Survivor: Game Changers

Zeke Smith Retrospective

A look back at the previous game of Zeke Smith, one of the returning castaways on the upcoming Survivor: Game Changers.

Age: 29
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Previous Season(s): Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X
Previous Placing: 9/20
Days Lasted: 33
Correctly Voted for Boot: 4
Votes Received: 14*
Individual Immunity Challenge Wins: 0
Most Memorable Moment: Convincing his allies to draw rocks for him and his battle with David Wright.

*Includes 4 votes after a tie.

What happened in his previous season: Zeke, alongside Michaela Bradshaw, will be playing Survivor in back-to-back seasons, something only nine contestants have done previously. He started Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X as part of the Millennials (Vanua) tribe, although Zeke didn’t see himself as a millennial, saying that he was “dressed for the singles mixer at the Miami retirement center” rather than the “youth parade.” Zeke quickly took on a camp leader role, helping construct the shelter and making fire, an accomplishment which surprised Zeke himself.

Despite performing well at the challenges and camp, Zeke found himself on the outs after the Millennials tribe went to their first tribal council. He voted with Adam Klein and Mari Takahashi against Jessica “Figgy” Figueroa, but he was unaware that Michelle Schubert had formed a counter plan to swing the votes towards Mari, leaving Zeke blindsided. Returning from tribal council, Zeke was upset with tribemate Hannah Shapiro, someone who was supposedly his ally but had voted against Mari. Hannah continually tried to explain herself, but Zeke didn’t want to hear it at that moment.

The Millennials won the next two immunity challenges, keeping Zeke out of harm’s way. On Day 13, the 16 remaining castaways were divided into three tribes. Zeke remained on Vanua with Michelle, the person that flipped the Figgy vote against him, and was joined by Gen-Xers Chris Hammons, Cece Taylor, and David Wright. Initially, Zeke was worried about being left with Michelle, the one Millennial he said he didn’t have any sort of bond with, while his potential allies were scattered amongst the other tribes. But he soon bonded with Chris, both men being from Oklahoma and Chris a former Sooners player (Zeke’s favorite football team). He also developed a connection with David over being similar, nerdy Survivor superfans. These relationships helped Zeke and Michelle survive their only post-swap tribal council, where CeCe was eliminated. These bonds also helped Zeke to gain a position of power which would set him up well for the merge.

At the merge, Zeke realigned with his “nerd voting bloc” consisting of Adam and Hannah, each sharing intel that they had from their post-swap tribes. Zeke also stayed close with Chris and David, with David even going so far as to tell Zeke about his hidden immunity idol. A Gen X/Millennial super alliance formed, putting the original core Millennial alliance of Michelle, Taylor Stocker, Jay Starrett and Will Wahl on the outs. Zeke overheard Jay and Taylor talking about voting for Adam and having Will on board. When Zeke informed Adam, it caused Adam to panic and want Will out. However, Will won immunity and kept himself safe. The target switched to Taylor, but David was worried that Taylor might have an idol (or that Jay would give him an idol), and so at tribal council, the alliance voted out Michelle.

The coalition between the nerdy Millennials and the Gen-Xers stayed tight at the next vote, splitting the votes and eliminating Taylor after he annoyed the tribe by stealing food. However, during this time fractures had started to develop in the Gen X alliance, as well as rising tension between Adam and the tribe over his secret advantage and paranoid strategizing. Everybody was itching to make a big move, half of the Gen-Xers wanted to take out Jessica Lewis, while the others saw Chris as a significant threat. Even though Zeke had a good bond with Chris, he also saw him as an influential leader and threat that needed taking out. Working together with David they formed a plan to blindside Chris at the next tribal council.

After Chris was eliminated, it set a precedent of taking out big threats and the biggest threats left on the board were Zeke and David. Rather than working together, the two men started plotting each other’s downfall, setting up their pieces for a future move. Zeke quickly approached Bret and Sunday after the Chris vote to let them know he still wanted to work with them. He also solidified his bond with Bret during a reward trip where Bret came out to Zeke. By getting to Bret and Sunday first, it gave him an advantage over David, who was also preparing to strike at Zeke. After Bret informed Zeke that David wanted him gone, it meant there was no turning back, the war between Zeke and David had truly begun. Zeke thought he had the numbers to take out David but Hannah, who had grown close to David, was being wishy-washy and not giving Zeke a straight answer. He knew that he’d lost Hannah and so instead turned the target onto her, thinking that David could play his idol.

