The Characters and Their Stories is a blog in which Michel Trudeau uses the edit to determine the themes of the season to try to find its long-term players. Each week, he will explores the overt signs as well as the more nuanced nods.
The Characters and Their Stories-Survivor 33: Episode 12
Previously on Survivor
Jessica picked the black rock and gave her legacy advantage to Ken.
What kind of recrap was that?! Did they forget that we had two hours to cover? I guess it makes my job easier as far as transcribing goes, but how can this help us get insight into the way the story was spun?
A Showdown of Millennials
Vinaka Night 30
The bat and the moon, which both appear to be associated with Jay, were seen when the tribe returned to camp. However, the moon was in its last crescent.
Hannah’s confessional: “Tonight was very emotional. People picked a rock rather than vote me out of this game and then to have Jessica pick the black rock– it’s an awful feeling. I feel guilty and I feel thankful and I just feel awful.”
Sunday and David comforted Hannah, saying they all took the gamble.
David’ shared his thoughts: “I’m really angry at myself. I burned my idol for no reason and now I find myself in a minority with Hannah, Ken and Adam. I need to find some cracks somewhere otherwise the five is going to pick up us off one by one starting with me.”
On the other side, Zeke was thanking his group, saying he never had friends doing something like that for him. Jay, Bret and Will all said they were with him. Jay went on to say that David should go “freaking home” as he forcefully put it. They agreed to be the Final Five and to eliminate them one by one.
An elated Zeke gave an interview: “Tribal Council was amazing. I loved it; I loved it. I felt like a warrior. This vote was all about David and I going to war against each other and I definitely won the battle. I’m trying very hard not to be too excited but I’m feeling like I’m going to the Final Five. I think I can win this game and I’m just as happy that I could win this game as I am that David is going to lose it.”
That arrogance really doomed Zeke. We can seriously consider the possibility that the opposite will happen. As upset as Zeke is to have lost the game, maybe he will be even more upset to see David winning it. We also saw Jay overcome with anger when diplomacy would have worked better. At least, he didn’t turn that anger on his rivals and he would show much more diplomacy before long.
Vinaka Day 31
Ken read his advantage note: “I received a gift this morning: In my bag I got this. Jess told me that she’d give me the advantage if she got voted out and she did. There is something to be said about the power of authentic and genuine relationships in this game. Day 36, if I’m still here, I’m going to open this up and see what it brings me because I feel I have a really good shot to give my daughter and I a new life, a better life, and maybe walk away with a million dollars.”
There is certainly a disconnection between this side of Ken and the side we will see later. His gratitude to Jessica and his devotion to his daughter are admirable but what will come next is completely different. It could be that we heard the part of playing for his daughter to highlight the fact that he didn’t even ask about her when he saw his brother. Is Ken as genuine as he thinks he is? It soon won’t look like it.
Reward Challenge – The Loved Ones Visit
Have they ever done it with 9 players left in the game? It usually occurs with 6 or fewer but I haven’t checked to see if this is really the first time with so many visitors. It’s certainly unusual. During the introductions, the camera focused naturally on Adam but also on Jay and David. David was standing next to Adam while Jay would eventually win it so we don’t have to look far to explain the editors’ choices.
Sunday saw her husband. She said it felt great to have someone that makes you feel like you are not alone.
Bret’s dad came to join him. Bret said his dad was the greatest guy and it made him cry even if he had promised he wouldn’t. Adam and David jokingly called him a loser.
We can say the same but for other reasons.
Jay had a visit from his sister, Melanie. He told Jeff that she was one half of his heart while his mother was the other half.
That’s a confirmation of his earlier confessional.
Hannah’s mom raced to join her daughter who was the one that had to comfort her. Hannah said her mom beat cancer and was her hero which made Adam cry.
Adam’s brother came out and we heard Adam’s confessional: “My mom has stage four lung cancer and I don’t know what’s going on with my mom. I don’t know what’s going on at home.” Evan told Adam that their mom was okay.
To the group, Adam said he couldn’t use his advantage; he couldn’t deprive someone of their loved one’s visit.
