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​Will Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X Defy or Reinforce Stereotypes?

Jeff Probst weighs in

Liz Raftery

When you look at the list of contestants for Season 33 of Survivor, Millennials vs. Gen X, it's fairly easy to tell which cast members fall into which category based on their job titles alone. On the Millennials side, we have a barista, a professional gamer and... a high school student. (Yep, you read that right. More on him later.) The Gen Xers include a police sergeant, a trial lawyer and an insurance adjuster.

So will the members of the two tribes defy or reinforce the stereotypes of their respective generations? chatted with Survivor host Jeff Probst to see what we can expect from Season 33.


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"What you're going to see on this season is two things," Probst, a self-identified Gen Xer himself, says. "What I saw this season was, all of the stereotypes that are attached to Millennials are true. But what was revealed to me is, they aren't bad things. No more so than when Gen Xers came around and the Baby Boomers criticized Generation X for their new ideas. It's just a sign of the times.

"The Millennials are kids that are technology-based, and they do want more passion in their life, and they don't want to be told what to do all the time. You can label that as bad, or you can not judge it and just say, 'This is where we are right now.' The undeniable truth is, Millennials, for all of the bad stereotypes attached to them, are changing the world in many great ways."

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For that reason, look for the merge this season to be one of the most explosive ones fans have ever seen.

"It's definitely a culture clash," Probst previews. "When you get to the point in the show where the tribes are mixed, it's really interesting, because you need each other to survive -- literally survive, by making fire or catching fish, but you also need each other in terms of votes. You don't have the luxury, as a Millennial, to come in and say, 'I don't work with old people,' in the same way that a Gen Xer doesn't have the luxury of saying, 'Kids annoy me. Get outta my way.' You're gonna have to work together. And that's when it gets really interesting."

While this season's contestants won't have to deal with the extreme heat we've seen for the past two seasons in Cambodia, weather does play a significant role -- starting in the premiere, in which a cyclone forces the contestants and crew to evacuate.

Another twist this season is that the immunity idols will be "hidden in plain sight," according to Probst. Meaning that idols might be located in shells, or coconuts, or even a piece of driftwood. "When I say you might find [an idol] in it, I mean inside it," Probst clarifies. "As in, how could there possibly be an idol inside what appears to be a natural coconut that just fell from a tree? And that's where the fun of Survivor's amazing art department [comes in]. They can make a piece of driftwood look as though it has never been touched. And yet, if you really work on it, you will find that inside it is an idol. It's really fun. Especially when you figure it out, oh my god, I think it's inside a shell. And there are 6,000 shells on this beach."

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Below, Probst -- who adds, "this is one of my favorite casts in a long time" -- highlights the key players on each tribe to watch out for:

Monty Brinton, CBS


1. Will Wahl

At 17, Will, the aforementioned high school student, is the youngest person to ever play the game, and took a semester off from school in order to do so. "About two minutes into the show, I asked, 'Does anybody here want to admit to being the youngest?'" Probst previews. "His hand shoots up and he goes, 'Jeff, I'm supposed to be in high school right now. I literally left high school to come play this game.' That really speaks to how Survivor connects to all ages. Here's a kid who was just being born when we started the show. He was a baby. And now he's playing against guys that have three decades on him. And he can beat them, because Survivor is an equal opportunity game. It's all about the social politics of this group."

2. Zeke Smith

Zeke, a Harvard graduate who's now a member of a gay, all-male improv comedy troupe in Brooklyn, "definitely has a voice we've never heard before," Probst says. "He has a way of looking at the game in a way that we've looked at it before. But when he expresses his point of view, you've never heard it before." He also feels like he may have landed on the wrong tribe. "Zeke will tell you, 'I know I'm a Millennial in every way. But I don't feel like a Millennial. I don't relate to Millennials. I feel like I should be on the Gen X tribe just because of how I see the world, but I'm labeled a Millennial, so I have to play like a Millennial, because that's how people are going to see me," says Probst, who likens Zeke to previous contestants Coach Wade, Philip Sheppard and John Cochran. "I think people are going to really identify with Zeke," he speculates. "Love him or hate him, you will not forget him."

3. Taylor Stocker

A young, good-looking, "super likeable" snowboard instructor with "great energy," Taylor will be one of the more polarizing contestants this season, according to Probst. "Taylor is a quintessential Millennial," the host says. "He will fulfill all of your stereotypes. [He] finds joy in everything, isn't worried about much of anything, and seems to just glide along in life, carefree, somehow managing to get through each day. ... But Gen Xers will go, 'Oh my God, that guy? He has no idea what it's like to work for a living. He has no idea what it's like to actually earn it.' And Taylor would say, 'I don't know, but I'm having a good time.'"

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4. Michaela Bradshaw

Michaela is a tell-it-like-it-is Texan who works in vacation sales, and whom Probst describes as "feisty, strong [and] super athletic" and one of his favorite contestants this season. "She says at one point, 'If I'm able to close my mouth and not say what I'm feeling, it doesn't matter, because my eyes will move in a way that will tell you anyway,'" Probst. "She's very, very expressive, and she's counter to a guy like Taylor, because she would say, 'I have earned everything I've done. And if you knew about my experience as a person on the planet and how I got through college and what I've done with myself, I'm nothing like a Millennial. But I am a Millennial, and I will play with anybody who wants to play with me. And I will not take any grief from anybody.'"

5. Mari Takahashi

Professional gamer Mari "literally makes her living playing videos online," Probst confirms. "What's cool about Mari is, she's able to compare Survivor as a game to playing video games online, with one distinct difference. When she's playing a video game, there's not a human sitting across from her. And it's something that torments her early, which is, 'Wow, I love the game play, but I'm not experienced in crushing somebody's dreams who's standing in front of me, who's a real person.' I think that's a really interesting [aspect] of the Millennial point of view. So much of their life is spent texting. They'll break up by texting. They can meet somebody by swiping. But when they're faced with another human and they actually have to say, 'I'm voting you out,' it's more difficult than it is for a Gen Xer."

Monty Brinton, CBS

Gen X

1. David Wright

David, a TV writer from Hollywood, "will tell you in the first episode, he is literally afraid of everything," Probst says. "But he knows he needs this experience to grow. So he put himself in this environment in which he's petrified to be there. How long he'll last, who knows, but the fact that he's there and put himself in this situation is really interesting."

2. Chris Hammons

Chris is a lawyer and a former college football captain at Oklahoma, who does not take kindly to the Millennial tribe. "This is a guy that will tell you, 'I have earned every single thing I have in my life. I had to do two-a-days in football. I had to earn the respect of my teammates to become captain. ... Then I had to go to law school, and now I'm a lawyer,'" Probst explains. "He looks at life as, everything that is on your résumé of life you have to have earned. You have to show the steps it took to get there. And early on, he's very frustrated by the point of view of Millennials who say, 'Ugh, I don't know. I'm not sure we're gonna work that hard on our shelter. I think we may just see what nature brings. He can't understand that approach to life because it doesn't match with his.'"

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3. Ken McNickle

Unlike Chris, single dad/model Ken is open to working with everybody, and has a strong set of skills to bring to his alliances. "[Ken] lived for five years in Hawaii off the grid," Probst says. "So the first thing he tells everybody is, 'This is my backyard. I literally have lived in the jungle. I know how to catch fish. I know how to build a shelter. Let me help you.' And he brings this point of view to the game, which is, I want to really focus on the work-together part. I don't like the voting out, but I definitely love the vote together. Ken is a guy who, if he lasts long enough, will be open to working with anybody. He doesn't care how old you are."

4. Bret LaBelle

Will Bret, a "really likeable" police sergeant from the Boston area, be as memorable as his Beantown predecessors? "Boston has always been good to Survivor," Probst says. "Bret has a really interesting point of view, because he's a bit detached from it. As a cop, he's observed so many people doing so many things in so many different ways that he doesn't necessarily label anybody quickly. But as a cop, he's got this no BS attitude of, 'Look, if you're lame, you're lame and I'm voting you out. Sorry. You gotta go.'"

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 8/7c on CBS.

(Full disclosure: is owned by CBS.)