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Survivor: Edge of Extinction Episode 12 – Hot or Not


Who is Hot or Not after Week 11?

Photo: CBS

Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor Season 38 castaways into two categories, Hot or Not, based on who they think has potential longevity in the game. Hots are indicative of castaways who we think played well this week or who are setting themselves up for success; Nots are indicative of castaways who we think didn’t and aren’t. In order to avoid what Gus likes to call “hedging bets,” Nots cannot be given to more than half plus one of the castaways. For example, with twelve people remaining in the game, the maximum number of Nots that can be given out is seven.

Go ahead, hit us with your best shot. We’re probably wrong anyway, but that’s why it’s fun!

WARNING: This segment uses content from the “Next Time On” preview. If you are someone who doesn’t like watching those segments prior to the show, do not read further. You’ve been warned.

VATA

Lauren

GUS: LAUREN O’CONNELL – HOT

Ahhhh, there’s the Lauren that I remember from the pre-merge. Rather than accept her safety and coast through this vote lying down, Lauren took a proactive approach and allied with Victora to make certain that Devens wasn’t able to wholly control the vote this week. Targeting Ron serves to eliminate one of the two remaining big jury threats and leave the other one exposed with nowhere to go (although he managed to make it seem like it was his idea all along, but… more on that later. Like, a LOT more on that later). Lauren also still has the hidden immunity idol that she found waaaaay back in the day on the Manu beach, and nobody remaining in the game knows it exists. With nobody targeting her (the stray bullets are all still firing at Aurora for whatever reason), I would be surprised to see Lauren go home before the final 5… although I very easily COULD see her being eliminated to fire at final 4.

ALI: LAUREN O’CONNELL – HOT

“At least there’ll be a line drawn in the sand.”

Flexibility is a vital skill when it comes to the game of Survivor. Lauren exhibited flexibility in spades this episode in her willingness to work with Victoria and Gavin to eliminate Ron. At this point, Lauren is a threat, but there are so many other threats ahead of her. Also, Lauren has made it this far and still been able to hold on to her idol. Now that she’s working with Gavin and Victoria, there’s a potential path to the end for Lauren.

Rick

GUS: RICK DEVENS – NOT

I expect to catch lots of flak for this one. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about Rick, though, so here we go…

Despite dominating the episode (with 10 out of 21 confessionals) and finding an idol, Rick played terribly here. His complete misread of the atmosphere of the camp when he discovered Aurora going through his bag and subsequent attempt to rally votes for Aurora due to her being sneaky/untrustworthy purely due to Rick having seen her going through his bag wasn’t touched on in the episode, but I found it hilarious. Nearly the whole tribe was working together to go through Rick’s bag – Lauren suggested the search, Ron kept a lookout, I think Victoria spotted Rick coming… it just happened to be Aurora that was closest to the bag at the time to do the searching. How Rick could enter that scenario – with his bag in plain sight of everybody, and with Aurora going through it IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY – and try to spin it as ‘look at how sneaky Aurora is being, did you guys see how sneaky Aurora was being? I caught her being sneaky’ demonstrates a shocking lack of situational awareness.

In the lead-up to Tribal, Rick being the target was, of course, left out of the planning for the vote – as well he should have been. He chose then to play his not-real idol, and upon learning that Ron had tricked him, Rick (apparently in despair) went on to declaim the morally bankrupt nature of Ron Clark and expound to him (and the jury) what a falsely unctuous and nauseatingly unethical person Ron was for his deception in trying to “humiliate” Rick on television. Then Rick pivoted back to Jeff to reveal that he had a real idol all along. At this point, Rick likely expected Aurora to go home… so why did he ream (Daly?) Ron so hard? Rick almost definitely expected to head back to camp alongside Ron – in this case, an embarrassed and angry Ron with plenty more reason to get rid of Rick. That’s not a good way to go into the next vote, especially not when you know you’re already looked at as a big threat to win the game. Why enlarge the target on your back?

I was reminded of Rick’s somewhat infamous conversation with the Wardog back in episode 8, where the Wardog approached him with the completely reasonable plan of working with Lesu again. Back then, Rick opted not to keep a potential alliance route open, but rather to firebomb whatever bridge he still had with Wardog for the sake of an (admittedly very funny) enraged ‘I’m dying to get back with the old Lesu… Except that I DON’T WANT TO ****ING GET BACK WITH YOU GUYS AT ALL.’ Keeping in mind that that conversation led directly into Rick’s abject failure to understand the alliance that he was trying to join, I can’t help but think that this week’s similarly unnecessary obliteration of a social tie was based both on a correct understanding of jury attitudes and a misunderstanding of the dynamics of Vata. It started with the founding of the tribe, emerged even more fully last week when he posited that none of the women were playing the game (the same women who hatched the plan for this week’s vote) and were exemplified perfectly in the aforementioned ill-attended #AuroraExposedParty that Rick attempted to throw earlier in the episode.

