This season just got great, people! For those that have stuck through the first handful of episodes, we were rewarded tonight with two AMAZING hours of Survivor. Two hours that were filled with strategy, drama, excitement, twists and major blindsides. It’s made the trek thus far worth it, and then some. I, for one, was bubbling with that Survivor-adrenaline tonight, and forget what the naysayers might be telling you: The Edge of Extinction was darned-exciting tonight too! Yes, Survivor was firing on all cylinders tonight. And here’s hoping it has jolted its loyal fan-base into being excited again. I’m feeling reinvigorated!
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 Episode 5 and 6 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.
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Am I alone in thinking that tonight was awesome? Season 38 has admittedly felt a bit “ho-hum” through the first four episodes leading into tonight’s back-to-back installments. This was due in part to the impossible task that this season is coming on the heels of “David vs. Goliath,” hailed by almost everyone as a Top-5 all-time season.
Add to that the “Amazing Joe” tribe has been uber-dominant thus far, and nobody likes it when the same tribe ends up at Tribal Council over and over again. That unevenness ends up giving less air-time to the winning tribe(s), which in turn makes us feel like we aren’t getting to know many of the season’s contestants. Still, Survivor is still the best Reality TV show currently airing. Even a bad season of Survivor is better than pretty much every other reality show in existenc. Things were sort of lining up for Survivor: Edge of Extinction to be a middling season, at best.
That all changed tonight! We were greeted with two hours of great stuff. The first hour featured yet another win for Joe and gang. They’ve now won 8 of 9 challenges. This means they have gotten to feast pretty much every third day of the game. But it also showed that the level of gameplay this season is on par with any of the best “strategy” seasons in recent years. How about Victoria? Sweet, innocent-looking Victoria. She had shown signs of being a smart player. But, tonight she turned into full-on dangerous. Along with Eric and Gavin, she was able to blindside one of the better players the game has ever seen in Aubry.
Remember, Aubry had played the game twice before. She had lasted a total of 76 out of a possible 78 days. She also had not only an Idol in her possession, but also an additional vote. As she described it herself, she may not have been comfortable playing the game from a position of power as she’s used to being the underdog. But, there’s no other way to say what happened to her this season: She done got played. And it was Victoria in the starring role of her blindside.
Aubry‘s exit, of course, sent shock-waves through the game. It sent clear messages to the other returning players. They are not safe with this new batch of cutthroat castmates. But I’m going to do something I rarely, if ever, have done on these pages, and that’s compliment the game of Joe Anglim. Yes, everybody’s favorite Survivor heartthrob is clearly one of the most likable guys that has ever played the game. His domination of in-game challenges in now way beyond coincidental. The dude is an absolute challenge beast.
But as recent as last week, I was mocking his gameplay, because let’s face it, he’s pretty much sucked at that aspect of the game. But big props to him tonight. First, we saw Joe fall back on the oldest Survivor strategy in the book: If I provide for my tribe, maybe they’ll keep me around. Yes, that’s an old-school way of looking at the game. Still, it seemed to have worked, at least with Ron.
But best of all, after Aubry’s exit, we saw Joe get inside the head of Julia. His angle (anglim?) was that ALL of the yellow tribe was going to be seen as huge, annoying threats because of all of the challenge wins. Not just Joe. And if they all have become threats, then why not keep Joe around to shield them, as clearly he’s the biggest threat of them all? Hey, it wasn’t much, but it was great to see Joe working at this game in ways we’ve seldom seen. He has officially won his way to the merge. He might have just won himself some additional time in the game as well.
A quick side note on Aubry: It wasn’t revealed on the show, but we don’t quite know the fate of her hidden Idol and her extra vote advantage. Will she get to keep these items if she does fight her way back into the game? We’ll have to keep an eye out for this or see if Jeff Probst addresses this elsewhere in the press this week…
Oh, and a quick side note on Joe too: We saw Joe get emotional tonight in a testimonial, to which my wife perfectly summed up what I was feeling: “I can’t feel anything for him with that mustache.” It’s true. Love him or like him, that thing’s got to go.
