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‘Survivor’ Recap: Snowflakes Versus Slackers!

Episode 1: Luckily, the contestants on ‘Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X’ are just as preposterously stereotypical as you’d imagine.


“Survivor” often partitions American society in obvious ways — old/young, white-collar/blue-collar, beautiful/smart and so on. You may remember that one season the tribes were divided by race. Why stop there? My suggestion would be to have “social conservatives versus progressives” or “gays versus evangelicals.” You can work your way to “Survivor: Polyamorous Cisgendered Bisexuals vs. Privileged Middle-Aged White Dudes,” and so on.

That’s gold right there, Jeff Probst.

As it stands, after every season finale of “Survivor,” I pledge to never watch this morally obtuse, bogus game-show masquerading as a social experiment ever again. And every season premiere, I find myself right here, waiting for it to start. This time, I was lured back by a somewhat intriguing premise, one that promised to pit coddled millennials against America’s greatest and most unappreciated generation, Gen X.

Judging from the first episode, “Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X” will gleefully stereotype both these massive, arbitrary generational groups, just as I’d hoped.

“My generation is about doing what we want to do,” explains a fluffheaded 20-something former bee-keeper and microbrewer, who is now, naturally, a snowboard instructor. Yes, the millennials mostly have eccentric vocations like barista and professional gamer, while the Gen Xers busy themselves with mostly useful jobs like police sergeants, lawyers, insurance adjusters, and mechanics.

After deriding the millennials for their sense of entitlement, the oldest contestant on the Gen-X squad tells Jeff that in his day (which I imagine was in the 1980s) people weren’t just handed things, they had to walk down to the store and buy milk themselves.  Oh.

Though millennials quickly justified their reputation with an half-built shelter that falls apart as soon as a few of players get in. The tribe is only saved when, for first time in “Survivor” history, teams were evacuated because of a cyclone. Then again, they do come back and win the immunity challenge. Millennials are good at games.

Like any other season, though, the first episode will likely be the least compelling. Viewers aren’t invested in any of the players. Alliances haven’t fully formed. The most intriguing part of first show is trying to figure out which tribe member is dumb enough to get himself voted off first.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Sure, sometimes the physically weakest person is booted first. Sure, on occasion, someone will be tossed for no justifiable reason. Yet it takes only a modicum of self-control to avoid this awkward fate.

Don’t, for example, be Napoleon. I can’t tell you how many times some blowhard decides the tribe needs his unique take-charge, go-getter leadership and puts himself on the chopping block. Be helpful. Don’t be lazy. Make friends (pairing up with an alliance early can often last the entire show). Don’t be a know-it-all.

For the most part contestants avoided this pitfall last night — though Gen-X male model dude was surely pushing it.

Also, make friends, but don’t bond too closely in the open. The “beautiful” people in the millennial’s tribe were lucky they didn’t drop the immunity challenge. Boston Rob — in my view, the Wayne Gretzky of “Survivor” — always made it his priority to break up cliques and couples for a reason. Couples are dangerous. I suspect the nerds will run the millennial tribe.

Also, never get caught searching for an immunity idol. And definitely never get caught searching for an immunity idol when your tribe is toiling in the jungle heat building a shelter. If your tribemates believe you have the idol, they’ll split the votes every time.

So what does neurotic, paranoid Gen-X David — a TV writer who is playing “Survivor” even though he is seriously un-athletic, hates nature, and struggles connecting with people — do? He panics, and starts searching for the idol in front of everyone.

Survivor contestants often talk to each other as if the show is a team-building exercise about loyalty rather than an individual competition that demands you lie to win a million dollars. David was strategizing far too early. And needlessly. It’s going to be tough for him to recover.

Gen-X Rachel, the first to go, should have known better, as well.

If there’s one life-lesson Gen-Xers can impart on society, it’s that you should always downplay expectations. If you over-perform, well then everyone is impressed. But don’t brag about your prowess — say, in swimming or with puzzles — because there’s a good chance another Gen-Xer will ask you to back it up. You’ve left no room for slacking.

So what does Rachel do? She boasts to the group about her fine puzzle skills, and in the process lets down an entire generation when she blows it in the immunity challenge.

Then again, Rachel probably had other problems. If a player has a grating personality, it’s sure to emerge sooner or later. Few contestants have the self-discipline to suppress it for more than a month. (Of course, being annoying can be a strength after the merge, when the dynamic changes and strong players are looking for unlikeable ones to drag to the final three. Think Abi Whatshername from a couple of seasons ago.)

Rachel couldn’t hold out for a day. She’s gone. Good riddance.

An interesting reveal in the first episode was the presence of the “Legacy Advantage,” which Jessica from the Gen-X tribe found. It bestows an unspecified advantage on her if she sticks around until Day 36. If she’s voted out before then, she has to will it to another player. An advantage like this is a weapon of revenge. Whoever she gives it to would immediately have a target on his back, although perhaps players will come up with a more creative way to use it. We’ll see.

Disclosure: If it wasn’t obvious for some reason, I’m a Gen-Xer.