That was a hilarious joke you played on everyone with the fake swap, Survivor! Everyone was expecting a swap from two tribes up to three, most likely right here with 18 players left, the same point at which Angkor was formed in Cambodia. Last week's teaser and this week's episode title ("Your Job Is Recon") played into that expectation.
So what did we get instead? A #SurvivorSummit, which as far as we can tell served no apparent purpose beyond getting David to hurriedly pledge allegiance to yet another guy who's good in challenges, and giving eight people free sandwiches. (Well, and the fake-out, obviously.) Okay, now that the joke's over, can you please put a merciful end to the excruciating theme, before Probst goes off on another irrelevant tangent that eats up precious minutes of show time? Pretty please? Soon? Ugh.
Because we're now three episodes into this theme, which seemed off-putting (at best) at first mention, we're still stuck with every other confessional pointing out someone's Gen X or Millennial bona fides, and there's no end in sight. Worse yet, we're now also enjoying extended lectures from Jeff Probst about how text lingo is changing the language (no autocorrect for him!), and liking vinyl makes you old. (Please, nobody tell Probst about indie rock's recent embrace of cassettes.) As CeCe gamely tried to put a brave face on things as the cyclone approached in the premiere, "We've just had, basically, a night of Hell... and it never stops! And it never stops! And it never stops raining!"
We're concerned because Tribal Council used to be what Probst does best. Whatever quibbles you may have with his creative decisions or choice of words as the Survivor showrunner, spokesperson, or challenge play-by-play announcer, there's little doubt his 33 seasons running Tribal Council have given him considerable discussion-guiding skills. Little gets past him, and he can hone in on key questions that either allow someone to blow up their own game (Shannon in Nicaragua), or defuse a conflict that threatened to spin out of control ("Rice Wars" in Redemption Island). Having that expertise squandered on beating a theme to an eyerolling death is not the best use of his or the audience's time.
So again: You got us, Survivor. We fell for it. Now get us out of this.
Good move vs. entertaining move? In praise of entertaining
Ken really emerged as a major character this episode, possibly even with some winner potential, but his ceiling is probably still Ozzy with Empathy. (To be fair, Arrogant, Empathy-Free Ozzy ended up one vote short of the million his first time and a puzzle piece or two short his third time, so maybe Empathetic Ozzy sweeps the jury vote? Who can tell.) Maybe the editors could sense that framing this vote as saving David might be a bridge too far, what with David having just pledged to betray the entire Gen-X tribe as soon as humanly possible. With that in mind, enter non-doll Ken as a backup rootable underdog. When was the last time non-casual fans embraced a spear-fishing, challenge-beasting guy with flaws in his social game? These are strange and uncharted waters in which this show is fishing. We... like it.
Along with Ken, Jessica was shown as the lynchpin of this vote, rallying the female half of the original majority alliance of six to turn on Paul. A lot of people (Know-It-Alls, Stephen Fishbach's People column) have argued that Jessica's flipping this early was a Really Bad Move™. But consider the alternative: A six-person alliance, rolling unopposed to a swap or merge was deathly boring when it was Upolu in South Pacific, and required manufactured shenanigans--like Coach tricking his tribe into hunting for an idol he already had--to even merit air time. And it would be just as teeth-grindingly dull to watch here. Had Jessica made the safe move, and held firm to the majority alliance, there's a good chance Gen X loses the next two immunities, and we'd be down CeCe, David, and Ken. While Paul's faults seemed relatively minor, at least Jessica's embrace of fluid, voting bloc-style gameplay made the show more interesting, especially if production insists on holding off on swapping the tribes up until even Probst himself is sick of hearing "Gen X" and "Millennial" every other sentence.
Figgy vs. Michelle: Confusing
There are contradictory narratives going on within the Triforce alliance, particularly with the women. Figgy thinks she's running the show, whereas Michelle appears to be actually be doing that (with perhaps a co-lead nod to Jay). What's confusing is that the editing seems to be backing both stories. For example, this episode took pains in the "Previously On..." segment to credit Michelle's last-episode handiwork, and allowed Adam (who has had all the truth-teller confessionals) to give her credit in a follow-up scene. But at the same time, she all but disappeared from the episode itself, giving zero confessionals, not even in the aftermath of her Tribal Council triumph.
