Pretty much every season of Survivor, the “merge episode” stands out as one of the best. It’s exciting, sometimes nerve-racking, but always entertaining, not to mention that it always stands as a pivotal moment for the game’s overall trajectory. Tonight’s merge episode was all of that and then some, but for different reasons than normal. That’s because the fun of the merge was largely overshadowed by the episode’s first 15-minutes, where this season’s “Edge of Extinction” twist finally came to fruition.
And it was awesome. It was epic. And it thoroughly gave me those Survivor butterflies that I so love to feel.
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 7 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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So what did y’all think? I for one happen to like the Edge of Extinction twist. The concept of it has slowly grown on me as this season has now progressed past the halfway point. Sure, maybe it’s not a twist they’ll use each and every season, but I don’t think it’s because it sucked…I think it’s quite the contrary. Survivor purists (which I do consider myself one of) will call back to Pearl Islands or Redemption Island. They will mention how it cheapens the game’s legacy to allow players who have had their torch snuffed a chance to return to the game. But what I love about this twist this season, is that it has added so many unseen and complicated layers to the game…all of which I’m finding fascinating on a whole new level.
It’s not just that they got a second-chance, but then we got Reem, who set the grumpy tone for the island and ensured that no one would be singing Kumbaya out there. Then we learned that there were advantages and twists to the game that were going on “outside” of the game. Finally, tonight, we got to see the twist revealed to ALL of the players in the game. We got to see a man, Rick Devens, fight improbable odds and claw his way back into the game. Now you’re telling me that these “Edgers” will make up the Survivor jury? I am so in on trying to figure out what this may mean moving forward!
Just think about it: A member of the jury right now will end up having a chance to re-enter the game. We’ve all seen “bitter juries.” But, how about a player being able to influence his/her own jury, and then re-entering? Surely the mood at Edge of Extinction has been…negative, to say the least. Negative in how they view the other players still in the game, who just blindsided them. Surely, the jury will be rooting for the player that comes back into the game, right?
The person they spent time with on Extinction, who they bonded within that they all had been booted unceremoniously from the game, and that the re-entering player now can exact revenge on those still in the game with fresh blood on their hands? What I love about the thought of all of this is, would this (or any) jury vote for a player to win Sole Survivor if said player had their torch snuffed along the way? Survivor purists would again cry foul if this were to happen. But, then again, there are several Survivor purists in the game and presumably on the Final Jury…like, would a super-fan like Aubry vote for a player to win the game who had been voted out once?
I’m getting way, way ahead of myself in thinking of Final Tribal, but that’s what the Edge of Extinction has done to me. I’m giddy like a little kid pondering all of the different ripple effects this twist might have on the game. And there’s nothing I love more than spending time on hypothetical Survivor scenarios!
Yes, the Edge of Extinction itself – a group of down-trodden individuals with little to no energy and on the verge of total famine – isn’t all that entertaining from a TV standpoint. But the additional layers it has brought into the game this season, I for one, am feeling on-board with.
All of this being said, the Edge of Extinction competition at the beginning of the episode did ultimately eclipse the rest of what went on. I for one, was not at all sad to see Keith and Wendy waive the white flag, becoming the first two contestants OFFICIALLY out of the game. Keith just seemed out-of-place and in over his head this season. Wendy was just way too wacky to be a real threat at any point. It was disappointing that the show didn’t quite give reasons for why they chose to leave the game. Other than Chris mentioning that they had “buyer’s remorse.” But neither of them could have won the game in the end. So, maybe it was the right decision.
What might NOT be the right decision is sending man-beast Joe Anglim to the Edge. This guy has basically just been given a free pass to presumably a point deep in the game, where he will be the favorite to win whatever challenge he needs to in order to re-enter the game. Speaking of Joe, it’s astounding to me how eerily similar his game went each and every time he’s played. The guy is clearly a cool dude, and a very likable fellow, if I don’t say so myself. And yes, women love the eye candy he provides.
But strategically, Joe has never had the acumen to really compete on Survivor the way that a “great” player would. It was still a shock to me that they targeted Joe over Kelley. Joe would have remained just as clueless one, two or 50 votes from now. But Joe as a physical threat is real. They voted him out and saw him as their number one threat this week due to the fact that they know, if there was ever a player that could win every single challenge all the way to the end of the game, it’s Joe Anglim. Who knows, maybe this was the right time to get him out, while they could.
The majority alliance that is calling the shots – Victoria, Ron, Julie, Julia, Eric, and Gavin – unwittingly just made their path to the end all the more difficult. They do not know that Kelley and Lauren have two Idols, both of which somehow came through this Tribal Council unscathed, and that Rick Devens, fresh from the Edge, now has one as well. There are 12 players left in the “main” game, so if the “other six” could somehow get together, with a few well-placed Idols, the current majority could quickly become the minority.
Of course, if someone is medically-evacuated next week (as the preview hinted), then none of this matters. The game will again change. You gotta love it!
Episode Take-Away: I’ll admit that the cast this season isn’t quite on par with the stellar “David vs. Goliath” season, but not every season is, and that’s okay. The truth is we just haven’t gotten to know a few of these players because one tribe has been so incredibly dominant. I mean, this is Episode 7 of a season and there were a handful of players that JUST lit their torches at tonight’s Tribal Council! That’s pretty remarkable. Also remarkable is that Joe became the first player in Survivor history to have avoided going to Tribal Council pre-merge in multiple seasons. He did the same on Second Chance and now again on Edge of Extinction.
But we are slowly getting to know Julia a bit more. We saw Julie win Individual Immunity tonight, as well as find a soft-spot in her heart for Devens. It will be unavoidable to learn more and more about these players down the stretch. So, I feel confident that by this season’s end, we may view this cast a bit differently, and more favorably.
Voted out this week: Joe
Vote: No Idols played. 6 – Joe (Ron, Julie, Julia, Gavin, Eric, Victoria), 3 – David (Kelley, Wardog, Lauren), 2 – Kelley (Devens, David), 2 – Devens (Aurora, Joe)
Next Week’s Episode: Ron has been a stud player this season. However, in the preview for next week, he makes the mistake of referring to himself as the “puppet master.” That usually doesn’t end well on Survivor, Ron. But then we are told to look for a “crash.” It appears that there is some sort of serious medical emergency that takes place during the Immunity Challenge…resident Survivor medical team leader Dr. Joe Rowles is seen asking if the injured person can hear him, which sounds like someone loses consciousness. Ruh-roh.
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 – DID YOU LIKE HOW THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION TWIST IS PLAYING OUT? DID THE MAJORITY ALLIANCE MAKE THE CORRECT DECISION IN BLINDSIDING JOE? AND NOW THAT WE ARE POST-MERGE, WHO ARE YOU ROOTING FOR TO WIN IT ALL?