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Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X’s Rachel Ako: ‘We Thought We Were Going to Die’ During Fiji Cyclone

Survivor season 33 kicked off Wednesday, September 22, in true cutthroat fashion. Alliances were formed, tears were shed and, of course, paranoia over idols ran deep. But the most threatening twist in the game: Mother Nature. For the first time in the show’s 16-year history, the entire cast of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X was evacuated from camp thanks to a cyclone. 

“We thought we were going to die,” Gen X tribe member Rachel Ako — the first castaway voted off this season — reveals to Us Weekly. “We got hit with wind and sand that felt like bullets. There were so many points out there where some of the guys said, ‘Someone is eventually going to die on this show.’”

Jeff Probst extinguishes Rachel Ako's torch at Tribal Council on SURVIVOR: Millennials vs. Gen. X.
Jeff Probst extinguishes Rachel Ako’s torch at Tribal Council on ‘Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.’

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Just before the storm destroyed the Fiji campsites, host Jeff Probst rolled up to the beach. But Ako says his presence was originally questioned. After all, the Emmy winner rarely comes bearing good news. 

“For me, my dad was having some health problems when I left, and so I had this whole other thing going on in my mind, like, ‘This is about someone back home. It’s my family or someone else’s,’” explains Ako, 37. “That’s the only time we’ve really seen Jeff come on the beach. But when he said we were going to be kicked out by a cyclone, that’s when I was like, ‘Whoa, unprecedented.’ It was almost like a late evacuation, actually.”

As Probst previously told Us, the 20 competitors, divided by age, were taken to two separate rooms at base camp. For nine hours, they sat in silence as they waited for the storm to pass. “I remember the concrete on the ground, with no carpet or anything, and sleeping on it wondering if I wanted to die by cyclone or die on this concrete,” Ako recalls. “We couldn’t talk about the game. There was a producer in there at all times monitoring us. We got a bottle of water and a cup of rice.”

The 20 contestants on SURVIVOR: Millennials vs. Gen. X.
The 20 contestants on ‘Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.’

The L.A.-based recruiting director tells Us more.

Us Weekly: What was your reaction when Probst explained the season’s theme, millennials vs. Generation X?

Rachel Ako: I was genuinely surprised. I was like, “I probably would like to see some younger people on my tribe.” I didn’t have this hatred toward millennials and the strong opinions everyone else had on my tribe. I’m more appreciative of what both generations brought to the table. I said that when Jeff asked us about it when we first arrived. So that probably put a target on my back, that I didn’t hate the millennials.

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Us: So you identify solely as a Gen X–er?

RA: I think I’m very in between. Nothing wrong with dreaming and knowing you can do whatever you want! 

Us: During the immunity challenge, Gen X decided to take two shortcuts — expanding the tight web to crawl through and widening the balance beam. In exchange, your tribe had 20 extra pieces added to the puzzle. Do you regret that choice? 

RA: No, that challenge was really laid out for the millennials to win. We were not able to do it without the shortcuts. Chris [Hammons], Bret [LaBelle] and Paul [Wachter] would not have been able to get through the openings in the Charlotte’s web because the ropes were so small. We needed that shortcut to open it up and get bigger holes for them to get through. I wouldn’t have had a problem with the Charlotte’s web or the balance beam, but we thought it would be an issue for some of the tribe members.

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Us: Your tribe-mates said you were bossy. Watching the episode, do you agree that you came on too strong?

RA: Yes, I wish I wouldn’t have said anything or stepped up. It would have benefited me to fly under the radar. But you get punished for being like that at the end. You never know which way to go, but I wish I had been quiet.

Us: It was you and David Wright on the chopping block. Is there anything you wish you had said to change your tribe’s mind?

RA: No, I don’t think it would have helped at all. It was a done deal. I think it looked like it would have been Dave, but in reality, I knew it was going to be me. Dave only got one vote.

Us: Who is going to win it all: millennials or Gen X?

RA: The millennials! Gen X better watch out for that young energy now that they voted me out. I’m pretty high energy for Gen X! 

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

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