‘Survivor’ season 33 premiere recap: May the best generation win
America's favorite reality television competition is back at it again and, after 32 seasons, the producers have chosen an intriguing theme: pitting generations against one another in what can only be described as a culture war. Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X could be one of the most exciting seasons yet. At least, fans are hoping so.
In the 90-minute season premiere, we were finally introduced to this season's castaways — a fine looking group of twenty people ready to give up their internet access and luxury comforts for the chance of winning $1 million. The battleground for this generation war? Fiji.
Less than 10 minutes on the island and the game had already begun. Generation X (ages 33-52) started out with fighting words towards the younger Millennial team (ages 18-31) lashing out with every and any stereotype they could think of. The Millennial tribe quickly defended themselves — but as seasoned Survivor viewers know, only time will tell which generation is better suited for the game.
After being sorted into their age-based tribes, host Jeff Probst sends the groups off on their first trial together: Collecting all the supplies they can in two minutes. Of course, nothing is ever that easy on Survivor. In order to explore how the groups will communicate and make decisions, Probst tells the competitors that they will have to chose one of two items presented to them in pairs: a hammer or pots and utensils, and chickens or fishing gear.
While the Gen X team immediately scrambles to grab as many supplies as they can, the Millennial tribe makes vital group decisions together. Both tribes choose pots and utensils, but when it came down to food, the Gen Xers choose to play the long-term game by selecting the fishing gear, while the millennials choose the chickens.
When asked why they chose the chickens over the fishing gear, with true millennial sarcasm, they respond "Because, chickens lay eggs, Jeff." Touché.
And we can't forget the hidden envelope Gen X member Jessica Lewis grabs. Hidden away from the rest of the tribe, she later reveals the envelope to be a "legacy advantage" which she can use on day 36 if she is still in the game. If voted out prior to that day, she can bequeath it to someone else.
Meet the millennials.
Marooned on an island for less than 24 hours, the Millennial team seems to be ill-equipped to handle large scale group projects together. The group, including a high school student, snowboard instructor, and a professional gamer, seem too focused on bonding and swimming to really care enough to build a shelter — a flaw that proves to bite them in their so-labeled "entitled" butts come nighttime.
During what the show calls "the longest night," the Millennial tribe, Vanua, suffers through a tropical storm, huddling beneath large palm leaves and searching for any sort of shelter from the rain and brutal winds.
Increasingly, it becomes obvious that the Millennial tribe is breaking into two groups: the cool kids versus the misfits. As competitor Hannah Shapiro states early on, it's "kappa kappa survivor" versus the "freaks and geeks." So right now it's all about breaking down the alliance between the popular kids and bringing together the misfits.
Yet the millennials believe their ability to see things in a different way and desire to prove misconceptions about their generation wrong will ultimately help them unite as a tribe to become the best Survivor team ever.
Plus, there's a budding romance between blue-eyed stud Taylor Lee Stocker and Jessica "Figgy" Figueroa happening. Or is it between Taylor and Michelle? Or Michelle and Justin "Jay" Starrett? Who knows? But we smell a millennial love triangle about to happen, and it's going to be good.
Meet Gen X.
There's a whole lot of testosterone over at the Gen X camp. They've got a police sergeant, a boat mechanic and a trial lawyer seemingly making all the vital decisions. While the tribe might be bonding over thinking millennials are a troupe of participation-trophy collectors, the Gen Xers don't seem to be vibing very well. Of course, they all believe their hard work, good "core values" and sound decision-making will help them defeat their youthful counterparts.
Who knows how the season will play out, but our money is on Ken McNickle — and no, it's not just because of his incredibly chiseled model physique. The guy keeps cool under pressure, he's lived in the Hawaiian wilderness for several years and he calmly let a stick bug walk all over him without freaking out. He's definitely going to win.
Back to the tribe: Armed with purple buffs that identify them as the Takali tribe, the Gen Xers are able to pull together a rudimentary shelter to help somewhat protect them from the sheets of rain falling on them. They survive the night only to find tree mail waiting for them in the morning. Both tribes receive the same package: a tarp.
Never before in the history of Survivor have tribes been given tarps to help them protect against the rain, so you know things are bad. Alas, suspicions are confirmed when everyone's favorite host comes bounding towards them with alarming news: The tropical storm headed towards the island has been upgraded to a cyclone.
