Edgic is a weekly feature analyzing each player’s edit, mapping characters to their story-arc. Note that our focus is not solely to determine the winner, as is typical of other Edgic sites. For more information on how Edgic works and rating definitions read our Introduction to Edgic article.
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What Does This Episode Tell Us?
Last week, I said that if I were forced to pick which tribe contained the winner after two episodes, I would choose Naviti. After Episode 3 I’m not so sure. Which is a good thing! You shouldn’t be able to narrow down the winner to that extent after just two episodes. The edit would be doing a terrible job if that was the case. The game of Survivor is continuously changing, and so is the edit.
I still maintain that, despite being underedited as a whole, the Naviti tribe members that were introduced last week got much better content than the Malolos. Domenick, Kellyn, and Wendell all got significant introductions that told us a lot about their personalities and background and their approach to the game in the case of Domenick and Wendell. Plus all three perfectly fit this season’s theme of changing past bad decisions and bettering yourself. Chris and Sebastian, to a lesser degree, were also introduced to us via their occupation and background. In comparison, outside of Donathan, Michael, and to a lesser extent, Brendan, Malolo felt very lacking in personal character insight.
But in this week’s episode, Malolo received the underdog edit. The former Naviti members, for the most part, were made to look like arrogant, entitled jerks, especially those that ended up on New Malolo. It felt like the audience was supposed to be rooting for the former Malolo members to come out of the tribe swap on top. Many people have pointed out how Malolo’s “best tribe ever” schtick could be comparable to Lindsey Casaccadan’s “the winner is on this mat” declaration in Worlds Apart, referring to her Blue Collar tribe. That bold prediction turned out to be spot on when Mike Holloway won the season. Could this be a similar situation? It’s certainly possible. When Jacob made the “best tribe ever” statement last week, it seemed like a joke, but Probst brought it up again in Episode 3, with Libby continuing that arc.
The thing is, it’s way too early to say what is the driving narrative of the season. Yes, the first episodes can give us a strong indication of the season’s principal characters, but predicting the specific narratives is a lot harder. We’ve seen over the years just how quickly storylines fizzle out or conclude way earlier than expected. Sometimes stories which appear to be heading toward a big climax end up leading to nothing. Remember the Fishbach versus Savage rivalry in Cambodia? Right now the Malolo underdog story is receiving a lot of attention, and it could very well lead to them mounting a comeback and dominating the game, living up to their “best tribe ever” mantra. Or it could merely be a short-term story that is over within a couple of weeks.
It’s usually around the merge episode when we get a better grasp on the season’s main narrative. By that point, we’ve established enough evidence to look back on and track which stories have continued from the premiere and which have slipped away. So just a warning not to get lost down a rabbit hole this early.
I hate to rule a character out of contention/significance this early, but it’s not looking good for Chelsea. Three INV ratings in a row? I do not see a way back from that. These aren’t the days of Samoa, and even then, Natalie White was established as an ally of Russell and talked about by other players. Who is Chelsea? What are her thoughts? Her strategy? Her allies? The edit does not care to tell us. And I don’t count Probst namechecking her at the swap as visibility – he namechecked every single person when breaking down the new tribe formations. Yes, Chelsea hasn’t yet attended a tribal council, but even so, you would think if she had any importance to the broader narratives that the edit would throw her a bone once or twice. Right now, I only see Chelsea receiving air-time when her tribe attends tribal council and probably only the bare minimum unless she’s the boot.
Under The Radar
The outlook isn’t much better for Desiree, who JUST scraped an UTR1 rating due to having a subtitled line. If she hadn’t already been introduced to us in the premiere, then this one line probably wouldn’t have been enough to avoid INV. In this episode, Desiree was used as a representation of the old Naviti’s arrogance. “I know we’re gonna be good,” she said, as she fist-bumped Bradley, who laughed about voting out the outnumbered Malolos. Desiree was also shown laughing. Going back to Chelsea for a second, I suppose if you were scratching for any kind of positive, you could say that she was protected from the Naviti negativity. It’s just whether that was intentional or not. For Desiree, she was included, and that is an ominous sign, especially when her content is so lacking in every other area.
Nobody got slammed by the edit quite as badly as Bradley. He was the poster boy for the Naviti negativity. The chief moaner and complainer on the new Malolo tribe. But first, a positive. Bradley finally received visibility! Probst asked him a question at the swap, where Bradley talked about old Naviti’s strength and cohesion. That’s about it for the positives. The rest of his content was just… yeesh.
