Hello, everyone! I’m writing a thing!
Millennials vs Gen X is a complicated season, and it’s one I think everyone needs to decompress from at least a little before evaluating. If I had my way I’d take until after Game Changers (a better name than Millennials vs Gen X, at least) to decompress, but there’s no way I’m waiting that long. My feelings on the season are… complicated, but most of the cast I can discern my opinions on easily. Contrary to the season itself, its players are not very complicated, and very few are complex. On a whole, this cast is not nearly as good as the cast of Kaoh Rong, but no one hits Kyle Jason lows (even Sunday, who I expected to hate, that’s funny). This cast ranking will match the cast itself- pretty base and emotion driven but most won’t be very high or low regardless.
Warning, this is easily my longest article, likely because I haven’t talked about the season. While my last cast ranking was shorter, this one is over 6k words, so be prepared for a long haul.
I won’t waste further time rambling: let’s dive in!
#20: Chris Hammons (11th Place)
I think a lot of people turned against him for his speech, which was admittedly pretty bad with him saying he’s a lawyer who can discern who the winner should be(look what you’ve wrought, Spencer) before saying Adam deserves it for the move others determined to not send Adam home. Me, though, I never liked him. He was generic at first until Paul went home, then we really saw how much of a temper tantrum he could throw.
Unlike Bret next to him who was calmer about it (and he’s Bret, so that’s saying something) he throws a giant fit about Jessica voting him out. Need I remind you that it’s Paul Wachter you’re getting so whiny about? He spends all of Episode 4 acting as childish as I’ve seen on Survivor, and after that he seems a little unhinged (except for the time David played an idol to halt his revenge plan, he was strangely okay with that, hmm)
The edit tried to make him a MOR presence again but with that whininess always in mind it was hard to take him seriously, until Episode 10 where his revenge plan came back again over friggin’ Paul Wachter, and Jessica noticed in her voting confessional. I am so glad that Chris was voted out over Jessica that episode, like on the edge of my seat. If the edit gave any credence to Chris throwing a baby-ass fit over his pwecious Paulie, I’d have rage quit. Too bad he had to stink up the FTC after that.
#19: Zeke Smith (9th)
While I dislike Chris more, Zeke was easily more exhausting to deal with. He got forty confessionals in twelve episodes (one of the higher counts in the season) and I swear thirty-six of them aged me at least a year, so I am writing this as a crotchety sixty-year-old man who doesn’t like Zeke. I fear seeing him at singles night at the retirement home. When he wasn’t giving generic game confessionals, he was very condescending (hip hip goddamn hooray at Hannah calling him out for that) and that extended to even the audience. He had no respect for many, many people, and did his best to spell everything out as if we had less intelligence than him. When he laughed about others drawing rocks for him when those remaining were quite emotional about it, I think it hit my no-Christ-no button.
Episode 11 was probably him at his worst. First off, Zeke vs David was way overhyped. It took up that episode but was barely mentioned in any other episode. Until then I thought they were allies so okay then. I heard someone say that Rob vs Russell wishes it was that, but… really? At least Rob and Russell lasted a few episodes in HvV. Outside of that, Zeke had the moment with Bret coming out to him, which was great TV and gave him one of his few non-painful confessionals (as well as the only reason he ranks above Chris) but Zeke entered that moment by forcing himself to get drunk so that he would make connections with Bret, which may be the most gamebot thing I have witnessed. Then, he and Bret make fun of David (and Hannah) for having anxiety because David said a thing about Zeke having allies, which is totally justified. I don’t like that moment from either of them, and possibly less so from Bret, but at least Bret was entertaining. Zeke was just a burden outside of that.
I’m very glad he lost, as I was genuinely afraid he was winning. That begs the question, though- why was he so overexposed? Well, I know why, but still, he was a hamfisted narrator, and his role could have been reduced by a lot while still adding to the season, especially since he was not that big a presence until late in his run. If he was gonna get that much airtime, he could have stood to have been entertaining.
