On the heels of one of the most memorable Tribal Councils in history last week, Survivor served up a double-dose of exits tonight as we saw not one, but two players head to the Edge of Extinction. And they weren’t just any two players.
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 10 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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Out with the old and in with the new right? Tonight’s two Tribal Councils saw the last of the returning players purged from the game. David Wright and Kelley Wentworth were two fierce competitors that’s for sure, and as long as they remained in the game, they’d be huge targets. I mean, they are ALWAYS huge targets, but somehow this season they both managed to get quite far in the game, without ever – surprisingly – being able to really work together on something long-term. It seems like they should have and could have worked together at many different intervals, but it just never happened. Why not?
It seemed as if David was more willing to work with Kelley than the other way around, or at least that’s how it has been portrayed on the show. Kelley though – a player who has built up her Survivor reputation as an underdog and a fighter – found herself “on top” and part of the power alliance for a long stretch of this game. When you’re on the bottom, as David constantly was this season, you tend to be a bit more open to working with others, but when you’re controlling things, like Kelley has been, you just want to “stay the course.” It was David who went down swinging, but Kelley’s exit is perhaps the more tragic, because she truly was in a great position.
First let’s close the curtains on David. Of the four returnees this season, I was most happy to see him. He just has some sort of charismatic charm and a way with words (being that he’s a professional writer, I guess this shouldn’t come as a big surprise), and he’s given the show a lot. It was a given that he’d be back to play a second time. It would have been overly impressive if he could have won the game, with the others now knowing what he’s capable of after watching him on Millennials vs. Gen-X, but he just couldn’t stay out of the cross-hairs. He’s too big a threat. His friendship/alliance with Devens was a thing of beauty and a nice relationship to behold this season, but I think David can leave the game with his head held high. He didn’t make too many strategic mistakes, he seemed to have his finger on the pulse of what was going on, and ultimately, he just came up short. Yes, his combined Idol (with Devens) that was played last week might be looked at as a “wasted” Idol and a mistake, but as he explained tonight (and as I pretty much agree), you almost had to play it last week given the utter chaos at Tribal. It’s fair reasoning to have decided to play the Idol (and a bit too easy to be a Monday Morning Quarterback on this topic), but at the same time, one could make the argument that Kelley was caught up in the same chaos, and she held on to her Idol at that Tribal. So there’s that.
The big difference between David and Kelley is while David will head to the Edge with pride for the game he played, Kelley has to be absolutely kicking herself. She got played, and hard. The level of game play has truly been stellar as of late, and this season is for closers only. No one in the audience, or in the game, could have predicted that Wardog would have turned on Kelley at this particular juncture in the game, but not only did he have the audacity to do so, he pulled it off. This is a big-boy game move, and one of those coveted “Survivor Resumé” achievements that should be listed at the top of it and put in bold print. Kelley knows better, and I bet you that this is eating her up inside, still to this day. She grew a bit too comfortable in her nice, snug power trio alliance, and she didn’t act on her gut feeling that something else was up…that some other plan might have been put into motion. Kelley is a better player than this blindside will allow for, and its compacted by the fact that she leaves the game with an Idol in her pocket. She’s the second returning player, behind Aubry, to get blindsided this season with an advantage in hand. Ouch.
Being on the bottom keeps you a bit sharper, and it keeps you on your feet. There is no such thing as an “easy” vote on Survivor, those days are long gone. It’s a new game these days, and this ain’t your momma’s Survivor. Even though Kelley has now played the game three times, she doesn’t have all that much experience playing from ahead. And it should come as no surprise that Kelley is now “livin at the Edge” (of Extinction, that is), when she has pretty much been livin’ ON the edge for most of her run on Survivor. And if one wants an example of what it looks like to lose your “edge” in the game when you are in power, look no further that Lauren. Lauren, at times, has shown that she has what it takes to be a great all-around Survivor player, but while other players like Wardog are playing the game hard and working towards that million bucks every waking minute, Lauren was shown commenting on the weather at Tribal Council. She made a comment about being cold, and now, I’m sure she was cold…that’s not the point. The point is, here is Wardog and others playing the game of Survivor, and playing it hard…so where is Lauren’s head at?
It’s almost impossible to fault Kelley for not playing her Idol, she actually probably had more reason to play it at any of the last three or four Tribals than she did tonight. But what a job by the Wardog. He, my friends, is a Survivor Legend in the making, and watching Wardog is sort of like watching Game of Thrones: You have to wait to see how it ends before you can confidently anoint it as one of the best ever. But if Wardog goes on to win this season, it has to arguably be one of the best overall games in Survivor history, right?
And while I love the Wardog and love this move, it does raise some major concerns for his game moving forward. He just fractured his tight alliance, the alliance that he had voted with each and every Tribal Council throughout the entire game. Where does that leave his relationship with Lauren? Probably not good. And while he was able to pull in Ron for this latest blindside, everybody left in the game knows that Wardog is not someone that can be trusted, and even worse, that he is someone who can easily win the game if he’s sitting at the end. If there’s one weakness in Wardog’s game, it’s that he has thus far pretty much sucked it up at challenges, so the thought that he might get a bit further in the game and then win his way to the Final Tribal seems a bit far-fetched at best. But I love his approach moving forward, as seen in the “Next Time On” segment: He’s pitching to Devens and Ron that they cannot let a “goat” win the game. It’s a great pitch, if you consider just how good this group has been playing. Does any one of them want someone like Aurora to represent as their season’s Sole Survivor?
Episode Take-Away: Even with two Tribal Councils and two huge names leaving the game, this week seemed a little deflated following the madness that occurred last week. And maybe it’s good to have a chance to catch our breath a bit, with the roll that this show has been on since the merge. But with Kelley and David out of the way, I think it’s very interesting to see how quickly Ron and Julie seemed to have ascended back into power positions after being on the complete outs just a few weeks ago. Other than Wardog, Ron is the other huge threat to win this thing, and he’s played a pretty amazing overall game. But as good as Wardog has been playing, he’s got to see this too, right? Is Wardog really the sort of player who would want to sit next to guys like Devens and Ron at the end, or is he more the kind of player that will try orchestrating a Final Three alongside like Aurora and Julie? And just to mention them, Victoria and Gavin, who both have shown great potential in chunks this season, seem mostly relegated to the sidelines at this point. Could Devens win this thing? Could a player currently at the Edge win? My brain is starting to hurt.
Voted out this week: David and Kelley
Vote #1: No Idols played. 8 – David (Wardog, Julie, Ron, Kelley, Lauren, Gavin, Victoria, Aurora), 2 – Wardog (David, Devens)
Vote #2: No Idols played. 5 – Kelley (Wardog, Julie, Ron, Aurora, Victoria), 4 – Aurora (Kelley, Lauren, Gavin, Julie)
Next Week’s Episode: Wardog and Gavin clash. Wardog pitches a plan to Devens and Ron that they have to eliminate the “goats.” And upon arriving to the Edge, Kelley reveals to the fallen that she had an Idol, and that Lauren has the other one.
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.
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TELL US – IS WARDOG ON A WAR-PATH TO WINNING THIS THING? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF KELLEY AND LAUREN FAILING TO PLAY THEIR IDOLS? AND WHO DO YOU THINK IS IN THE MOST TROUBLE HEADED INTO NEXT WEEK?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]