Bradley was the antithesis of Malolo’s positive outlook. When Brendan said that it’s important to take in the beauty of the view, Bradley said, “It’s easier to do at Naviti’s camp. This is a s***hole compared to their beach.” Brendan called out Naviti for their complaining but specifically highlighted Bradley. “He just cries about everything, it’s unbelievable. This is Survivor; it’s supposed to be hard.” Then, if that wasn’t enough, we got a repeat of the scene later with Stephanie in the Brendan role. Stephanie stood on the beach, admiring the sunrise. “That’s amazing. There’s no way that could ever get old,” she said, backed by uplifting music, only to be interrupted by Bradley saying “It’s freezing.” The music then changed from uplifting to comical. “I just wanna be back at Naviti,” he continued. “You guys have like, dirt. We have sand everywhere. I feel dirty and gross.”
Is there a bigger death knell Edgically speaking than being shown not to appreciate Survivor? Outside of say, Jenna Morasca, winners of Survivor are rarely, if ever, shown to complain about the show or the conditions. Not unless it’s part of a larger story where the conditions are affecting the entire tribe – think Cambodia during the storms, but even then, I can’t remember Jeremy complaining too much. There was no terrible weather here. No extreme conditions. It was just regular camp life on Survivor – something Brendan and Stephanie were shown appreciating, while Bradley whined. Even worse is that Bradley didn’t receive a single confessional. Nothing to explain himself or expand on his thoughts. That is editing burial.
On top of the complaining, the episode also subtitled Bradley’s arrogance. “This could not have worked out more perfectly,” he said to Desiree and Kellyn. “And they’re fun to talk to, while we vote them out.” While this conversation was happening, the Malolo tribe were shown idol hunting, successfully, thereby undermining the Naviti group. The edit was hammering home that Naviti is unappreciative and cocky, while Malolo is grateful and humble, not resting on their laurels. Things seem set up for Malolo to turn the tables on Naviti, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Bradley took the hit based on this edit.
Sebastian also ended up on the new Malolo tribe, but can you remember him complaining? Bradley was the resident grump. Kellyn also criticized and was shown to be overconfident in her position. Desiree, while lacking in content, played into the arrogance. Chelsea didn’t exist. But Sebastian? He was a “happy, smiley, giggly, piece of Laffy Taffy.” Now that is what you call editorial protection. He was stoked to be in the majority, but we didn’t see him rubbing it in. And we never once saw him complaining about the conditions of his new camp. That tells me that the edit doesn’t want the audience to dislike Sebastian, or at least, they don’t want us to lump him in with negative Naviti. That most likely speaks to his longevity; I doubt that he will be the one taking the hit if Malolo does somehow flip the game. Sebastian probably has importance to other stories later in the season, and therefore the edit mostly kept him out of harm’s way in Episode 3.
Not much for Laurel again this week, she has yet to break out of the UTR bracket. It’s disappointing because Laurel has attended all three tribal councils so far, and yet, the edit is saying that she isn’t essential to the narrative. She’s had one confessional across three episodes. This week she spoke a couple of sentences in camp scenes – she said they needed Wendell for challenges – and that was basically it. The old Malolo on new Naviti pulled off a big move, but it was only really James and Libby that received credit for it. Laurel and Donathan were very much in the background. Is that protection? Will this move eventually prove detrimental to James and/or Libby? If that’s the case, then perhaps there is still a story to come for Laurel. Or is it just that Laurel will not play a significant role in this season’s driving narratives? The next couple of episodes should hopefully give us a clearer idea.
Donathan is what I like to call a necessary-UTR. Coming off such a high-vis double-episode, Donathan needed a cool down, and that’s precisely what he got in Episode 3. His one confessional was strictly narrational, telling us his thoughts on the Naviti camp. It continued the “positive Malolo” thread, as Donathan complimented his new surroundings and was appreciative. As with Laurel, Donathan was hardly shown in any strategy scenes, in fact, even less so than Laurel, who at least shared a couple of her thoughts in group scenes. That’s another reason why I’m wondering if this Malolo move will end up backfiring. Donathan was such a huge character last week, and not only that, he received lots of positive tone and was never shown to be incorrect. I feel like if the editors wanted to, they could have made Donathan feel more a part of this Morgan blindside. Them choosing not to do that feels intentional. Is that editorial protection? I’m very interested in the fallout of this move next week and what part Donathan will play in it – if any.