After this, we got Rick’s best move of the week: taking credit for Ron’s boot. Rick had zero to do with Ron’s elimination… other than the fact he played an idol to void votes against himself. He didn’t have any reason to think Ron was going home because he voted Aurora. When the votes came down for Ron, however, Rick (accompanied by Kelley’s enthusiastic clapping and Julia’s energetic dancing/impersonation of a peppy fisherman) laid into Ron AGAIN, pandering to the jury and effectively rubbing salt into the wounds of Ron’s almost-dead body… just a few seconds after he had soliloquized about how terrible a person Ron was for trying to do something similar to him.

I digress. The GOOD MOVE part of this is that Rick managed to snipe some credit for this (admittedly very good move) from Aurora, Lauren, Victoria and Gavin. For being the person who really had the least to do with the Ron blindside (except maybe Julie), Rick somehow managed to come away from a tribal council where he was public enemy number one with a measure of credit and a highly enthusiastic jury. And I really can’t help but feel that a huge part of why Rick was able to do this is because this season’s jury is all but wearing t-shirts with “TEAM RICK” on them. Every time he sneezes, the jury goes bonkers for him. Every time he says anything moderately clever (which I’ll grant he does a lot) and flashes his pearly whites at Kelley, or David, or Julia, they all but fall and faint. If Rick weren’t getting this insane level of positive feedback from the jury, I can’t imagine he would be showboating and playing so flashily. It’s practically like the EoE inhabitants think of him as their representative. I guess Rick could be said to be their representative, but… I mean, not really.

Let’s step back for a second and analyze why Rick is considered such a huge threat. Clearly, it’s because the jury is all but kissing the ground he walks upon. Great. Let’s look at why that might be. In the pre-merge, Rick voted out Reem but has somehow escaped her wrath. He voted out Chris but also escaped his wrath. Maybe he made up with the two of them during his sojourn on the Edge after he was voted out as the fourth boot. OK. Not exactly a strategic master-play, nor a social stroke of genius for anything in the pre-merge. Fast forward to the merge. Rick gets back in the game – hooray! Then he’s baited into a circular firing squad by the Kama majority that he thinks he’s an integral member of. Then he continues to buy into that Kama majority that baited him last episode, but he’s entirely left out of the insurrection against Ron and Eric. Then he incites rebellion against Julia – probably his best move of the game. Then he loses his biggest shield and closest ally. Then he votes for Kelley because everybody was voting for Kelley. Then he loses his biggest shield and closest ally again. Then he loses probably the only other person that he could use as a shield. Now he’s just kind of there. He’s accomplished nothing outside of winning two (well, one and a half I’d say considering that he got a huge advantage for one of them) immunities and finding one idol, and inciting the Julia vote. Across the whole season, I’d say that’s a Not more than it’s a Hot.

But wait, maybe Rick made up some lost ground this episode! Let’s recap: Rick 1) was the target 2) misread the social atmosphere of the entire camp 3) was given a fake idol 4) found an idol 5) didn’t win immunity 6) didn’t vote for the right person (but I really don’t blame him for that) 7) reinforced his threat status in front of everybody in the game and left himself once again without any allies. This is not a good game. This is a desperate flashy game that relies entirely upon idols and advantages and challenge wins. That’s not always a bad thing, but whereas other players who depended on this sort of thing (Mike, Ben) had pretty decent histories of gameplay to back them up, Devens has the illustrious mantle of Fourth Boot and one really cool tribal council. It boggles my mind that he’s considered the frontrunner, that he’s been the focus of practically every episode, and that he’s getting so much credit for moves that not only did he not actively contribute to, but that he was actively ignorant of.

Combine all of this with his cocky attitude at tribals whenever things ARE going his way (or I guess I should say whenever he believes they are) and you get a player who looks to be at best the pilot of a hot air balloon: isolated, popular amongst observers and puffed up by nothing but a lot of gas. Short of a string of immunities, or idols, or eliminated players boosting him along and then awarding him the win because he’s just kind of neat, I cannot imagine a reasonable way for Rick to win this game. Despite this, I feel like him winning is inevitable (TEN OUT OF TWENTY-ONE CONFESSIONALS). Considering how terrible his gameplay has been across the board throughout this entire season, however, I have to give him a Not.

ALI: RICK DEVENS – NOT

“Survivor’s a grind, and I’m grinding.”

