After 32 seasons of castaways and cash, you would think Survivor has explored every twist and theme possible. But you’d be wrong – it only needs updating. For a show that has tackled divisions like working styles, hero/villain nature, gender and race, the 33rd season is dusting off an old chestnut and bringing it back to age. That’s right! During the premiere of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, the game is focusing on splitting the two tribes between older generation and newer.
This isn’t the first time Survivor has explored this type of theme. All the way back in 2005, Survivor: Panama – Exile Island divided the tribes based on age AND gender. Four tribes: older men, older women, younger men, and younger women. That season focused on exploring the differences of age and gender, and if that played a part in winning or not. Ultimately, a castaway from the younger men’s tribe won, but that season’s theme didn’t factor much into the winner’s choice or the castaway’s mentality. However, while watching Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, it seems the theme is right up front.
The “Gen X-ers” (as it were) seemed more grounded and established based on their editing; with some notable exceptions to the paranoid players. They were treated as older, experienced, and everything down to Jeff’s comments of them during the challenge. When he talked about their “bigger bodies” or choosing the advantages, he did nothing BUT highlight their differences. (We’ll come back to Jeff’s commentary later in the article.)
When it came to the “Millennial” players, they weren’t treated any differently when highlighting their generation. Some of the Millennials came across as vapid, careless and more interested in hanging out, dating or the experience than actually playing Survivor. Based on the generation definition and age gap for this season, I’m a Millennial. I wouldn’t have forgoed building the camp or getting the necessary survival stuff if a storm was coming. Anyone who watched even an episode of Survivor knows how important that is. With notable exceptions to a few who had a sense of the game (like Adam or Hannah), the game didn’t really hit them until the storm came.
Speaking of the storm, this marks the first time that Jeff and production had to remove the castaways temporarily from the game. We’ve seen torrential rainstorms in the past and they’ve broken down the players to weed out the weaker contestants. This is the first time where the weather proved to be a safety risk. Good on production for stepping in! Episode drama is one thing but safety is a must.
When the game restarted, we got the first look at the challenge. I’m not sure if these “shortcuts” (mechanisms to make an obstacle easier but that comes with a punishment later on – in this case, extra puzzle pieces for the last puzzle) will play a part throughout the season. Either way, the challenge was fun and a common staple for Survivor. (An obstacle course that ends with a puzzle…on Survivor? Groundbreaking.)
The only other thing of note during the challenge was Jeff’s commentary. He isn’t simply commenting about the game – he’s gone well passed that many seasons ago. He’s purposely calling people out. Whereas compared against Julie Chen of Big Brother, Jeff is TOO involved in the thick of things. For example, Rachel performed bad in the challenge. But Jeff didn’t have to throw some major shade from left field to call her out again near the end of the challenge and remind everyone how bad she did. Jeff has major power and people listen to him; if he alludes to something, you listen, especially at Tribal Council.
It wasn’t a big surprise to see Rachel get the first boot at Tribal Council. After her poor challenge performance, the Jeff comments, and her lack of powerful alliances, she was an easy elimination. Nothing could have saved her unless the tribe went after her ally CeCe or the paranoid mess, David.
The premiere episode was a good start for what looks to be an interesting season. Will the Millennials band together to prove the Gen X-ers wrong or can the Gen X-ers take back the lead? Which new twist will affect the game next? That is left to be seen. It’s still in the early phase and I can feel a blindside vote coming real soon.