David spent a moment with his dad. David said he wanted to make his dad proud and he wanted to walk out of the game as fearless as his dad is.
Ken spent a moment with his brother who was his idol growing up and was now his best friend.
Zeke also saw his dad and it was the dad who said his son was his hero. Zeke said they had been apart for a while but had gotten to know each other in the last few years.
Will saw his mom but Jeff didn’t even comment.
Jay won the reward and he chose Will, Sunday and Adam to join him.
He picked Will because he promised him from day 1 while Sunday also made a deal with him. Picking Adam was to thank him for not stealing the reward even if they had been brawling the whole time.
For some reason, we saw Ken silently pleading with Jay to pick him even if he really had no reason to expect Jay would choose him. It didn’t make Ken look good. It must be noted that no one blamed Jay for his choices. His explanations were completely accepted as far as we saw. The absence of negative comments is extremely rare when it comes to the winner of this particular reward.
Jay’s interview: “This whole time Adam had an advantage to take away a reward but when he walked out there and said: “I’m not stealing a family visit because that’s not right”. For five seconds we saw the soft side of Adam so I was like: Yo! sometimes I hate you; sometimes I love you, but at this moment, I truly respect you and you’re a cool dude.”
Adam and his brother sat alone in the jungle so that Evan could give news about their mother.
Evan: “Nothing can really lighten the load back at home but me and my parents love Survivor as much as Adam does so having him out here is such a boon for us. It drives me and my parents forward especially my mom who is gaining so much strength knowing he’s out here.”
Adam: “I’m here to bring joy to my family, to make them proud and to give them as much to look forward to as humanly possible. The better I do in this game, the longer I last, the more I make my mom happy. I have to stay focused and I have to use this as inspiration to continue fighting out here.”
To thank Jay, Adam gave him his advantage, no strings attached because he had what he wanted.
Adam’s confessional concluded: “I’m playing for so much more than the million dollars and the title of Sole Survivor. The stakes for me are maybe higher than for anyone who has played this game.”
This turn of events gives Adam a “Player on a Journey” type of edit. Yes, he wants to win for his mother but it’s not really about the title or the money at this point– it’s about positive energy and moments to share when he gets back home. As a side note, we didn’t hear from Will and Sunday at all during this time. It was only about Jay and Adam.
Vinaka Day 33
David noticed that Jay, Zeke, Bret and Sunday were huddled near the ocean.
Will’s Interview: “Seeing my mom made me realize that I need to start playing this game because, despite the moves I’ve made, despite the things that I’ve done in this game, people still don’t give me credit I deserve and that could ruin my shot at winning this game. It’s time to flip the script: The biggest threat out here is Zeke. And if he gets to the end, he will beat anyone of us. It is very risky but I didn’t come here to be dragged as a goat. I came here to play.”
He certainly read the situation correctly because no one in the audience gives him credit. Maybe if he hadn’t sat out of so many challenges or done so poorly in all but one in which he participated, maybe if he had actually explained his plans or followed up on some strategic ideas, or maybe if he had done things in camp then we could give him some credit but the only thing he’s done is following along and ratting people out which isn’t very commendable.
To David, Will said he was ready to play hard so he wanted to eliminate Zeke.
David’s confessional: “Will telling me that he wants to swing over to our side was music to my ears. Right now, I am an endangered species but I think Will is telling the truth so there’s a really good chance that Zeke is going home tonight.”
Usually, putting a target on someone just before the immunity challenge is a giveaway that the person won’t be leaving so I liked the editing curve ball. It must be noted however that David was wrong about the mechanics of Zeke’s elimination: Will’s vote wouldn’t even be needed.
The Immunity Challenge
We saw David’s happy reaction when Zeke dropped out of the challenge.
Adam beat Ken and Jay to claim the necklace.
Will’s interview: “Zeke lost the challenge so this is my moment; this my time to make a big move so that people realize that this 18-year-old kid from Jersey is here to play.”
It’s funny that the kiss-of-death confessional was given to Will. Zeke did leave but Will’s vote was meaningless. In a sense, this confessional was a kiss-of-death because Will’s game would soon be shredded to pieces. Will should have said that he came to be played because he was about to have a taste of some medicine for grown-ups.