With all of this strategy, we also got to see a few new wrinkles of the game come together before our eyes as well. Wardog, for one, is one of the more interesting players this season. However, his story-line definitely seems to be foreshadowing the fact that he won’t last all that long due to his bossy, overbearing nature. No one can get a word in edge-wise. So, it’s hard for me to believe that he could go all the way and win. Now I know I’m getting a bit ahead of myself when I say something like that, but on the verge of the merge, it’s time to start thinking about the long-game.
Elsewhere, Lauren and Wentworth are growing, growing, growing in power. We know they’re tight. Now they have two Idols between them after Lauren made the remarkably ballsy move to NOT play her Idol at the second Tribal Council of the evening. Wow! I was screaming at the TV. It was a terrible, terrible decision to not play her Idol. Still, when all was said and done, she made it through Tribal. Now, she and Wentworth have two Idols heading into merge. This is fascinating considering that Wentworth will likely be an early target.
Speaking of foreshadowing, this is the second-straight episode where Lauren’s lack of eating has come up. So, that’s something to watch down the stretch. But these two are formidable. You can bet that Joe will have a home in Kelley’s alliance. The two are friends outside the game (as most former players are).
“Big Wendy,” or “Wild Card Wendy” as she’s better described, was the second person sent to the Edge of Extinction tonight. And we all knew that this was only a matter of time. Wendy was definitely a unique character and personality on the show. She just didn’t seem long for this game, since like Episode 1. But what a way to go out. I just love those Tribals where there is all of that whispering going on. Then, there’s the added tension of not quite knowing who – if anyone – would flip or not. It was an old-fashioned stand-off. I’m not certain any of them did the right thing in voting Wendy out. Time will tell!
But I also loved the whole twist of the two tribes going to Tribal, without having a chance to have chatted it up beforehand like we’re usually accustomed to seeing. Clearly that paid dividends with all of the whispering and drama at Tribal. Here’s hoping there’s more of that in future seasons.
You’ve got to admit as well, the Edge of Extinction island was a lot of fun tonight too. Am I right? It’s still a miserable place to exist (much thanks to Reem). But, I just love that Keith went rogue and tried finding the advantage himself. He was the only one at that point that seemed to realize that he’s still in a game for a million dollars. A game where only ONE player can win a million dollars.
Now let’s not talk about the fact that Chris was able to catch him and that Keith seems completely worthless in this cast. But, I do like that he added a bit of spice to what could have been a mundane stroll through the jungle. We then saw Keith find some sort of penalty-power. (I wasn’t too clear on what this was or how he’d be using it?). Suddenly the Edge of Extinction became as unpredictable as the events occurring back in the “real” game. Just like Rick Devens at the Edge of Extinction mast, I dug it.
Episode Take-Away: I went from mildly and cautiously enthusiastic to completely back on-board with this season. Over the course of these two hours. Am I being too optimistic? I love that these episodes went back-to-back. The energy seems ramped-up now going into next week’s merge episode. An episode that is typically one of the best, most exciting and electric episodes of every season. Add to the normal excitement, but it looks like the Edge of Extinction twist will finally be revealed to everyone. We are in for another wild night of Survivor. I can’t wait!
Voted out this week: Aubry and Wendy
Vote #1: No Idols played (darn it Aubry!). 4 – Aubry (Wendy, Victoria, Gavin, Eric), 1 – Wendy (Aubry).
Vote #2: No Idols played (good call Lauren!). Tie-vote: 4 – Lauren (Victoria, Eric, Gavin, Wendy), 4 – Wendy (David, Wardog, Kelley, Lauren). Re-vote: Unanimous vote for Wendy.
Next Week’s Episode: It’s the merge! Tell your friends, and get people who might have quit on this season to get all caught up. It’s going to be good! Plus, we get to see who – if anyone? – will re-enter the game from the Edge of Extinction!
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. 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. However, 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. I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews. I am also the national film critic for AXS.com 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.
TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE AUBRY BLINDSIDE? DO YOU AGREE THAT THIS SEASON JUST GOT REAL GOOD? AND WHO DO YOU THINK IS IN THE BEST POSITION HEADED INTO THE MERGE? BONUS QUESTION: WHO ARE YOU ROOTING FOR TO MAKE IT BACK INTO THE GAME?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]