Alright, I’m calling it now. At this point, I’m pretty sure that Rick is winning this game. I think that he’s going to pull a Ben Driebergen and somehow advantage and/or immunity his way to the end. The jury clearly loves him, and he’s been pulling some pretty flashy moves/winning key immunities. If he doesn’t win at this point, I’ll be pretty shocked. However, does that mean he’s playing well? I’m going back and forth.

At this point, Rick is such a huge threat that the minute he is vulnerable, the other players are going to take the shot. They’d be stupid not to. In fact, they straight up told him this week that it was going to be him. A path to the end that relies on advantages and immunity wins is a glaring sign that you have misplayed. Rick has no other options at this point but to do a Mike Holloway or Ben Driebergen. He’s the biggest threat out there and everyone’s gunning for him. Quite honestly, that’s not good gameplay, even though it’s flashy and entertaining. Wardog and Ron both found out the hard way how being too big of a threat too soon impacts one’s game.

Rick’s in a tough spot, and I empathize with him. He has to play this hard by necessity. However, he played himself into this tight spot by being such a significant threat early on. What’s more impressive? Someone who plays their way to the end through advantages and winning. Or someone who is able to so adeptly finagle the game that they are never in trouble. To me, the latter is far more impressive. Don’t get me wrong. I like Rick, and I think that if he makes it to the end, then he deserves to win. I just think that the state of his game at the moment is pretty sloppy.

Now allow me to do a Survivor-style forced metaphor: Here’s the thing about having a game where you burst through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man… If the foundation’s weak, there’s a whole house that could come crashing down on your head. Right now, the foundation’s weak.

Julie

GUS: JULIE ROSENBERG – NOT

I really liked that Ron took Julie on the family visit (I may have paused the show and started yelling, “THAT’S MY DRAFT! THAT’S MY DRAFT!!!” as they hugged) but apart from getting to spend some nice time with her husband this was a horrible week for her. She was completely left out of the plan to get rid of Ron (and, again, rightly so considering that he was one of her closest allies), she proceeded to lose Ron and… that’s about it. We didn’t see a lot of Julie this week. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her go next after Rick unless Rick gets saved somehow in which case I would expect to see Julie be voted out at the next tribal council. She’s without allies, she’s without idols, and though she’s pretty good in challenges, others are better.

ALI: JULIE ROSENBERG – NOT

I always say that if someone is left out of a vote, that’s a telling sign. This week, Julie was left out of the Ron plan, which is a terrible sign for her game. People didn’t trust that Julie would work with them, and so now she’s playing from a minority position. Julie has been blindsided several times over the course of this game, which is an awful look in front of the jury. And this time, Julie lost her closest ally. After Rick straight up shamed her for lying, I think her chances of winning the game have taken a big hit this week. And we know that Julie isn’t the best when she’s blindsided. I think we may be in for a bucket of tears next episode.

Aurora

GUS: AURORA MCCREARY – HOT

I went back and forth on what to give Aurora this week. I think it’s possible that she’ll be the next voted out of the game, as she’s had votes cast against her at the past three tribal councils, and was saved before that only by winning immunity… but we’ve seen players with similar track records (e.g. Angelina just last season) make it to the end. It’s almost as though there’s a cloud of invulnerability that settles over people who make it through a lot of tribals being voted for. However, with Rick still being the biggest threat (apparently), I would be surprised if Aurora went before he does unless he wins immunity or finds another idol. Were that to happen, I could see Aurora going next episode – but she’s really good in challenges and seems to have made inroads with Victoria and Lauren, so I don’t really think she’ll go next week anyway.

Speaking of the inroads with Victoria and Lauren (and Gavin), I was impressed with the social and strategic progress that Aurora’s game made this week. Her plan with her extra vote was well thought out, and the fact that she placed that trust in Gavin hopefully will solidify him as an ally for her in what little of the game is left. If this group continues to work together – as they should – I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Aurora make it to the final three.

ALI: AURORA MCCREARY – NOT

“I just hope I don’t go down in history as one of the Survivor idiots.”

Oof, and getting caught snooping in Rick’s bad was a rough look.

Aurora has been a potential target every week because no one seems to like her. Her path to the end will be as a goat. There’s a chance that Joe and Aubry might be able to sway the jury in her favor, but I’m not sure if that will be enough. Regardless, having everyone in the game willing to throw out your name at every turn indicates that you’re expendable. Everyone views Aurora as expendable. Expendable people typically don’t have options. Expendable people have to rely on others to get to the end. Expendable people certainly don’t win Survivor.

