Survivor finale December 2016 recap: Who wins season 33, 'Millennials vs. Gen X'?


Come on in, guys! Wanna find out who wins Survivor season 33? Wanna know what's coming up next for season 34? It's time for the two-hour season finale of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, and host Jeff Probst and the cast are live at CBS's studios to take us through the episode. 

It's been an unexpectedly entertaining season, given its cringeworthy premise: "a battle of clashing cultures" that became a cohesive group of Survivor superfans and tough mental players with a lot in common despite varying ages. 

Read my predictions here, then read on to find out who goes home and who wins the million. 

Let's catch up. The remaining contenders are David Wright, the anxious, paranoid Gen X-er with a strong alliance; his tribe-mate Ken McNickle, a single dad and model; Hannah Shapiro, the lovable weirdo millennial; Gen X-er Bret LaBelle, the secretly gay police sergeant; Justin "Jay" Starrett, the millennial bro with a few good friends on the jury; and millennial Adam Klein, the strategic scrambler with a secret: At tribal council, he'll likely reveal that his mom is dying of stage 4 lung cancer. 

As the episode opens, Bret says, "We have to vote them out," meaning Jay and David. We've seen this dance before: They talk about how much of a threat David is, but they don't do anything about it — and vote out the goats instead.

In last week's episode, they ignored the obvious threats to win (David, Adam, Jay) and voted out Will Wahl and Sunday Burquest instead. We'll see how that shakes out tonight. Everyone's saying David is dangerous. Will they actually come for him tonight, or let him coast all the way to the end? 

David decides to create a little chaos. He builds a fake immunity idol out of beads and shells, assuming no real idols are left (he's already found two). 

Jay goes for a walk, trailed by David and Ken, and he spots a coconut with a pink mark on it — the fake idol David made. Jay runs back on his own and breaks it open while David cackles in confessional. Nice move. His mark fell for it hook, line and sinker.

It's been fun watching David's neurosis settle into a breezy confidence. He knows he's got this in the bag if he just plays it cool and keeps his friends around him. Ken is so loyal, it feels like there's no way he'd blindside David. Hannah, on the other hand...

Ken opens the legacy advantage Jessica handed down to him. Now that it's finally day 36, we know what it is: a note that guarantees immunity at the next tribal council. This game is upside-down right now, Ken says.

The first immunity challenge 

It's got a net, a wall and a key that unlocks a cute (but tough!) bat puzzle. David wins, meaning he and Ken are safe. Dammit, David. He wins immunity and a steak dinner. Dude is on a roll this episode. 

Nice job, Dav— whoa! What?! 

Jay plays Adam's advantage from a while ago, the one that lets him steal a reward. He gets David's steak dinner, but he gets to invite two more. So, classy guy that he is, Jay picks David to keep his reward and adds Adam, who gave it to him. So the three players in power positions are about to pig out together and get even stronger. Good for them. Ken, Bret and Hannah stay back at camp. Maybe Ken will catch a fish?

Jay calls out David for being a threat. He also admits he's a threat. He promises David and Adam he'll take them both to the end. Now that'd be interesting — a powerful three at final tribal council — but unlikely.

Back at camp, Bret plots to vote out Jay. Hannah, David and Jay want to vote out Bret. Jay keeps boasting about his "idol" (lol!). And Jay pleads to Adam: Save me.

"We've grown into this brotherly love," Adam tells confessional. "I honestly believe Jay wants to take me to the end. He's promised me final three. The question is, can I beat him?"

The first vote

Man, this one's a nail-biter. As Jeff goes up to read the votes, Jay halts him, whipping out the fake idol David made — while David struggles to keep a straight face. 

"This is..." Jeff begins. 

"Ooh," Jay says, gloating. 

"...not an immunity idol," Jeff finishes. "But it is a work of art." 

Any votes for Jay will count. He's stunned. Jeff throws his idol in the fire. Rude!

Then Ken announces his legacy advantage. Any votes for Ken will not count. Jaws drop.

Jeff reads the votes: Ken, Jay, Jay... and Jay. Jay's out. Fooled by David's fake idol! 

"You're all warriors," he says. "It was mad fun! Go ahead, Jeffrey. Snuff my torch!" Turns out Adam did vote for Jay. Smart move. If Adam gets to the final three, he might have support in his frenemy Jay, who could convince his bros on the jury to vote with him.

Wow. On to the next event. 

The second immunity challenge

This one involves swimming, buoys, an obstacle course, balancing tiles and a word puzzle. Ken wins! The puzzle is a sick burn on millennials: "NOT A PARTICIPATION TROPHY." Ouch! 

Time to go back to camp and scramble. David didn't win, and Adam is plotting to vote him out. Immediately, he goes idol hunting. He knows the only way for him to win is to vote out David right now.

While Adam runs around the island, David coolly spies an opportunity and ropes in Bret, Hannah and Ken to vote out Adam. Things are looking pretty bleak. If only Adam could just... find...

An idol! Wow. WOW. Adam somehow, miraculously, finds the one thing that could save him. He confesses to Hannah, who immediately starts plotting. She's sick of these boys thinking they're so great, and she wants to make a big move for herself.

The second vote

Another nail-biter. Adam plays his idol — and it's real. Any votes cast for Adam will not count.

The votes come in: David, Bret, David, Bret... and Bret. Bret is gone.