#18: Ciandre “CeCe” Taylor (16th)
Now we’re getting to the contestants I really have no problem with but just didn’t pop. I’m torn on CeCe. On one hand, I think the edit did her a disservice and she was kind of one note, but on the other hand she had a decent edit, and while calm, she wasn’t too engaging. Her lack of challenge prowess, while paled next to David, made some interesting stuff happen on Takali, but she herself wasn’t too standout a character. I think she was most interesting when she was voted off and displayed a clear lack of shits to give- that sort of controlled fire really made her as a character and I wish we had seen more of that.
#17: Paul Wachter (18th)
I think I remember him being a more trainwrecky character than he was. The thing is I think that while his bio sucked with him there were a lot of unique things about him that could have been at least brought up in the hopes of making him look like a whackadoodle. Instead, the character we got was kind of annoying and only really seemed to have one trainwreck moment with his “good luck, ladies” comment. Otherwise, he was goofy, but not very big a character.
#16: Lucy Huang (17th)
Ignoring her virtually getting zero edit whatsoever for three episodes in a hilariously awful fashion, her being the world’s worst dictator in Episode 4 actually drove forth the action. I sort of cringed at the “Ken is a man and should be more manly” confessional parts which, next to her not exactly being a special sort of evil character, is why she places here, but she was quite fun with her demanding nature that had to control literally everything. The funniest part was, were it not for David and his idol, she would have successfully thrown Jessica under the bus by a landslide.
#15: Mari Takahashi (19th)
I struggle whether or not she’d have been painful as a character were she more long term especially with her repetitive and Liz-like “x is like my career as a professional gamer” confessionals. Still, there were parts of her that were pretty fun and engaging, what with her making the “Freaks and Geeks” alliance, playing the role of Mama Bear to Vanua, and talking at TC about Hannah whispering about puppies or butts or something. As it stands, her going out at nineteen is probably for the best, and although I get the sense she lost because none of her bonds were so strong that a good amount of people weren’t torn up about voting her out, it was the first sign that these players this season are kind of horrible, a theme that would continue all season.
#14: Will Wahl (8th)
I wouldn’t argue that Will is a great character, hell half the time he wasn’t that good, but I would argue that he’s better than his reputation as a bad character or non presence. I will give you that the constant talk about his resume was very annoying and gives me the impression that he is not a very versatile character, but as a UTR character he was a fun little background presence- him replicating the awesome face at the goat, his cry of “Miiiilk!” at a reward, and the constant reminder by Jeff that he couldn’t drink.
In the episode and a half he got airtime, though, he was one of the most severe, angry, and dramatic narrators ever. I think he legitimately was as angry as he seemed especially at Ken, and his cries of “I’m an aduuuuult!” were pretty funny too. But can we talk about how Will has the worst timing ever? I mean, a good amount argue that his alliance wasn’t taking him seriously and I agree, and with Adam’s idol the outcome was always gonna be Zeke. Still, Will handing David and co the majority they lost not because he was scared of rocks but because he wanted to pad his resume is insanely bad timing. Even if Zeke had been idoled out Will could have been a pretty solid ally had he not flipped instead of immediately pwnt as Adam rides to the win. Still, I’m glad he did, and I think he was pretty fun while doing it.
#13: Michelle Schubert (13th)
My feelings on Michelle are my feelings on most of the cast- neutral/positive. I think she and a good few others would probably be at 270ish in the cast. Michelle is nice, Michelle is a decent player but also makes mistakes, Michelle believes in dragons and has manners, and I like those scenes. I’d much rather see Michelle last longer than Will and I doubt she makes Will’s catastrophic screw-up at the Final 9. Michelle shows potential to be one of the greats but that is potential not fully realized. I think she could be a Kelley Wentworth type and take another season by storm, but as it stands it is not this one, where she wasn’t fully developed.
