Recap in Brief
After pitting Millennials and Generation X against each other, 20 contestants braved a cyclone, a showmance, and a battery of terrible tribal council talking points, ultimately escalating in Adam Klein, the 25-year-old Homeless Shelter Manager from San Francisco, CA, winning the 33rd season of Survivor, beating out Hannah Shapiro and Ken McNickle in a 10-0-0 vote.
One of the perks of not having this review come out directly after the episode is that I get to take a step back and not get swept up in the emotions of immediacy. I preface these thoughts by saying that I do believe that Adam is an incredibly deserving winner. Frankly, anyone who wins is deserving, even if they have the physical and social game of Chet. Adam also had this amazing, heartbreaking, emotional story and as sad as the ending was in real life (his mother passed away from lung cancer an hour after he returned home), the ending to his Survivor journey was the culmination of his childhood dream. (Click the link to donate to Stand Up 2 Cancer to help with lung cancer research.)
Immediately following last Wednesday’s finale, many were calling for Adam as “one of the best winners ever.” Anyone that wins 10-0-0 is DEFINITELY up for consideration, but I think that Adam’s game looks a lot more like Swiss cheese than solid gold. But remember, I’m not a contestant, I only watch the ~15 hours of edited content, and will likely never actually have my opinions matter in terms of Survivor. Adam played a great game, but I think many are quick to praise Adam’s story/arc as deserving and not his gameplay.
I genuinely believe that Adam overplayed at times and was very fortunate to have logically and rationally thinking people surrounding him, particularly Hannah. Frankly, I can’t get Adam’s standoff against Taylor at the Final 12 tribal council out of my mind as a glaring example of bad gameplay. He came off as overplaying (which could have easily played well to the jury on Day 39) every situation, and I ended up being more annoyed by Adam’s play style than enamored. Just my two cents.
Jay DOES have a FAKE idol
Outside of Adam’s emotional victory, the finale presented some other great moments, like David crafting a spectacular looking fake idol. Many Survivor contestants have made fake idols over the years, from Yau-Man’s smiley-faced coconut to Ozzy’s f**king stick, to Bob’s funky looking idol that fooled Randy in Gabon. But David’s masterwork was perhaps the best-looking fake yet and the way Jay reacted upon both finding and playing it was very fun to watch. Jay played a solid game from the underdog position and most likely would have won had he made the Final Tribal Council, but it was good to see him leave the game in high spirits.
Those good spirits recurred throughout this season for the most part. Even though Bret called Hannah and Ken “crazies” for keeping David, in his final words he spoke about how much fun he’d had as a superfan making it this far into the game. The same thing with David, who played an impressive game and was surprisingly voted out by his closest ally throughout the season, Ken. David knew he was the biggest threat and took his vote out well, thanking his fellow players for the experience. Vinaka, to the Millennials vs. Gen X cast.
Which Generation Reigns Supreme?
With the season headline pitting the two generations against each other, the major question remains – which generation fared better? Obviously, when all was said and done, a millennial won, but did one generation actually outdo the other?
Pre-swap, Gen X didn’t fare well, losing 3 of 4 immunity challenges. After the swap, they gained some ground with the Millennials losing two to Gen X’s one. Post-merge painted a very different picture, as generations seemingly didn’t matter, with multiple switching allegiances. In the end, the finale began with a 3-3 split and the final three had a 2-1 Millennial/Gen X split. On the whole, the Millennials (clearly biased here) seemed like they held more power throughout the game, and obviously produced the winner, so I tip my cap to my generation on this one.
I would like to mention, however, that Ken is technically a millennial by birth year, so I say all of these stats with a MASSIVE caveat.
After a decade in Nicaragua (or so it seems), we finally got a change in locale – Fiji. With almost 20 seasons in between now and the first time Survivor was there, did Fiji live up to the hype?
When I think of Survivor: Fiji, I remember a few things about the scenery: pineapple bushes, snakes on exile island, and Earl’s shirt gradually decaying away from orange to brown. When I watched this season, I could not help but find myself imagining white sand and coconut drinks. In HD, this season was absolutely breathtaking. It gave us the ability to have crazy land challenges and excellent water challenges that provided spectacular moments like “David trying to chase a buoy” and “Wave 1; Probst 0”.
In the beginning of the season, yours truly picked mason jar enthusiast Taylor Stocker to win the game. While it’s resoundingly clear that I cannot pick a winner (WHY CYDNEY, WHY?!), one big revelation has shown up this season. When all is said and done, superfans and the “quirky” players like Hannah, David, and Adam all did VERY well. Aubry’s success last season is also a huge win for that archetype.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, outcomes like this will impact future seasons, especially for those that fit the “superfan” or “awkward” bracket. Anyone that watches these seasons in later rounds of casting and has half a brain would target these players.
The cat’s officially out of the bag – Michaela and Zeke are returning next season. This has been massively dissected and argued, so let’s look at this from a wider lens. On the surface, this season boasts a fair amount of people that could have a redemption arc in a second season. Regarding returnees, I think that Mari, David, and Jessica could stand for another season with a redemption arc. I could also spring for Hannah and Ken, but I think their lack of votes at tribal council will be hard to overcome.