Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X - Jeff Pitman's recaps
By Jeff Pitman  |  Published: October 17, 2016
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The Wright move

The Wright move

David playing his idol to save Jessica is obviously the Big Move™ everyone is talking about following the episode, and rightly so. [Ed. note: Please admire our self-restraint in not repeating that obvious pun there.] People generally don't play idols this early, and people generally don't play idols successfully. Of the 39 idol plays in Survivor history, only 15 have been successful: 11 blocked a majority vote, and four avoided a tie. Of those, just two were pre-merge: Tom Westman temporarily saving himself in Ep.4 of Heroes vs. Villains, and Parvati Shallow, two episodes later, saving herself with Russell's idol. Normally, idol plays are at least partially used to gain respect from the jury, except... there's no jury yet. The consensus opinion has generally been "that was a terrible move," but we're not so sure. Either way, what else can someone in a minority alliance on a huge tribe really do?

 

This is something we questioned just two seasons ago, and David's solution seems as good as any. If he didn't play his idol here, David faced a no-win situation. The alliance he'd tried to build just two days earlier by booting Paul had already long since collapsed. Lucy and Sunday went right back to Chris and Bret, giving them a solid four-person majority, especially if they targeted Jessica (while letting Ken and/or David tag along for that one boot). Had the majority's plan gone through, they would now be back in charge, a solid four, with no threat remaining from the three underdogs (Ken, David, and CeCe). Armed with the knowledge that Lucy and crew were targeting her, David and Ken tried to pull in Jessica, in the Quixotic hope that she might then pull Sunday along, for a simple 5-3 vote against Lucy. Obviously, that fell apart, and even if it hadn't, they realistically could only have forced a 4-4 tie. So to move forward, it was idol or bust.

 

There's a significant upside to an idol play here: Jessica seems grateful, and maybe now a David/Ken/Jessica/CeCe foursome could reasonably be expected to seize control over the new minority alliance of Chris, Bret, and Sunday (if not for the swap). Sure, maybe Ken will be disappointed not to have been included in the plan. But as long as David isn't barking orders now, Ken would probably roll with it. Yes, maybe David's personal safety is lower now (sans idol), and people don't trust him. But they didn't trust him anyway, and it seems reasonable that Jessica might now be more likely to work with him. It's not a perfect solution, but it's probably better than sitting on his hands for this vote, bidding goodbye to any chance of a majority, and just hoping that a swap or merge saves him.

 

Besides, while David wasn't playing to the actual jury with this move, he was playing to another, also important set of decision-makers: the audience. Maybe we're outliers, but we'd rather watch aggressive idol playing than passive idol-hoarding and praying. Well done, David.

 

The real goat is the strategy

One trick is to tell stories that don't go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry to Shelbyville...

That screaming you heard midway through the first half of the episode? That would be the disillusioned wails of early-season Survivor purists initially delighted at a rare actual survival scene, as the Millennials killed time in camp by rounding up a hunting posse to kill nearby, possibly drugged, local goats. Longtime fans often complain that camplife scenes such as this have been dropped from the show in favor of incessant strategy discussion and idol hunting. So when the camera cut away from the hunting party the second they left camp, to focus instead on Adam searching for the idol (...clue, which he found, then later the actual idol), there was no doubt much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

 

As neutral observers who maybe secretly enjoy the idol-hunting scenes, we are amused by this elaborate trolling of the old-schoolers. The show even went the extra mile, teasing the scene up in last week's preview, and releasing it a day or two early online (cutting it off where Adam says "They can't be actually hunting, right?"). That this was also the actual end of the hunting scene is pretty much straight up Rickrolling by the editors and the CBS marketing team. Especially because Adam's quote leads directly into his idol search, the bane of Survivor purists. You can't bust heads like you used to, but you have your ways, editors.

 

Adam and friend

Don't go anywhere, postscript - Oh (yes), the humanity

Despite this flagrant violation of old-school storytelling etiquette, the twist at the end of Adam's idol find was a stunning and touching reversal. Rather than trivially cutting Adam's celebration off at "This is what dreams are made of," the show allowed Adam to continue talking about why the idol meant so much to him: A connection to his ailing mom.

 

And purists be damned: That was a far more human, introspective, and worthwhile scene than following up with the Millennial hunting party on their fruitless goat search. Survivor has a long history with tears, and usually it's not without heavy prodding by production, such as flying in Loved Ones to inspire homesickness, or worse yet, denying a subset of those contestants the chance to see them. In contrast, this scene came unprompted from Adam, and was authentically emotional.

 

An underexplored trend in recent Survivor seasons is that a lot of the younger contestants grew up with the show as a family viewing experience. In some cases, maybe the contestants stopped watching after they left home, weren't huge fans themselves, but their parents were (and still are), and by participating in the show, the players are (re-) connecting with their family (for example, Joe Anglim wanting to reach the family visit for his dad). In other cases, such as Malcolm Freberg, or last season's winner, Michele Fitzgerald, or Adam this season, the young contestants are also superfans themselves, and playing the game is not only a huge deal personally in and of itself, but it also carries this added familial-bonding layer of emotional importance.

 

Allowing Adam to explore this shared love of the show at the end of his idol find, and open up about his mother's cancer diagnosis, was one of those rare moments when the show transcended its normal boundaries and was actually reality TV. Yes, it broke the fourth wall and shattered the illusion of 20 people playing a game on a remote island for a million dollars. But it also reminded us that these contestants are real people with real emotions and lives outside this game, not just typecast caricatures cavorting for our amusement. For us, this moment was up there as one of post-HvV Survivor's best, along with the fall of Matsing (Philippines, Ep.4) and Stephen Fishbach's tearful exploration in Cambodia of the crushing toll that expectations and second-guessing exact on the psyche of former contestants who failed to win the million in their first run.

 

This, not ham-fisted recitation of banal generational stereotypes, is what Survivor does best.

 

CeCe makes a run at the titleInside the numbers: CeCe's chance at history

Don't look now, but in just three Tribal Councils, CeCe has racked up seven votes against. That's... a lot! This means she only needs four more votes against to crack the single-season VAP leaderboard, and 13 more for all-time title honors. As is often the case, she seems inoffensive enough, but as the sole person of color remaining on her tribe (and as a woman), her prospects of receiving future votes seem fairly high, at least until the merge. So while she hasn't had much screen time, at least she has this to look forward to, we guess.

 

Although if the swap puts her in a situation that's less "keep the tribe strong! *grunt*... high-school football! *roarrrr*" and more, you know, actually playing Survivor, we won't complain.

 

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

 

Survivor: Millennials vs. GenX Episode 4 vidcap gallery

Millennials vs. Gen X Episode 4 recaps and commentary

 

Exit interviews: Lucy Huang

  • Gordon Holmes at XfinityTV.com (10/13/16): "Lucy: 'I Wasn't Voted Off. Two votes? That Isn't Voting Off'"
  • Josh Wigler at Parade.com (10/13/16): "Lucy Huang on Idols and Intensity"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP (10/13/16): "Exit Interview | Latest Player Voted Out - 10/13/16"
  • Dalton Ross at EW.com (10/13/16): "Lucy says 'I truly thought I was going to die' during challenge"

 

Episode 4 Podcasts

 

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