#12: Rachel Ako (20th)
I think I like Rachel Ako a lot more than most people do. I’ve heard her described as a low-tier first boot and not very entertaining, but I think she’s fun in her own way. I like how she makes a lot of the mistakes you’d expect from a first boot (being bossy, messing up on the puzzle, being generally disconnected) but does so as sweetly and as chipper as possible. I get the sense from her that the mistakes were never malicious or egotistical, just her not noticing them, and she was pretty adorable in her only episode too. I like how Jeff (my official 21st this season, my God was he wretched this time) was all narrating that Rachel was blowing the puzzle for her tribe in his thinly veiled attempt to vote her out for Takali and Rachel corrected his harsh critique before giggling. She’s not even in my top 10 first boots, but she’s still fun and I think she should be appreciated.
#11: Sunday Burquest (7th)
I don’t hate her! On-show, at least, she was actually pretty okay. She was definitely a background character with an atrocious edit (almost as bad as Lucy’s!) but she was a good one with spread out confessionals and more airtime than it seemed like. She was always a part of the action, whether it be going on every reward she could, her targeting Jessica but never getting mean about it, her struggle to scramble against Bret on Ika Bula, her rather ingeniously giving out Ken’s name to negate David’s idol, even small moments like her wagging her finger in Bret’s face when he made his anxiety comments. She was a collection of small moments but I’d also a better player than she got credit for, and that was interesting to watch in the package of a small Minnesota mom.
#10/9: Jessica “Figgy” Figueroa (TIE) Taylor Stocker
I couldn’t decide! I think I had Taylor in 9th and Figgy in 10th before, then vice versa, then I even had #8 below them, but at the end they’re here and they’re tied and they actually kind of earned it. Figgy lasted less of an amount of time, but she was a really great pre-merge villain that the fanbase loathed because reasons. She had a habit of doing basic things in a really villainous and actually kind of dopey way. Her feud with Michaela was fun, her inexplicably surviving over Mari was fun, her thinking no one else at the swap would catch on that she was a couple with Taylor was fun, and her nearly pissing herself over Michelle surviving was fun. She did get pretty condescending at her final Tribal Council but since it was the one she went out on, it was also fun. Also, her post-show presence was possibly Top 1 of the season, though the other Jessica might have something to say about it.
Taylor, on the other hand, while just as fun, didn’t have the imposing factor that Figgy had. In fact, he was pretty dumb. I love when he said at his final TC (three seconds too late) that he wasn’t a dumb surfer, which is pretty accurate since he’s a snowboard instructor. Like, wow is he dumb, I just kind of have to marvel at it. Getting into a couple when he knocked someone up at home? Mostly douchey but still dumb. Making it the world’s most obvious couple ever to the point that his ally was skeeved? Frickin’ dumb as rawwwwks. Threatening to destroy Adam over Figgy while doing literally nothing to him? Dumb as baby shit. Then there’s the magnum opus of stupidity in stealing food, admitting it in the merge Tribal, then stealing more food and revealing it again at the next Tribal to out Adam and his shitty advantage that he never used. I love that vote-out strictly because it was painted as a quality of life vote.
Because of that, the two tie, which is only fitting seeing as the two’s Survivor experiences are irrevocably tied together. They both have their strengths and very few weaknesses, and while they don’t stand out in the annals of Survivor (despite all the airtime the couple of Figtails got) they’re still pretty good characters.
#8: Ken McNickle (2nd)
I am mixed on him. Like, 50% of the time I thought he was boring as sin, 25% of the time I thought he was kind of funny and interesting, and 25% of the time I thought he was insufferably self-righteous for such a massive screw-up. The 50% of the time speaks for itself- he was basically male Tasha only not hated for… some reason. He was actually pretty unique and fun sometimes, though, what with his decrying the Ken doll comment, his snark about Figtails’ “two week relationship”, him acting as an accessory to David’s growth arc, identifying with him despite his male model appearance and encouraging him midmerge when he was down on himself.
