Survivor seasons: How Edge of Extinction changed the game of Survivor


Despite controversial twists and a surprising finish, Edge of Extinction continued the evolution of Survivor strategy and gameplay.

Although it’s hard to judge a season that recently finished, Survivor: Edge of Extinction has definitely divided fans. However, what’s great about Edge of Extinction is that a shaky finished product didn’t affect Survivor evolution. This savvy cast elevated their gameplay, changing the way we view Survivor. Here are three ways this season impacted the show.

Returnees don’t always dominate newbies

One concern coming into this season revolved around the returning players. Every single season that pinned newbies up against returnees saw at least one veteran making Final Tribal Council. Often times they controlled the game, Boston Rob and Tyson are perfect examples.

That didn’t happen in Edge of Extinction. The final returning player left the game in tenth place! Three out of the four got brutally blindsided, two of then with idols in their pockets. Although David wasn’t blindsided and played a solid game, he found himself on the wrong side of the numbers and got his torch snuffed early after the merge.

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Why did they do so bad? I don’t think the quality of these returning players has anything to do with it. Survivor has simply evolved to the point where everyone understands that returning players are massive threats that need to go. This group of new castaways not only knew that fact, but they acted on it. I hope CBS doesn’t approve of another season like this one because I can only see the returnees getting pummeled from here on out.

Fluid gameplay results in voting blocs on steroids

Back in season 31, Second Chance made the voting bloc phenomenon popular. It’s the idea of getting a group together for at least one Tribal Council, to vote out a common threat. Other than Second Chance and Game Changers, we have seen shades of this gameplay in Millennials vs. Gen X and in David vs. Goliath, but nothing to the extent of this season.

By the Final Nine, no players remaining had the exact same voting record. That is the earliest this feat has been accomplished in Survivor history! There was a constant focus on getting out the biggest threat remaining regardless of previous alliances.

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We saw several close allies turn on each other in order to keep themselves in the game. That includes Gavin voting for Eric and Ron, Wardog writing down Wentworth’s name, and Victoria voting for Julia.

The game was so fluid, it led some to consider if we can even call these voting blocs. The fact that this form of gameplay was largely created by first-time castaways is a reassuring sign. It proves that returning players aren’t the only ones that can impact Survivor strategy.

An eliminated castaway can still win the million

The twist of an eliminated player returning in the same season isn’t anything new. There have been three seasons with Redemption Island and season 7’s Outcasts twist that featured castaways reentering the game. Although one did make it to Final Tribal, none of them have won.

Edge of Extinction marks the first time a twist like this has directly affected the end result of a season. Chris Underwood was out of the game for 27 days, only to return on Day 35 and mount an improbable run to become the Sole Survivor.

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It can be hard to wrap your head around an eliminated player winning the game. However, Chris made the most of his time back and earned his win. Hopefully, CBS will never do another season that features an Edge of Extinction-like twist again, but if they do, we can’t count out anyone who got their torch snuffed.