Middle of the Road
There were some interesting developments for Kellyn in this episode. As previously mentioned, Kellyn had a powerful intro in the premiere. The kind of intro that suggests longevity and a pivotal role in the season. We quickly learned about her life, how she overcame past bad decisions and set about on a new path. We also heard about her biggest fear, making a split second wrong decision that could cost her her game. I think that fear-based confessional is foreshadowing Kellyn making some errors along the way this season, and perhaps those errors started in this episode.
Kellyn was lumped in with the Naviti negativity in Episode 3. Not quite to the extent of Bradley (she did enjoy the sunrise with Stephanie), but enough to put her on that side of the fence. She compared the situation at the Malolo camp to “meeting a friend’s new baby and they think it’s so cute, and it’s the love of their life, but you’re like that baby is ugly.” It came off kind of humorous, but it still brandished her as one of the Naviti complainers. But worse than that, Kellyn was shown to be inflexible and overconfident. “From the outside, it looks like I want to work with Malolo,” she said, after telling Probst that she’s looking forward to “opening up more treasure boxes of love.” But then she told us her real plans: “Naviti has the numbers, my gameplan is to keep us together because it would be SO EPIC to just knock out the Malolo tribe one by one.” Then she doubled-down on that back at camp, straight up telling Jenna and Stephanie: “None of us are gonna flip on purple, so it just sucks for you guys to be like 5-4.” It’s all very worrying given that the audience is meant to be rooting for Malolo.
The thing I find really worrying is that we don’t know where Kellyn stands within the Naviti alliance. I mentioned last week that while we received lots of personal content, we didn’t hear any game talk from Kellyn. Where does she fall in the pecking order? She said it would be “SO EPIC” to knock out Malolo one by one, but then what? Her strategic edit so far is very simplistic. It’s basic Survivor. She’s doing what she thinks she’s supposed to do – to reuse a phrase she said in her premiere confessional. I still think Kellyn is going to be around a while (though her winner chances took a shot), and I think it’s going to be a rollercoaster journey that reflects her own life story. She is probably going to pay the price for her overconfidence by losing some of her Naviti allies, but that will serve as a wake-up call.
I think Kellyn might have spelled her Survivor story out in her second confessional: “I was living my life like I should, doing what I thought I should do and I made the decision to say that’s not the life I want. So I got divorced…” Could she eventually divorce her Naviti alliance and focus on her own game?
Jenna‘s edit continued exactly where it left off in the second episode. A small bit of strategy talk and shown to be an active participant in the game, but still lacking in personal content and complexity. For now, she is presented as Stephanie’s sidekick. She was by Stephanie’s side at the well when the pair talked to Kellyn. She was right by Stephanie when the two went idol searching. “When you’re on the bottom you have to really fight it out; you have to try to make as many connections as you can. And especially with this kind of luck, all of a sudden you can go from the top of the food chain to the bottom,” she said. Pretty straightforward strategy talk. It always feels like Stephanie receives the longer and more complex strategic narration in their scenes.
“So if me and Stephanie did find an idol, it’s the only way we can switch up the numbers.” Jenna and Stephanie didn’t find an idol, despite their constant searching, so perhaps that reflects poorly on them? But it was discovered by their Malolo allies, and given that the edit was set up as Naviti versus Malolo, I think Jenna still benefits from Michael finding the idol. It’s hard to say where Jenna’s story is heading at the minute. Her character is what her rating says – middle of the road. She isn’t being ignored like a Chelsea, Desiree, Laurel… but she isn’t out in the forefront like a Domenick, Stephanie, Chris. That could be exactly where Jenna needs to be, and it helps that she’s a Malolo, who right now are presented as the rootable underdogs. I don’t see a reason edit-wise why Jenna would leave anytime soon, so I expect her to stick around a while. But I think she could do with some personal content in the next couple of weeks.
Brendan‘s edit is looking very good at the minute. He was a big representative of the positive Malolo team spirit in this episode, set up in opposition to Bradley and the negative Naviti. He talked about the importance of appreciating the beauty of where they are and showed disbelief that the Naviti members would complain so much. “This is Survivor, its supposed to be hard, I don’t quite understand why it’s shocking to these people.” And he was also aware of his vulnerable position: “On top of that, we’re down 4-5, all in all, not a great swap for me.” But we never saw Brendan whine and complain, we saw him go to work, and he found the idol with Michael.