The self-righteous part really sticks out in my mind, however, possibly due to his high-larious interview with Josh Wigler (that may be the funniest he’s been all season). His petulance in Episode 4 was where I first noticed problems with him, like no shit Jessica wasn’t gonna aign with you, you were on the bottom and could say anything to sway her. The comment to Will about being the only one who has as much integrity as him is so damn Stephenie, and undone by him immediately tattling on him. The cut-off comment about how he knows women was also pretty iffy. His finale performance towards the end undid it all, what with how smarmy and above-it-all he could be, and leaving jurors with that impression that he was aloof and self-aggrandizing for his honesty, before cutting David’s throat at the F4- while the better move, it went against what Ken presented himself as and he was rightfully raked over the coals for it.
In that Wigler interview, he (rather melodramatically) decried the million going to Adam, who more or less is aligned with what he says he’d do with the money. I mean, the reason Adam won was entirely because of Ken. Hannah could only force a tie and it’s a tie David would likely win. The reason David was voted out because of him, which is pretty tragic. Say what you want about Colby and Woo, at least their partner in crime won! Ken thought he was going to win so much he voted David out and then lost, which is tragic in my eyes, but in a subtle way- which is more than I can say for this season.
Ken is here because while oftimes he was a borefest and a pain in the ass, at other times he did make me laugh- both with and at him- and his story was pretty interesting.
#7: Adam Klein (Winner)
I have very mixed feelings about him.
There’s been a lot of talk about his story- namely, that his mother had Stage 4 Lung Cancer and passed away shortly after the show. I could talk for hours about this, but it hits close to home and my feelings on it are too tangled to discern, so I’ll just say this- I never doubted him and his emotion for a second, and that’s what brings him this high. There was so much said and unsaid that occurred in that story that made me really buy into it, and his emotion was that of a kid near my age dealing with something that tragic. For obvious reasons it’s hard to talk about, yet people talk about it like it’s all there is to him, and it really isn’t.
I am actually quite happy that they showed a winner making this many little mistakes and being shown as a normal power player and not necessarily a winner. His “apologies” have been well documented as being just the worst things to ever tell a bottomfeeder. That and his caginess and propensity to panic and slip up that way are things I’m surprised to see in a winner. There are also many times people were willing to vote him out, which I guess would be considered doubt if not combined with the other things that were foggy enough doubt.
At the same time, there were elements I disliked. For one, he never quite did learn to stop shouting in confessionals, which made a lot of them feel like late-game Anna Khait. These types of confessionals were called out as Big-Brotherish, and rightfully so. Second, his “apologies”, while fun when parodied, were really cringe comedy, which I find hard to like as comedy. Third, he was very severe a narrator. I mean, of course he was severe, a lot of what he had to narrate was severe, but even the ones away from his mother (which warranted) felt very heavy. Not as exhaustedly condescending as Zeke’s (he did sometimes verge into condescending territory but not enough to make an impact) but compared to the others who were way more light, this was not a season to be so serious about game stuff. Kaoh Rong, I’d get it- it was insanely dramatic. I kind of get why he was, but it didn’t fit the season well.
I think a couple years down the line my opinion of Adam could change probably the most, for better or worse. There’s a lot about him I can deal with easily and a lot that leaves me tangled, but one thing that stands out is his edit, and I really respect that. There aren’t many winners like him, especially now, and the more we have the better. I think before the season people called a homeless shelter owner and a beacon of light from San Francisco as “too good to be true” and midseason Adam “too bad to be true” but his win was the truth we got.
#6: Bret Labelle (5th)
I am also pretty mixed on him, though it’s simpler to tell as his good and bad moments were more clear. Like, his good moments were kind of hilarious, easily the funniest part of the season that wasn’t Michaela. Between his finale performance of being the only one whose edit wasn’t all about winning and was just like “the hell are these people are they mad”, his atrociously hilarious funeral director cover-up for being a cop that was so bad that you wouldn’t think he actually worked at a funeral home (when I found out he did, I was shook!) and of course the many times he drank himself silly which is so frequent it became its own thing, he had me laughing a lot. I mean, consider that he’s a cop who was involved with the Boston Marathon bombing, and the edit treats this hero as a joke character. That’s funny.