Vinaka – Showdown
Adam’s confessional: “The immunity challenge was awesome. I’m making my Survivor dreams come true. I only have one checkbox left and that’s winning this game. It might actually happen because I am safe at Tribal Council tonight and I have an immunity idol in my pocket and Will wants to make a move and blindside Zeke.”
Why did we see Jay when Adam mentioned he only had 1 checkbox left? Was it to tell us that Jay will put an end to Adam’s dream? Adam wanted to eliminate Jay desperately but he’s forgotten about that so maybe this was to remind us he will regret it. He can no longer count on the hidden idol and he’s certainly not going to get help from Will so his recipe for success needs to change.
David’s interview: “I no longer have a hidden immunity idol so I’m incredibly vulnerable and it’s like Will just got his driver’s licence and we’re all sitting in the back terrified because this is the first time he is going to take us for a drive. But, I think it’s going to work.”
Jay was the first to notice that something was wrong because David was much too calm.
Zeke told us that there was something amiss at the Vinaka camp. He said: “It does not make sense that the four should be as calm as they are.” Since David had a nose for idols, Zeke wanted to throw someone else under the bus. They decided to go for Ken.
Ken and Will took a walk along the beach. Ken asked how Will was doing with both sides tugging at him. The teenager said the other side just told him how to vote and took him for granted. Ken said that before he decides to talk strategy with someone, he needs to understand that person.
Ken’s interview: “I had a pretty good feeling about Will but it wasn’t a hundred percent. I don’t just have a five minute conversation and then just hop in bed with somebody. I got to know the core of a person, their integrity, their values because I’m trying to win for my little girl and I want to make sure that I’m safe.”
Will’s thoughts: “Working with Ken is like getting your finger and toe nails ripped out at the same time. It’s excruciating but I want to make a big move so I have to deal with that crap.”
Will told Ken that the Zeke’s side was writing his name. Ken said he couldn’t understand that.
Really? Did he think that no one would ever think of writing his name? This is another example of Ken’s incredible naïveté about this game.
Ken’s interview: “Apparently, Zeke and his group are voting for me and I’m like why? I’m not ready to go home.”
He’s been playing this game for over a month yet he thinks people leave only when they’re ready?!
Getting back in camp, Ken asked Jay to help him get a big piece of driftwood. Will understood what that meant.
Will’s confessional: “I’m thinking we’re good to go then Ken walks back into camp, gets Jay and says we need to talk. At this moment, I know we’re going to have a rumble.”
Ken told Jay that he had a talk with Will who revealed Jay’s voting decision. Jay was in shock.
Now we see Ken’s hypocrisy in full display. He is doing to Will exactly what Jessica did to him when she ratted his plan to Lucy. He hated Jessica so much for her betrayal that he voted against her. He thinks that everyone should believe him at face value but he doesn’t believe anyone until he drills them to the core.
Jay’s interview: “One minute the solid five is good to go: We are doing Ken. The next minute I have Ken come up to me and say: “Will told me that you are writing my name.” I’m like: What the F…”
Ken, Jay and Zeke confronted Will who understood that the Gen Xer was blowing up his game. Will told Jay, Zeke and Bret that he never gets credit for any moves so how could he win in the end?
Realizing that he wasn’t part of the discussion anymore, Ken simply walked away.
Jay’s interview: “We all knew something was up. He’s just a young kid trying to prove himself to the whole world but I still need him.”
Jay asked Will to name his target and that he had been with him from the start. He pleaded with him to wait for Final Five to figure it out between them.
It’s interesting that Jay was the one that said he still needed Will. He would also be the one that would make the last plea to Will during Tribal Council but to no avail. Is Jay doomed now that he lost Will or is it simply another obstacle on his road to the end? I think that even if jay lost Will for this vote, it was more important for his chances that Zeke was removed from the game. It will force Jay to find a new road to the end but he’s shown he could do it already.
Back in camp, Ken told his group that he tested Will. Everyone but Ken knew that it was a bad idea.
