Survivor has all the time been a numbers recreation. From the times when “alliance” was a unclean phrase, whoever might amass the most important military was unstoppable. Even because the years have gone and the game has advanced, getting the numbers on your aspect has been the most important precedence. In fact, the arrival of Idols and Benefits has skewed that, as players in the minority, who would in any other case have been stonewalled out of the game on the idea of arithmetic, have been afforded various instruments to beat the chances. But at the finish of the day, except in probably the most exceptional of circumstances, the sport will come again to these numbers.
For all the power devoted to Idol shenanigans this episode, the vote was a clean one, as a sitting duck managed to money in on one among her numbers and the dominoes fell from there. It’s inconceivable to ignore the headline story of Rick Devens, the Unstoppable Man, however whether or not you want him as a personality or a participant, Edge of Extinction isn’t only about one man. Week after week, Rick’s showmanship and career-honed TV-charisma has drawn the digital camera, but the gameplay has been a veritable parade of basic Survivor social methods which are still related in the trendy age.
However let’s get the broad strokes of the episode out of the best way first so we will then hone in on the finer particulars. On the surface, this episode was one other massive night time for Rick Devens. He obtained his third Idol – equalling the single-season document presently held by Russell Hantz, Tai Trang and Ben Driebergen – as he wasted no time in getting back out to seek out it. He gained a much-needed Immunity – additionally his third – to secure his security. He was the speak of the town at Tribal as the large dangerous that no-one might defeat and he owned it as he piled on another flourish-filled performance with an Idol bluff that performed out perfectly before the Jury as he acquired his approach within the vote.
Rick is undeniably the star of the season. Not solely does he symbolize the season’s theme as the primary returnee from the eponymous Fringe of Extinction, but he’s bigger than life, prepared to crack a joke and make a scene which creates bombastic tv. He’s additionally discovered himself falling into certainly one of trendy Survivor’s well-liked tropes – the nothing-to-lose underdog who’ll struggle tooth and nail to get one step additional in the recreation, competing exhausting in challenges, discovering and enjoying Idols and Benefits and being prepared to take huge swings.
Take all the above under consideration, and it’s straightforward to see why so most of the show’s followers are projecting him to emerge victorious on Day 39. Devens is definitely not everybody’s cup of tea – and I do assume Survivor might be doing extra to make the other players in the recreation really feel more lively in the season’s narrative and thus greater contenders for the crown, somewhat than turning into a supporting forged for an obvious most important character – however Rick himself is taking advantage of his opportunity and that can’t be faulted. As he stated at Tribal, going out softly in the pre-merge and getting the rare alternative to press the reset button has given him freedom to push his recreation to the other end of the spectrum – and it’s been a tough run.
He might sound unstoppable now – but let’s not overlook that he was within the dialog as a simple merge boot and confronted danger at every turn. Each potential alliance he cast fell apart for one purpose or another – David, Wardog, even Ron – yet he’s continued to stir the pot whether or not it was calling out Julia to open the door for the insane Tribal audible, his dramatic Idol play final week or exhausting his competition right here together with his relentlessness. It’s the freedom that comes with being the marked man, and that need to repeatedly dodge the goal has lit a passionate and reckless enthusiasm that tears by means of the competition and all of his opponents’ rigorously laid plans. His gameplay is flawed at greatest, as he’s typically been on the incorrect aspect of the vote or made gaffes as a result of his extra emotional instincts, yet Rick remains an enthusiastic and entertaining pressure – and better of all, he is having the time of his life, and I find that power infectious.
However let’s stomp down for a second on a few of the specifics of Rick’s recreation this episode, because if you strip away the large moments, there are literally some fascinating techniques underneath. Together with his again towards the wall, Rick made every effort to distract and feint his opponents – the bulk alliance of Victoria, Gavin, Lauren & Aurora. He lied about how he’d gotten his last Idol, claiming that it – like most benefits within the recreation – had been borne out of the Edge, thereby discouraging Vata from on the lookout for a re-hidden Idol. Lauren – herself having found an Idol within the early days of the game – saw by way of the lie, nevertheless it nonetheless opened the door for Rick to take advantage of the alliance’s paranoia, notably once he had confidence in his safety after finding the Idol.