Plus, I think a lot of what I like about the scene of him coming out to Zeke is because of him- his attempts to be comical showing a good bit of vulnerability and the idea that he didn’t mention it to his tribe because in his generation if you were gay, you kept quiet about it. It felt honest, even when he tried to hide his feelings.
That having been said, there were some really icky moments with him. A lot of it is the Final 10 Tribal Council, where his comments about David’s anxiety hit Bret hard. Not only were his comments more serious, it really undid a lot of what was sweet about his character- hard to take him encouraging David to compete in F11 or him helping Hannah through her panic attack if he outright mocks that as a weakness. Not only that, though, his comments all throughout Tribal were pretty gross- I remember him condescending to Ken over a time where Ken wasn’t actually doing much to condescend over, and trying to pass the blame entirely to David for the rock draw when “apologizing” to Jessica, which is just the worst timing. Add to that his comment about women having more testosterone than David which was… charming, and him growing unfun bitter towards the end of his stint rather than funny bitter, and I get the sense that Bret in real life isn’t all fun and games like the majority of his edit. Still, with that much of his edit being fun and games, he’s easier to appreciate.
#5: David Wright (4th)
I tend to praise overshown controversial characters more than I really should for this position, and David is no exception. I mean, a lot of his arc is sort of cringeworthily repetitive in the growth and change and weak lily-liver becomes a strong warrior arc, his comments about Paul nearly having a heart attack being good for his game (I just realized I forgot to write about Paul’s heart attack in his section which shows what an impact it had) and at times he really made me cringe with how bad he was at things. At the same time, though, that growth felt really genuine, which I can’t believe I’m saying about a TV writer. I mean, towards the beginning it felt scripted, and maybe he tried before he got exhausted by Survivor, but his actual change felt quite natural, somewhat riddled with unavoidable flaws, and in many ways quite subtle.
I like that as late as the Final 11 he was willing to sit out of a challenge before he got the confidence to compete but still felt short. I like that he was best friends with Ken the super hot model but came out as the better one, and didn’t hold any resentment for Ken voting him out. I like that at the Final 10 he had a plan to vote out Zeke but made a mistake and genuinely worried over it. I like that when he was mocked at that Tribal Council he kept his cool. I like that several times he took control and nothing was really made of it. I like that towards the end he became a large contender for the win, and that he was the first “last boot” since Malcolm that would have genuinely won over everyone. I like that towards the end he was showing signs of arrogance that were shot down but never so much that he became unlikable for it.
These are a list of great moments to his story that didn’t feel forced- maybe not as big as him idoling Lucy out, him sucking ass at the first swap challenge or even him winning individual immunity, but they’re moments I thought made this story work as something more genuine than I expected. It was a story that largely consumed his edit, but to me, it was a good story and David seems like a genuinely good dude.
#4: Hannah Shapiro (2nd)
I do love Hannah for all she brings to the table. She’s a little inconsistent and her “growth arc” was really an often-forgotten version of David’s- there but not regular even in a subtle sense. I argue, however, that while Bret was the funniest character this season that wasn’t Michaela, Hannah had the funniest moments, and while David’s anxiety was played for a serious story, Hannah’s had a lot of funny moments that I get the sense even she found funny, especially since it starts with her taking five hours to vote and it ends with her strategically dominating everything and getting angry and defensive at FTC.
I also really dig her little moments: Trust Cluster made some cringe but I prefer a silly title over talk of voting blocs for literal ever. Her little “So I shouldn’t be a sports captain” comment at Jessica was iconic in my eyes, and her moment with the panic attack was actually kind of touching. Her final eleven and ten episode with her growing into strategic dominance with Ken to back her up and David to understand her was fantastic, especially since the others went into a rock draw for her and after Jessica went home, she showed some genuine remorse over it (rather than Zeke who celebrated how stupid he thought everyone was). Hannah was a spice added to this season rather without a pattern or reason but always there to make it better.