Vic

GUS: VICTORIA BAAMONDE – HOT

Seeing Victoria and Lauren working together on a strategic plan was like going to see the first Avengers movie. It was such a wonderful crossover. Even though they’ve been on the same beach for a couple of weeks and easily could have worked together in a similar vein before, I feel like this was the first time that we really saw these two hash out their plans together. With Victoria taking the lead on brainstorming the Ron blindside, she adds another solid vote plan to her already impressive list of accomplishments thus far – even though her vote was for Rick, she was part of the plan to split between Rick and Ron. Her existing relationships with other players appear to be strong, she’s never been left out of the plan, she’s come up with more than a handful of said plans, and she’s never even received a vote. From a purely gameplay perspective, Victoria is looking like a very strong candidate to win the game at this point.

ALI: VICTORIA BAAMONDE – HOT

“I want to be the one to decide who goes home.”

Victoria is like the opposite of Liam Neeson in Taken. Her father was taken away by the evil schoolteacher, Ron Clark. So Victoria’s going to come in, kissed by fire, and wreck your whole life.

Side note for future players: Never. Win. The. Family. Visit. Challenge. It makes everyone angry when you inevitably have to choose people to go back to camp without their family. Who you pick reveals a ton about your alliances. You inevitably alienate people. Sometimes, like in Ron’s case, you get voted out over it. Throw the challenge. It’s not worth it.

Alright, now let’s get back to Ms. Ygritte, Ms. Eliza Thornberry, Ms. Pepper Ann herself, Victoria Baamonde. This girl played flawlessly this week, and I was here for it. She was rightfully given credit for getting this move going. First, she correctly identified that she was on the outs with Ron. Then, she sneaky snuck over to Lauren, similarly bereft, and forged an alliance with her. THEN, she toodles back over to Gavin and gets him to betray a man who just gave him the World’s Shortest Honeymoon. Then, Victoria went right back into the shadows (shadows probably cast by that enormous beanie).

Gavin

GUS: GAVIN WHITSON – NOT

I want to open by saying that Gavin and his wife are the most adorable couple I’ve ever seen and Ali and I were overjoyed by their reunion and their clear love for one another. I was so happy that Ron selected him for the family visit, even if his motives were entirely selfish and personal.
Gameplay wise, I’m perplexed by Gavin’s actions at tribal this week. He was wise to side with Aurora/Victoria/Lauren to eliminate Ron – Ron was absolutely the greatest threat following Devens (apparently) left in the game – but not only did he have no agency in the decision, he misplayed the plan that was dictated to him, or at least that’s how it appeared to me.

As I recall, Aurora gave Gavin her extra vote expecting that votes would be landing on her and knowing that people who are tied can’t vote in a revote, she gave her extra vote to Gavin to play in in the event of a revote between Aurora and Ron. Gavin then waltzed up to the voting booth in the first round of Tribal Council voting, whipped out the extra vote and threw two votes at Ron, leaving us with a final vote tally of Ron 3 Aurora 1. I guess this wasn’t a waste of the extra vote, since this was the final tribal at which it was able to be played, but… I mean, why did he play it then? Aurora could as easily have played it then. Why even bother giving Gavin the advantage if he was just playing it when Aurora could have played it?

All this to say, despite Gavin being an integral part of the blindside and having a lot of tight connections with remaining players, he has yet to actually make a move of his own that wasn’t either in lock-step behind another player or incepted by the Wardog. Without anything to point to in his own game or his own story, Gavin gets another Not from me this week.

ALI: GAVIN WHITSON – HOT

“I have so much to play for.”

Dang, Gavin, your wife is a cutie! Good for you!

Diet Nick. Nick Lite. Dollar store Nick. These are things people have been calling you (maybe, I mostly made this up). But not today, Mr. Whitson. Because today, you burst forth from under the shadow of Ron Clark. Gavin was walking a tricky line between two options. Ultimately, he chose the correct move. There was no way that Gavin was going to be able to beat Ron. He has a far better chance against the remaining players. Yes, Gavin certainly burned some bridges with Julie, but Julie’s threat level was neutralized this week with Ron going home. This was a win-win for Gavin because now he’s built trust with people that he has a chance against (though, I think that Lauren and Victoria would both probably beat him). For improving his spot this week, it’s a Hot from me.

Extinguished
GUS: REEM DALY – ASHEN

All my rankings for EoE this week are based on if I think the person will get back in. Reem probably won’t, and I am heartbroken.

ALI: REEM DALY – ASHEN

“It’s a game; everybody’s a liar.”

We didn’t hear a lot from Extinction Island this week, so many of my assessments will be the same as last week. However, there is a secret scene in which Reem really lays into Wardog. Reem keeps attacking every person that comes to The Edge, and while it makes for great entertainment, it’s terrible gameplay.

