Survivor Fan Friction – Adam Klein

Hey look, it’s more Fan Friction, the series of essays where one of our columnists writes an ode to one of their favorite Survivor players while defending them against any potential naysayers (both real and imagined). In this installment, Super Duper Fan sings the praises of Adam Klein.

Why He’s Great

Adam is probably the person I relate to more than any Survivor castaway ever. But at the same time I feel that every good trait that I have, he is much better at it. He was cast in his season, alongside Michaela and Zeke, to fill the role of a ‘Millennial who defies stereotypes’. Adam is smart, hardworking, easy to get along, and likable. There is even an argument to be made that he’s one of the best human beings to ever be on the show.

The first thing that anyone will think about Adam and his addition to the Survivor family is his “story”. It was one of the rare times where the outside-of-the-game situation of a castaway largely impacted the narrative of a season, a player’s arc, and in some ways even gameplay. Adam’s mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer shortly after they both applied for San Juan Del Sur. But in the end he went to play several seasons later in Fiji, after his family- including his mom- convinced him to do so.

Adam had more of a burden on his back than many players before- he wanted to fulfill his (and his mother’s) dream to not only play, but to win. And he had to play the game while knowing his mother was at home battling cancer. And after many obstacles and bumps in the road, he managed to win Millennials vs. Gen X in a unanimous vote.

I personally haven’t felt so much investment in one player and his decisions in all the seasons I’ve seen. I felt like when he was succeeding in the game, I was succeeding in the game, and he was failing in the game, I was failing in the game, and him winning was a great ending to the great Survivor season. Adam was rootable, funny, and was playing the game until the very end, and he was a major reason for his season for being as fantastic as it was.

Haters Gonna Hate

He only won because of his ‘sob story’

It’s easily the most ridiculous argument there is against Adam. There is real internet proof of it being false. In the ‘Jury Speaks’ videos, which were filmed after last person was voted out, and before the Final Tribal Council, the jury gave us their mindsets going into FTC. And pretty much unanimously, they said that they were going to vote for Adam. Even the people who weren’t completely set on him, like Jessica, Zeke or Will, were still heavily tilting towards Adam. So this argument is wrong, girl bye.

He only won because he was sitting next to two goats

So? The whole basis of Survivor is surviving till the very end, and having someone there who the jury wants to award the money less than you. And it’s not like Hannah and Ken were just people who found themselves at the end with him, when they haven’t been really working together at all ala Bob in Gabon. Adam was allied with Ken since the swap, and with Hannah since the merge, and they all voted together ever since.

While it wouldn’t have been as easy, he definitely could’ve beaten Bret. And yes, he would likely lose against Jay and David, but he never even once considered being at the end with them. In short, he knew exactly who should sit next to him at the end, and did everything he could to make it happen.

He only won UNANIMOUSLY because he was sitting next to two goats

Yeah, I’m not trying to prove that he would have won unanimously against any other player there. But there is a reason that through 34 seasons, only 4 winners have managed a unanimous victory. Just because you’re sitting next to goats doesn’t automatically give you all the jury votes: Brian Heidik sat next to a goat; he was one vote away from losing. Bob Crowley sat next to two goats; he was one vote away from losing. Boston Rob sat next to what are widely considered two of the biggest goats in Survivor history; nope, still not unanimous.

I’m not arguing any of those wins weren’t well-earned (well, besides Bob). But to get every vote, every juror has to both respect your game and like you, which Adam managed to do. That deserves to be respected.

He’s a boring gamebot

First things first, I wanna say that if you find Adam boring, don’t like him etc., I likely won’t be able to convince you otherwise. That said, I just can’t see how you can find this guy at least interesting. He’s a super duper fan of the game, a person whose life has been turned upside down, and he’s trying to play the game which he loves despite all of these unbelievable things happening to him outside of the game. He somehow manages to not have a complete emotional breakdown out there, keeps his cool through most of the game (with a few moments of vulnerability). If that’s not interesting, then I don’t know what more can I say.

And calling Adam a gamebot is ridiculous. Players get called a gamebot now just for thinking a bit strategically, no matter how much value they put into the social game (which Adam clearly does). Gamebot has become a lazy way to suggest that you’re a bad character because you’re actually trying to win the game, and not having these “natural moments” (which, once again, Adam has).