Whether it was operating away from his different castaways’ futile efforts to babysit him, hiding conspicuously amongst timber and rocks or altogether disappearing off the map, his erratic antics left his fellow tribemates’ minds operating wild as they tried to account for his behaviour. It was no secret that they might target him if given an opportunity, but in trying to discombobulate their learn on his actions, it disrupted the state of affairs to show an apparent vote right into a mostly-obvious-but-maybe-not-but-maybe-yes net of uncertainty. Whereas Aurora had no hassle calling out his BS and firmly opposing him no matter what he tried to spin, Gavin seemed notably ruffled by Rick’s unpredictability, and Victoria and Lauren shared his exasperation. As Rick amped himself up on the insanity, his behaviour sapped his opposition’s power. How a lot this exhaustion affected their choice making was finally unclear, nevertheless it was an intriguing – and self-amusing – strategy.
Extra notable, though, was Rick’s bluff at Tribal. With Immunity around his neck, it was apparent that the alliance of four had no other choice than to pile their votes onto Julie – if they really planned to stay robust. So Rick made an sudden, but not unprecedented gamble – saying his Idol at Tribal Council, and claiming that he would play it on Julie, whereas he and Julie would forged their votes for one of the different 4. The latter facet of the strategy was definitely laudable, clearly learning from the lesson of the Three Amigos in Cagayan who managed to make use of Idols and Benefits to guard themselves, however then named their goal, incentivising the majority alliance to name their bluff as an alternative of turning on one another in worry of self-preservation.
Rick’s transfer to finally maintain the Idol relatively than comply with by means of on the menace to play it additionally recalled an analogous transfer made by Mike Holloway and Shirin Oskooi in Worlds Aside, although in that case, the bluff was referred to as and Shirin was despatched packing. There was definitely danger in the move; if his bluff was referred to as and Julie went residence, would she resent the damaged promise and would the betrayal play nicely with the Jury? Nevertheless it was a sensible play for Rick. With two extra commonplace Tribals until the Ultimate 4 fire-making (assuming the final Edge returnee would come back into the game before the F4), Rick’s Idol leaves him with only one vote the place he might be completely weak – and those odds are far too appealing. It’s also on brand together with his reckless, showy, self-interested recreation and the Jury appears to be shopping for that inventory.
In the long run, the bluff paid off as Rick stored both his Idol and his on-again-off-again ally in Julie whereas eliminating Aurora, a vocal advocate towards him. Down solely 2 to three, a returnee from Extinction might even the score, and then it will be an entire new recreation. But how a lot of it was smoke and mirrors, and the way much of it was the bluff influencing the choice of Lauren, Gavin and Victoria to flip and throw their votes on Aurora? If I’m trustworthy, I feel it’s more an illusion – very similar to Rick’s performance made the Ron vote appear to be his plan all alongside when really, it was a fortuitous coincidence. As fancy and well-played as Rick’s bluff was, I feel the choice to turn on Aurora had very little to do with Rick and his Idols and performative recreation. In this case, it all comes again to the straightforward numbers recreation.
The crux of this move got here right down to the relationship between Julie and Lauren, and both events making use of that connection to ensure their numbers within the endgame. For Julie, her roller-coaster of a recreation had left her in an unenviable position. Together with her closest ally now being the lifeless man walking who had simply publicly referred to as her out for humiliating him with the pretend Idol ploy, Julie was in absolute hazard and was the simple vote for the four-strong alliance that had been cast by the Ron assassination. Nevertheless, Julie had one different card up her sleeve, and that was Lauren.
Back at the spa reward previous the Wardog vote, the two ladies had cast a bond and it paid off on this episode. Julie recognised that her recreation was precarious and that the Jury’s notion of her didn’t appear very hot, thus making her a great candidate for a goat. Lauren definitely noticed the benefit in this, viewing Julie as somebody she could not only trust however somebody she was confident she might beat in the long run. For Lauren, Julie was a promising quantity for her personal ends – definitely a more useful number than the independently-minded Aurora, who additionally happened to be a challenge menace and had a growing case ought to she be capable of make her arguments to the Jury.