Adam’s interview: “We have this plan and Ken “tests” Will, revealing Will’s plan. That’s not a test, that’s a betrayal.”
Will’s interview: “This guy preaches about honor and integrity and that he is this great and noble human being with his arrogance and his extreme ego and then he has the audacity to pull this crap on me.”
Hanna knew that Will had no incentive to vote with them anymore.
Hannah’s interview: “Ken just screwed up everything because if we do not have Will, whoever that alliance led by mobster Zeke wants to vote out; they are going home.”
The five decided to vote Hannah because they felt David would give his idol to Ken. Sunday said no one would expect it to be Hannah so they should vote against her.
They had just voted against Hannah, so of course, they would expect it to happen again. Zeke’s group simply outwitted themselves. Sometimes a chess player goes for a big Queen sacrifice but doesn’t notice that his opponent had a way around it. Like every football coach teaches running backs: Make one fake then plant your foot and turn the jets straight downfield. When you dance around in the backfield you usually get tackled for a loss. They had used a fake in the previous Tribal Council so it wasn’t time to dance around: It was time to go after Ken. That would have been the unexpected move and it probably would have kept Will in the fold.
David thought it would be him while Hannah was sure it was her again.
Will had the last interview of the evening: “Everybody knows that I’m in the middle. Now I have to make a decision. The logical side of me is telling me: This is my time to make a big move. But I am so angry with Ken; I would love to blow up his game. Either way, I am in control and there is nothing anyone can do about it.”
Well, Adam would soon prove him wrong!
David said there were two sides vying for a single swing vote.
Sunday told Jeff about the two factions and that Will was appropriately sitting in the middle.
I’m always fascinated to see production forcing the players to follow their script. Sunday knew that Will and everyone else had been told where to sit so she wasn’t telling Jeff anything he didn’t already know.
Will told Jeff he wanted to blindside Zeke but that Ken blew it up by telling everyone about it.
Sunday explained that Will wanted to play hard, but when she added that Will had been swayed by the other side, it irritated Will.
Will wanted to clarify that he hadn’t been swayed; he was the one that went to the other side. He added that he wanted to be treated like an adult.
Zeke said that he always wanted to play with Will and he had protected him. When Adam intervened to point out that Zeke used the word protection as if Will needed it, Zeke explained that Will saved his ass at the last tribal council and could save him again.
Jay said he never looked down on Will and that their made moves were made together including taking out Michaela.
David said Will was trying to build a résumé for the Final Tribal Council.
Bret said the other side would build Will up then vote him out.
Adam said their side was an equal partnership.
Will didn’t buy that: Five people couldn’t take credit for one move.
Hannah said the other side was fluffing Will, telling him that they would work with him.
Jay disagreed and told Will he had to vote with his gut.
Will said that Jay was the one person that always showed him respect.
It was time to vote.
When Jeff went to tally the votes, Hannah told her side that she was about to go home.
Adam played his immunity idol on Hannah.
While we saw David and Hannah’s surprise, we didn’t really see any reactions from the jury except for one quick look of surprise from Jessica. Usually when we have an unexpected move, we see all the members of the jury reacting. Could this be telling us that the jury’s reaction wasn’t important because they wouldn’t have to judge Adam down the road?
On another note, I wonder why Jay didn’t play his idol since he knew all their votes were on Hannah. He knew that the other side’s plan was to vote out Zeke so he could have used the idol on his new ally or he could have felt in danger and used it for his own protection. It took nerves of steel to sit there waiting for Jeff to reveal the first ballot that didn’t read “Hannah”.
Zeke’s flame was snuffed when all votes on Hannah were cancelled. He told everyone that it had been an honor to play with them all.
Jeff: “The thing about big moves: They are great unless you are the one that gets punched. With eight people left there are a lot of knock-outs still to come. Everybody needs to have their gloves up.”
Will wanted to make a big move but Adam clearly beat him to the punch. The story of this episode was really about the Millennials’ showdown. Even if David and Ken played significant roles, they were completely overshadowed by Hannah, Will, Jay and Adam.
