Remember that show we watched for the last 12 weeks? Yeah, forget about it. It meant nothing. None of the gameplay or social politics were relevant. All those storylines can be thrown in the trash. The finale came down to one challenge whose ending shaped this season and this show in a way we feared to imagine it would, yet in our hearts and Kellyn’s gut we knew to be true. This final episode of Edge of Extinction went from the worst finale ever to undeniably the worst we will ever see (I hope) which, ironically, made it one of the best to watch? Continuing on the topic of pilots and passengers, it was like being trapped on a plummeting plane and I knew I was going to die, so I just decided to embrace it. I drank all the wine I owned as I watched the world as I knew it burn before me. If only I got paid $10 million while I was doing it like Lena Headey.
NEVER RAISED THAT SAIL
I don’t think I honestly believed looking at the 11 players about to face off that I was looking at the eventual winner of the season, but this was one of the moments I was actually looking forward to with this finale. Who’s going to complete the final six? My guess last week was David but I expected people like Joe, Eric, and Aurora to be his top competitors. Much to my disappointment, but admittedly not to my surprise, Reem and The Wardog were quickly left in the dust.
A huge opportunity was missed here by not making this challenge an endurance one. The Wardog would have been the first one out, naturally, but endurance would have fit so much better with the season’s theme and idea of “how far will you push yourself?” Watching the war to win a spot back in the game come down to sheer willpower would have made for one of the most compelling and captivating challenges of all time, but alas, I was let down, so in a way, the show did remain on-theme.
Most of the top challenge performers proved their abilities, with Kelley and Chris rounding out the leaders. Aurora reached the final stage of the challenge first, but staying in line with her own recent history, she was unable to seal the deal, ultimately making the challenge come down to Joe and Chris. Joe winning this challenge seemed written in the stars since last July when I first heard what was happening this season, and he came within inches, but it ended up Chris who snuck in and secured a spot back in the game on Day 35 after being out of it for 27 days.
I initially said the segment that followed would be the highlight of the night for me, not knowing the batshit insanity I was later in store for, and it remained perhaps the most emotional. Seeing 10 players lose the game at once and all have to face the fact that their 151 combined days of living on the Edge of Extinction were all for nothing was crushing. I’m too harsh — those days weren’t for nothing, but this was still a crippling defeat for them all.
There was no “back to the Edge of Extinction” this time. Instead the jury was sent off to its usual spot at Ponderosa while the 5 other players and newly added Chris where shipped back to Vata beach for the final days of the game where no more twists were to be thrown at them! Well ... at least no twist as big as the Edge of Extinction — because who doesn’t love wrenches thrown in two days away from final tribal council? Those are always well received, especially by the fans.
NICE TO MEET YOU
“Nice to meet you.”
What a comical sentence to be spoken in the finale of Survivor. The only thing better would have been hearing Reem open with that at the final tribal council. I should have just started not taking this one seriously in this very moment, but Chris winning his way back into the game hadn’t fazed me much. I was still bored over how this was Rick’s game to lose – Chris just added an extra vote into the mix.
Another funny line came from Chris when he said, “I have to downplay my game” which had me going, “Game!? What game?” The dude was a part of two easy boots in Reem and Keith, and then he got duped by Rick Devens and David at the very next vote. On top of that, the game had progressed almost a month, so multiply the complexity of it by about a million. So, Chris, you voted out Keith?
I mean, bravo, dude. Bravo!
Actually, I’ll give Chris voting out Reem as a boost to his résumé. That “old lady” can kill it.
That said, no one was buying what the salesman was saying about him not having a lot of game left in him. Rick called him right out on it but then extended an olive branch over how things went down way back on Day 8. Chris later had a conversation with Lauren in which he used “information” he received from the rest of the Edge of Extinction to convince her that she needed to keep him. Chris made a better pitch here, selling that he was told by specifically Kelley that Lauren had an idol and needed to make a Big Move™ with it in order to be seen by the jury as someone with a resume.