Due to this one relationship, Lauren sought to preserve her quantity and flipped your complete vote on its head. She approached Gavin about voting Aurora – a more harmful and lively participant than Julie – and assuring him that they might make the transfer together by siding with Rick and Julie and that their 4 can be enough. Victoria – extra staunchly determined to vote Julie over Aurora – didn’t even should agree, or even know. This was the place Lauren’s recreation fell brief, as she turned so fixated on saving a quantity in Julie that she brazenly neglected one other quantity in Victoria.
For Gavin, uncharacteristically cautious about making an enormous transfer if he didn’t have to, was rightfully wary of Lauren’s brash confidence within the move. He was unwilling to make the move without consulting Victoria, and so he took the plan to her – complete with the admission that Lauren was prepared to go away her out of the blindside. Naturally, Victoria was, in turn, cautious about what that meant for her alliance with Lauren if she was a lot more invested in preserving Julie around. And thus, the complexities of Survivor’s numbers recreation got here to the fore.
With Lauren firmly pushing for Aurora, Gavin cautious but traditionally reticent to go to a tie or rocks (cf. the Wendy combined Tribal), and Victoria historically in search of to aspect with the majority, even if she didn’t agree with the plan (cf. the Eric blindside), I might guess that this trio had determined to vote out Aurora earlier than they even set foot in Tribal. Rick’s Idol-bluffing antics may need solidified their confidence in their plan, but these three have been careful, calculating gamers. In the chaotic Julia Tribal, they have been among the many least lively events in the shifting panorama – they do not strike me as gamers prepared to forged apart their rigorously thought-about numbers because of Tribal theatrics.
So was voting out Aurora the fitting transfer? For Rick and Julie, it made good sense. Although making an attempt to focus on the brains of the operation in Victoria or Gavin would have been a sensible play if Rick truly deliberate to make use of his Idol, eliminating Aurora made sense for each of their video games. Aurora had no love misplaced for both of them and was actively campaigning towards Rick whereas Julie had been making an attempt to get Aurora out for days. For Lauren, it was a compelling selection because it scored her a stronger ally shifting ahead, and one who seems to be a perfect opponent at the Last Three.
For Gavin & Victoria, I’m much less convinced. Positive, they might have pressured a tie if they’d stuck with Aurora to vote out Julie, however would Lauren have gone to rocks for her perceived Ultimate three goat? I’m not so positive. However more importantly, Aurora was a transparent quantity for Gavin and Victoria and casting that apart leaves them weak.
Aurora has had a rocky run via the sport. She coasted via the pre-merge on a profitable streak, however from her very first Tribal where she was conspicuously omitted of the Joe vote by the rest of Kama, she has been unmoored and looking for somebody – anybody – to work with. She took daring gambles through the use of her additional vote to curry favour, first with Ron and then with Gavin, but in each instances, they appeared to be tenuous allegiances at greatest. She fought exhausting in challenges, scoring two victories, and spoke her mind plainly – but even these attributes put her in scorching water, with the latter seemingly earning ire from her tribemates. In a approach, she was virtually a mirror to Rick – the outsider with nothing to lose and prepared to take risks to advance themselves all whereas being vocal at Tribal. But Aurora and Rick alike recognised it – the lone samurai means can work, however allies can’t be scoffed at as a result of Survivor is a numbers recreation.
Even after being unnoticed of the reward by Gavin, Aurora repeatedly affirmed her allegiance to her new alliance of 4. For Gavin and Victoria, notably, Aurora appeared like a useful – and most significantly, loyal – ally. Even if she have been to squeak into the Ultimate Three, it seems like they’d stand a greater probability in an all-Kama Last Three, as opposed to going up towards a sole Lesu in Lauren, who at the very least would have a locked vote in Wentworth.
