Hello, good people! Welcome to season 33 of the reality juggernaut, Survivor. Season 33 is one of the seasons not named after the location it was filmed in, but rather a theme designed by Production. This year's theme, in my most humble opinion, is not the best. It doesn't roll off the tongue and it seems pretty forced. The official title of this season is: Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. Not what I would have gone with, but I'll at least give it a shot before I completely poo-poo it.
Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X - Season Preview
By Jim Van Nest - Gen X'er
September 20, 2016
My concern about these types of themes is two-fold. First, they try to force every contestant into one of the preconceived groups, regardless of whether or not they actually fit (see Alecia on the Brawn tribe just last season.) Second, I feel like it's a rather lame attempt to create drama and an "us vs. them" mentality. That will manifest itself; it doesn't require a forced premise to up the possible conflict. The kind of stuff that bugs me about these forced themes - we have one person on the Millennials tribe who is 31 years old while one of the Gen X'ers is 33. Really? Is there going to be a major generation gap between them? Hopefully the theme won't last for too long and we can get back to Survivor: Survivor Edition where people just interact and conflict naturally without Jeff Probst constantly throwing a label on everyone.
Okay, enough ranting on the theme for now...I'm sure I'll hit it more in my recaps during the early part of the season. My plan is to do two preview columns for this season - one for each tribe. I'm going to make predictions as I always do and I want to remind everyone that everything I do is spoiler-free. So, I'll do my best to analyze the players by their bios and their Meet the Castaway videos. If the information is thin on a player or two, I may also check out some of the pre-game interviews done by Survivor columnist extraordinaire, Josh Wiggler. You can find his stuff over at Parade.com. All righty, with all of that out of the way - let's say we get to the frickin' preview!
We're going to start the preview with the Millennials Tribe. The Millennials will start the game wearing orange buffs. To keep my predictions a mystery (oooh), I'll list them in alphabetical order.
Adam Klein - Okay, so this is the first person I have to talk about? He can't be for real, right? Adam manages a homeless shelter. He enjoys board games and travel and he's playing this game in honor of his mother who has Stage 4 lung cancer. Oh, and did I mention that his grandmother survived frickin' Auschwitz?? His dream is to win the game and immediately hand the million dollar check to his mom. Seriously, I half expected him to mention that he fosters little homeless kitties and puppies. He compares himself to Spencer from Brains, Brawn Beauty 1 and Second Chance. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. While being wicked smart, Spencer was never able to really get past his shortcomings in the game.
I really can't get a read on how Adam will do. I think it will largely depend on how he comes across to his tribe. If he can come across to them as just a guy who does good things, instead of defining himself as such, he could forge a decent alliance. If he's rubbing in what he does, they'll likely consider him fake and dump him asap.
Hannah Shapiro - Ah, Hannah. I'm not 100% sure what to think of Hannah. Everything in her bio and video should come with a rim shot. I don't know if joking about everything is a defense mechanism or if she's trying to play a character. I have a feeling we'll find out right away. She relates to Cochran, but comes off as more Shirin. The difference between her and Shirin, though, is that I'm not sure she has the killer instinct Shirin has. Everything is a joke and she laughs a lot and talks a lot and I have a feeling that could get really annoying to everyone else on the beach. But, if she can come out and prove herself useful in challenges, like on the puzzle end, she could find her place in the game. While she compares herself to Cochran, I can also see a bit of Aubry in her. Aubry was able to be the fish out of water and turn it into a dominant game last season. Will Hannah be able to do the same? I'm thinking the potential is there, but I don't think she'll be able to pull it off. I'd wager she doesn't quite make the merge.
Jessica "Figgy" Figueroa - So we have 2 Jessica's in this cast, but lucky for us, this one goes by Figgy. Obviously, it's a play on the last name, but it's what she's been called since she was quite young. I think Figgy has a shot in this game. She's pretty, she has a great attitude and she's athletic. A captain of sports, if you will. She played four sports through high school and now boxes a few times a week as her workout. I don't think she'll wilt under the conditions and she has a very fun personality that seems like it'll draw people in. I can just see people wanting to align with her and wanting to go along with her plans. I don't know that Figgy will win the season, but she'll definitely make the merge and could go a long way with the right alliance and a couple of breaks.
Justin 'Jay' Starrett - Let's talk about Jay, shall we? First off, he's happy to inherit the "best man bun of the season" title from Joey Amazing and Malcolm before him. He's also our former bartender - we always have to have a bartender. A couple things jump out at me about his bio. First off, it looks like a frickin' job application. Well done! Second, apparently his mother has had some serious health issues that have required several brain surgeries. I'm starting to feel like a better theme for the season could be "Happy Christians" vs. "Health Crisis". Good lord. Everyone either wants to take me to church or makes me cry with horrible stories about the health of their mom! Anyway, Jay thinks he is really charming. He thinks he can manipulate people, and he thinks he'll have a stellar social game. Oh yeah, and he's very humble. Jay will probably do just fine and I'd expect him to do well in challenges. Can he win? I kinda don't think so, but I could see him making it pretty far.