This was a great example of manipulation on Chris’s part, but the fact that he had that kind of weight in his words was too much for me to handle. How could someone not believe what a former juror had to say about the jury? Especially given that Lauren knew Kelley told Chris about the idol (a massive mistake on Kelley’s part that wasn’t highlighted enough), it only would have made sense had Kelley continued to tell Chris how she felt about Lauren. It worked. Chris gained Lauren’s trust, but he used a tool that no one in the game could have possibly had access to unless they were voted out which is not anything anyone should actively try to do. For that, I cried, “Bullshit!” — something that made its way out my mouth more than once over the course of the night.
IMMUNITY – COMBO BREAKER
My favorite part of this challenge was when Victoria was one of the last two to get to the combination lock and then “out of nowhere” she was the first to get it open, shocking the hell out of the Jeff. Did he not realize that the combo solution was completely random? That was all luck, dude.
Everyone else was quick to the puzzle but not as quick to solve as Julie. She pulled ahead and toward the end, Chris even was coaching her through to the win, riling up Rick in the process. I was a little confused too because, as we saw a few minutes sooner, Chris barely even knew Julie, yet here he was helping her win. I mean ... I was okay with anyone preventing Rick from going on an immunity streak, but it didn’t make sense for Chris to bust ass to get back in only to bail out of the very next challenge.
Julie earned that immunity necklace for the second time, but this time it came with reward. Showing her big heart as she had several times in the game, she first chose Chris to come with her since he had been so deprived on the Edge of Extinction, missing out on the merge feast and all other food rewards. Julie made Lauren her second pick which did not go over well with Rick. He felt he had gone to bat for Julie several times and she had never returned the favor ... forgetting that she first paid the favor by saving his ass from going right back to the Edge at the merge. But yeah, no, Julie is a villain.
Lauren’s a villain too! She shouldn’t roll her eyes at the hero of hour like that!
THE TWO BIGGEST THREATS
At the reward meal with Julie and Lauren, Chris shared some more juicy jury gossip and told the ladies that the jury perceived Rick and Victoria as the two biggest threats to win. Again — players in the game shouldn’t know that. I mean, Rick was obvious, but Chris confirming Victoria’s name too sucked so bad for her. How the hell could she have stopped that from happening? By not playing the game (which the casuals already think is what she’s been doing)?
While Julie and Lauren were down to split between Rick and Vic, Victoria didn’t feel so comfortable with those two feasting with Chris, so she sat down with Rick and Gavin to make sure they were in alignment on voting out Chris. Victoria didn’t want to work with Rick but being the savvy player that he is, she realized it was a necessary evil or else she’d end up in a minority at final five.
When it came time for Chris and Rick to talk, we learned that the real scheme was for them to team up to win the game for the Edge of Extinction (gag). The problem was that only Rick had an idol — but wait — as is tradition with coming back into the game from Edge, that player gets a party favor from production! I don’t know why I didn’t think to wonder about Chris coming back with the same two-piece idol, but that would make the shitfest finale shittier, so I really should’ve seen it coming.
Rick would have to play his idol at six, but if he could get Chris to survive too, they could potentially both be immune at five and have a guaranteed spot in the final four. Just ... wonderful.
Chris needed to find another way to get to five, though, and he found the best path to be getting Lauren to play her idol for him, having earlier shared that she needed to do something flashy for the jury (I hate that that actually is true in modern Survivor). She definitely got played, but I can understand Lauren’s logic. She needed Rick and Victoria both out of the game. If she, Chris, and Julie all made it to five, in her mind, she was golden because she’d have had control of the numbers. As long as Rick or Victoria are out before the final three, she could have reasonably seen herself winning. She would have had more of an underdog/uphill battle than Julie and Gavin, something the jury has shown they love, and who the hell would vote for someone who didn’t play the game for 4 weeks? No one should count on that person being a threat to win.
WHAT ABOUT THE MESSENGER?
