Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

What’s that you say? Survivor is still on the air? And – GASP! – it just started its 38th season??? If this sounds familiar, than you are either a Survivor fan who has had this conversation countless times in your life while explaining your obsession to your non-Survivor friends, or you are a non-Survivor friend who is legitimately wondering how – after 19 YEARS – this show is still on TV. Well, let me explain it to you briefly: It’s because Survivor is THE best Reality-TV Competition Show, the grand-daddy of them all, and is still bringing it…Every. Single. Time.

If you don’t believe it’s still on, or you trying to do quick math trying to figure out how it could have had 38 seasons, you may also be surprised to find out that it is not just on the air, but it’s also STILL winning its time-slot in all of the major demographics. Add to this, that it has some of the most loyal, dedicated fans of any television show. Yes, Survivor has been on the…ahem…”edge of extinction” many times in the past, with rumors that the show would end countless times over the years, but still it prevails. The key format of the game is still intact, but it has evolved drastically since the days of Richard Hatch, Sue Hawk or Rudy Boesch…in today’s game, 46 is now “old,” and a simple alliance won’t cut it…you need to be thinking four, and five steps ahead. And now entering Season 38, we’ve been spoiled with some of the very best Survivor seasons of all-time over the past couple years, showing that Survivor will endure for many more years to come.

So you might as well give in and join the party! Whether you’re a long-time fan of the show and have seen every episode since Season 1 (like me!), or whether you are returning to the show after taking some seasons (or some years) off…or even if you have decided to watch Survivor for the very first time: I welcome you! Now let’s dive in to the Premiere Episode of Survivor: Edge of Extinction and find out what all the hype is about!

As I do at the beginning of every recap, please heed the following: Remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s Premiere Episode of Survivor: Edge of Extinction. If you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap. It is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.


Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

Ah, it feels good to be back! First, a big thank you to those that followed my Celebrity Big Brother recaps this past month…it was my first crack at recapping anything not directly related to Survivor! It was tons of fun, but it feels so good to be back to the familiar! Thanks too for following along this coming season, I hope it’s a good one, and by judging this first episode, I think it will be. While the cast didn’t quite make the same impression that last Fall’s stellar David vs. Goliath cast did, there were enough twists to set the stage for lots and lots of fireworks in coming weeks.

Of course, the two big-ticket items to discuss are the cast and also the Edge of Extinction twist itself. I personally was apprehensive about the idea that we could still theoretically have all 18 players left in the game heading into Finale…and was also a bit disappointed that the format change meant that CBS would not be doing the traditional weekly exit interviews like most every other season (more on that in a bit). But I’m open to the idea, and I’m very interested to see how it will play out. We were only given a tease of it this week, and we don’t quite know what it will entail as far as how players can get back into the game, but it’s definitely an interesting experiment. To me, it was made even more interesting by who was sent there first: The spit-fire “mom-figure” Reem Daly. I say “mom-figure” in quotes because I find it funny that at 46, Reem was rolled out as the elder stateswoman of her camp. The Legendary Rudy Boesch was 72 – !!! – when he competed in Borneo during Season 1, and the show’s cast has increasingly skewed younger ever since. But I loved her energy, and her toughness, and she’s the perfect candidate to break in Extinction Island for us viewers.

Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

Reem was targeted not just because of her eccentric laundry habits, but also because she sort of closed herself off from the rest of the group when she started hanging out with Wendy and Keith, both of whom seem destined to join Reem at Extinction sooner rather than later. I did like that Keith showed a bit of gamesmanship when he was able to see that Reem was on a sinking ship, and decided to tell the rest of the tribe that she was gunning for “Wentworth” or Lauren. Wendy of course, didn’t seem to understand that by fighting for Reem this early in the game, she was basically digging her own grave. Keith’s inability to swim will be costly to his tribe, but if he can somehow, someway, survive in the game until the merge, he’s an interesting player…his sort of meek, timid demeanor coupled with his young age, might mean that there will always be bigger fish to fry…which could be a great thing for him moving forward.