Hang on. Bret? Why Bret? Adam shakes his head in disbelief. This is Adam's face: 

I was stunned too. How could the rest of the contestants not use their best opportunity to vote out David, the biggest threat in the game?

David should be happy. Bret turns around and tells them they just gave David a million bucks. He's probably right. Adam has just one more chance to vote out David, but David just proved his alliance is loyal beyond a doubt. At this point, Adam is in trouble.

For reasons unclear, Hannah voted for Bret rather than David. Later, she tells Adam she just couldn't see a path for herself if she voted David out — Ken would be too mad at her.

"Think of all the people [on the jury] who look at Bret like the big uncle," says Ken in what might be the strangest thing said all season. From my perspective, at least, Bret is the easiest guy to bring to the end with you — a surefire opponent to win against. Every other player would win against him. (Even Ken. Sorry, Bret.)

The final immunity challenge

It's a classic bowl-stacking competition, and this one is super-tense. Ken does great until the very end — then loses everything. So does Adam, who knows he really needs to win this one. Hannah casually takes the lead. David's stack falls for a second time. Ken makes a comeback and ties Hannah, and we have a tie. They hug, and we square off again in a five-minute showdown. 

The winner: Ken, with seven bowls. David looks happy. Virtually everything is going David's way so far: His biggest ally just won immunity and a spot in the final three. The only way Adam could win right now is if Ken, the most loyal man in the goddamn universe, decides to flip on David. Worst-case scenario, David says, he goes to a fire-making challenge with Adam — and he thinks he could win. 

Hannah goes to Ken with a plan to vote out David. "I believe in trust," Ken tells her. "We bonded literally on day one." So... no.

"Ken works by a different code," Hannah admits. "He's all about trust and honor, even when it's not the smartest game move."

"I've never met anyone like Ken," David says. He picked an amazing partner in this game, and he knows it. He tells Ken he's voting for Adam while Ken prepares them both a beautiful fish.

Adam is scrambling. He starts practicing making fire, knowing that his only chance is to beat David in a challenge. Ken seems to like the idea of letting Adam and David go to fire. They'd "fight like men." OK, Ken.

The third vote

David is so confident at this point, he tells Adam he knows he's played a better game. He even moves up Adam's hand to show how high-level his game is. He appeals to Ken, knowing exactly what makes him tick, telling him how much he values his loyalty.

Jeff reads the votes: David, Adam, David... and David.



Ken flipped.

David is out.

Ken flipped!? 

It looks like Adam has a chance in hell. 

And suddenly, it feels like Ken does too. He's surely got a vote in David — and maybe the rest of the Gen X tribe on the jury. If he did the math, he probably figured the millennials would split the votes.

The final three — and final tribal council

Adam and Hannah sit on the beach and chat. Ken talks to himself about how millennials don't know how to sit.

In a brief confessional, Ken talks about his daughter. Adam talks about his mom. And just like that, they're back with Jeff for final tribal council, where they'll plead their case for a million dollars.

"Day two me would be running and crying," Hannah says. "But I'm ready."

Ken talks about playing with humanity.

"I played the best game," Adam says.

Ken says voting out David was the hardest thing he had to do, but his first alliance is to his daughter.

Zeke asks a cool question: How did they evolve the game of Survivor? Adam says he tried not to take control, but to keep bigger threats in the game ahead of him. Hannah agrees: She played with "shields," she says, to get to the end.

Hannah defends her decision to vote out Bret over David, saying David had a plan to take her to the end, and Bret didn't.

At one point, Adam starts choking up, telling Jay he knows why Adam had to vote him out. He doesn't reveal the secret yet.

Chris, the ex-NFL player, reveals he's actually a trial lawyer. He tells the jury he thinks Adam made the biggest move by convincing Ken to vote out David. 

David asks about personal evolution. Hannah clearly has done the most personal growth out here; she has a great answer about the confidence and self-assuredness she's gained. Ken talks about being a shy kid and developing a social game on the island.

Adam finally reveals that seven months ago, his mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. "She's my best friend in this whole world," he says. At the loved-ones reward challenge, "we were winning together. That's what this journey was about for me."

And with that, it's time to vote.

The final vote

Here we go! That beautiful seamless cut of Jeff walking out of the island and into the CBS studio, the cheer of the crowd, the surprisingly full-faced cast, no longer malnourished... it's time to read the votes. Here they are.






The winner of Survivor season 33: Adam Klein. Nice job, man.

Adam got every single vote from the jury. That makes him Survivor royalty — one of just a few players to pull a clean sweep.

Amazingly, Adam says, his mom died an hour after he got home from filming, and they were able to spend a short time together. Adam says he's donating $100,000 of his winnings to a lung cancer charity. This is one of the most emotional Survivor finales in the show's history. Everyone is crying. 

Huge credit to Adam. To answer Zeke's question, Adam certainly evolved the game. He and David and Hannah and Ken were very traditional Survivor winners, in a sense: They played with heart and integrity, and they created real connections that took them to the end of the game. Adam, more than anyone, shared moments so heartfelt and personal that it took them — and the viewers — out of the game momentarily. And it revealed why Survivor, a 15-year-old show in its 33rd season, is still such a force in reality TV. Being cunning and strong and bold will only get you so far in Survivor. In the end it's a show about connection — between bros, between a neurotic writer and a model, between two Okie football fans, between a Survivor superfan and his dying mom.

See you for season 34.