Even now with two players from the Edge of Extinction in the game, Rick was still target numero uno. Some eyes were on Chris too, but for the first time the audience could have its eyes on a cleaned-up jury:
Except Eric. Either he stayed up too late at the Welcome to Ponderosa party and didn’t have time to shower/change clothes, or he just liked living in funk. Speaking of that, what the funk was up with The Wardog’s, um, face?
We know The Wardog has crap hand-eye coordination, so maybe there was a fight with an electric razor and the razor won?
“Holy ____, Wardog.”
After bleaching my eyes and shifting them back to the main event, Rick let some tears shed too in what I think was a genuine emotional moment but also one that conveniently doubled as more sympathy-garnering from the jury before another big against-all-odds idol play. With his idol proving to be legitimate, Lauren sighed and reluctantly pulled hers out for Chris. In a final 3-2-1 vote, however, that move proved pointless as there were enough votes to get out Victoria without Lauren’s idol. With that, the girls went three-for-three in both finding idols but not playing them correctly. At least they’re consistent ....
Woo! Our first torch snuff of the season with some finality! To all the “fans” that said the girls weren’t doing anything this season, screw you dudes! Victoria played the most impressive game out of everyone for 36 days straight. She was in on every vote but the one that sent her home, and if it wasn’t for someone re-entering the game, she’d have made it through this vote too. In a season without the Edge of Extinction, Victoria wins. Rick alone coming back didn’t quite end her, but Chris coming in with his own breaking news report about the jury calling Victoria the other one to beat ... that sure as hell did it. Victoria took her exit with more grace than I would have. I’m sure watching the show was even worse with seeing how exactly her name came up for the first time ever in the first place. This was not the season to play a game like Victoria did, but in any other arena, her game beats out all the rest.
I like going back before the final and reading my pre-game assessment for shits and giggles, and what I said about Victoria was that she “gets the pre-game award for ‘Most Likely to be a R.obbed G.oddess.’” Most of the time, I smile when I’m dead-on about someone, but times like this I’m just sad ( ... mostly sad, because I like to still pat myself on the back when I’m right).
This was the low point of the finale, by far. Not only was Chris’s idol active (when the two parts were made one), but another idol was rehidden for Rick to find — all of this on DAY. THIRTY. SEVEN. I mean, I don’t even know what to say that I don’t think I’ve said before. It’s not the first time, bu t it should be the last (spoiler: it won’t). The last 10 days of Survivor have become a scavenger hunt more than a social/strategic game and it just makes me sick.
To make this one even worse, Rick planted two fakes to find and even though everyone knew Rick found one idol, the show has become such a fucking farce that finding a second and third idol hidden the same day didn’t seem fishy at all. “Two idols went out last night, so two should go back in. Maybe three!” I can’t even blame anyone for having that thought.
Rick had an idol, Chris had an idol, Lauren and Julie had fake idols that would embarrass them in front of the jury — this was just turning into a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad finale. I knew it would be bad, but this opened my eyes to just how bad. It was advanced bad.
AAAAAAAAAHHH! KILL IT WITH FIRE!
IMMUNITY – SIX-WAY SCRAMBLE
At least in a failure of a finale, they threw in a fantastic final five challenge — a spin on something we’ve seen in the past, but this was the first time we’d seen it played over water, adding an extra level of “epic” to the showdown. (Did anyone else immediately see the top half of a Poké Ball?)
With Rick and Chris both having idols, I desperately needed Lauren to win this 1) so she wouldn’t look like a fool playing a fake idol, and 2) because she was the best shot at beating the Edgers in the finals — well, mainly Chris. Rick was winning against anyone.
Gavin and Rick became neck and neck once they made it to the puzzle which spelled doom for Lauren either way. Rick pulled out another win here which at least would make the day at camp interesting with him being able to now play his idol on Gavin, Lauren, or Julie. Julie I knew would be taken to the end by anyone, so whichever of Gavin and Lauren wasn’t Rick’s chosen one would be chosen to go up on the chopping block.
THEY CAN’T GET RID OF ME
Current mood at this point in the episode.