Meanwhile, Figgy was given a victory lap, as Adam (mistakenly) praised both her and Taylor upon returning from the previous Tribal, followed by Figgy gloating in confessional "People that write down Figgy's name go home." Never mind that the previous episode included zero evidence to support the claim that she or Taylor had anything to do with it. Furthermore, this week's episode made it seem that the Millennials successfully concealed the Figgy/Taylor pairing during their "summit" with the Gen X representatives, but from Paul's exit interviews, the exact opposite apparently happened. Wholesale reversal of the truth to prop up a storyline seems like a lot of work to be putting in if Figgy and Taylor are out soon. Nonetheless, pre-season, Probst touted Figgy as a player to watch (along with Taylor), and didn't even mention Michelle.
What are we to make of all this? Some collapse of the Triforce power structure has to be coming fairly soon. Figgy has been presented as an overconfident figurehead, while Taylor has at best been shown as an accidentally successful Drew Christy. Meanwhile, Adam has come tantalizingly close to an idol, Michaela is thinking and biding her time, and Hannah still hates the popular kids and yearns to move against them. The combustible ingredients are all there, waiting for a spark. Maybe Michelle (or Jay) ends up as the unfortunate victim of this power shift? Otherwise, the odd choices in emphasis don't seem to make much sense.
The negative space strategist: Zeke
Speaking of confusing edits, what about Zeke? Jay's lead argument for recruiting Michaela to the Triforce alliance last episode was that Zeke had said Michaela would be next out, after the tribe voted out Figgy. It sounded like Zeke was running things. Several people (Dom & Colin?) have pointed out that since nobody even talked about targeting Zeke himself, and since he received zero votes, he must also be on fairly good terms with everyone. So Zeke the Superfan must be both a solid strategist AND a good social player, right? Not if you're judging based on the edit.
The Zeke we've been shown is an entertaining narrator who's good at starting fires, building shelters, and working puzzles, but ultimately also one who ends up on the losing side at Tribal Council (and then argues with poor Hannah afterwards). Later, when it comes time to buckle down and try to repair the prospects of the people on the losing end of the vote, it's Adam who's shown talking to Michaela and Hannah, not Zeke. So the one part of the game that Zeke has specifically said he's excited to start doing (voting people out at Tribal Council) is also the part we've seen almost no footage of him actually working towards doing.
Instead, we've been forced to build a more complete picture of Zeke almost entirely from what everyone else has to say about him. This despite his being present, on the screen, a huge percentage of the time. It's a bizarre, almost completely negative space portrait, and we're not sure what to make of it.
Okay, that's enough of that. On to the vidcaps!
Queen Figgy. It rhymes with Cersei. Depending on who says it.
It's already the next day, and Zeke and Adam are still mad at me. But let's pretend it's last night. Maybe things will go right this time.
Go away, Hannah. Leave me to wallow, and/or eat someone.
Give it a rest, Hannah. I'm trying to see if they made fun of us in the recap.
Zeke self-medicates by devouring Tiny Adam. He will be missed.
I'm still here! [Ed. note: He will probably be missed next week, then. Fine.]
Really? God's choosing us over the pastor? If you say so.
Are you sure Mark Burnett isn't still running this show?
Of course my band covers "Running With the Devil"! Why do you ask?
The Not-As-Old-As-Probst Man and the Sea.
Alternately: Based on this symbolism inherent in being shown getting hit by a wave in a game where fire is life, Probst gets voted out next episode. He will be missed.
The underwater crew likes to film *ME* spear-fishing. And they want to vote me out? That's crazy!
Hey guys! Look what I just pulled out of a shell with orange paint on it! Whoops, wrong pocket.
Now, now. No need to gets handsy, Jay. There are enough rocks for everyone.
As a superfan, I know that if I pretend to love whatever janky twist production throws at us, I can get a confessional here. (Nailed it!)
Bad luck, Michaela, Adam, and Michelle. You're all going home on tie votes. The rocks have spoken.
It was crazy! I held out my hand, and there was a rock in it!