#3: Jessica Lewis (10th)
Jessica was someone who before this season I had pegged as the most boring person ever, and now she’s my top Gen-Xer. At least when posting two and a half times this season I can still make terrible shitty predictions, so dah-du-du-daaaah! Jessica was a lot of fun even with a lot of her character still being rather mousy and innocent, because beneath the sweet, quiet character was possibly one of the most cutthroat players ever. Seriously, she made the dry-as-a-camel’s-ass-in-a-desert-storm pre-swap a little bit of fun more than even Michaela. With that pre-swap what immediately comes to mind is Jessica’s eye infections, Jessica voting out Paul, Jessica’s eyes nearly bugging out of her head when she was idoled. It was largely the time of David and like half his confessionals but Jessica was the standout as far as I’m concerned, and the pre-swap needed that shock of energy because it was freaking dull.
Even after that, though, she was still plenty of fun, befriending Ken, giving the Figtails romance an amused sort of look and being like “ya think?” pretty goddamn immediately, her nearly winning the first immunity and conversing with Will there, her smacking Chris down when he went for her in practically the biggest celebration I had all season, and the fact that she went out because of her loyalty- even when she was scared of going to rocks, she still did it, and while I’ve argued even on this blog it was the right move, she went home regardless.
In fact, it’s actually fun to compare her to Ken- he preached loyalty while she was playing a very cutthroat game, and both were protected by David’s idols at some point, (Jessica from going home, Ken from drawing rocks) but Jessica was loyal to David even to the point of rocks, and Ken cut him to try and get better odds at the finals. That’s a fun little dichotomy, and really summarizes her- she could probably play with disloyalty and a cutthroat nature to the end, but chose not to. I’d rather have her as an ally over Ken any day.
#2: Michaela Bradshaw (14th)
This was so hard, because Michaela and Jay were easily the top two for me- in fact, probably the only two I really loved and would crack my top 100. I love her immensely and am glad she’s coming back for Mamanuca and was even announced for it at the reunion, and it’s only the lesser content in Episode 3 and most of Episode 1 that gives her the #2 spot. She is a pre-merge goddess and the fact that she can place 14th and still be well loved is a testament to her star power. Ever since she rolled her eyes at the Gen-Xers being all “back in my day people worked and there were no drones” and we knew she was a hard worker who paid off her student loans, she captured my heart and didn’t let go of it.
She just kept doing awesome things, like her evaluation of Figgy (“You gotta pull the bunny out of the hat, you can’t just walk in with the bunny”) and showing glee when she was voted out (“bye Felicia”), her disbelief that Figtails was making out on the island at all (“there’s sand in your drawers!”), and her nonchalantly getting topless to score a point at the E4 reward challenge (“they’re about to see some ta-tas”).
The fact that she’s so quotable is what makes her character great. What really worked for her is while last season’s comedienne Cydney was so fast talking and chill, she did feel a little scripted, which for once isn’t actually an insult because she was insanely funny. However, how this season’s comedienne is one that feels like she is saying exactly what she is thinking at any time. Michaela has no filter, and while this at times leads to bad gameplay, this makes her invaluable as a character.
Where she really shines, however, is after the swap, where she gives possibly the best performance of anyone this season as a character. Her outright anger when she drew the third beach buff to the point of giving dirty looks when the new tribes celebrated and formed and telling Jeff he did it wrong, her being the one to make fire and her leaving to cry about it, her being one of the rare few women to get the golden one/good at challenges edit, interrupting Jay’s idol find right when Jay says to Will not to tell anyone, her “if you can’t figure it out you deserve to go home” quote after the E6 challenge, all those make a very excellent character.