There are two likely combinations for the Final 4: The first would see David, Ken, Hannah and Adam sticking together. The second possibility would be to have the Ikabula Four making it to the end but with Sunday and Bret being the other two seashells next to Will and Jay. But there is another much more intriguing possibility which would see a reunion of Adam and Jay now that the family visit served as catharsis. Who would be the other two joining them? Bret and Sunday have been enjoying the ride up to now so why not them?
The Failing Players
Sunday: While we saw her excellent social game when she comforted a distraught Hannah once they got back to camp after the rock draw, Sunday doesn’t have the personal or the strategic content to be considered a possible winner. She’s undoubtedly a nice person and she is playing the game in her own way but she is completely overshadowed by her fellow castaways.
(On the other hand, she’s done much more than last season’s winner so who knows?! Just counting how often she had to survive pre-merger Tribal Councils should quiet all who were offended by that remark).
Bret: Much the same could be said about Bret but, even worse, he has dropped all the social niceties that got him further in the game than his buddy Chris. Now, he is clearly opposed to David and Ken and the gloves are off. However, he spent so much time on the periphery of the action that he isn’t the one wearing those gloves, he’s the one handing them over and tying them on the hands of the real fighters. He’s a corner man.
Will: He wanted to play hard but, slight distinction, he was played hard! First by Ken who blew up his game and then by Adam who thwarted his attempt at a big move. Despite what he claims, Will is a kid playing a game made for grownups.
Ken: His supporters were saying that he’d soon get a breakthrough episode and he certainly had one except the only thing that broke was his image. He started out nicely when he got the advantage from Jessica but then we had the reward and for some reason, Ken thought that Jay HAD to pick him. He never even tried to build a relationship with Jay so why would Jay give him a place at the table? Did production order the players to act this way much like studio audiences are asked to react on cue? I certainly hope so because otherwise the only words that come to mind to explain Ken’s behavior are entitlement and selfishness. Choose the one you prefer.
From there it only got worse because he turned into one of the worst hypocrites we’ve ever seen. He had been so angry at Jessica for not taking him at face value that he tried to eliminate her from the game. However, Ken found himself in the same situation as Jessica when Will, now playing Ken’s part, told him that the alliance was gunning for him. His first reaction could again only be explained by either entitlement or naiveté. He was dumbfounded at the mere thought that the opposing alliance could target him of all people. Why me? he asked. Why not you? I would have answered. But it got worse when he decided to “TEST” Will as Adam brilliantly, bitingly put it. Worse than Jessica who quietly asked Lucy how she was going to vote, Ken confronted Will in front of Jay, Bret and Zeke. Will had every reason to be furious and Ken should have been their target. Everyone on Ken’s side immediately saw the enormity of Ken’s mistake except Ken.
Hannah: Maybe she still has a small chance to win but she’s on the wrong side to do so. She could possibly win in a Final 3 with people like Will, Bret or Sunday but not with David and Adam and while I’d vote for her over Ken, I doubt the majority of players would do so. She’s extremely lucky to still be in the game because she had no reason to expect that level of loyalty from Jessica and David at the previous Tribal Council and she certainly didn’t expect to see Adam use his idol to save her this time. However, despite all that luck, she could build her case around the awareness she demonstrated before those votes and the stoic demeanor she had during the votes. Far from the girl that was prone to panic attacks, she took those close calls in stride and that is all to her merit. I don think it’s enough to be respected as a real player though so she’d need to be up against players with even less to show.
David: A Final Four with Ken, Adam and Hannah looks very possible and David would then be in an excellent position to win it all. His edit has made him a very popular player and his win would satisfy a large portion of the audience. However, we heard that he was counting on Will but that proved to be a wrong decision. When he realized his mistake, he thought the votes would go against him. That would have been disastrous if he had been able to convince Adam to play the idol for him. His chess game was strictly against Zeke so what is left now someone else beat his opponent?
David does have a nice story: He doesn’t want to give up so that he can walk out of the game a better man. However, we can say that he’s already done that if we compare “Day 33 David” to the frightened man that entered the game. He doesn’t need to be the Sole Survivor to reach his goal. David’s main problem is that his story is mostly about the journey.
