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Michaela is the hero of Survivor Gen X vs. Millennials

“There’s three of you,” Michaela Bradshaw said to her former millennial tribe mates at the immunity challenge, the three on the losing tribe. “If you can’t figure out how to work together, you deserve to go home.”

Calling out others’ game play in the most public forum possible is arguably not the smartest Survivor strategy, but that moment absolutely cemented Michaela as this season’s audience MVP. Her honest, raw responses are hilarious, spoken like someone who’s just doesn’t give AF, as the millennials say. She seems simultaneously disinterested and also completely in control.

And she can summarize a Survivor moment so efficiently and unsparingly that each confessional interview is like a little gift.

Michaela is like Jeff Probst was before he became showrunner and began (over)playing both host and producer in every moment, which is to say, she says the things we’re thinking. There have been a lot of great contestants who give great confessional in recent seasons of Survivor, but there’s something particularly wonderful about her Whatever! I’ve totally got this and I know what’s up. It’s not disinterest nor arrogance, but some fascinating place in between.

The moment after the immunity challenge was perfect because she was exactly right. Figgy did go home, targeted by Adam and his new GenX allies. It was a lovely blindside, and it also means the end of Figtails—or Figtayls if you prefer—thank the universe. Earlier, Figgy tried to come out as being in a relationship, and was basically laughed at by Jessica and Ken.

“I haven’t told you this or Ken this because I was kind of nervous, but I kind of have a thing with Taylor,” Figgy said. “Wow,” Jessica said. After a beat, Jessica added, “Ya think?! You’re not very good with keeping secrets.” Figgy was dumbfounded. When she told him, Ken played dumb for a second and said, “You’re kidding me, really? I would not have guessed”—and then revealed he was being sarcastic because Figgy and Taylor’s cuddling and touching is not, in fact, invisible.

Ken can give some great confessional lines, too, but he’s not as good as Michaela at being cutting without being cruel. When he recounted Figgy’s confession, he said, “I’ve been around the block, little girl,” unnecessarily demeaning her age and sex.

Figgy and Taylor’s showmance (or “-mance,” as Adam called it) did survive long enough to be uncovered at Tribal Council, where Jeff Probst went for the story he’s craving: The Bachelor. 

But Jeff Probst trying to talk two millennials having a fling on a beach into getting married was a bit like watching an old man toddle up to a McDonald’s counter and demanding Chipotle. He tried hard, but he was putting coins in a parking meter and expecting to get a Pepsi out of it.

Michaela spells out the game

Michaela seemed to telegraph exactly how well Adam’s decision will be received by other millennials once the merge shows up: not well.

Her other great moments:

  • During the cold open, Michaela confronted Will and Jay, who’d just found the hidden immunity idol following his hero edit moment (“I hear the Survivor song in the background”; cue actual Survivor theme song), when he cried about playing for his mother and sister, who we only learned are “beautiful ladies.” This was an entirely uninteresting idol find until Michaela showed up and—thanks to some great editing, which cut quickly to Michaela’s confessional, said, “Hey, watcha got there?” She then described them as “huddled up like two Eskimos.”
  • At the immunity challenge’s ball maze conclusion, Michaela took control and told Hannah what to do. Probst described this as “barks orders” and Hannah said “I’m not frustrated; I’m just getting yelled at.” But remember, Michaela doesn’t give AF; she does what she has to, and led them to a victory. The challenge required one person to take control, and she did.
  • Michaela responded to Probst’s taunting—which got really offensive when he said Michaela was “making sure Hannah knows what time it is!”—but she did not do so by name. “I love Hannah,” Michaela said. “Just need people to shut up.” Yes, people, please shut up during challenges.

After the win, Bret told her, “There’s nothing you can’t do.” At this point, I hope that includes winning this game, but whatever happens, this season is exponentially better because Michaela was cast.

Familiar challenges, now with bonus difficulty

Both challenges this episode were familiar, including the return of the classic blindfolded challenge. But both piled on a lot of challenges: not just a table maze, but one without borders. And controlled by two people. Who have to stand on tiny stumps.

Likewise, the blindfolded challenge wasn’t just about gathering puzzle pieces, but it had little mini dizzying challenges on the course, and it ended with a puzzle that had to be solved via directions from one non-blindfolded tribe member. Those are great little twists for everyone—though the players might not appreciate them as much as viewers do.

While Figgy had difficult with the puzzle part, David had difficulty with the walking part. David seemed to be essentially ignoring everything Michelle screamed at him, so Chris tried instead. “David walk to your right!” Chris screamed, and David kept walking straight. Then he started on the wrong puzzle. But Michelle’s puzzle-assembling calls to Zeke allowed them to make up their David deficit.

Meanwhile, Hannah had a panic attack at the challenge, complaining from the sidelines, “my whole face is tingling” and “I can’t feel my hands.” Probst sent her to the shade, but then she seemed to fall off everyones radar until the challenge ended. Dr. Joe checked her out and his official diagnosis, translated into Probst, was, “I think Hannah’s got a bit excited during the challenge.”

Hannah revealed that she suffered from panic attacks, and Probst told her, “If there’s anything that will expose your vulnerabilities, it’s Survivor.” So of course that’s what Survivor did.

With the tribes shuffled, we got an episode with blessedly fewer pronouncements about millennials and Gen Xers. However, there was a few seconds where we went from stunning b-roll of Fiji to a shot of Jay standing in shallow water, hitting the ocean with a stick. Millennials!

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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