We’ve spent enough time breaking down how lousy Survivor: Edge of Extinction’s major twist was. If they do bring it back, here’s how it should be improved.
If there’s anything Survivor likes to do, it’s to bring in major twists and try to execute it multiple times to see if the end results were bad or the twists were bad. We saw Redemption Island occur numerous times, Exile Island various times and they even almost did the Cook Islands racial divide in casting twice with Survivor Fiji.
Only in those major cases (as well as the Medallion of Power) do we see the producers rein things in immediately and decide “never again.” It got me thinking after reflecting upon Edge of Extinction after deeming its ways the theme became an institutional failure that soured what it meant to Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast.
However, just because something is introduced to Survivor doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever. The dirty thirties of this show have radically changed how the Final Four works, how many players can be on the jury and reduced the number of rounds you can be voted out while having an idol to zero. If they do bring back the Edge of Extinction, here’s what should change.
Make the Edge of Extinction last until the merge
There are pros and cons to having a vote-out twist being a known commodity. However, the cat comes out of the bag regardless once the Edge of Extinction challenge begins. Even if you get voted out on Day 3, being out of the proper game for two weeks or more at the most still leaves half the game in play.
Just as we saw with Rick Devens, he used the most of his opportunity and worked hard over weeks and weeks of play to the point where being on the Edge of Extinction was beneath discussion for most of the jury. That’s because he came back at the merge and spent just as many Tribal Councils (if not more) than the Kama Five that Joe Anglim led to safety as the biggest challenge beast in Survivor history.
If you ended the twist at the merge, it becomes way more palatable and fair for everyone. Plus, you would have jury members that were on a tribe with every player in the game instead of having weird moments on Day 35 where the winner is introducing themselves to the runners-up for the first time.
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Let the players know Edge of Extinction exists ahead of time
A quote I like to return to all the time is one from Jeff Probst talking about how unfair the Outcasts twist was in Survivor: Pearl Islands while defending Redemption Island. “I have no problem with people coming back into the game because everybody knows up front. A rule can’t be unfair if you know going in.”
The problem is, almost a decade after making that statement, Jeff Probst and production either forgot that it was unfair or didn’t care about players being voted out secretly having the chance to come back into the game meant those in the game had no fair shot to strategize for it. Just let everyone know ahead of time, and you erase most doubts.
Don’t let inactive Survivor players affect active players’ games
While the show sometimes operates on the idea of “what is dead may never die,” once a player is voted out, they should only play what game lies for them on the Edge of Extinction. That means fighting for advantages in the challenge to re-enter the game or extra (personal) supplies, as that is a wholly separate existence from the main game.
However, once a player voted out of the game hands power to those still in the game, the wall between the Edge and the main game breaks down, and it becomes unfair. You shouldn’t ever be gifted power by a stranger who was never on your tribe like Aubry did when she received an Extra Vote advantage from Rick Devens in the pre-merge.
If there are two rounds of the Edge, remove the first batch at the merge
We know that Survivor is hesitant to change up their major twists if they do bring them back, so sometimes the best we can hope for is to reach some middle ground. Despite going to the Redemption Island well multiple times, it never did end at the merge. However, how Exile Island operated did change with minor changes across its many implementations.
If they did bring back a full Edge of Extinction twist, at the very least, they should remove everyone but the first returnee at the merge as the pre-jury group then provide a full reset. The longer players stay as one group dictating the mood and feeling of the jury, the harder it is to push back against the groupthink. Plus, jury members need more than four days to decompress at Ponderosa after scratching and surviving for so long on the Edge.
Don’t give players returning from the Edge of Extinction idols
If you’ve been voted out of the game, you’ve already lost in the majority of Survivor seasons. Anything granted after that is a bonus, especially since more players won’t get a second chance to change their fate.
While I believe that, at the merge, the returning Edge of Extinction player should get one round of immunity to integrate themselves into the tribe dynamics (zero rounds if they do it on Day 35), they should not get an idol. Not only does that give the returning player a partner dynamic, but they already lost the game. If they can win the game by finding idols granted to them on the island, then that’s fair game.