These 5 minutes were so uninteresting and unnecessary. I’d have preferred us being whisked away immediately to tribal council and let Rick’s idol play to save, presumably, Gavin or Lauren be the big mystery. Instead, we got Rick telling Gavin he’d give him the idol and Lauren putting up a futile attempt to lull Chris into a false sense of security. Even if he felt fine, dude wasn’t keeping that idol as a souvenir. There was no suspense. Zero. Zip. In the wise words of Natalie Cole, “cut it short!”
I just wanted to get this one over with and fast. About the only good thing was that The Wardog won round two with the razor, even if it made for a bit of a Voldemort look.
“I am Lord Voldog.”
As expected, Julie and Lauren played their fake idols as Rick cheesed at the jury before playing his real idol on Gavin, followed by Chris playing an idol on himself. For those keeping track, this meant Rick, Gavin, and Chris were all safe, so Lauren and Julie were just one idol away from being Advantagegeddon’d. Boo.
Was this one ever going to turn my frown upside down?
The last of the Lesus to be voted out! I worried Lauren would wind up playing in Kelley’s shadow, but Lauren proved she could stand and even run very much on her own two feet. She never won an immunity, but Lauren kicked ass in challenges despite looking so lethargic early in the game, even bouncing back from a blackout. Lauren would have been a fun winner and was the underdog I was most rooting for at the end of this, especially to serve as #JusticeForKelley. It would have been amazing to see Lauren go on a revenge tour after she started off with The Wardog, slaying everyone who split up her and Kelley and landing in a final three with Julie and Gavin who I could have seen her beating, but sadly the soccer star didn’t reach that goal. It was probably holding onto an immunity idol for more than 30 days — those balls of steel must’ve been what held her down.
IMMUNITY – FINAL THREE FOOTWORK
I’ve played this challenge myself and it is extremely difficult in its original design. Adding a wobbling balance beam to it? That’s straight up work of the devil.
When it comes to balance beams, there’s one special Survivor that comes to mind. Ahh, that’s right. It’s my favorite part of every finale: time to reveal the Kaiser Island Debbie Donato Wanner Award for Best Performance on a Balance Beam. Sometimes this is handed out to a performer in the finale, but last season, it went to an entire post-swap tribe of bad balancers, and for the Edge of Extinction, we’re going even further back. I don’t think I could give the award this season to anyone other than the person who shed blood, sweat, and tears on that bastardly beam. Kelley Wentworth, you still alive?
You don’t bust up your face and not win yourself the Debbie Donato Wanner Award for Best Performance on a Balance Beam — this season’s was a no-brainer. Congratulations, Kelley! Don’t think for a second that your footwork did not count in that challenge.
Honorable Mention: Chris Underwood
Chris redeemed himself on this final immunity challenge’s beam, though, winning the necklace for the first time and guaranteeing* himself a spot in the final three!
*unless he did the unprecedented and gave up immunity on Day 38.
GO PRACTICE FIRE
Day 38 has been dead to me since the fire-making twist was brought to life because who cares about watching people practice making fire for one afternoon when they’ve had 37 other afternoons to do it? Choosing who faces off in a fire duel is far less compelling than choosing who someone’s going to face off with in a fight for a million dollars.
Chris flat-out told Rick to go practice fire and then said he’d help Julie and Gavin do the same, choosing whoever performed better to face off with Rick in the ring. If I was Julie or Gavin, wouldn’t my best move to be to intentionally bomb at creating flame? Maybe I’d rather not let someone else have my fate in their hands by being the gatekeeper of Rick getting into the final three, but if I’d lose to Rick either at fire or at final tribal council, I’d rather take 3rd place money than 4th.
Not feeling super confident in either Gavin or Julie to beat Rick, Chris was contemplating something crazy. Having recently see Domenick lose by not challenging Wendell, Chris considered taking the necklace and the gloves off and fighting in the fire match himself. On that note, I went into this tribal council feeling that the final nail in this season’s coffin was hammered — Rick Devens would win the game because Chris fucked up the fire-making challenge.
