The game of Survivor this season, according to host Jeff Probst, has been like an unpredictable game of pinball: Flippers are flapping constantly, with the ball moving so fast and furiously that you just can’t quite get a feel for where it may drop. It definitely feels that way, but tonight – keeping with the pinball references, and assuming you are old enough to know what pinball even is – the game went full tilt with yet another memorable Tribal Council.
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 12 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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Another one bites the dust! And it was another biggie. I had just written last week a multi-paragraph diatribe about how, with The Wardog now out of the game, Ron Clark just HAD to win Survivor for this season to have a satisfying conclusion. In other words, I was saying that he was the most deserving player left in the game. So, of course, he was blindsided tonight! This season is next-level when it has come to strategic game-play, and a few of the so-called “bottom feeders” made darn tootin’ tonight that one of the two major players – Devens or Ron – was going to go home tonight. Leave nothing up to chance.
The move was predicated on the fact that Ron uttered those awful words that all future players should remember NEVER to say on camera, even if you are fully thinking them: That you are “in charge” or feel like you are somewhat in control of the game. Usually saying these words during the episode acts as a death sentence, and the closest thing there is to a real live “Survivor curse.” Ron said these words tonight during his “loved ones” reward feast, and he was really laying it on thick throughout the episode…more so than even usual. Ron has been playing all sides for quite some time now, but winning the “loved ones” challenge may have ultimately been his fatal flaw. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Victoria and Lauren are the ones who put his name to parchment? I think not.
Even though Ron claimed to be extra focused after his “loved ones” visit, we hear him say later at Edge of Extinction that he didn’t keep his eyes on the prize. It’s true. Ron has been playing a truly masterful social game up until this point, but he clearly underestimates Devens tonight in thinking that he can fool him yet again. Ron is, of course, correct in thinking that Devens is the other biggest target left in the game. However, if he thought on things with a clearer head, he might have realized that he was the closest to Devens out of all of the remaining players. At this point in the game, an extra number could be huge.
Ron could have used this as an opportunity to pull Devens in for real instead of just leading him on again, and get out someone like Lauren or Victoria. Instead, he insults Devens’ intelligence. He handed him an expired “advantage menu” that we remember Ron getting back in the very first episode. Clearly, Devens didn’t trust or believe this thing was real. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have worked so hard to find himself an Idol. And it’s a good thing he did. Even with the betrayals against Ron at Tribal, Devens would have been the one sent to the Edge had he not played his real Idol.
The Ron votes were only the “Plan B” in the case that Devens would play an Idol. Ron had no such “Plan B” for himself, a costly mistake. But as Lauren explains while voting, even if Devens had been sent back to the Edge, Ron would have known that three votes were cast against him. It would have been game on. And with the coalition of Gavin, Victoria, and Lauren, working with Aurora, Ron would have found himself on the wrong side of the numbers next week. Ron simply wasn’t pushing his game forward this week.
But none of that happened, and Devens is still – somehow, someway – in the game! One would think he is still the primary target, if not because of his gameplay (which some could call “sloppy” at best, or “not good” at worst), then because he seems to be the fan-favorite of the jury. They of course bonded with Devens when he was sent out of the game the first time, so he is in essence, “one of them.”
He rightly exposed not just Ron but also Julie as being quite despicable. And he’s right. Their plan to give him the expired advantage menu was downright mean and unnecessary. But, it backfired, not just for Ron, but for Julie. And then for Devens to use his Idol and vote for…Aurora? Seems like a wasted opportunity, and just another reminder that while Devens is thoroughly entertaining, and I LOVE his performances at Tribal Council, he is far from a Survivor “mastermind.”
So this in a way brings me back to my question from last week: So now that The Wardog is out of the game, and now that Ron Clark is out of the game…who is setting up to win this thing? Devens is most likely still going to be the primary target moving forward, so even though he’s won some challenges, you’d think he’s going to have one hell of a small chance to make it to the Finals. So who are people going to target now?
Victoria, Gavin, and Lauren seem to have gotten together…we’ll see for how long. And let us not forget that Lauren still has an Idol. Still, presumably, she’ll presumably have to play it at one of the next couple Tribals. Like a pinball bouncing endlessly back-and-forth between bumpers and flippers, this game just got about as unpredictable as it may ever have been, this close to Finale.
Episode Take-Away: The “loved ones” portion of the episode struck me as not being as powerful as some other ones. The emotion involving Gavin‘s story, about having been married for just two days before coming out on Survivor, was watered-down slightly by his wife seemingly not wanting to even hug this smelly, dirty, weird looking version of her new hubby. But as it always seems to, this challenge definitely had a major effect on the game. Ron was in an impossible position, which is why you don’t want to win this challenge…ever.
The “loved ones” challenge is not only a milestone in the game that most players strive for, and it isn’t just a major reminder to refocus on the prize awaiting the winner. It is actually the opposite. What it really is, is the game’s biggest temptation, a delicious piece of fruit dangled in front of these desperate players just as they reach the home stretch. But it’s almost never a good idea to take the bait.
It was good to see Victoria emerge again as a strategic threat. She has shown signs of greatness in this game, but only in spurts. She’s so likable and innocent-looking, but she’s really more like a Red October: A dangerous killing machine that rises to the surface only occasionally, stealthily sinking back down, completely untraceable, when finished with her hit. But has she done enough? Will she be able to convince others that she was on the surface of the water firing torpedoes, and not just floating there?
Beyond that, this was another great post-merge episode. The momentum is still high as we get closer and closer to the finale. Just two weeks away, people! Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to predictions. So, let’s all just sit back and enjoy the ride!
Voted out this week: Ron Clark
Vote: Devens first plays the expired “advantage menu,” and when it doesn’t work, he plays a real hidden Idol. Gavin also plays an “extra vote” advantage, given to him by Aurora. 4 – Devens (nullified by idol – Ron, Julie, Victoria, Aurora), 3 – Ron (Gavin, Gavin, Lauren), 1 – Aurora (Devens)
Next Week’s Episode: Who knows what’s going to happen? Next week’s preview was as cryptic as they come. We don’t really get much of anything other than a few shots out of context. All we see that there is some sort of special delivery at Edge of Extinction. We see Devens running full-speed through the jungle. In the closing moments, we hear from Reem…a new tradition that I am enjoying more and more. You know you’re well-liked when Reem goes easy on you when you arrive at the Edge. As she did towards newest Edge resident, Ron.
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 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 – WHERE DID RON GO WRONG? THEORETICALLY, WOULD YOU VOTE FOR DEVENS TO WIN SURVIVOR, GIVEN THAT HE WAS VOTED OUT OF THE GAME ONCE? AND WHO OTHER THAN DEVENS BECOMES THE BIGGEST TARGET NOW THAT RON IS GONE?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]