GUS: CHRIS UNDERWOOD – KINDLED

Chris might get back in, but I don’t think he will.

ALI: CHRIS UNDERWOOD – KINDLED

Based on his visibility, I don’t think he’s coming back. But he’s a strong guy, and he’s keeping everyone fed. The odds are in his favor, while the edit is not.

GUS: AUBRY BRACCO – KINDLED

Aubry is still my odds on favorite to return.

ALI: AUBRY BRACCO  – KINDLED

She’s still got an advantage in that challenge, and I’d be willing to bet that she’s practicing an awful lot just to avoid Edge boredom.

GUS: JOE ANGLIM – KINDLED

It’s Joe.

ALI: JOE ANGLIM – KINDLED

Joe has the best chance of getting back in the game of everyone. However, his lack of visibility makes me suspicious that he might not. For now, he’s Kindled just based on his physicality alone.

GUS: ERIC HAFEMANN – KINDLED

Challenges. He might win them.

ALI: ERIC HAFEMANN – KINDLED

Lack of visibility, but he’s a beefcake. See Chris and Joe.

GUS: JULIA CARTER – ASHEN

She isn’t likely to return.

ALI: JULIA CARTER – ASHEN

Just based on what we’ve seen of Julia, I doubt she’s coming back into the game. I loved her reactions at tribal, and I wish we’d seen a bit more of that personality on the show.

GUS: DAVID WRIGHT – ASHEN

I love him to death, but he’s not likely to return.

ALI: DAVID WRIGHT – KINDLED

David has pulled out challenge wins before, especially in puzzles. We haven’t seen a lot of him this week, but if everyone rooting for Rick is any indication, I think that he has a lot of sway with the jury at this point.

GUS: KELLEY WENTWORTH – KINDLED

She could.

ALI: KELLEY WENTWORTH – KINDLED

Kelley has a good shot of making it back in and, from watching her on the jury bench, it looks like she’s getting along well with the others on The Edge. I think if she makes it to the end, she may win.

GUS: DAN “WARDOG” DASILVA – ASHEN

He likely won’t.

ALI: DAN “WARDOG” DASILVA – ASHEN

Wardog would have to have a big turn around in his challenge performance to win his way back into the game. If he does manage to make it back, no one is going to want to work with him. He’s too big of a threat. On top of that, he’s engaging in fights with Reem in secret scenes. Even if Wardog somehow wins his way back, by alienating members of the jury, Wardog might not get a bunch of votes in his favor.

GUS: RON CLARK – KINDLED

I felt bad for Ron this week. All in all, I think Ron played a pretty good game. I could see him winning his way back in, as well.

ALI: RON CLARK – ASHEN

“I’m in charge of this game.”

The minute he said this, I knew he was a goner. Ron played an entertaining game. Unfortunately, once Wardog was gone, he or Rick were the logical next targets. The theme of this season has been major players underestimating the people around them. Ron did this, and so he’s out of the game. I don’t think he’s the greatest challenge player in the world, especially when compared with the others on The Edge. It’s doubtful that Ron will return, and if he does, his target will be huge. Hey, at least he made his beloved family visit.

TrashTalkZOne

GUS: I think I set a new record this week with my Rick rant.

ALI: It was even longer than my Angelina rant last season! Proud of you. You out chatted me. That’s difficult to do.

GUS: It’s a milestone moment. I was concerned that you were going to give him a Hot and we’d have to spend ninety pages or more arguing over that. Thank you for not doing that.

ALI: I seriously considered it. The decision lay within the framework of “does someone winning mean they played well?” If I really think Rick is winning, and I think he might, does that mean he’s playing well right now? So I had to evaluate what “playing well” means to me. I think that if you’re in trouble like Rick’s in trouble, and you have to resort to these extreme measures to keep yourself safe, I think then he played a “winning game” but not a “good game.” Too much about his game is subject to chance, and he has zero moves left to him other than winning challenges and idols. In that case, there’s a fundamental strategic element missing from his gameplay. Now, I don’t think that this unfortunate situation is Rick’s fault. I’m pretty certain that much of his misfortune is due to misplays on Ron and Wardog’s parts. However, I can’t look beyond the fact that he has been inflexible at times for emotional reasons, he’s voted incorrectly many times, and he’s seriously underestimated the other players. His hubris may yet be his downfall.

GUS: I agree. I actually waffled on whether to make him a Hot or Not for this very reason. And I think it’s fair to say that if he weren’t the overwhelming focus of many of the post-merge episodes, we wouldn’t be looking at him as a big threat to win the game – and we’d not have had so much trouble deciding to make him a Hot or a Not. That was a big part of my decision to make him a Not, was trying to look past what the show is showing us and look at the game fundamentals of the players. That’s also why I opted to make Aurora a Hot this week, which I had kinda hoped you would disagree with. So, thank you for doing that.