Holy shit Chris was actually doing it. He had a seat in the final three and he was putting it on the line because he didn’t have faith in Gavin or Julie to win against Rick, so he decided he had to do it instead. I guess Chris’s balls as are just as big as ....
I still thought this was how Chris lost and Rick won, but as Chris’s flame grew and eventually hit the rope, this entire episode was turned on its head. I realized this wasn’t how Rick Devens won the game ... it was how Chris Underwood did.
This was absolutely one of the biggest jaw-droppers ever for me. It didn’t even cross my mind Chris could come back and actually win until the very moment his rope went ablaze. From there, I had no other emotion but, strangely enough, glee. There was no chance the jury wouldn’t be jumping for joy and not give Chris the game after this. I couldn’t contain myself as someone voted out on Day 8 was about to win the freaking title of Sole Survivor. I couldn’t even be mad – this realization made me laugh harder than anything else had all season. Best. Punchline. Ever.
I thought seeing Rick’s torch snuffed again was possible, but a long shot — a very, very, very long shot, but never would I have expected the shot to be taken by Chris. It was an out-of-body experience for me. From Chris giving up immunity to Rick losing at fire and becoming the final member of the jury, none of it felt real because my mind was still processing how any of it could actually be.
The last several weeks I’ve been roasting Rick, but like Chris, he played the hell out of what he was given. I just hate what he was given — that has always been my pone to pick with Rick. He’s a fun, light-hearted guy with a lot of energy — I just wasn’t a fan at all of someone getting to the end and winning the way I was 99.99% sure Rick would and that ruined the chance of me being entertained. Maybe others do “hate” Rick, but it’s a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” philosophy for me.
What’s even worse for Rick is that a lot of complaints about him have come from people being opposed to his “obvious” win, myself included, so now that he didn’t even do that ... it sucks that he’s had to take so much heat. I wonder if he was at home every week screaming internally wishing he could say “I DON’T EVEN WIN YOU GUYS, COME ON!”
Another thing too about Rick is that he ended up with about double the number of confessionals as anyone else. No one wants a one-man show on Survivor, so the novelty of Rick wore off quick. However, this season wouldn’t have been what it was without him. I’ve said I’ve wanted another villain I could love to hate, and while Rick wasn’t really a villain, I sort of got that fulfilled? I didn’t love hating him, though. I hated hating him, actually, so screw you CBS for making me feel that way! Rick, you’re a good dude. Sorry so many of us fans gave you shit. I would bet that many had the same “ ... oh” reaction as I did when you lost — not “Oh yeah!” just ... “oh.”
THE FINAL THREE
Before leaving for their final tribal council, Julie, Chris, and Gavin all made their preliminary pitches to the cameras as to why they believed they should win the title of Sole Survivor. Julie attributed her success to the strong relationships she built with everyone, Gavin the hand he had in all the votes throughout the game, and Chris…because he didn’t quit?
I didn’t care for Chris’s line about Julie and Gavin not having to survive like he did. It took just as much will and grit for Gavin and Julie to stay alive in the game and they had to maneuver the migraine-inspiring messy social-strategic game that is Survivor. There was so much more going on at camp than on the Edge where the only “strategy” there was “don’t get in a fight with someone today.” Reem was a GAME CHANGER in not following that. I’ll give them all the point that there’s social work at play because they’re all living with the jury, but come on. Chris working harder than Julie and Gavin? Nuh-uh.
The shitty part for Julie and Gavin? The jury felt the same because Chris was one of them.
FINAL TRIBAL COUNCIL
Gavin and Julie were up against a mountain almost as big as the one Angelina had to climb in her finale to get that idol. I don’t really believe the jury was as up in the air as they pretended to be.
“Who’s just ready for this shit to be over?”
I love that Reem didn’t even pretend. She was just straight up, “nope, dude. I’m voting for Chris.” She also won the “Best Hair” award from me.
Hot like a freaking volcano, bro!