Therefore, everyone needs to be evacuated. Now, that doesn't seem like a big deal, but in 32 seasons of the show, they have never needed to evacuate the contestants.
Thankfully, the producers make the right call. Upon returning to the camp, the Gen Xers find an extraordinarily large tree that has fallen directly on top of their camp. Evacuating the camp helps thwart potentially life-threatening injuries (and one or two lawsuits, probably).
In the first immunity challenge of the season, teams will compete for fire, in the form of flint, and an immunity idol, which will protect them from tribal council. The losing team, unfortunately, will be forced to vote someone off the island.
The challenge is composed of four parts. The first is to crawl through a web of strings to untie an individual club for each tribe member (10 per team). Second, the tribe must make their way through a tunnel filled with crossed strings. Then they must cross a balance beam, and finally, they must complete a puzzle.
It seems easy enough — but easy isn't what Survivor is about. Teams may choose to use a shortcut on each of the obstacles (the tunnel and the balance beam). The catch? If they choose a shortcut, they must complete a harder version of the puzzle. If a tribe uses no shortcuts, they complete a 50-piece puzzle. If a tribe uses one shortcut, they complete a 60-piece puzzle, and if a tribe uses both shortcuts, they must complete a 70-piece puzzle.
The tribes start off neck-and-neck — Gen Xer Chris Hammons strategizing his tribe's potential victory by blocking two millennials from reaching their clubs. With a tiny lead, Gen X chooses to use both their shortcuts to fly through the first challenges. They begin to work on their 70-piece puzzle while the millennials work to complete their first task. Once they complete it, the Millennial tribe opts to use the shortcut for the second obstacle and begins working on the 60-piece puzzle.
The Gen Xers seriously struggle with this. In almost no time at all, they lose their lead, practically handing the win to the millennials. With 10 fewer pieces in their puzzle, the millennials pull out their first victory, sending a signal to Generation X that they're here to win.
Back at camp
It's apparent that after the failed challenge that either David Wright or Rachel Ako will be the first survivor to be eliminated. David — described by tribemates as paranoid and having less testosterone than "the girls back at camp" — is well aware that his name could be called at the tribunal.
He'd previously been scouring the camp for a hidden immunity idol instead of helping build a shelter, so he does the only logical thing: beg and plead for an alliance to not vote him out. Unfortunately for him, most people think he has the immunity idol, and they desperately want to get rid of it.
Meanwhile, Rachel has absolutely no idea that she's pissed people off. Utterly clueless, she begins to ask around for the name of the likely eliminee — only to come up empty. Things are not looking good for her. She completely botched the puzzle during the competition, ultimately losing the Gen X tribe their hefty lead over the millennials.
Ah, everyone's favorite tribunal. The torches have been lit and the interrogation has begun. Jeff starts the tribal counsel by noting that these have been the roughest first days in Survivor history. The proof? Poor Jessica has a bacterial infection from sand blowing in her eyes while they were evacuating the beach. Not a fun way to start a 39-day competition.
As the questioning continues, it becomes apparent that the heat is on David, whose tribe members agree is terrified of literally everything. Thankfully, he owns up to it, fully aware that his head is on the chopping block.
At long last, it's time to find out who will be the first person to leave season 33. The first vote? David. The second? Rachel. It looks like the two slated to leave will battle it out – but then Sunday's and CeCe's names are both called. It's anyone's game. After a full 30 seconds of torture, it is revealed that Rachel is in fact the first one whose torch must be extinguished. Her tribe has spoken.
Post-tribunal, David's still in the game — but how much longer will he last? And, who the hell voted for CeCe anyways? Girl hasn't even gotten any air time and people are writing her name down?
Will the millennials be able to overcome the entitled, lazy stereotypes so many have plastered them with? Will Taylor and Figgy hook up? Does David really have a hidden immunity idol? And most importantly, what in the world happened to those chickens?
Two generations with vastly different approaches to life facing off means this season of Survivor is shaping up to be the best one yet. With 19 people left, there's no telling what will happen in the coming weeks. The games have started and all that's left to say is: May the best generation win.
The next episode of Survivor airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.