Exclusive: Zeke Smith talks 'Survivor' -- David Wright deflects vote masterfully, no one knew Adam Klein's mom was dying
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/07/2016
Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X's merged Vinaka tribe voted Zeke Smith out of the game during the twelfth episode on CBS.
Zeke, a 28-year-old asset manager from Brooklyn, NY, became the twelfth castaway voted out of Season 33 of Survivor on Night 33 at the game's latest Tribal Council session. He also became the fifth jury member.
When Will Wahl served as the swing vote, he decided to vote Zeke out because he's a huge threat in the game. Will also admitted he was looking for a way to add to his Survivor resume to potentially win the game.
Zeke was unavailable for a phone interview but responded to questions via email. Below is the concluding portion of our exclusive interview with Zeke. Click here to read the first half.
Reality TV World: In the last several episodes, you seemed to think you were in charge, but it seemed like Chris Hammons, Sunday Burquest and Bret LaBelle were a solid three. So weren't you worried about being at the bottom of that alliance? I felt there was a chance Chris would choose you over the other two, but you took him out.
Zeke Smith: I knew I wasn't in Chris's long-term plans. Heck, I wasn't in anyone's long-term plans. There were two types of players in the game -- players who led strategically and players who followed. Bret and Sunday fell into the former category. I was confident by voting Chris out, I could pull in Bret and Sunday and they would be unfalteringly loyal to me. That's exactly what happened.
Reality TV World: We saw the moment Hannah Shapiro dumped you for David Wright, which in turn, prompted you to target her. But when did your relationship with your other "nerd alliance" member, Adam Klein, also crumble? Did you simply view Hannah and Adam as a package deal or did something specific happen?
Zeke Smith: I always enjoyed Adam as a person, but we butted heads strategically. Adam could be stubborn in times, and I often felt he was unwilling to listen to me. For example, I warned him about sharing too much with [Taylor Stocker], but he was adamant about pursing that relationship.
Reality TV World: At the time you left the game, considering it's 4 against 4 castaways now, what did you predict might happen? Which side did you believe would prevail going forward and why?
Zeke Smith: Relationships in the game are entirely too fluid to view any "side" as locked. Survivor is always about trust and predictability. Those untrustworthy and unpredictable tend to get the snuff.
Reality TV World: Do you think David is a big enough threat that the sides might join forces to take him out or did you only view him as your biggest threat because you felt certain he was gunning for you?
Zeke Smith: David is a big enough threat where the sides should join forces to take him out, but David is also an incredibly talented and intelligent player and has been able to deflect the vote masterfully. It's his wit and talent that made him threatening, as well as his targeting of me.
Reality TV World: Earlier in the season, you had seemed to be gunning for Michelle Schubert for a while, but the show's editing never made it clear why exactly. However, when we interviewed Michelle, she said you had told her that you didn't want to align with her because of her faith. Was that correct or was there some other reason you were focused on her as a target?
Zeke Smith: No, I never targeted Michelle because of her faith. I believe that was a gross misinterpretation of Michelle words.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The question is an accurate representation of Michelle's comments. In our interview, Michelle stated Zeke "had said that because of my faith, he had judged that he should not try to align with me, or that he didn't trust me or something." Click here to read the entire interview, or click here to listen to the actual audio.]
Zeke Smith: Michelle and I never "clicked" in the game. Survivor is fundamentally about relationships and relationships are built on a mutual feeling of comfort we never achieved. I targeted Michelle because I didn't trust her, and she'd proved a savvy and dangerous player as demonstrated by the Mari vote.
Reality TV World: When Adam decided not to use his "Reward Advantage," did you think that was a truly genuine and selfless move, or strategy? After all, Adam had to dig himself out of a hole once Taylor went home.
Zeke Smith: First, none of us knew Adam's mother was dying. If we did know, he wouldn't need the advantage. Everyone would've deferred the Loved Ones Visit to him. But, Adam made the strategic choice not to tell anyone.
As such, Adam caused a lot of upset around camp because he announced he would use his advantage for the Loved One's Visit. It felt like he was threatening to steal your Loved One's Visit and created a lot of game hostility toward Adam.
Not using the advantage was a very smart, strategic move on Adam's part. I believe it both repaired Adam's relationship with members of the tribe, as well as gaining him good will with [Justin "Jay" Starrett], who ultimately took him on the Reward.
Reality TV World: Do you think Adam made a mistake in deciding to give Jay that "Reward Advantage" afterward? Since Adam is a student of the game, that surprised me, because if there's, for example, a Survivor auction coming up, Adam could've stolen a clue to a hidden Immunity Idol or something.
Zeke Smith: I think "Reward Disadvantage" is a better name for the "Advantage." Because whether you're stealing a Loved One's Visit or a helicopter ride, you're making someone very angry at you. If I found that advantage, I would've destroyed it.
As students of the game, we were well aware that the SurvivorAuction was out of fashion post the World's Apart auction debacle. No one believed an auction to be on the horizon.
Reality TV World: When I interviewed Jessica Lewis last week, she was amazed at how you'd betray people in the game but then immediately get back on their good graces. (Like with Bret after you voted out Chris). So how did you pull that off? Were you just an excellent manipulator?
Zeke Smith: Two things. Yes, I'm very good at forming and healing relationships -- you can call that manipulation.
Second, I learned a big lesson from being blindsided during my first vote. There's an electric sense of panic when you're blindsided. You're desperate for anyone to tell you you're not on the bottom. The moment we returned from Tribal, I put down my torch, pulled Bret down to the beach, and told him he had a spot with me if he wanted it. I'm glad he did.
Reality TV World: Did you accomplish everything you hoped to during your month on Survivor?
Zeke Smith: I missed three things on mySurvivor bucket list: finding a Hidden Immunity Idol, winning individual immunity, and, oh yeah, winning.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor? Did you apply, and if so, was it your first time doing so?
Zeke Smith: I sent in a three minute video to cbs.com/casting. My first time applying.
To read the first half of Reality TV World's exclusive interview with Zeke, click here.