Survivor Edge of Extinction full season review: Unpredictable chaos


Edge of Extinction marked another Survivor season flooded with twists and idols, but it played out very differently from recent returnee versus newbie seasons.

We’re now almost two weeks since Edge of Extinction came to an end, and something still doesn’t feel right about it. This season was unpredictable, it featured new memorable players and even evolved the game of Survivor. However, it’s still hard to swallow the season-long twist that directly affected the end result.

What was interesting about Edge of Extinction was how different it was compared to other seasons where returning players were up against first-timers. These new players understood the strategy behind the game and weren’t afraid to make big moves when they saw the opportunity. Let’s breakdown this season into parts to see how it compares to other seasons.

A slow-moving pre-merge game

Sometimes it can be fun watching a tribe implode every single challenge. As harsh as that might sound, that’s exactly what made the first half of Survivor: Palau so enthralling. That wasn’t the case in Edge of Extinction.

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The Manu tribe kept on losing and losing, which prevented the audience from learning about Kama. It does get irritating watching the focus be on the exact same people every single Tribal Council. The tribe swap didn’t help either, as the only person who switched away from the original Manu group was Wendy.

There were two pre-merge highlights in my opinion. Seeing Victoria masterfully blindside a returning player, and watching Joe dominate in challenges. Other than that, the first half of the season was slow and uneventful. It’s more interesting to watch social relationships and alliances develop rather than have several episodes focus on killing chickens. It wasn’t until the merge when the gameplay got interesting.

Voting bloc craziness

The merge brought along entertaining Tribal Councils and constantly shifting alliances. First, it was Ron who made the move to blindside Joe, and then Julia stepped up and snuffed Eric’s torch. After looking so dominant, Kama strong fell apart, as three of their members were eliminated consecutively.

That trend of unpredictable blindsides continued well past the early merge, with Wardog stunning Wentworth, and then facing the bullet himself. It’s true that a lot of these moves weren’t the smartest in hindsight, but it’s relieving to watch active gameplay. For example, Julia probably isn’t a top five player this season, but she still took control of a Tribal Council and executed a major blindside.

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We don’t see that happen often from early merge boots. The savvy and aggressive play of this season’s cast was the biggest strength of Edge of Extinction. It made for perhaps the most fluid season ever. Close allies were turning on each other and rivals even worked together for a few votes. The first six Tribal Councils following the merge had only one idol play. That’s it. It was social and strategic gameplay, not twists or advantages, that made this part of the season so exciting.

Season 38 hit its peak in episode 12. For the first time, we got a proper edit, as there were no scenes on Extinction Island. This was my favorite vote of the season, as we got to see each castaway’s vantage point before heading to Tribal Council. Rick Devens’ idol theatrics and Victoria’s sneaky plan made for a thrilling blindside that sent Ron packing.

An unpredictable but rushed finale

No one could have predicted that Chris would win or even reenter the game. He had such a poor edit his first two episodes, that despite his physical ability, I thought there was no way he was returning.

On top of Chris’ dramatic path to the million, no Devens or even Lauren at Final Tribal Council was another shocker. However, it was hard to digest everything with a rushed finale that included four challenges, four Tribal Councils and a fire-making challenge.

While most of the post-merge votes were determined by strategic and social gameplay, the finale was overloaded with idols. Four Hidden Immunity Idols and two fake ones were played in just two Tribal Councils, including the idol that was given to Chris when he returned.

Idol plays are certainly exciting, but when there is a record-breaking amount found, it does feel like production is way overdoing it. You feel for those players like Victoria or Lauren who played a brilliant strategic game only to get idoled out.

The good, the bad and the ugly of the Edge of Extinction twist

Now we come to the most controversial and debated aspect of this season. With flashbacks to Redemption Island, many fans were disappointed to hear that production was trying out another method to allow eliminated players to return. Here’s what worked and what didn’t from this bold twist.

The good: I still believe that the Outcasts twist in Pearl Islands is the best way for castaways to come back, and Edge of Extinction had its similarities. Allowing a player to win their way back at the merge isn’t a terrible idea, especially when you have someone in Devens’ situation whose only fault was being on a tribe that couldn’t win.

The bad: When someone comes back at the merge, there’s still a ton of game left until Final Tribal Council. That’s not the case when a player returns with just six people left. They only have to survive two Tribal Councils until the fire-making challenge. Being given an idol to use for one of those two Tribals makes it even more unfair.

The ugly: Since this twist had to keep at least 16 people in the game throughout the entire season, the edit was a mess. For several Tribal Councils including the Joe blindside, it was difficult to understand the motive behind the votes. There were also castaways including Julia and Aurora who basically received an invisible edit before the merge.

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Additionally, It’s hard to stomach someone who gets eliminated Day 3, or Day 8, and still has a chance to reenter the game at Day 35. Even Rick mentioned on RHAP that living on Extinction Island is much easier than being in the game!

Let’s not forget how the jury members impacted this season more than any other by sending players certain advantages. Think of jurors who are part of a judicial trial given the ability to interact with the defendant in their search for convincing evidence. It’s simply unfair.

The verdict:

Survivor: Edge of Extinction had a few great Tribal Councils, introduced some awesome characters, and even showcased revolutionary gameplay. While the merge was slow and mostly uneventful, the post-merge game made this season enjoyable.

Chris did everything within his power to win the game, and he deserves to be called the Sole Survivor. However, it doesn’t sit well when a new twist directly affects the final result of a season. It’s not the winner that hurt the season, it’s the path that he was forced to take that makes many Survivor fans disappointed. Plus, production continues to overload the game with idols and advantages that also have an impact.

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In my books, Edge of Extinction belongs in the lower half of the season rankings, but it’s not one of the worst outings. It was a more complete season than Redemption Island or South Pacific, but it doesn’t measure up to Blood vs. Water. Overall, Survivor: Edge of Extinction was a fun season to watch even with some questionable production twists.