Zeke Smith isn’t a Survivor contestant we will forget any time soon. From his colorful Hawaiian shirt to his head-to-head battle with David Wright, his time on the show was a lot of fun to watch. During our one-on-one conversation with Zeke, he discussed his declining connection with Millennials, revealed who he believes is playing the best game, explained that nobody knew Adam’s mother was dying and expressed gratitude toward meeting fans — especially a drag queen who wanted a photo.
SheKnows: As you were sitting there at Tribal Council, did you know Will had flipped to vote against you? Basically, did you know when Tribal Council started that it would be your last?
Zeke Smith: I expected to see my name. Walking into Tribal, I knew Will would decide my fate and felt about 60 percent confident I’d swayed him back from David’s camp. But when Adam played his penis Idol, I knew my torch would soon be snuffed.
SK: Will unexpectedly ignited a fire in himself to start playing the game right before your elimination. What did you get from Will out there? Was he playing the game or simply being dragged along?
ZS: Will, like me and like a lot of us out there, is a massive Survivor super-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. Will played a smart game the whole time. He made strong relationships and didn’t put a target on himself, allowing him maneuverability when the “cool kid” Millennials were targeted.
SK: What was your reaction when Adam announced he would not be using his Reward-stealing advantage? Did you believe it was a genuine act of kindness or did you sense a strategic motive?
ZS: 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 ones visit. It felt like he was threatening to steal your loved ones 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 Jay, who ultimately took him on the Reward.
SK: Speaking of Adam, you had mentioned throughout the season that playing with him was not easy. Did your opinion of him ever change out there?
ZS: 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, but he was adamant about pursuing that relationship.
SK: What was it about David that sparked such a rivalry between the two of you? Do you appreciate the strategic way he’s playing the game?
ZS: David and I respected the heck out of each other. We’re both massive fans of Survivor strategy and saw the game through the same lens. It’s a great quality in an ally, until, of course, you realize that you’ll need to come for each other. We both saw each other as our greatest impediment to winning. Once we realized we’d turn on each other at some point, it became a race to the to get him before I got got.
SK: When the season first started, you said you fit in more with the Gen-X tribe. You even compared yourself to an 80-year-old man who belongs at a singles mixer at the retirement home. After spending time in the competition, did you feel any more connected to Millennials?
ZS: No, I feel less connected with Millennials than ever. I really do not understand the members of my generation. But I feel much more connected with Gen-Xers! I suppose I’m just an old soul.
SK: At this point, who do you believe is playing the best game? The worst?
ZS: Best Game: David. Worst Game: Ken.
SK: When you first started, your Hawaiian shirt was bright and colorful. By the time you were voted off, it had transformed into a dark, dirty piece of clothing. Have you washed it? Has the smell worn off?
ZS: My poor shirt! It took a lot of abuse, but held strong. I washed it at Ponderosa. The dirt is gone, but what was left behind was a pale resemblance to its former glory.
SK: You’re a very recognizable person among the Survivor crowd. Have you been approached by any fans on the street? If so, what’s the craziest interaction you’ve encountered?
ZS: Yes, I get approached by fans quite a bit. Honestly, I’m so tickled every time. I think it’s far cooler that they want to say hi to me than vice versa. The best interaction was one I had in West Hollywood. I was stopped by a drag queen who wanted a picture for her mom. A drag queen wanted a picture with me! Life goal reached!