The big Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X merge happens Wednesday night, and you can see an exclusive clip of it right here. The merge marks the unofficial halfway point of the game as all the players move to one beach and the challenges move from team to individual competitions.
Every season we check in with one player for a mid-game report, and this time we went to Zeke Smith to get some inside scoop on who his biggest alliance partner was, who he most wishes had made the merge with him, and the one big thing we did not see.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Getting to the merge is a big deal. How did it feel once you realized you had made it through that first stage of the game and were on to stage two?
ZEKE SMITH: Survivor is a very long game and setting small milestones proves essential in getting through the experience: Don’t get voted out first, get to the swap, make the merge. Replacing that swap tribe buff with a merge buff is a feeling of absolute elation. No longer do you question if you can hack the Survivor experience — you know you can do it. The million-dollar prize lies within your grasp. Dollar signs gleam in the eyes of the Tribe. Game play accelerates at the merge and, personally, I came to play hard and was downright giddy to delve into the more cutthroat phase of the game.
You are a fan of the show and have watched it for a long time. What surprised you the most once you finally got out there on the island?
I was shocked with how hard, fast, and adeptly every single member of the Millennial tribe played from Day One. For my money, the Millennial tribe is the single greatest Tribe in the history of Survivor. Everyone showed up to play. No one was an obvious first boot or unequipped to handle the social and survival rigors of the game.
Everything changes out there from day to day, and we’ll see if your instinct ends up being correct, but as you went into the merge, who did you feel was your closest alliance partner?
My closest alliance partner going into the Merge was Dave. While Chris and I bonded strongly on a personal level, Dave and I shared a brain strategically. My connection with Dave stemmed from our mutual love of Survivor — we listened to the same podcasts and shared a brain when it came to our approach to strategy.
Who is the one player that did NOT make it to the merge that you would have liked to have seen made it — either someone from the Millennials you wish had lasted longer, or someone from Gen X you never got a chance to play with?
To this day I am #salty that my days with Mari were cut short. Sure, she’s a badass lady with whom I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the beach. But, I thought we might do some epic damage together, combining my knowledge of traditional Survivor strategy with her outsider perspective informed by her online gamer expertise. It could’ve resulted in some innovative, revolutionary gameplay.
Finally, tell us one thing from the first 20 days we did not see that you wish had made it to air?
I entertained a plan to blindside Dave in episode 5. Immediately after the swap, Chris and I bonded over our beloved Sooners, and he regaled me with tales of the dangers of Dave. The plan was to vote out Dave until the afternoon before Tribal Council. Suddenly, Chris mended fences with Dave and wanted CeCe out. To me, Dave’s ability to heal the wound with Chris made him all the more terrifying.
CeCe wasn’t interested in turning on GenX, so I proposed to Michelle a different plan to oust Dave: We could tie the vote and get Dave on the re-vote. CeCe would vote for Michelle. Dave and Chris would vote for CeCe. Michelle and I would vote for Dave, making the vote 2-2-1. The rules of Survivor state that in the event of a tie, there is a re-vote between the players receiving the most votes: Dave and CeCe. Only Michelle, Chris, and myself are eligible to re-vote. Michelle and I vote for Dave, sending Dave home. Might’ve been an exciting Tribal Council, but severing my relationships with both Chris and Dave wasn’t worth it.
Also make sure to watch an exclusive scene of the merge, and for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.