So I’m puzzled why they have been prepared to cut Aurora at this point simply so Lauren might protect an ally in Julie. Did they too come to see Julie as a greater choice for their very own Remaining Three plans compared to the more intense, no-holds-barred Aurora? Did they see Rick and the opposite inevitable Extinction returnee as such big priority targets to see dropping Aurora as having little influence on their numbers in the previous few votes before fire-making? Was there other reasoning obfuscated by the show’s edit? Regardless of the purpose, I worry for Gavin & Victoria’s possibilities now that they’ve not only lost quite a lot of their very own, but they’ve granted a number to their main adversary in Rick, and given Lauren one other, higher Ultimate Three ally.
Earlier than we wrap issues up, it might be remiss of me to ignore the strange phase that concluded the Edge of Extinction narrative – save for the re-entry problem promising to kick off subsequent week’s finale. The horde of castaways stranded on the Edge acquired one other batch of sea-mail: letters to themselves, written earlier than the game began. The time capsule gave each of the castaways a moment to mirror on their journey – from the high hopes of an keen player on the cusp of the sport, via the jaws of defeat and the anguish of Extinction’s purgatory. For some, there was encouragement – Julia finding power from her willpower to never surrender, Chris recognising that the right recreation he dreamed of pre-game paled compared to the expertise he’d gained by means of his Survivor journey.
For others, it was an epiphany – David reflecting on his want to construct up his life back house in his relationship together with his girlfriend, or Reem coming full circle as she embraced her Survivor expertise together with getting voted out on Day 3. Scored with the swelling strings of inspiration, it served as a reminder of who was still surviving out on the Edge before next week’s battle royale of re-entry, nevertheless it appeared designed as an emotional capper to the narrative of wrestle and self-reflection that dominated the Fringe of Extinction arc.
I all the time recognize the human aspect of Survivor – the emotion, the wrestle, the journey. Yet I couldn’t help however be annoyed by this phase. Putting apart the contrived nature of it, it didn’t even feel deserved because the conclusion to the Extinction narrative. All the early emphasis on how exhausting Extinction can be, how a lot it will check you and the way it will drive its occupants to wrestle with loss, grief and willpower was thrilling as a result of it was uncooked and natural. It was unflinching and bleak, and it reached its zenith as the five castaways who fell in need of returning to the sport at the merge broke down in tears as they accepted defeat once again.
But post-merge, Extinction has been a literal afterthought – typically relegated to the stinger over the credit as Reem welcomed the brand new arrival to the Edge. It misplaced all of its sense of problem – it turned the place where high-energy scavenger hunts occurred, and with an ever-growing guest record, it simply turned a holding ground. Thus, when this emotional second of reflection came in this episode, it didn’t really feel prefer it was genuinely concluding an emotional journey – principally because we barely noticed any of those contestant’s emotional journeys on Extinction. So while I recognize Survivor’s earnest attempt to finish the Extinction expertise with an emotional, character-driven phase, the touchdown isn’t all that exciting if we didn’t see much of the flight.
IN THE END
So onwards to the finale. Rick could be the most outstanding character on the board, but can he pull off a win towards the chances? Or can Victoria, Gavin, Lauren or Julie do the sudden – each has performed a strong recreation with highs and lows and could possibly be a rewarding winner, but at this point, it looks like the lengthy shot. And how concerning the thriller flavour – the Fringe of Extinction returnee? One of many 11 – yes, ELEVEN – gamers on the Edge will probably be returning within the opening moments of the finale to have a reliable shot to win this recreation, or at the very least, disrupt some plans along the best way. This will even mark the primary time in the show’s history the place two loser-bracket gamers are in play in the finale, so I’m intrigued to see how a fresh-faced returnee matches up towards the battle-hardened Rick who has clawed his approach to the finale, or the four conventional players who’ve experienced the hazard of the Extinction returnee.
Finally, I anticipate this season’s conclusion to be polarising – both we’re getting a winner who was voted out in the identical season, or we’re getting a winner whose recreation has been largely beneath the radar within the season’s general narrative. However either method, it’s going to be something to talk about.