I mean, sure, some jurors may have been open to voting for Gavin, maybe one or two even for Julie, but Chris went into this heavily favored. The only thing he had to do was what he did best, “not quit,” and he’d win. It became more painfully obvious as the jury questioning went on, and sitting there, I didn’t even feel like I was getting to hear from the final three. With 13 jurors, I suppose that was to be expected, but I will say one of the best points made of the night was from Rick. Having experienced both the game and the Edge, Rick was a champion of the just when he admitted that the Edge didn’t have the same level of stress and mental fatigue as the rest of the game, hoping to help Gavin’s case by also pointing out that he had zero votes throughout the game.
The best zinger, though, came from Gavin after Chris got on a soap box about how lying, deception, and playing people like chess people wasn’t what the game was all about (except that it kind of is). Gavin politely gave Chris his respects, but rebutted, “If you want to talk about classic Survivor, it’s surviving 39 days, not getting voted out on Day 8 and then coming back on day 35.”
Classic Survivor! ♥
From there, tribal was nauseating. Chris’s point was that the game had become something it shouldn’t have, and then the jury responded to Gavin’s callback to the classics with “but the game has evolved!” So which was it!? There was just no winning for Gavin or Julie. It sucked. But it was what it was.
I still had hope that a Gavin win would save this season, but the evil part of me secretly hoped Chris would win so that we all could agree this was just one big one to laugh at, and keeping with the theme of the night, Chris came in and delivered.
Even Jeff was just so fucking done with this season. I don’t think he’s ever rushed through a vote-reading quite like that. Maybe Michele’s? Jeff usually comes in and gives some sappy spiel about this being a hard game and thanking everyone for giving it their all. Not this time. Nope. Jeff begrudgingly barreled onto stage and announced that he wasn’t going to waste anyone’s time and instead just get to the votes. As if I wasn’t cackling already at this point, that completed this crapfest for me. By a vote of 9-4, Chris Underwood had just won Survivor. What a crock.
Every season I have someone who I predict will be one of the first three boots that goes on to make the finale — Mike/Chrissy, Laurel, Kara — this time it was Julie, and I even said that I didn’t think anyone would leave the Edge of Extinction, but if there was one person who might, it’d be Julie. Whoops! Sorry Julie! At the merge, I was sorely mistaken and thought we were looking at Julie not only making it to the end but winning, so to see here as a zero-vote-getter was quite the turn events. I’m not exactly sure where things went wrong for Julie, and I don’t think it was just because she played “too emotionally” – that’s such a copout criticism in my opinion. I guess if I had to say, when she was “ready to jump ship” is the last time she was the big pilot of the game.
It’s tough when your strength is a social game rather than standing up at tribal council because while Julie played a masterful game riding to the end on the solid relationships she built, that wasn’t enough to impress the jury. It’s a shame. Next to Victoria, I’d say Julie had her finger on the pulse more than anyone in combination with being a big decision-maker (one area that made Gavin a little weaker). The jury may not have given her any votes, but I’d have definitely considered voting for her over Gavin based on what we saw. Being one of the older women in the cast, she came into the game with a huge disadvantage, so for her to make it all the way to the end with a couple of immunity wins is a great accomplishment. Not a bad Survivor showing at all for the lady whose prior outdoors experience included all of peeing on a bush in Central Park.
Gavin was my winner pick, and I thought Victoria would be the r.obbed g.oddess who lost to him in a jury vote for playing too quiet of a game — so I was just wrong about the names, not the numbers. Gavin should be absolutely outraged. 39 days playing the game, three individual challenge wins, in the majority on all but one tribal council attended, and 0 votes against — I don’t care what kind of theatrics he didn’t pull at tribal council. That’s a resume. Critics of Gavin and those supporting Chris have said Chris adapted to the theme of the game, but I’d like to point out that so did Gavin. The voting theme was to take out anyone who was too vocal, so Gavin made it a strategy to lay lower and speak softer at tribal council. Julie did this for the most part too, but she was in hot water a few more times than Gavin who was never once in that.