Aurora

Photo: CBS

ALI: I think it has to be based on what kind of path you might have to the end. It’s a tricky thing to decide. Aurora has a path to the end, but she’s probably not winning based on everyone’s perceptions of her. You could argue that having a path to the end could mean you’re playing a good game, but that’s not the only thing to take into consideration. Same thing here, but the opposite. Most likely, Rick would win if he got to the end. His path to the end relies on mostly luck rather than strategy. Therefore, he’s not playing a good game, which is why I gave them both Nots. And this segues (Gus is triggered) nicely into how you’re wrong about Aurora.

GUS: (Context for the above: this week, at the age of 26, I learned that “Segway” refers only to the motor scooter and that “segue” is how the word is actually spelled. I’ve been saying stuff like “that really segways nicely into this topic” for 10+ years not knowing that I’ve only been talking about obsolete, overhyped pedestrian transportation devices.)

I’m not wrong about Aurora. Her game has taken off in the past few weeks. Actually, I’d say that ever since we lost Joe, Aurora’s game has been flying high, and with the advent of “vote against the threats all the time no matter what,” her stock only continues to rise. Since the merge, Aurora’s received an advantage, won two immunities, ducked and run from several bullets and been a party to a number of significant votes. The Lesu 4 saw her as an integral part of their original plan before they decided that it would be a better idea to just auto-cannibalize rather than to make a coherent strategy, and as it stands the only people who are really gunning to get her out are Julie (I still don’t really get why) and Rick.

ALI: “Flying high” is high praise for someone who has been the decoy target (or real target) so many times. Everyone keeps talking about disliking Aurora: Kelley, Ron, Julie… I think Aurora seems like a great gal, but I think her chances of winning this game are slim. She’s viewed as expendable. I’m honestly shocked you gave her a Hot this week.

S38 Ep12

Photo: CBS

GUS: Alright, I’ll give you that I may be overhyping Aurora this week. The perception of her among the other players isn’t great, and yeah she’s been in some bad spots (the Julia boot easily being the worst of all). But she’s also done some really good things, and I think she could own them if she made it far enough down the line. The negative perception of her also only adds to the likelihood that she could make it to the end – if people think that nobody likes her, isn’t she a better Final Tribal Council member than someone who the jury really likes? Besides, I’m giving her a Hot based not only on her season-long gameplay (as we have to do as we reach the end of the game) but also based on how she played this week, and her contribution to the gambit to eliminate Ron was insightful and clever. I don’t mean to say that strategic #moderatemoves are the only thing that matter in Survivor, but her use of the extra vote as insurance was well done. This was a good week for her.

ALI: In Survivor, perception is reality. If people perceive that Aurora is obnoxious and doesn’t deserve to win, it’s probably a good indication that a lot of people feel that way. However, I think Aurora’s one saving grace could be that Joe and Aubry are on The Edge and may be talking her up. It depends. I think it could be an uphill battle because she doesn’t have a ton to point to other than immunity wins and pure survival when the target was on her back. I do think that her game has improved, but she’s had a couple of tense conversations with people like Rick and Ron. I don’t know how well that’s going to work out for her.

GUS: I agree with you that she’s unlikely to win the game, but you can’t deny that this was a good week for her. Apart from Devens thinking she’s a snitch, everything she did this week only strengthens her game and legitimizes her as a player. Of course, I have a really garbage track record of backing the wrong horse this season, so she’s probably going out purely because I said she did well.

ALI: It was a good week for her in that she didn’t go to Extinction. But what options does she have moving forward? From what I could tell, the only person working with her at all was Ron. Gavin and Victoria needed her for the vote. Are they going to work with her going forward? Who knows! It just feels like the reason Aurora was saved was because Victoria and Gavin were playing correctly. Yes, Aurora contributed her extra vote, but she had to play it anyway. And her reasoning for giving it to Gavin didn’t make a lot of sense. Why not just have her play it? Then, she at least gets some credit for the move. Gavin’s immunity doesn’t have an impact on the vote. If they did a revote, then they just all vote for Rick.

GUS: She gave the extra vote to him because if they’d voted for her, she couldn’t have played it at the revote. He could because he was never going to be getting votes. I suppose that she was a bit of a secondary contributor to the plan, but I liked the flair that she added to it.

ALI: But you can’t play the second vote at the revote anyway. The plan makes no sense.

GUS: You can, can’t you? I thought that was one of the special bonuses of this one. When Aurora received it, I’m pretty sure they specified that it was playable on a revote.