The math doesn't work for a swap, unless they're sending only two from the Gen X tribe, because old people suck. Okay, maybe it does work.
Hooray, getting filmed on these boats for the third time in 8 days! Fun!
Since there's 8 of us, this is a G-8 Summit, right? You should make that the hashtag.
Queen Figgy gives Paul the hug of death. He will be missed. Eventually.
Good news! Instead of pizza and beer, you have dry bread, peanut butter, and no drinks whatsoever. Feel free to blame the teenager. You're toasting with actual toast!
I am also toast.
Hey, who wants to listen to my ranking of the top 2000 '80s guitar players by soloing expertise?
Oh my god. We thought he was kidding. He wasn't.
So... can we be your friends?
We had to pry those two apart to even talk to them. I think they might be in an alliance with each other.
You can always tell when you're back at the Old Folks Camp, because the establishing shot has a rock shaped like Abe Simpson's head.
Great, I get called this my whole life, and now you're hashtagging it on national TV? Jerks.
Lucy is not amused by your "plastic Barbie with no penis" joke, Ken.
Ken feels like he's on the outs. Which is a shame, because he is.
The Triforce, minus one, plus two. Quadsquad?
*Groan* Someone is going to use that name now. Thanks a lot, Pitman.
Adam's gambit: Michaela's mouth says nothing, but her face clearly says yes.
A challenge that tests agility? Against a bunch of old people? You just want to talk about texting tonight, don't you Probst?
Talking with Probst about texting? Who *wouldn't* love that?
The Millennials are close to done and Paul is not even near finished. Yep, it's CeCe holding us back.
Gen X doesn't give up. Gen X doesn't give up. We keep working at it.
Take your time, CeCe. Once you're done, we'll switch over to the Millennials' strategy, then blame you for not seeing them do it before you started.
This challenge is called "Going Coconuts" because coconuts are used as pointless dead weight. Just like the season theme!
Millennials: Scattered cheering. Michaela: Polite clapping.
Good form tucking your glove hand in during the hip rotation and release phase of the delivery.
For all their post-challenge ranting, Gen X is only five pieces behind here
Zeke and Michelle: Frantic puzzling. Michaela: Polite clapping.
Okay, maybe five pieces behind is sort of a lot.
Millennials: Frantic whooping and leaping. Michaela: Polite clapping.
Somebody probably should have tipped Adam and Zeke off about the Queen Figgy hug of death. They will be missed.
Probst, can you give us all participation trophies instead of those chairs and blankets? They look heavy.
You realize you only have to carry them to the boat/van, right?
Wait, do we get second-place trophies in this deal?
Let me think... No.
Can you make sure you don't hashtag the #Kendoll thing again? That's kind of offensive.
Man, those old people are mean.
I will have my trophy. No more polite clapping for you.
CeCe scored two points for us at the last IC, and they need my extensive knowledge of classic rock. Bad break for CeCe, I guess. She will be missed.
Yep. I agree. Tough luck, CeCe. Nothing we can do.
A man after Probst's own heart.
Can I make a Big MoveTM yet? As a Gen Xer, I never quit, etc.
Don't worry! I'm 100% with you, unless a better offer comes along. Just ignore the subtitle.
[Ed. note: Subtitled words not actually spoken by Lucy. Phew. Didn't want to alarm you there.]
Fine, I'll make a big move, then. The majority alliance has held for a whole Tribal Council. Getting boring.
I'm totally relaxed tonight, Jeff. CeCe prayed, and said we're good.
No red flags here.
Paul contemplates getting 'Paul' and 'wins' tattooed on his fingers.
So... does anyone here know how to use one of those new-fangled "mobile phones"?
I'm just making sure we're hip and happening with what's going on in society. You guys are like me, can't live without your trusty pagers, right?
Sure we are, Jeff. Sure we are.
Sorry guys, McCartney has been voted out of Wings.
You fools! He was the best one!
[Ed. note: Sorry, Dom & Colin already used "Paul is dead." Our hands are tied.]
Millennials vs. Gen X Episode 3 recaps and commentary
Exit interviews: Paul Wachter
Episode 3 Podcasts