Exclusive: Zeke Smith talks 'Survivor' -- "I don't think anyone needed convincing I was the biggest threat"
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/02/2016
Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X's merged Vinaka tribe voted Zeke Smith out of the game during Wednesday night's 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 twelfth 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 first half of our exclusive interview with Zeke. Check back with us soon for more.
Reality TV World: Did the tribe view Will as a swing vote only after Ken McNickle threw him under the bus and announced his plans? In other words, were you convinced Will was on your side before you learned he wanted to blindside you?
Zeke Smith: I observed Will running off into the woods to talk to [Hannah Shapiro] multiple times and grew suspicious that Will was flipping, particularly because the four on the bottom seemed too calm. Shortly after, Ken revealed Will flipped.
Reality TV World: So how convinced were you that you had Will heading into Tribal Council? Since Adam Klein played his hidden Immunity Idol, I'm assuming his side thought Will was leaning towards working with your group.
Zeke Smith: I wasn't shocked in the least. I expected to see my name. Walking in to Tribal, I knew Will would decide my fate and felt about 60% confident I'd swayed him back from [David Wright]'s camp. But, when Adam played his Penis Idol, I knew my torch would soon be snuffed.
Reality TV World: You told Will at Tribal Council you always wanted to work with him as a plea to stay. Did you really mean that? And if Will had voted with you rather than against you, would you truly have been able to trust Will again and move past his betrayal/flip in order to continue working with him?
Zeke Smith: Yes, from the early days of the Millennial beach, Will and I had a relationship, but I quickly was out of the numbers there. After the merge, Will comes to me and says he wants to work with me again, and I assent, because I want the Cool Kid Millennials to think I'm voting with them.
After the blindside of [Michelle Schubert], I begin cultivating Will as my ally, since he sees his crew is going down. I spent a lot of time with Will. I sat out that Immunity Challenge with Will to show him he was safe during the Taylor vote. It worked. Will eventually reveals that [Justin "Jay" Starrett] has an idol to me in order to secure our bond.
Here's the thing, I needed Will much more than Will needed me because I was the biggest target. I didn't care that Will was exploring his options, that's the game. Relationships were extremely fluid in the merge. I voted with different people almost every vote.
Reality TV World: Will wanted to take credit for the move of taking you out, but he was naturally the swing vote. So do you give him the credit or does it belong to David, who spearheaded an attempt to vote you off in last week's episode? He seemed to be the one to convince people you were the biggest threat.
Zeke Smith: I don't think anyone needed convincing I was the biggest threat. I had trust with everyone and was revealed to be the hub of information. Will does get credit for the move. The question then becomes, is it a good move. Credit for a bad move isn't necessarily credit worth having.
Reality TV World: Why do you think Will ultimately chose to vote for you when Ken had screwed him over? And are you surprised Will turned on Jay when he was basically his closest ally in the game up to this point?
Zeke Smith: Will, like me -- and like a lot of us out there -- is a massive Survivorsuper fan. I think he saw his window to make a mark on the game closing and wanted to act. I understand where he's coming from, because I had the exact same impulse.
Reality TV World: Your alliance was scared Dave had an idol and that he could play it for Ken or Hannah, but what about Adam? Did anyone talk about him possibly having one?
Zeke Smith: No one knew for sure that Adam had an idol, but we did know there was an unaccounted for idol from the Millennial beach. Adam was suspected to have the idol.
Reality TV World: How close did your alliance come to choosing Ken as your target instead of Hannah?
Zeke Smith: Very close. It was a last minute decision to flip the vote to Hannah after Ken's blow up with Will. We thought Ken might be too obvious and that an idol could be played for him.
Reality TV World: As a jury member, what did you base your vote on? What did you consider the most important criteria when choosing a winner of Survivor?
Zeke Smith: I voted for the person who played the most strategic game.
Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of our exclusive Survivor interview with Zeke Smith.