ALI: Oh, maybe I missed that. But they played it on the first vote anyway. Would she have gotten that second vote on the revote again? I just don’t see the point of having Gavin play the vote on the first pass if the contingency plan was so that he could play it on the second vote. Sorry, I feel like I need this move explained to me.

GUS: I mean, yeah, it was a little needlessly complex. But the idea was that if the vote had turned out 1 Ron 1 Aurora, and there was dissent on a revote, Aurora had an extra vote that could be played. It was a little over the top. Gavin playing it during the normal vote was his mistake; if Aurora’s plan had been to play it then, then Aurora should have played it herself. Giving it to Gavin was insurance because Aurora couldn’t play it on a revote, as she’d be getting the votes; Gavin could because he wasn’t ever going to be under fire of votes.

Gavin

Photo: CBS

ALI: Okay, I guess that makes sense. It was a little convoluted, and maybe it wasn’t explained in the clearest way. Shall we discuss Gavin?

GUS: Lets. I just don’t think he’s done anything of merit across the whole game.

ALI: Well, I want to caution against that assumption. I wonder if he’s made moves, but other people have received credit for them. He has found his way time and time again into multiple alliances that have put him in power positions.

GUS: He’s been invited into alliance after alliance, he’s waffled on whether or not to do the thing with said alliance, and then he’s done as he’s been told. There’s playing the middle, and then there’s just being led along by others, and I can’t help but feel like Gavin can’t point to any of the moves that he’s been a part of and say that they were because of something he did – outside of be a number. Moreover, all of the flipping he’s done as part of being a number is likely only alienating the folks that he’s flipped against.

ALI: That may be true, but I can’t help but feel that Ron leaving is ultimately helpful to his game. Gavin has been waffling, but he also has options. It kind of feels like he’s more effectively doing what Ron wanted to do. Everyone seems to want to work with Gavin, and at this point, he’s in a majority position. This week, I think he ultimately made the right choice in voting for Ron, because Ron had a good shot of winning the game and it doesn’t look like Gavin needed him as a shield. Now, I think that other people in the game are still bigger threats than him who will maintain the group’s focus. However, there is a possibility that should Rick win immunity that Gavin may be voted out because of all of his immunity wins. I see a world in which that could happen. Ultimately, I think that this week was positive for Gavin from a strategic standpoint. Time will tell if it comes back to bite him. I think that Rick and Julie are bigger targets at the moment.

Also, I want to remark further on the statement that Gavin hasn’t “done anything.” I think he has perhaps not been given credit for many of the moves that he’s participated in. He was a part of several major blindsides this season, and though they might not have been his idea, they were still things that he helped orchestrate (Aubry and Wardog’s blindsides come to mind). We know historically that the person who comes up with the idea to eliminate someone isn’t always the instigator of said move. There are a lot of cogs that need to be in place for a blindside to happen. Gavin is playing the game; he’s just not getting the credit. It takes skill to be winning that many challenges and be a part of that many alliances and still be fairly under the radar. He’s never been a target despite all of those considerations and that’s pretty decent play in my book. Is he winning? Probably not. But I don’t think this week was bad for his game. I thought he played his position correctly and made the right decision. It’s a Hot from me.

Gavin

Photo: CBS

GUS: That’s all personally reasonable logic, but I don’t see much of it as being in Gavin’s favor. Sure, he was in on the Aubry vote out – because Victoria saw him as an easy number and drew him into it. He was part of the Wardog blindside – because the rest of the troops brought him in on it. He was part of the Joe blindside – because Julie brought him in on it. He was part of the Ron blindside – because Victoria (slash Aurora) coerced him into it. His immunity wins are nice – I’m not saying that he’s not capable – but I feel like he’s shown a lack of strong initiative through the game which has led to the rest of the castaways seeing him as just another safe extra number. He isn’t being targeted because nobody is looking at him as a potential threat to win the game. He’s been a part of so many alliances because he doesn’t have any in-game loyalty. Could his playstyle lead to a winning game? Yeah, definitely – but not the way he’s doing it.

ALI: I go back and forth on Gavin. I wonder if, in a different season structure, we might see more of his game and come to a different conclusion. Certainly, everyone seems to like him and want to talk game with him. If he isn’t talking game, then no one would come to him. I think the fact that he’s been able to play the middle like Ron wanted says something significant about his game. I think the two missteps he’s really had were voting out Eric too soon and that big confrontation with Wardog. I think it’s hard to capture an under the radar game very well, but does that mean Gavin isn’t playing?

