In a country where politics can take unpredictable turns — where highly qualified presidential candidates can suffer shocking landslide defeats — it's nice to know Survivor, now on its 33rd season, will always be here for us. Sure as the sun, fame-hungry Americans will opt to spend weeks in the wilderness among smelly strangers for our reality TV-viewing pleasure.
Over on the green team, Justin "Jay" Starrett is relieved to have blindsided Michaela Bradshaw and voted her off before the merge. Wait, CBS — is this foreshadowing? Could a merge be on the horizon? Could all this season's Millennials and Generation Xers finally be forced to live on one beach together, oppositional work ethics and texting habits be damned?
You betcha! The next morning, boats transport the green and purple teams to the orange team's camp. It's merge time, baby. Time to kick this game up a notch.
The 13 remaining players share a feast with their new tribe-mates — while evaluating their various alliances, of course. Gen Xers Bret LaBelle, Chris Hammons and Sunday Burquest are happy to be reunited, as are Millennials Zeke Smith, Hannah Shapiro and Adam Klein. The castaways have been divided into two tribes, then three tribes, then one tribe; will they stay true to their original teammates — or will newer, intergenerational bonds hold true?
From the get-go, it's clear there's division among the Millennials. Self-professed "nerd" alliance Zeke, Hannah and Adam are at odds with Jay, who fancies himself a "kingpin" around camp. Jay is tight with Will Wahl, his right-hand man, Michelle Schubert and Taylor Lee Stocker.
As his new tribe-mates enjoy their picnic, Adam wisely goes hunting for an idol. He doesn't find a ticket to Immunity, but he does find something else: an advantage allowing him to steal a reward after it's been won by someone else — a first in Survivor history. Adam's excited, but to me, it's a curse. What's he going to do — steal away a tribe-mate's phone call with a loved one back home? That won't win him any votes in the finale.
When it comes to stereotypes of entitlement, Taylor isn't doing the Millennials any favors. In the middle of the night, he wakes up and steals a private stash of food from the tribe's picnic baskets. Bret and Adam catch him in the act — but while Bret goes back to sleep, Adam seizes the opportunity to gain back Taylor's trust after voting out his girlfriend, Jessica "Figgy" Figueroa.
Crouched over a mason jar of pretzels — so hip! — Adam tries to get Taylor to side with him against Jay and his "army." They talk about voting out Will. Adam also tells Taylor about his Immunity Idol and newfound advantage.
Romantics, rejoice: Taylor plays along with Adam's scheming, but in reality, he can't wait to send him home. "He wrote my woman's name down!" Taylor reminds viewers, his heart pulsing at the prospect of sweet, sweet vengeance. He leaves the conversation ripe with juicy intel on Adam — and keener than ever on blindsiding the hell out of him.
Taylor tells Jay about Adam's plan to take out Will, his precious henchman. Jay and Taylor discuss blindsiding Adam, instead. Zeke overhears — and isn't happy. His nerd alliance would take a hit if Adam were voted out.
Now that the tribes have merged, Immunity Challenges are for Individual Immunity now — and Will, who's learned of Adam's plan to vote him out, is determined to win it. Finally, it's an endurance challenge: The contestants each have to balance on a perch, their hands tethered to a bucket of water suspended above them. If they move in such a way that causes their water bucket to spill, they're out.
Will's determination is remarkable. He and Jessica Lewis, the final two in the challenge, last an hour and 30 minutes in what looks like a horrifically uncomfortable position. Finally, Jessica wobbles — she's out! Will wins Immunity — and Adam loses his plan.
Back at camp, Will is understandably hell-bent on taking out Adam. Meanwhile, Zeke wants his nerd alliance, plus the Gen Xers, to vote out Taylor. But the Gen Xers can't agree on who they want to vote for; they're convinced Michelle doesn't have an idol, and think it'd be safer to vote against her.
The Gen Xers' indecision, coupled with Will's win, sends Adam into last-minute scramble mode — and everyone starts to tire of him. The nerds catch Adam talking with Taylor again, and wonder if they can trust him. For Zeke, he's "the most frustrating person to work with."
At this point, it's hard to tell if anyone's on Adam's side. Going into Tribal Council, Adam wonders: Should he play his hidden Immunity Idol?
At Tribal Council, Adam elects not to play his idol. It's a risky move, given his unpopularity around camp, but it pays off. Despite there being four votes against Adam, there are seven for Michelle. Michelle was smart, and it's a shame to see her go. Of the 12 remaining contestants, just three are women.
Rooting for you, Hannah, Sunday and Jessica!