May 03, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT


TV Show
Reality TV
run date
Jeff Probst
Current Status
In Season

Zeke’s Last Stand
I still don’t know what “Boomer Sooner” means, but I know enough to figure out that Zeke is a big college football fan, and we’ve seen that play out in both seasons. But this time, it may have gotten him in a bit of hot water, and I’m not talking about the Jacuzzi at Tokoriki Island Resort either. This time, Brad (a former NFL lineman) and Zeke started bonding over football. Now, even though Zeke told us later that he did want a final five that involved Brad, he’s not the kind of guy who would let a little football talk sway his strategic decision. We saw that when he cut Chris’ throat last season.

But Andrea and Aubry didn’t know that. So they saw Zeke — who had already flipped on them once — getting chummy with the enemy, and what were they supposed to think? Of course, that wasn’t the real problem for Zeke. The real problem for Zeke is that he had shown his cards as a big-time gamer too early. “I played this game four times, and he knows this game better than I do,” said Cirie. That was Zeke’s fatal flaw this time. The key to playing Survivor is playing great without letting others realize how great you are until it’s too late. Unfortunately for Zeke, he came on so strong right after the merge that he put a target on himself that was impossible to shake.

Once Andrea won immunity, she was ready to strike. The only question was whether she and Cirie would seek a vote from Sierra to turn the tables or get Sarah and Michaela to play ball. Andrea and Michaela kept the ruse going at Tribal Council, saying that the majority six would stick together, but it was all for show, as Sarah and Michaela did indeed flip. (Evidently, they told the other alliance the target was Tai because they all put their votes on him.)

Watching Michaela burst into tears was surprising because I didn’t get the sense she and Zeke were close at all going into this season, and they didn’t seem to get particularly chummy this time out either. Michaela is an emotional player, to be sure, but this was one emotion I was not expecting out of her.

As for Zeke, you could feel — and hear — his disappointment after the vote came in. “Dammit,” he murmured while walking off. But no bitterness. If you play big, you may go home. Zeke knew this. It’s never personal in his book — just business. That’s one of the things I admire most about him. And while Zeke erred by playing a bit too antsy after the merge and left himself devoid of any true allies in the process, it’s that restlessness and refusal to settle that makes him so exciting to watch. (He’s also a hell of a narrator, one of the most consistently underrated qualities of a top-tier Survivor contestant.)

Zeke didn’t want to be defined by what happened at Tribal Council with Jeff Varner. To a degree, he will be, because the class and composure he showed in that situation was off-the-charts impactful. But if he wanted to be known as Zeke the Survivor player first and foremost, then mission accomplished for a second straight season. He didn’t win, but in many ways Zeke is the embodiment of what the game has become and the take-no-prisoners approach that makes the show so electric to watch. I sincerely hope we haven’t seen the last of him.

Watch PEN Fan Forum: Survivor, on the new PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) here, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.

Nor have you seen the last of our Survivor coverage! We have an exclusive deleted scene waiting for you above. And don’t forget to read my weekly Q&A with the Hostmaster General himself, Jeff Probst. My exit interview with Zeke will be up Thursday morning, so keep an eye out for that, and of course you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss for all your Survivor coverage needs.

But now it’s your turn. Were you Team Andrea or Team Zeke? What did you think of this week’s challenges? And who has played the best game so far? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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