GUS: I don’t think he isn’t playing so much as even if he is, it doesn’t seem like the perception is that he is. That might just be what we’re seeing, but though I think he is playing the middle well enough to be ignored by the rest of the castaways, I also think that he’s doing it as part of a larger group and the person who is leading said group is Victoria. He’s essentially Victoria’s lieutenant at this point, I would say.

ALI: Hm. A part of me is worried that they’re both viewed as secondary players based on a few scenes we’ve seen of players talking behind their backs. I think Victoria’s gotten more credit for certain moves, but many of her flashier moves were in the pre-merge, and people in the game have short memories when it comes to pre-merge affairs. As for Gavin, can we say Hot because his wife is adorable?

GUS: I’ll go in for that. They make a very cute couple.

ALI: Mazel tov to them both. Let’s move on to The Edge. We saw very little of them this week. How in the world is David an Ashen?

GUS: I’m pretty sure that we saw none of them. David’s an Ashen because I don’t think that he’s going to win out in the challenge. That’s it. I don’t have any other logic to use because there’s no more footage of him. There hasn’t really been footage of David since his vote-out. Ron’s a Kindled because he can puzzle fairly well and I’m assuming it’ll end with a puzzle. I know that David can also puzzle well, but Ron can puzzle better. Again. Very little logic.

ALI: David was no slouch in puzzles during MvGX, and if they have anything having to do with balance, he’s got a fair shot. Also, I think that David has a way better chance of making it far if he gets back in the game than Ron. David has Rick still in the game, who will have no choice but to work with him. Also, David is a beast at fire-making.

GUS: Yeah, that’s fair. He’s got a shot; I don’t think it’s the best shot, is all, and I didn’t want to give Kindleds to basically everybody.

Ron

Photo: CBS

ALI: Okay, but then you give one to Ron who hasn’t won a single individual immunity challenge?

GUS: He won a lot of group immunities. I don’t know. We’re going on almost no information. I think he could do it. They were both a coin flip, honestly.

ALI: Well, that was a bad flip. My money’s on David every day of the week. Ron goes back in; then he goes right back out. Alright, who do you think is going home this week? I’m going to hedge my bets and say Gavin.

GUS: That’s hilarious. I’m gonna do the same and say Aurora because I like to infuriate you.

ALI: Incredible. It’s a miracle we even like each other.

GUS@ Who’s returning? Pick one.

ALI: Gaaaah that’s hard. Okay, let’s go with… Kelley. She’s been quite a spokesperson on The Edge and she’s good at challenges.

GUS: Fair choice. I think Aubry. Unless Devens is voted out next, in which case I expect everybody from EoE to lie down and die to let Devens get back into the game. I’m kidding. A little bit. But I think that if Devens is voted out, he’ll be returning again.

ALI: I almost picked Aubry, but then I hesitated. She does have the advantage of being able to practice. We will certainly see! Who’s safe this week?

GUS: I want to say, Vic, because I want her to be safe, but if they’re smart they’ll target her after Devens (or if Devens is immune)… I’m going to say… Lauren?

ALI: She’s got an idol, so that’s a good pick. I want to pick someone different from you.

GUS: Don’t feel obligated. We can agree. It’s allowed.

ALI: Nah. I like being a contrarian. I think Aurora could be eliminated because people don’t like her. Rick is a goner as soon as he isn’t safe. Julie is expendable because her alliance fell apart. Gavin is a challenge threat. Victoria is a strategic threat. Lauren is in the Lesu minority…

I’m going to go with Aurora. I think that people see her as a goat that they can beat in the end. I’m not saying that it’s true, but I think it’s a reason some may want to keep her around.

GUS: I really like how I made Aurora a Hot and said she might go home, and then you made her a Not and said she’s probably safe. We’re a veritable hedge maze.

ALI: I like to think of it as less of a hedge and more of a topiary… But in seriousness, I think that Aurora is playing a lasting game, but not a winning game. So, while she’ll stick around for quite a while, her longevity is not indicative of a win.

GUS: Totally fair. And I think that’s it for this week’s edition!

ALI: Tune in next week, when Rick finds thirteen idols!

GUS: And is gifted eight more from David Wright!

ALI: Adios!

GUS: Bye!


Alexandra "Ali" Shields is a sketch writer and playwright from Chicago and a graduate from Northwestern University. Alexandra has published humor articles with The Second City Network and cracked.com. Alexandra’s play, Twelve, won first place in the Jackie White National Memorial Playwriting Contest in 2018. Gus Schlanbusch is a Chicago-based playwright, theatre director and Survivor fan. His plays have been produced in Chicago, Detroit and Boston. He is a relatively new survivor superfan, his first live season having been Season 33, but Ali has caught him up pretty thoroughly on what he missed before then.