Gavin and Julie both were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. Play too aggressively — get voted out. Play not aggressively enough — lose the jury vote. Not being able to win against someone who was voted out of the game may look like an example of a piss-poor game, but that’s 100% not the case for Gavin. With champions of Chris saying “he played the best with the cards he was dealt,” well so did Gavin and he was never voted out. Gavin wasn’t a gigantic character this season, but you don’t go out to Survivor to be that. You go out to be the Sole Survivor. We’ve had people saying for years that Russell was robbed, Aubry was robbed, and now the strongest “robbed” case for me is Gavin (though I was never on board that Russell was robbed bandwagon — ew). He at least seems happy, taking this result much better than so many would. I’m happy for Gavin and his happy wife and happy life in their presumably pineapple house, but seeing his game lose to whose won was just ... barnacles, man.
Congratulations to Chris, honestly. He played the way he needed to play to win a million dollars. I’m happy for him as a person, but I hate this for the show. I can’t blame him. I can’t blame the jury. I can only blame the whole Edge of Extinction concept. Of course I’d say “the jury got it wrong” because I don’t think Chris had any business winning in that final three, but the jury voted exactly how I think anyone going into this season should have expected them to vote. Asking the jury to not vote for Chris “because he was voted out” would be asking them to not support the same desire they all had which would have invalidated the 1-32 days they spent living on the Edge. Who would do that? I applaud Kelley and Aurora for being more open-minded than the rest, but I can’t at all fault the other jurors for voting for the closest embodiment of themselves. Not voting for Chris would be as if to say, “I wouldn’t vote for myself” and few people in this world are that selfless.
Chris did the best he could with the final five days he had in the game. He didn’t do great in his first eight, but they weren’t the absolute worst. What bugs me more is that his win demolishes the entire foundation of Survivor. The goal is to survive. Chris did not do that. He failed to do so by Day 8. He won a game, but I don’t feel he won the game of Survivor. Yes, the season was different and allowed for another way to win, but for that reason, I won’t rank Chris higher than any other winner in the franchise. He didn’t play better than the 37 winners before him because he didn’t play the same game they played. He played the Edge of Extinction. To me, the game of Survivor didn’t evolve — it was a different game entirely, and it was a game that Chris dominated when given the chance. That’s simply how I look at it.
What I do love about Chris’s win, even though it destroyed the show, is that it also destroyed Probst and Production’s plans. This is the exact outcome they wanted ... for Joe or any of the other three returning players and later in the game, Rick. In a way, the whole twist backfired and paved the way for one player to crush all of the show’s hopes and dreams in a span of five fast days. Chris coming back in the game was the catalyst that was needed to crash the nearly perfect game set up to ensure we’d have a “satisfying” winner, and for that I love him. Like I said, once Rick left, I spent the remainder of the night howling with laughter as the madness unfolded before my eyes. I thought the finale being advertised as “unpredictable” was a total tease, but this is truly a scenario I never ever saw coming thanks to hardly any edit at all from the eventual victor. Chris Underwood’s win being the final word on this gong show of a season is just ... positively perfect.
Guys, let’s just hide this one. For real. Throw it under the bed and when Survivor’s all said and done and packing it up, we can pull Edge of Extinction back out and go, “LOL remember that one time?”
It’s true. Chris winning is the icing on the crap cake. I do think this was still a stellar cast at least, and why Lynne Spillman ended up being cut from the company when filming wrapped is an even bigger mystery now. The cast kicked ass. The twist sucked ass. That’s all there is to say. This season will be remembered for the bad more than the good, but it’s still iconic for its own, trainwrecky reasons. And for Reem. So much because of Reem.
Sticking to the theme, I had to go with someone from the Edge of Extinction for my Player of the Season. What? Don’t hate! The theme’s not on trial here. Keith knew when to back the fuck out of this season, and for that, he takes home the gold medal. *claps for Keith*
It’s just a joke, relax! (I wish Probst had said that after he read the final votes)
This was harder than I remember (that’s what she said). Even in a shitty season, there were a few contending characters that I had to sort through before landing on the one to name my Player of the Season. Reem, of course, Kelley, and I even caught myself questioning whether or not to stamp Rick’s name on the end of this. In the end, I chose to make the name that goes on this one “The Wardog.”