The whole idol scene is fascinating, and I will go into it in more depth in both Michael’s and Stephanie’s write-ups. But what I’ll say here is, I think we were meant to view this as a Malolo idol find, rather than specifically Michael’s idol or Brendan’s. It was Jenna and Stephanie who we first saw searching, and then it was Stephanie who told Brendan that she thinks there is an idol “somewhere in here,” and that’s when we saw Brendan and Michael start searching too. “Now more than ever, the old Malolo 4 decide we need to find an idol. So nobody should be surprised if a few of us old Malolo folks are out looking for idols,” Brendan said. The scene cut between Jenna, Stephanie, Michael, and Brendan all hunting for the idol, until eventually, Michael stumbled upon it, with Brendan nearby. It wasn’t a typical idol search and find scene, which usually focuses on an individual’s struggle and then triumph. It very much felt like a team effort, which played into the Malolo versus Naviti storyline.
Brendan looks solid right now. He doesn’t have any negativity in his edit. He is shown as respectful of the game and a hard worker. And he is part of the Malolo underdog arc. There is still some lingering question marks from his premiere edit, specifically his distrust of Stephanie and Jenna, and how he thought they might have been planning a double-cross – which we saw they were considering. That story could definitely pop back up later, but right now, Brendan is set up very nicely.
Michael‘s main content in this episode was his idol find scene and the extended confessional he received afterward. As I touched upon in Brendan’s write-up, this was an atypical idol scene. It was a group search for Malolo, and Michael just happened to be the one to find it. But he didn’t receive this big build-up, it wasn’t even Michael that took the initiative to start looking, he seemed to be the last Malolo to join the search party. More often than not, especially in recent seasons, idol finds are explicitly tied to an individual and presented with a lot of emotional weight behind it. Michael did talk about this being a “Survivor dream” and how he would reverse the curse, but the majority of his confessional was Survivor: China narration, talking about how James was voted out. As previously mentioned, this felt more like part of the Malolo underdog story, rather than an individual’s story arc.
That said, Michael’s edit is strong, not quite as strong as Brendan’s, but he receives consistent airtime, and he got a solid intro in the premiere. I still worry about his pre-tribal confessional from Episode 1, where he said he was going to vote based on tribe strength, then went against that immediately. It’s a little ominous, especially with how he brought up how a bad decision now could come back to haunt him later. But at least there seems to be a ‘later’ in Michael’s edit; he has a path to follow, which is more than most.
I loved Wendell‘s edit in the premiere. I thought he had an excellent introduction that told us a lot about who he is, where he’s from, and where he’s going. But this week had me worried. Wendell was wrong… a lot. It started back at the new Naviti camp, when he said, “From the looks of it, doesn’t look like this new tribe will be going to tribal council anytime soon.” Not only did they go to tribal council, but Wendell lost the puzzle portion of the immunity challenge. Not a good look. It played into the overriding theme of old Naviti being overconfident in this episode, on both tribes. Not only that, but it felt like something the edit could have avoided. They didn’t have to show Wendell saying that if they really wanted to protect him.
Later on, Wendell chatted with Angela about the upcoming vote. She told him she wanted to stay Naviti strong and was willing to draw rocks if necessary. She was telling the truth, but Wendell didn’t buy it. “Angela wants to stay Naviti strong, but it’s a little sketchy to me. She’s Chris’ right-hand man, so whatever conversation we had didn’t hold a lot of weight to me,” he explained. “I don’t want to draw rocks for Angela. So I’m gung-ho about getting her out of here.” I mean, Wendell was partly right that Angela seemed close to Chris, as we did see them talking strategy earlier in the episode. The problem is, Angela wasn’t fully on board with Chris, and therefore Wendell was wrong not to believe the army veteran. But at least his thinking here was more understandable and played into the vote, unlike his “not going to tribal anytime soon” boast from earlier which seemed unnecessary for the edit to include.