He played sloppily the whole game

This is the most common critique of Adam amongst the super fans. I’ll say right away that I don’t find him one of the BEST players, or one of the BEST winners in terms of gameplay in Survivor. BUT I do think he’s a good player, and is very underrated among the fanbase.

The main critique of Adam’s game comes from the middle of the season, also known as the “Taylor the mason jar lover” saga. I’ll try to summarize it in a few points:

  • His conversation with Taylor after voting Figgy out, a.k.a. the “I screwed you” conversation: My only argument is that it wasn’t that bad. It’s something that I can’t actually prove- it just seemed to me to be a conversation that we didn’t see fully. But this series isn’t really meant for presumptions, so I will take a pass for this one.
  • Telling Taylor about the reward advantage: A lot of people tried to argue that Adam told him about it because Adam thought that Taylor was his ally. But my interpretation of it was that he tried to lure Taylor back in by making Taylor think that he trusts him. And he did this by sharing an advantage that he had. Plus, if Adam really trusted Taylor that much, he would’ve just showed his idol (phrasing). The only real mistake which he made here was telling Taylor that he’s targeting Will. Telling him about the reward steal advantage wasn’t that big of a mistake, because it wasn’t going to hurt Adam. Even if Taylor did tell someone about it (which he did), it wasn’t powerful enough that any of Adam’s allies would target him because of it.
  • Taylor calling Adam out at tribal council: I think this is one of the more overrated knocks against Adam. This goes back to what I said in the previous point that there wasn’t any real downside to people knowing about it. And it was true, because no one held him accountable for what was said about him after tribal. After everything that happened at the merge, he couldn’t prevent these events from happening. So he tried to defend himself against Taylor’s accusations as much as he could, and this event wasn’t mentioned again later by anyone.

But despite what some Adam haters may say, there was more to his game than just his interactions with Taylor. After he found himself on the wrong side of the numbers at the first vote (thanks to brilliant play of the Queen of Dragons herself, Michelle Schubert), he immediately began to work his way out of the bottom.

After the swap he found himself in the middle, and ultimately decided to vote out Figgy with Jessica and Ken. This set him up fantastically for the merge, because he sided here with the Gen X-ers but had people in his original tribe still wanting to work with him. Plus, he made a deal with Ken in which Ken promised to never vote against Adam- a promise Ken actually kept till the end.

At the family visit, he finally found a way to use the reward steal advantage: by telling others that he would not use it. Jay won the reward, and allowed Adam’s brother to join them. Through his brother, Adam got an update about the situation at home. After that he gave Jay the advantage out of pretext of thankfulness, which also led to him being picked for a reward later in the game.

Adam later sided with David’s side at the rock draw, because he could work better with them. And after it turned out poorly for his side, he (along with David and Hannah) convinced Will to flip to their side, despite Ken nearly screwing everything up with his “test”.

Adam also played his idol for Hannah as a hedge against the possibility of Will not flipping. And while in the end it was a wasted idol, it was perfectly understandable decision with the information he had.

After that moment, Adam and Hannah were the two people controlling how the rest of the game went. The cold killer Adam thanked Will for saving his alliance by immediately setting up Will’s blindside. He did so by convincing Bret and Sunday to vote with them, since they were pissed at Will for betraying them. That move ultimately gave his side a majority until the end of the season, and it may be one of his most underrated moves.

He let Hannah lead the charge in voting out Sunday to avoid making any unnecessary waves. Adam also convinced Jay to waste his idol, then voted him out at the next vote. At Final 5, he made one of his biggest mistakes- telling Hannah about the idol he’d just found. This spooked Hannah into changing the vote to Bret. But Adam and Hannah re-aligned at the next vote, and voted David out by convincing Ken to vote with them.

It was this combination of not-sloppy moves that let Adam win by a vote of 10-0-0.

Embrace Debate

Adam is a player who was playing to win from day 1, and was likable all the way through while doing it. His mistakes didn’t detract from his character, they expanded it.

I’m not trying to convince you that Adam was the mastermind of his season, or that he is in the pantheon of the best Survivor players ever, because he isn’t. I do maintain that his shortcomings are magnified, and that his strengths are often overlooked. Adam is someone who would do well in almost any season.

If he returns some day, he won’t have a chip on his shoulder (like, for example, Lex in All-Stars). Adam will be just grateful for getting another chance to play one of his favourite games of all time. And he’ll (in the words of the great Ciera Eastin) be there to PLAY THE GAME- not just for the fame. He also has the tools to actually win an all-winners season.