Mari Takahashi - Ok, I'll just come out and say it. I like Mari - a lot. She is the oldest of the Millennials at 31, but she just might have the ultimate millennial job. Mari is a YouTube star and her forte is video games. That's right; she plays video games for a living and makes videos about them. Aside from that, she is a classically trained ballerina - which makes her a double threat come individual immunity time. She's a gamer, which means she solves puzzles and problems for a living. And prior to that, she practiced grace and balance on a regular basis. She will be able to kill any of the individual challenges, unless they require absolute brute strength, which they really don't anymore. Mari has a huge competitive streak and incredible hand eye coordination - you have to in order to play video games for a living. On the surface, she has all of the tools necessary to make it a long way in this game. She'll easily pirouette past the merge and could be poised for a deep run.
Michaela Bradshaw - Okay, Michaela seems like she might have a shot at making some noise here. She's in "vacation sales," which screams "timeshare" to me - so that had me not liking her right off the bat, but after listening to her talk, she definitely has her head in the right place. She has a work ethic instilled in her, and I think it can come in handy in this season. With everyone in this tribe being saddled with the "Millennial" tag, they may fall into those stereotypes of not working hard and just expecting good things to come. Well Michaela ain't about that. She doesn't feel entitled because of her age. She doesn't expect that because she's a Christian that God will just give her everything she needs. She knows He will provide for her, but she'll have to work for those provisions. I think that can be a great thing in Survivor. Where she may struggle is that she doesn't like to be instructed by incompetent people, when people do things wrong and she hates to lose because of someone else. Um, this is Survivor - you'll experience all of that within the first 48 hours. How Michaela handles those things may be the key to her life in this game.
Michelle Schubert - I don't exactly know what to think about Michelle. On one hand, she's a missionary recruiter who's inspiration in life is God. On the other hand, she has a big secret - a boyfriend. She doesn't plan to tell anyone that because she has every intention of playing the flirt game. I'm not exactly sure how those two things will work themselves out, but I really don't think "the flirt game" works anymore. Parvati has killed and buried that possibility a long time ago. You might be able to trick one doofus out of the cast, but that's about as far as you'll be able to get. Michelle's a very pretty girl and I'm sure in the outside world, that plan would work for her. But I see her as potentially being too transparent with her plans and she'll either be seen as the dreaded "playing too hard" or she'll just be shot down right out of the gate and be forced to regroup. So, if she doesn't have a backup plan, it could be a short ride for Michelle. The longer the tribes stay separated, the better off she'll be. If the tribes swap early and she gets mixed in with the Gen X'ers, she could be in some trouble.
Taylor Stocker - Ermehgerd! This dude is a piece of work. He embodies every single stereotype of a millennial. Snowboard instructor is his official game title, but he seems more like an "I'll do whatever will get me a brewski today" kinda guy. Dude lists Woo Huang as the Survivor he's most like. Um, yeah, I got nothing. I mean Drew Christy (Blood vs Water - he was "basically a bad-ass") looks at this dude like, "Wow man, you're a bit over the top." I'm sure Taylor will be helpful in challenges and probably around camp. I'm sure someone like Michelle will be all over him. I'm also sure that this dude has no shot to win. He might make the merge, but if he does, he's in line to be the classic merge boot. And again, that's if he makes it at all. He's just kind of annoying and a little full of himself and I don't think that will play well out on the island.
Will Wahl - Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to the new "youngest Survivor player ever," Will Wahl! Will is 18 years old and actually took off high school to participate in Survivor. Will also has the deepest voice of any player ever. He's a pretty religious kid who enjoys the outdoors. In any other season, I would say that Will will be in way over his head and would have no chance of winning this game. But, being on a tribe of younger people, he seems to have the work ethic that will make him invaluable around camp and he should be pretty solid in the team challenges. Will's downfall could end up being the ladies, though. I mean, he's 18 years old and hanging on a beach with some hot 20-somethings in bikinis. When I said that Michelle's flirt game won't work - this is the way it might work. If she can lure in the young kid, perhaps it could work for her. This would spell doom for Will, so he really has to focus on not following the ice cream scooper Erik storyline. Overall, though, I think Will has a shot to do some damage in this game and if he can manage to work his way in with the Gen X'ers when the tribes swap, he could be a threat to win.
Zeke Smith - Of the videos I've watched so far (and that's about 14) Zeke is hands down my favorite. The B-roll of the video is fantastic. He completely mocks the infamous, peeks around from the other side of a tree, he jumps into (and rolls around in) a big mud puddle and what he does in the ocean can only be described as "frolicking." He's witty, smart, an excellent debater, gay, has a sweet mustache and is guaranteed to have the most confessionals over the episodes he's fortunate enough to last through. Sadly for America, I don't think that will be many. I'd love to see Zeke make it to the end, because I think he'll provide tons of entertainment. I just don't see it in the cards for him. I don't think he makes the merge, and I'm not even sure he'll make the tribe swap. I could see him as an early boot for the Millennials if they lose some challenges early.
And there we are...the Millennials tribe for Survivor Season 33. While I kinda goofed on several of them, I actually can see them doing quite well this season. I'll make all my predictions after completing both tribe assessments, but right now, I'm leaning toward many of this tribe making the merge, which could spell trouble for the Gen X Tribe. Of this tribe, I definitely see Figgy making a splash. I think Will will make some noise and I think Mari might be the best of them all.
All righty kids, that will do it for me for today. Please check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X Preview where we're gonna party like it's 1987!!! Thanks for checking out this article, please feel free to reach out to me if you have any comments or complaints or just to say "Hi!". I'm on the Twitter: @vannestjc. 'Til next time, take care everybody!