Adam: This contender had a rough road to get to this point. His game was so bad that even his closest allies at the time called him the worse teammate ever and considered removing him from the game. That means Zeke and Hannah considered he was less reliable than people like Chet, Shambo, Na’Onka, Abi-Maria and the rest! Ole, maybe they didn’t consider these particular players and were exaggerating but just to be associated with such a group shows how bad Adam played the middle section of this game.
Despite this, Adam has shown amazing adaptability lately. The reward advantage could have been a poisoned gift but the way he refused to use it was brilliant social strategy. Did it simply hit him that he couldn’t be that selfish when he saw all the relatives or did he plan it all along? Imagine if, from the start, he realized that using this twist was suicidal so he told the least reliable person that he was going to steal the family visit only to earn respect by doing the opposite. Then he could earn even more respect by giving the poisoned gift to his rival! No, I don’t think Adam is that devious, but still, he improvised admirably well.
The main problem with Adam is that there are big holes in his story. He was Zeke’s closest friend but we never heard why he turned on him. We heard Hannah’s reasons: Zeke was condescending and acted like a mobster so she wanted to go with David who was a lot like her. From Adam, all we heard was that he was following Hannah even if she made him nervous. He knew that path was leading them to rocks and he hadn’t burned his bridges with Zeke the way she did so it would have been wise to avoid that mess by voting with Zeke’s group. Was it simply because he couldn’t stand Jay? Did his time in Takali with Ken and Jessica make him realize he didn’t need Zeke? Those were probably good reasons, but we never heard those reasons from him. Following the nervous Hannah isn’t typical winning strategy.
On the other hand, the episode’s last drama was shown as if Adam was saving his alliance when he actually wasted his idol because Will did vote against Zeke. Maybe that’s why we didn’t see reactions from the jury because they will soon learn that the idol play was meaningless. If that move was going to score big points with the jury, we would have seen them sitting on the edge of their seats with eyes wide open. Instead, we only very briefly saw Jessica’s surprise. We can even imagine that her surprise wasn’t because she was happy to see her former allies striking back but wondering why Adam didn’t play his idol for Hannah the last time. If we go by Hannah and David’s reaction to Adam’s play then we have to say he put a big move on his résumé but if we go by jury reaction and add Will’s vote revealed at the very end of the episode then there isn’t much left to show for that big move except a wasted idol.
Jay: He entered the merger as the main target for the alliance of nine yet he managed to align with three of those nine, he got two of them voted out, and now he is the only person left with a hidden immunity idol. When this episode started, he really only had one “mortal” enemy left in the game but by giving Adam a chance to spend time with his brother he removed the imminence of that threat. He may even be able to use that gesture to gain a new ally. Wouldn’t that be an exceptional tactical move?
Like David, Adam and Ken, Jay told us why he needed to win this game. Unlike David, it isn’t about personal growth. It isn’t about emotional support like it is for Adam. It isn’t warped by hypocrisy like it is with Ken. The reason for Jay’s quest was confirmed when we met his sister Melanie. While his edit at times has been questionable, he seems to fit the themes of this story better than the others. He has never actually taken control of the game: His move against Michaela was to prevent her from taking that control instead of gaining it himself. Even if he saw himself as the Kingpin, he never acted as such. His quote was I’m the Kingpin and no one knows about it. That fits better than everyone saying that Zeke and David were in control. He has played according to the values of his generation instead of rejecting them like Zeke but without going overboard like Taylor. He has been able to bridge the gap between himself and some members of the other generation. Mostly, he was targeted by the game’s biggest players but he has survived very efficiently up to now. Can he make it to the end? It won’t be easy but I think he will.
Please note that I edited this blog when Rob pointed out to me that Will voted against Zeke. I apologize for the confusion that my mometary lack of attention caused. That difference makes Adam an even stronger contender but I’ll stick with Jay for the reasons noted above.
For the complete schedule of Survivor blogs: RHAP Survivor Blog Schedule.