Of the four returning players, Kelley…er…”Wentworth” got the most screen-time, and she’s already a massive, humongous target. Kudos to her for getting called by her last name, an honor Probst only bestows to some of the “best of the best” that have ever played, or to players that he just deeply admires (think Cochran, Penner, Hatch, Mariano, Savage or Culpepper). You may notice that all of these examples are men, so it might be an even higher honor that Kelley gets the Wentworth moniker…like for real, help me out: Has Probst ever referred to a female contestant by her last name?

Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

As for David, Aubry and Joe, they each got some screen-time and a few confessionals, but are just getting their feet wet in the game. A revealing scene with Eric the firefighter and Gavin the YMCA Program Director showed that these new players are looking for their own experience…which makes these returnees huge threats. But honestly, that’s to be expected. Almost every returning player season that Survivor has done, there seems to be a handful of newbies that feel immediately threatened and want them gone ASAP, and another group of players that usually is in awe of these “legends,” and want to keep them around. We got to see a taste of the latter with Aurora, who confessed that she is “Team Joe” even though she’s gay, as well as when Lauren got all fan-girl when she saw the returning players arriving on their boat.

Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

For the new players, there were a few that got shockingly little air-time (like Victoria or Julia), and a few, like Wendy or Julie – who was shown picking a splinter out of her foot and freaking out about her lack of survivor skills – didn’t necessarily get the sort of introductions that winners usually get. A few others seemed to stand out, like morning news anchor, Rick Devens, or “The Wardog” himself, Dan DaSilva. Add to the “stand-outs” Ron Clark, who found one heck of an advantage with his “Advantage Menu” that grants him the power to either steal a reward, cast an extra vote, or have Immunity at one of the first three Tribal Councils. Survivor has always loved giving players choices, as drama comes from their decisions, and I feel like letting them decide what their advantage is, is a cool twist.

Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

For all of its promise, there wasn’t that immediate “stand-out” player during the Premiere…but that also might have been due to the fact that this was a rare 60-minute Premiere instead of the usual 90 or 120-minute Premiere we’re accustomed to. It’s just hard to do introductions to 18 players, plus describe a game-changing twist, all in the span of a regular-length episode. But never forget: Even an average or sub-par season of Survivor is still better than any other Reality-TV competition show out there, so just stick with it regardless! And I’m not saying this is an average or sub-par start…I was totally into it! But coming off of David vs. Goliath, I think it would be smart to temper our expectations…

Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

Episode Take-Away: I was impressed but now initially blown away by this cast, and the four returnees that were chosen didn’t really scream “All-Star,” especially to someone who might be watching for the first time. I like the idea of the Extinction twist in relation to the game of Survivor, but I’m not convinced it’s going to make for good television. Are we simply going to get a scene each week with players huddled up in misery on a remote beach? Are the conditions really bad enough to make players quit the game? Like most seasons, the Premiere brought us lots of potential for greatness, we’ll just have to see how much of it plays out.

Voted Out This Week: Reem (sent to Island of Extinction)

Won Immunity: Yellow Tribe (sorry, I don’t bother with Survivor tribe names)

Vote: No advantages or Idols were played. 4 – Reem (Chris, David, Keith, Rick), 3 – Wendy (Wentworth, Wardog, Lauren), 1 – Wentworth (Reem), 1 – Lauren (Wendy)

Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premiere Recap: First Impressions

Next Week’s Episode: Will we finally learn what the Island of Extinction is really like? More than likely! And it looks like the game gets going in full swing, where nobody is really safe…especially the four returnees.

Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Because of the new “Edge of Extinction” format, CBS is not giving weekly exit interviews this season, so because of this, there will not be an interview article on Thursdays like you might be accustomed to. Further, because of this twist, I’ll be putting my FilmSurvivor Podcast on hiatus temporarily…I may do occasional podcasts throughout the season, but they won’t be weekly like normal…when I do post a Podcast, I’ll link it here. Those that have followed me also know that I am a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic, and I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews as I am also the national film critic for and am a movie critic/TV personality in the Detroit area. As always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.


Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell