Welcome to Survivor Analyst Russian Roulette, where the authors of this site are randomly assigned contestants from the upcoming season of Survivor: Game Changers and must give an honest assessment of what to expect from them. Next up: Zeke Smith.
Editor’s note: Since six entries didn’t feel like enough for this series, we invited some more regular contributors to the site and put them through the randomizer. Barbara Anderson gets to reach deep into her memory banks to profile Zeke.
I am so happy that I get to talk a little about Zeke’s game rather than some other tabula rasas, problematic faves, and general douchebags who are on this cast. Yes, there is a big elephant in the room that will shadow my judgment of him, but we will get there together. While some were distracted with the scenery, Zeke was one of the big power players in Millennials vs. Gen X. His likable arrogance along with the fact that he didn’t necessary play with the seasonal theme led to a more divided reaction from the fan base, but what else is new? Some may even wonder if is Zeke is a Game Changer. Now, I know that Zeke himself has a response to that.
As for myself, I would say that Zeke is definitely a possible Game Changer in regards to his moves having direct consequences to how MvGX ends. In that regard, he is better suited for this theme than roughly half of this cast.
After gaining a reputation for being a provider by rebuilding the tribe’s shelter after the cyclone and starting a fire without flint, he was in a great spot within the Freaks and Geeks (totally not a trademarked name) alliance. Unfortunately, in an effort to weaken Figtayls, Zeke decided to go to Jay, despite the fact that Jay was in the Triforce with Figgy. (Editor’s note: This may be the weirdest sentence ever written on this website. And that’s a high bar.) That one conversation gives Jay and Michelle enough time to save Figgy by blindsiding Mari, thus leaving Zeke and Adam on the bottom of the tribe.
Following the swap, Zeke had a great chance of being screwed (Editor’s note: Phrasing!) since he ended up with the one Millennial he had zero trust in (Michelle) and three former Gen Xers. However, the Powers That Be smiled upon Zeke, because one of those former Gen Xers was Chris, who A) was a player on Zeke’s favorite childhood team, the 2000 NCAA Champion Oklahoma Sooners football team (Editor’s note: UGH) and B) was looking for revenge against David and CeCe.
At the merge, Zeke was in a great position as the bridge between two groups: the remaining Gen Xers (based on his connections with Chris and David) and the Millennial Nerd Alliance/Voting Bloc/Trust Cluster with Adam and Hannah. After booting Michelle and Taylor, the Gen Xers started to splinter. Zeke was caught in the middle of all of this, but decided to join a plan to take out Chris.
Zeke’s plan was to pick up Chris’ pawns Bret and Sunday, then use them to get rid of David in the next round. Fortunately for him, Bret (after sharing the best moment of MvGX with Zeke) and Sunday were willing to go with this plan.
When Hannah wasn’t down with Zeke’s plan, Zeke shifted the target to Hannah, correctly assuming that David would not play his idol for her. And the rest is history — Jessica draws the not-purple purple rock and Zeke’s side wins.
But Zeke did not realize that 18-year old Will was a big kid now, and wanted to have something to put on his resume. The thing he wanted on his resume? Booting Zeke. Oops.
Zeke had one of the most complex single-season games of all of the Game Changers. He has a good sense of what the right move is, and he is able to maintain strong relationships with almost everybody in the game. He is such a likable guy that he managed to convince his alliance that he would draw rocks with them despite the fact that he knew he would be getting the votes.
However, he has two big weaknesses to his game. The first one is that he has to be the one that is in power. Before I did my research on Zeke, I did not realize how many of his confessionals talk about how much he wants to be in control and in power. That is why he likes to play with pawns like Hannah or Bret or Sunday.
His second weakness is the fact that he tends to forget that his pawns and enemies are people too. That blind arrogance leads him to make three bad moves in MvGX: talking to Jay about the plan to get rid of Figgy, forgetting that Hannah is an active player with her own game, and forgetting that Will is an active player is with his own game.
The Instant Returnee Question
The big elephant in the room is the fact that he is an instant returnee- he played Game Changers less than a month after being booted from Millennials vs Gen X. There are three categories of instant returnees:
1) People who come back immediately with a cast who has seen ALL of their game. This would be Bobby Jon and Stephenie in Guatemala, and Shirin and Joe in Cambodia.
2) People who come back immediately with a cast who has seen SOME of their game. This would be Rupert in All-Stars and James and Amanda in Micronesia.
3) People who come back immediately with a cast who has seen NONE of their game. This would be Russell in Heroes vs. Villains, Malcolm in Caramoan, and Zeke and Michaela in Game Changers.
Out of every player who has been an instant returnee, only one- Shirin- has not made the merge. (Sorry, John!) The past two seasons that have featured instant returnees (Caramoan and Cambodia) have been the first to not have an instant returnee make it to the final four, and I think we will see that trend continue in Game Changers.
Because a lot of the cast has been directly impacted by an instant returnee, they will be on the lookout for the fresh meat. After all, instant returnees (with the exception of Amanda) tend to be airtime hogs, whether it is through their witty confessionals, extraordinary circumstances, or challenge abilities. I have a weird feeling that this is going to be the cast that will worry about anyone stealing their shine.
Best Case Scenario
At best, Zeke does as well as he does in MvGX, approximately mid-jury. He is likable enough to be friendly with, a hard worker around camp, and open to strategy talks. He is also not a massive challenge threat, which could keep around him for a couple of votes in the post-merge games. I could see people like Aubry, Andrea, Varner, and Malcolm flocking to him because of his grounded approach to Survivor.
Worst Case Scenario
Zeke could easily be the first boot. Zeke has a lot of things going against him: He is an instant returnee, has to be the one in control, is not the best in challenges, doesn’t like bro-ing down, is arrogant, and just looks like a schemer. If his tribe is scared of going after one of the big guns with their first vote, they could go after him because he is a safe choice, a la Randy in Heroes vs Villains.
Most Likely Scenario
I don’t see Zeke going home first, but I don’t see him making it out of the pre-merge either. There are just too many things against him at this point to see him as a viable winner candidate with this cast. While he is not an immediate threat, he is still a threat who doesn’t bring much to the tribal aspects of the game, especially in a season with other famous tribal providers like JT, Ozzy, and Malcolm. With his sub-par challenge ability and schemer mentality, he is likely going to be out sooner than we all would like.
Favorite seasons: HvV, Philippines, Australian Outback, China, Cagayan
Favorite players: Sandra Diaz-Twine, Jerri Manthey, Denise Stapley, Aubry Bracco, Courtney Yates