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The battle between Zeke and David led to one of the craziest tribal councils of all time. Both alliances were unmoving. The votes were cast, David played his idol on Ken McNickle, five votes for Zeke, five votes for Hannah, we had a tie. The alliances bickered back and forth, Zeke promising an unsure Jessica that he would work with her if she flipped to vote out Hannah. But ultimately, both alliances stayed steadfast, meaning that the only way to solve the issue was a rock draw. Due to the tie vote, it meant that Zeke and Hannah had now automatically become safe. The remaining players drew rocks, with Jessica picking the unlucky black rock.

It was hard for Zeke to escape the target on his back after that point. He committed himself to the people that voted with him at the last tribal council, but Will was looking to pad his resume and saw Zeke as the perfect person to eliminate to earn some big moves credit. Zeke and his allies once again aimed their votes at Hannah, whilst David and his alliance were still gung-ho on taking out Zeke. It seemed for a moment that Zeke’s alliance would come out on top after Ken blew up Will’s spot, causing him to lose trust in David’s alliance. But the alliance had a backup plan in place should Will not vote with them – Adam played his hidden idol on Hannah, negating all votes against her. Not that it mattered, as Will did indeed flip and voted for Zeke, making Zeke the fifth member of the jury. In the end, Zeke voted for Adam to win, believing he best “evolved” the game.


Biggest Strength: Zeke’s biggest strength is his ability to find common connections with people and bond quickly. We saw him do it over and over in Millennials vs. Gen X, with Adam, Hannah, David, Chris, Bret and so on. It allowed him to play a fluid game, moving around to different sets of allies depending on what move he wanted to make.

Biggest Weakness: While Zeke is great at making quick bonds, it’s maintaining those relationships where he struggled the first time. He seemed to use people like pawns on a chess board for whatever his latest move was and then toss them aside when he no longer needed them. If he cultivated those relationships further and stuck by his allies longer, it could have served him better and not made him a target quite as soon as it did.

What he considered his mistake: Initially, in his Ponderosa video, Zeke said that voting out Chris was his “biggest mistake,” but in post-show interviews, he went back on that. Speaking to Josh Wigler at Parade, he said: “I actually will defend to the death the Chris vote. For me, my downfall is that Hannah flipped on me.”

Zeke is one of twenty returning castaways who will compete on Survivor: Game Changers which premieres March 8 on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more cast retrospectives and other pre-season content.

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

6 responses to “Zeke Smith Retrospective”

  1. Zeke was never one of my favorites. I feel he isn’t a game changer and is only being brought back because he is one of Jeff’s favorite players.

    • Couldn’t agree more. there’s just something about him, that I can’t quite put my finger on. There is some sort of arrogance and pandering to the camera that just rubs me the wrong way. Hey wait a second, maybe I did put my finger on it, after all.

      • Don’t forget: This guy jams his foot in his mouth quite often.

        See (1) The Mari boot where he BLABS the plan to the opposition and (2) his rather condescending manner when he tried to convince Will to his side during HIS own boot.

  2. Had he not been such a jerk with Bret toward David I’d be totally fine with him. He kinda ruined it in that one tribal.

  3. I’ve got to agree with the sentiment here and say that I’m not excited for Zeke to come back. I knew he was invited back when I was watching Millennials vs. Gen X and I kept waiting for him to do something that was so amazing and make me love him.. never really happened.

  4. Probably wouldn’t mind Zeke re-appearing on Survivor down the road, but he did not deserve the kudos that Jeff bestowed on him prior to the beginning of last season, and he certainly did nothing on the season to warrant an immediate return to the island. Nothing.

    If he is a “game changer” it is in the worse possible way: a meta-player who mugs for the camera and plays up his “character.” I’d be thrilled if he got voted off pre-jury. Two seasons in a row of Zeke is one season too many.

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