The True Dorks infamously ranked The Wardog last in our draft which caused for some barking at our ears, but also The Wardog ended up finishing in 9th place and my initial boot list had him around 10 or 11 which means that I wasn’t way off on what actually happened, so shut up, Wardog.
I was one of many who wasn’t walking into this taking The Wardog seriously at all. Not only does the guy go by “The Wardog” but the name was even made into a tattoo on The Wardog’s own body! When I first saw that, I thought of Lisi saying about Dreamz in Survivor: Fiji, “You’re a grown man. Consider a name change.” I’ll admit, though, I have to eat a little bit of crow here because The Wardog kind of was a boss.
The Wardog stayed in complete control of Manu and while Lesu was a little messier with The Wardog going cuckoo crunching one too many numbers, the merge was a comeback story. Not that being on the right side of the vote is all that matters, but The Wardog’s record ended 9 for 11, including the vote that sent The Wardog to the Edge. Not too shabby! A little less cockiness by coming after Kelley too soon and The Wardog may have walked his way to a win.
Oops, did I say “walked?” I meant to say “wobbled and bobbled until falling face first.” When it came to anything physical, The Wardog was just a pup. Have you seen those videos of like little Pomeranians fluffballs floofing down a small flight of stairs? That was basically The Wardog at everything. Had it not been for some players sitting out for pizza, The Wardog would have gone down as statistically the biggest challenge chump in Survivor history.
Laughter can sometimes mask a steady spell of depression, and I especially needed a reason to chuckle at this clusterfuck of a season. The Wardog was the one providing more reason than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, Reem was a dream, but failure’s funnier than anything to me, and I felt like we were always laughing with Reem and laughing at The Wardog, the best bit being when Reem herself chewed out The Wardog’s ass upon arrival to the Edge of Extinction. Nothing’s more crushing to a dog than getting kicked off the bed.
In all seriousness, The Wardog was both a breakout character and a player who kept me thoroughly entertained from week to week and helped make #MustWatchManu and later the Lesu 3 what they were this season, i.e. where all the action was. I’d say The Wardog gets more shit than is deserved, but ... nah. The appropriate amount of shit gets thrown The Wardog’s way, and luckily for us, The Wardog can’t throw it back.
Can we get Reem and The Wardog as a team on the next reality stars Amazing Race? Pretty please?
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
You know, it’s really something when two 30ft busts of former players propped up on and island isn’t the campiest idea the show’s ever had. I like Boston Rob well enough, and Sandra’s in my all-time Top 10, so I’m okay with them being back on my screens. I’m not sure what the point is though, knowing what’s coming around the corner in S40. My theory is Rob and Sandra both knew they were dead in the water going into an all-winners season, but they knew CBS had to have them, so they negotiated for an all-inclusive, 39-day vacation in Fiji with a sizable stipend as an appearance fee leading up to the big 4-0. Not bad for a negotiation — we already know Angelina’s taking notes and asking about how she can get a Goliath-sized bust of her too.
“Jeff, is there any way I could have a giant statue of me made?”
Our friend Redmond described what also probably happened better than anyone. This will be the first season Probst had total control over from concept to casting, so what does he do? He invites Boston Rob back and builds a literal shrine to him. Bravo, dude. Bravo.
Season 39 can only go up from 38, right? Sandra and Boston Rob always deliver, even if their involvement in the game is in question. At least the next winner will be someone who played a full 39 days — unless Rob and Sandra enter the game as players on Day 36 one of them takes it. Wouldn’t that be swell? After this one, we know we’ve got an epic battle with all winners so I’m hoping Fall 2019/ Spring 2020 will be something to look forward to with Survivor. After that? I don’t know. The show’s clearly run out of ideas, yet somehow Jeff even had to be forced by the network into bringing back the winners for the triumphant 20th anniversary season. When the wheel’s given back to Jeff, what hell will he bring us to rival the Edge of Extinction?
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser