Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X

Swaney Strategy Blog – Episode 2

“I’m going to be a total bitch…and I’m gonna to own it.”
Corinne Kaplan

Trust. It’s the most important thing in Survivor. Without trust, it’s nearly impossible to maneuver through the game. After 32 completed seasons, one major question always comes up – How can you trust people in a game that has evolved into a proving ground for liars?

Survivor: Tocantins is one of my favorite seasons for multiple reasons: exotic location, fantastic cast, underdog story, and deserving winner, among many other reasons. Tocantins also introduced us to great characters like JT, Tyson, Stephen, Erinn, and, of course, the one the only Benjamin “Coach” Wade. Despite his massive delusions of grandeur, Coach set out to play the game according to his own moral compass. The crazy thing was, for the most part, people played along and bought it. At tribal council, JT even said “he could take [Coach’s] word to the bank.” That statement definitely came with an asterisk, however, as most knew that Coach’s brand of honesty was partially disingenuous. I mean, do you really believe his Amazon story?

The next time Coach pops up on our screen, it’s in Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, where his specific brand of “honesty” is fully realized. Also on the Villains tribe, are two people who practice a different kind of honesty – Courtney Yates and Sandra Diaz-Twine. If you watched a single episode of either of their seasons, you’d know that both are brutally honest and don’t care if you know it. Courtney hated Jean-Robert and almost enjoyed letting him, and the rest of the world, know all about it. Sandra despised Jonny Fairplay and Burton Roberts and Shawn (Cohen, not me) and wasn’t afraid to get loud about it.


In a game about building interpersonal relationships and swaying jury votes, can that kind of brutal honesty sometimes be a good thing? Well, Sandra has two million dollars, and Courtney was very close to a million of her own.

On an interpersonal level, someone with this specific brand of brutal honesty is arguably the best type of person to align with. In a game built on deception and backstabbing, having someone that is 100% candid is a beautiful thing. You know what they’re thinking because their thoughts are on full display and you know whom they’re not going to secretly align with because they are very vocal about their hatred (not that Sandra was above telling a little lie here and there, but if she lied she made sure it was a gooood lie).


If you ask me, Michaela is a Courtney Yates waiting to happen, but with a lot more physical ability to boast. Despite limited screen time in the first episode, she has proven herself to be a candid and blunt personality that plays based on emotions. The second episode gave us moments that showed her bashing Figgy to her face and behind her back, but also the ability to put feelings aside and vote from a strategically rational point of view. If this type of play is indicative of what Michaela is capable of, she could easily prove to be far better of a player than most thought possible.

This strategy, however, only truly works when this person isn’t the one championing the strategic decisions, yet remains in the majority. Both Courtney and Sandra were fortunate to be in seasons without full tribe swaps and could easily lock down majorities. With this season’s theme being such a prominent one, it means that there is going to be an inevitable generational diffusing tribe swap. Michaela’s fate lies in a fortuitous swap or the ability to bond quickly with the new majority, maybe by cussing people out and letting them know where she stands.


Here’s to a season of eye-rolls and amazing shade-throwing confessionals.


Written by

Shawn Swaney

Marine biologist by trade who stumbled into the world of tech start-ups. Nerd who was born into an athlete’s body. Los Angeles resident. Once dreamed of being the first Inside Survivor contributor to actually play Survivor... hopefully settling for second. Follow @ShawnSwaney for hot takes and a tendency to overthink every tweet.

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