Her blindside, while crushing at the time before one Justin Starrett took over the season, is one of the best I’ve ever seen, which is high praise for a pre-merge 4-2 vote with no special items played. Part of it is Jay owning up to it quite viciously, but most of it was Michaela’s doing. Beforehand I like that she does get a sort of blindside edit (the things she did reminded me of Cambodia Monica Padilla a little bit I’m not gonna lie) but the edit never laughed at or disrespected her for saying it was good to go to Tribal or her outright saying (never condescendingly or disrespectfully) that Sunday or Bret are at the bottom. When she did get the third vote… hell, I don’t need to explain, we all saw it, and her genuine pissedtivity at being voted out by Jay and Other made a fantastic exit, especially when Jeff was about to read the world’s most obvious vote but stopped when Michaela was staring Jay down. What an iconic exit.
When Michaela is on screen she works it, and it felt like a genuine loss when she was voted out, especially since I had legitimately no one I rooted for on her level, and while Jay and Hannah filled that void up, the season wasn’t the same without her. I love her and I figure I’ll love her in Mamanuca too.
#1: Justin “Jay” Starrett (6th)
It’s hard to explain why I love Jay so much, because it’s not all chronological, it’s more traits he has. With Michaela it was easy, self explanatory even. Jay is a little harder to explain, but since they’re more things I feel than things that appear as obvious, so I will do my best
Jay is a subversion of the “stereotypical surfer boy” while still having some of the traits of one. It’s never a complete subversion but it still shows us more sides to him. He’s smarter than you’d expect and a lot more game savvy, for better or worse, but he still gives confessionals about being left out of bowling night and cops busting you on the beach.
Jay can play both the hero and the villain well. At times, especially as the underdog, he plays the last man standing role to a T and always makes it feel intense, but never too serious. He also serves as the smarter half of the Jay and Taylor relationship and he and Michelle felt like the mom and dad of the ill-fated alliance. Yet, especially from the Michaela vote where he coldly stated to her face that he did it to about the Final 12, he played the villain role well, cockily bragging about how he’s the kingpin then acting the next episode like splitting the millennials up was the dumbest thing ever. Yet, he also can be classy, as shown by his reward “steal” where David wins it but Jay takes it and immediately takes David himself because he doesn’t “play like that”.
Jay doesn’t hide his emotions. Or in the case of the Adam/Jay F7 scene, not very well. What makes Jay such a standout over many other characters this season is that he feels very emotionally invested, and his confessionals reflect that. He’s giddy and carefree (and tonedeaf) when he finds the idol, he’s crying when he brings Adam to the family visit and over his mother and when Jessica draws the rock, despite being on the other side, he’s angry and annoyed when Adam gives Jay one of his patented apologies, and he’s happily delusional when he finds the idol in his finale. When he’s eliminated, he’s very vocal about his frustrations that everyone played him, but says in an amused tone “I had fun though”. That authenticity mixed with good spirits really stuck with me.
His relationships with others are interesting. From the obvious one with Figtails and Michelle where he has a mixture of ride-or-die and incredulity at them and their acts, to his complicated connection with Adam where sometimes Jay hates him but sometimes he loves the dude and towards the end they bond over their mutual love for their mothers and the health problems they’ve played passenger to, to Will being his #2 but Will screwing him over at every turn while Jay is still his buddy, to even the small relationships like Sunday, Jessica, and Michaela (which is minor as it lasted maybe two episodes, but I loved it regardless). One thing I can say about Jay is that he is a strength to their storylines while those storylines strengthen him in turn.
Finally, he’s a great TV character. Jay always has some witty observations, and while some aren’t unique or are spins on sayings, he never comes off as clumsy in any way because of his natural charisma. He’s right in the middle between being great for the camera and being witty as his own screenwriter. Top that off with some great things happening to and around him, as well as him showing multiple sides as a character, and you have the #1 for this season. Tai may have been fantastic for his season, but I’m not sure if he reaches those heights in this one. Jay is someone you could put onto any season and he’d always be an integral part of it.
MvGX as a whole is rather hard to like for me, since a lot of the characters are shallow and undeveloped and the focus on strategy and rather forced mechanics. Therefore it’s fitting that the characters I gravitate to the most broke that trend and showed some very natural, subversive sides to it all, managing to elevate those elements rather than be brought down by them.