Matt Liguori analyzes the Survivor: Edge of Extinction cast each week to pick out which players make up his top three and bottom two, as well as identifying one player we should keep an eye on… with a little twist for the season finale.
Survivor: Edge of Extinction Week 12
These Survivor seasons sure do fly by. It feels like just yesterday the fan community was filled with people who believed this season was Joey Amazing’s to win. It made sense… Joe could get voted out at anytime and re-enter the game right before the end… win over a few jury members and finally become a Survivor champion on his third shot.
Joe was a very popular first round pick in pre-season drafts, but I myself went with David Wright and my personal favorite returnee, Kelley Wentworth. With Aubry and Joe as the first two returnees voted out, I think I made the right call! But that bragging didn’t last too long as David and Kelley were both taken out of the game back-to-back in an action-packed hour where 300+ fans gathered in Philadelphia with jaws dropped as the newbies took back control of their season.
The new players this season have really brought it. We had some big characters in The Wardog, Rick Devens, Wendy, Ron Clark, and the Queen of Extinction herself, Reem Daly. There was also some very effective gameplay from players like Victoria, Lauren, and Gavin.
My pre-season blog consisted only of the new players. I had The Wardog, Gavin, and Victoria in my top three, Wendy and Keith in the bottom two, and our most recent boot Aurora McCreary as the one to watch. Wendy and Keith did me a solid, being the only two to leave the game for good all season. Aurora was in there right until the end and it does seem like she could’ve been a legitimate endgame threat. As for the top three, I’ll give myself a pat on the back for Gavin and Victoria being two of the five to enter finale night still in the game not having been voted out.
The past few episodes of this season unfortunately haven’t been the most exciting. Since we lost David and Kelley, it’s become the Rick Devens show… and the online Devens debates have been on fire. Is he the clear front-runner to win? Is he a fun character? Is he playing a good game by any stretch of the imagination? Is any of this his fault? My own cold take on the matter is simply that the idol finding path to the end of the game isn’t much fun.
What I’ve found interesting is that since we lost David and Kelley, we’ve entered a new phase of the game that revolves around the #1 allies of both returnees facing off against each other seemingly in a battle to the finish. The early portion of this season revolved around David vs. Kelley working to get the other out and now we have their two protégés battling it out.
With the finale on deck, it’s time to assess the final 5 players in the game as well as the one question mark.. our final returnee from the Edge of Extinction. Only one can win, and with two of the final six players being players who have been voted out of the game already… we could be in for some Survivor history.
There are way too many people gathered on the Edge, so unlike the first time around I won’t be breaking down my thoughts on each of them potentially coming back, but there’s still a lot to get to about how well this unknown player will do regardless of who it is.
Just like last season, the 3-2-1 is about to be flipped on its head for pre-finale coverage. Rather than a traditional top 3, bottom 2, and 1 to watch… you’re going to read about 3 players out of contention and 2 contenders I think could steal it from the player who I’m predicting to be the 1 to win. As a reminder, I’ve yet to get a winner prediction correct going into the finale since I began blogging! I tend to pick the players who aren’t the majority favorite (which isn’t always on purpose). Dr. Mike (stop laughing), Domenick Abbate, and Kara Kay all seemed like great picks at the time, but ultimately not the correct decision. Maybe I’ll have better luck this time.
Thoughts, comments, agreements, or disagreements? Send them my way in the comments and/or on Twitter, @mattliguori!
Bottom 3 – Unlikely to win
Right off the bat Julie told us she was very out of her element, with peeing in Central Park as her only notable outdoor experience. Julie was a part of the original Kama tribe who didn’t have much going on early in the game aside from a tight group of six banded together to ensure the returnees were taken out first. After Kama dominated the early challenges, Julie found herself at the merge in a great spot with all of her original allies. Aubry was already gone and Joe was taken out immediately, accomplishing the group’s goal.
Since then, Julie’s group of Kamas fell apart, but she never lost trust in her ride-or-die Ron Clark. Ron and Julie were blindsided with the Eric vote but seemed set up well afterwards, with their votes being very valuable at the next few Tribal Councils. Julie’s biggest moment of the season would come at the Julia vote out, when Julie’s iconic moment of “I’M READY TO JUMP SHIP” happened as she ran across Tribal and planted herself in David Wright’s lap. From that moment on, it became clear that the perception of Julie was a very emotional and perhaps weak-minded player. She hasn’t played from any position of control and got flustered easily.
