33 seasons of Survivor, we are going to evacuate” due to an incoming cyclone. Okay, first things first. I am going to take a preemptive strike right here and now against any knucklehead chatter about how soft the show has gotten in taking the contestants off the beach and providing shelter from the storm. Are you kidding me? Survivor loves to feature shots of people shivering and suffering out in the elements. And we love to watch it. Their pain is our gain. That doesn’t mean we want to watch someone, you know, die.

Who knows how destructive the cyclone ended up being, but do you really want to take that chance? The goal of the show is to push people to their limits, not have them carried away like poor Dorothy to the point of seeing flying cows, old guys in rowboats, and creepy Margaret Hamilton bicycling up in the air at 10,000 feet. (Tornado. Cyclone. Same thing, right?) Did you see that crazy sideways rain already pelting the Gen Xers as they made their way to the escape boat? That was no joke.

As a producer, you cannot knowingly and purposefully put human beings in danger like that for entertainment. They did the right thing here. So where exactly did the contestants go? Check out my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst for answers, as well as insight into how the production team came up with the decision to evacuate. Must-read stuff.

In any event, after some nifty and dramatic time-lapse camera action, it’s on to day 3 as the contestants return to the beach. David talks about how terrible he is at building a shelter, yet now has to do it for the second time. In fact, the only thing David is more terrible at than building shelters is being stealthy at searching for hidden immunity idols. Which is why he just made himself a target. Not smart.

Meanwhile, over at the other beach (now dubbed the Millennial Chill Zone), it’s Revenge of the Nerds time! Forget about the Tri-Force, because it’s early-bird-special-loving Zeke who makes the fire for the tribe. And then Hannah and Mari plot to overthrow the cool kids table by forming a Freaks and Geeks alliance — which, unfortunately, does not include Martin Starr, James Franco, or Linda Cardellini. To all of this I say YES, YES, YES! More, please. But how soon will the misfits need to mobilize? Let’s head to the season’s first immunity challenge to find out.

A blue-hat wearing (BOO!) Probst welcomes the tribes, thanks them for returning the lightly used tarps, and reveals a new tiki-inspired immunity idol that resembles a distant cousin of Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple. As for the challenge, I love it. Why? Because once again the tribes will not only have to just race through stuff, but also make crucial decisions along the way.

The teams will have to race under an obstacle and retrieve a “war club.” Then they must race through a rope tunnel or use a shortcut to make it much easier. Then they have to cross a thin balance beam or use a shortcut to make a wider, easier beam. Then they carry a crate and use the pieces inside to finish a puzzle. But here comes the twist: For every shortcut used, the tribe must add 10 more pieces onto their puzzle. So a puzzle with no shortcuts is 50 pieces, but if you use both shortcuts, it becomes 70.

So what to do? Take the shortcuts or take the smaller puzzle? For me, it’s a no-brainer. Having watched plenty of challenges in person on location over the years, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that in well over 90 percent of all challenges with a puzzle, the winner is determined solely by the puzzle. What I mean by that is while it’s super exciting watching a tribe go through obstacle courses, paddle out in water, or carry large objects from point A to Point B, it more often than not makes no difference in who ultimately wins the challenge. It’s just window dressing, because it’s all about the puzzle.

Watching it live, the puzzle can go on forever before it’s solved. We’ve waited around for more than 20 minutes before just to watch a tribe finally crack a puzzle (even though it may only be a minute or two on TV), so the 30-second or one-minute advantage a tribe gets by finishing first rarely actually matters. So if you have the choice to go a little slower through some ropes or over a balance beam, or increase your puzzle size by 40 percent, without question you go slower through the course. That’s simply playing the percentages.

Suffice it to say, these tribes chose not to play the percentages. The Gen Xers took both advantages (and some will argue the first was worth it, because they had much bigger players who needed to get through those ropes), while the Millennials shortcut the balance beam. Did the Millennials ultimately win because their puzzle had 10 fewer pieces? Can’t say for sure, but they showed up later with 10 fewer pieces and won, so there you have it. Remember: It’s all about the puzzle.

NEXT: And the first to be voted out…

[pagebreak]

So the old fogeys (by Survivor standards) now need to vote somebody out, and it’s looking like either bossy Rachel or paranoid David (both of whom advertised themselves as puzzle wizards and came up short). The tribe could see it going either way. Well, most of the tribe at least, because Jessica can’t see anything at the moment due to the bacterial infection in both of her eyes. But it’s an interesting debate: Do you keep the person who has proven to be at least somewhat untrustworthy (David), or the person who is annoying to live with (Rachel)?

Rachel apologizes at Tribal Council for coming on too strong, but it’s too little, too late. The damage is done. David’s pleading for his life pays off and keeps him safe, while Rachel becomes the 32nd recipient of the Sonja Christopher Golden Ukulele Award as the first one booted off the island.

And with that, season 33 is officially underway, people. Which means I now need to lock in my episode 1 pick to win it all. After picking three winners in a row for Cook Islands, Fiji, and China, my string of futility has now reached an incredible 19 seasons! I’ve picked people who did win but in the wrong season (Jeremy); I’ve picked people twice in two different seasons, only to have them let me down both times (Spencer); and I’ve picked plenty of finalists who made it all the way to the end only to get creamed at the final Tribal Council (including Spencer again). But I just can’t seem to seal the deal.

With that in mind, I have to say nobody jumped out at me as an obvious choice during the premiere this time around. We saw more of the Millennials than we did the Gen X tribe, so I will go with one of them. It’s between Mari and Hannah for me, who were on the verge of forming their Freaks and Geeks alliance.

Hannah seems smart and projects a non-threatening vibe, which is very much a good thing to keep you out of the crosshairs. But her superfan background makes me a bit nervous in terms of how some other superfans have done their first time out. As for Ken Hoang… I mean, Mari, I have to assume being a professional videogamer means she has some decent strategic chops. But can she be stealth enough? And what are her social skills like? Not saying they’re bad, but we haven’t seen enough to know. She may end up leading an alliance, which could also make her more of a target. So I’ll go ahead with an underdog pick of Hannah and hope for the best.

So there’s that. But before we sign off, don’t forget about the bevy of goodies we have for you each week. Like an exclusive deleted scene at the bottom of the recap. And the full opening credits you did not see on TV. And my weekly Q&A with host Jeff Probst. And my weekly exit interviews with the ousted contestants. You can hear our chat with Rachel on EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105) and then later on the EW Morning Live Podcast. And of course, for more Survivor scoop sent to you, you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. What did you think of the premiere? Whom are you loving and loathing? And who is your pick to win it all? Weigh in on the message boards below and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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