As time went on, original Kama members Victoria, Gavin, and Aurora linked up with Lauren to take out Ron, leaving Julie all alone. Despite being forced to team up with Rick, Julie seems to still have Lauren looking out for her. Lauren thinks she can beat Julie, but Julie surely will take whatever help she can get at this point. Julie is still looking very likely to end up in the final 4, and if things go her way from there, a solid third place finish is in her future. She can at least get Ron’s jury vote, but that’s probably about it.
Edge of Extinction Returnee
It’s so bizarre for me to sit here and write about 11 different players out of the game but still not out out of the game. Let me offer a reminder of who we’ve got and some stats for you as of Day 35 (the day after Aurora is voted out, presumably when the returnee challenge will be):
- Reem Daly (Day 3 — 32 days out of the game)
- Chris Underwood (Day 8 — 27 days with Reem)
- Aubry Bracco (Day 13 — 22 days with Reem)
- Joey Amazing Anglim (Day 19 — 16 days with Reem)
- Eric Hafemann (Day 22 — 13 days with Reem)
- Julia Carter (Day 23 — 12 days with Reem)
- David Wright (Day 25 — 10 days with Reem)
- Kelley Wentworth (Day 27 — 8 days with Reem)
- The Wardog (Day 29 — 6 days with Reem)
- Ron Clark (Day 31 — 4 days with Reem)
- Aurora McCreary (Day 34 — 1 day with Reem)
Firstly, I of course have to acknowledge our pre-merge crew who already have been through one challenge to return and lost, ultimately racking up 3–5 weeks spent outside of the main game but still surviving on Extinction Island. You all know how much I love Reem, Chris has brought a whole lot to our screens, and I’m glad Aubry is getting some additional Survivor memories since her journey ended so soon this time around.
So how likely is it that whomever returns has a realistic shot to make the final 3 and possibly win the game? I just don’t see it. Granted, the returnee will have momentum on their side (having just beat out 10 others in the challenge) and a fire within to do well after getting a second life… but I don’t think that’ll be enough for them to outlast the five others who’ll be focused on taking the returnee down. There’s always a chance the returnee comes back and wins their way to the end through immunities and fire-making, but I’m planting my flag that they won’t be able to get the jury votes in the end to win.
I know some people feel like there may be a pact from the Extinction players to vote for whomever gets back in, but I just don’t buy it. I cannot see anybody who was voted out from David/Kelley on- wanting to reward the returnee over someone who has battled it out in the main game for the entire season (or the entire jury portion of the game, if it’s Rick).
As far as likelihood to reenter the game, I’ll take either Chris, Joe, David, and Aurora as my top 4 picks. David has shown some legitimately hidden strengths while the other three seem to have the stamina and build for this challenge. Based on edit? Chris or David.
It’s been a pretty insane season with the Edge of Extinction twist and if you ask me, I’d say it should be one-and-done. We don’t need to see this again, regardless of any potential future All-Stars casts. It was great to follow along with Reem and not lose her after one episode. It was great to see people like Aubry and Eric and Kelley reflect on their journey once voted out… but ultimately, that’s what Ponderosa videos are for!
Victoria’s game this season was quiet but deadly. She came into the game as a huge fan of Survivor, but not a huge fan of the idea of playing with past Survivor players. Victoria set out to ensure her original two returnee tribemates were on the outs, and while she slipped up along the way and could’ve been in rocky waters with Joe and Aubry, she managed to get Aubry out at the first chance she could.
Victoria’s best episode of the season was the Aubry boot, as she convinced a three-time player that she was safe (and didn’t need to play her idol). Victoria would go on to take down all three other remaining returnees after the merge, being the only player in the game to vote all four of them out. She deserves way more credit than I believe she’s gotten from the fandom as a whole, especially for someone arriving at final 5 without a single vote cast against her.
So here we are heading into the finale and Victoria lands in my “bottom 3” as the three I’m saying do not have a chance to win the game? How does that line up with anything I just said?
My main issue with Victoria’s chances at this point has way more to do with the edit, because we haven’t heard much of anything from the other players about how they feel about her. We have very little idea who does or doesn’t like her/respects her gameplay, or who she’s burned along the way that may feel bitter. I can barely count past 3-4 jury votes for Victoria, given her lack of connections with the majority of the jury.
And honestly, will she even get to final 3? Rick and Lauren have idols, Gavin can win immunity, the returnee can likely win immunity, and Julie seems like the goat. If someone gets sacrificed along the way as one of very few vulnerable options, Victoria seems like a prime candidate.
2 – Contenders
Gavin stood out to me in the preseason as someone who could do really well. It might’ve just been that coming off the heels of a country boy superfan winning in David vs. Goliath, Gavin seemed like a top pick… but on paper Gavin seemed even better than Nick as far as skillset goes and I stand by that after 34 days of gameplay. Gavin’s game across the board has been great and it’s led him to the final 5 without his name having been written down once.
Gavin’s game started off slow (as did the rest of the Kamas). He had Eric as a tight ally by his side and his tribe won almost every challenge. Things got messy after the merge as Gavin, Julia, and Victoria teamed up with The Wardog and his Lesu crew to take out Eric in a very confusing turn of events that we never quite got full clarity about. Gavin did say he was turning his game up a notch, but I guess we have to just assume that he grew closer to Victoria and saw Eric getting closer to Ron/Julie.
As we approach the endgame, Gavin’s gameplay seems far too clean for anyone to want to sit next to him in a final 3, but he could luck out from Devens and the Extinction returnee being bigger targets than he is. Another concern I have is whether or not the jury will respect all of Gavin’s gameplay. Eric, Ron, and Aurora especially could feel burned by him for a variety of reasons. Gavin is the one I have the most trouble figuring out where he’ll finish, so he lands right in the middle as not drawing dead, but not my top pick to win.
I can’t even explain how badly I wish I was placing Lauren down below in the “one to win” spot. If this were any other season, I probably would have… but I’ve been burned before and it’s time to show myself I can learn from mistakes. In past seasons I’ve been very high on the Cydneys and Karas of the world who have great showings throughout the season but fall short on finale night, and I’m leaning towards Lauren ending up with that same fate.
Lauren spent a majority of the season working with Kelley and The Wardog over on Manu/Lesu and the three of them were very effective. They made it through the swap and even a few votes after the merge, pulling in former Kamas to work with them when they clearly should’ve been getting split up themselves. Eventually that did happen as Kelley was voted out and The Wardog followed two days later. Lauren was left alone with a bunch of former Kamas and a man who had put a ton of distance between himself and his former tribemates, Rick Devens. Lauren has wanted Devens out for a few votes now but it still hasn’t happened. With him having an idol, it’s going to be tough for Lauren to get to the end without having Devens there next to her.
Lauren herself still has an idol that she’s had in her pocket the entire game and you’d have to assume it’ll come out at one of these next two Tribals. Looking at the game board, Lauren seems like a lock to make at least final 4. Between Devens, Gavin, and the returnee, there’s bigger threats all around and she should be able to outlast most of them.
Can Lauren win if she gets to the final 3? She certainly has more votes than anyone left besides Devens. She’s got her former allies in Kelley and The Wardog, along with her recent allies Victoria, Gavin, and Aurora. I’m just afraid her game may be like Kara’s from last season, where it turns out that even if she makes final 3, not enough people “saw” her full game and want to reward her. Probst has called her a warrior and that’s something we’ve seen all season, so she’ll have to keep fighting to take Devens out… but if that doesn’t work she’ll just have to be that warrior in front of the jury and try to win over some of his likely votes.
1 to Win!
I don’t want to blow anyone’s mind here so hopefully this take isn’t too hot… but I believe that Rick Devens will be our winner. How will he get himself from final 6 to the final 3? To be determined. But with a solid track record in immunity challenges and an idol in his pocket, it seems like Devens could find himself safe at every Tribal Council until the end. At the very least, he should be there through final 4 and then get his shot at fire-making.
Deven’s journey this season hasn’t been the most impressive. After being voted out on day 11, he re-entered the game a week later and joined back up with his #1 ally David. As the merge played out, David and Devens were not on the same page at times. They were ultimately separated again when David was taken out in one of the many post-merge Tribals which saw Devens vote incorrectly. He’s played much of this season outside of any solid alliances and he wasted his first idol (remember when it was literally dropped into his bag by production) when he and David didn’t need it.
It’s a mystery to me how Devens became the biggest threat in the game. Someone who hasn’t been playing particularly impressive and was already voted out once is now the most feared player. It’s really just the underdog factor, right? I suppose anybody who came back to the game would be in a similar spot. It’s just unfortunate that all of the players who have been in the game since day 1 and have been playing so well have been overshadowed (which… yes, is a fault of the season and the format, not so much Devens himself).
I have my reservations about the Devens win. It seems almost too obvious at this point. Why is it that 2-3 weeks before the finale, almost every Survivor superfan is going “so Devens has this”? I’d love for us all to be proven wrong and blindsided by any other outcome on Wednesday night. There’s still plenty of game to be played and time for him to add to his resume in a way where those of us not impressed with his game will find something positive to take away. We’ll have to see what happens, but it sure is looking like the Wednesday night local news will be reporting a Rick Devens victory on the season finale of Survivor: Edge of Extinction.