So where is Wendell’s story heading? While he took some hits regarding winner’s edit, I still think he has potential to go far and play a prominent role in the season narrative. His introduction in the premiere doesn’t make sense if this is the end of his story. Let’s look back at the opening confessional from Episode 1: “I went to UPenn Law, top ten law school, but I wasn’t where I wanted to be, so I followed my passion, I took off the suit, and now I’m a freelance furniture designer. So, I am more than I appear.” Like with Kellyn, I think you could read a lot of this as a metaphor for Wendell’s Survivor story. “Not where I wanted to be” – that describes his current position, blindsided and at the bottom of his tribe. To get back on top, he is going to have to “take off the suit” and “follow his passion.” That could manifest itself in many forms, but I feel confident Wendell’s edit is leading to him switching up his game and trying to correct his past mistakes, just like Kellyn, and potentially, just like Domenick.
Speaking of Domenick, Wendell remains tightly linked to the construction worker. A lot of Wendell’s first episode content was about Domenick. “There’s this guy Dom, he’s a construction worker, and I took to that. I just started feeling good vibes from him. He just seems like a friendly guy that I would work with.” The two were immediately presented as a pair, with Wendell keeping Domenick in the loop with info. “As soon as I heard Domenick’s name, I was like, man, let me give him some information because I can show him my loyalty, and I think it’s going to reciprocate in the long run.” Now that Wendell and Domenick find themselves blindsided and outnumbered, it should bring them even closer together. Not to mention, Domenick has an idol, and he’s previously mentioned how he has no problem playing it for somebody else. That “somebody else” could be Wendell, which would prove the “loyalty… reciprocate in the long run” statement to be correct. Whatever happens in the fallout of this vote, I still see longevity in Wendell’s edit, so I have to believe he mounts some sort of comeback.
The dreaded Legacy Advantage strikes again, sorry Morgan! Bad things happen to people that hold that advantage – unless your name is Sarah Lacina. I said last week that it was hard to tell where Morgan fit into the season’s stories because receiving the Legacy meant she HAD to be shown. When that happens, you don’t know if a player’s screentime is strictly circumstantial or if they have a more significant role to play in the narrative. The worry for Morgan was that outside of the advantage we didn’t learn anything about her life or her alliances. Now that makes sense.
Morgan did receive a big CP edit in her exit though. We heard a lot about her strategy and relationships. “The easiest thing would be the five of us stay together. I mean at least one vote,” she said. “But I get the sense Chris doesn’t want to stay five strong because he doesn’t really have a strong connection with Dom. So, we might have to go for Chris.” That was an accurate read; we’d seen Chris plotting to take out Dom earlier. We then saw Morgan developing a bond with Libby. But this newfound friendship with Libby proved to be her blind spot. After Chris was sent to Ghost Island, Morgan got worried: “I am freaking out. So much of this season is about players past mistakes. And we’re going in 4-4 tonight, and I’m worried we’re going to mess this up.” That is exactly what happened, and Morgan was partly to blame for believing she had Libby on her side – she straight up told Wendell that Libby was with them. “Angela thinks that Libby is going home, but I trust Libby way more than I would ever trust Angela,” she said.
I think the role Morgan’s edit served in this episode was to set up Libby’s character arc. There was a lot of focus on how Libby looked sweet and innocent from the outside but was a ruthless player beneath the surface. Morgan directly referenced that at tribal council. “Look at her, you just wanna trust her. She’s beautiful, she’s gorgeous, like how could this girl ever lie?” Libby lied to Morgan and sent her packing, thereby providing a character role for Libby going forward – “Don’t trust the cute blonde.”
Overall, I think Morgan’s edit for the season is MOR. She got a lot of CP strategy content in this episode, but we never learned much about her personal life across the three episodes.
Moving onto the “cute blonde” herself, Libby really shot into the limelight after such a lackluster premiere. I’m not sure this episode did anything to turn her winner chances around, but it certainly provided a lot of material to suggest she could be an important character going forward. There was a little bit of personal content, lots of strategy talk, and a ton of positive SPV (second-person visibility) from Morgan. Not to mention the start of a clear storyline – “don’t trust the cute blonde.”
Firstly, Libby got to speak on the mat just before the swap and what she said set up the Malolo mantra for the episode. “I still feel that we’re united, we’re positive, and I can still say that we’re growing into that ‘best tribe ever.'” As previously mentioned, that is how Malolo was portrayed throughout the episode. Where old Naviti were divided, old Malolo was united. Where old Naviti were negative, old Malolo was positive. Perhaps they really can grow into that “best tribe ever”? Libby continued in this positive light, mainly due to everything Morgan said about her.
When we got to the new camps, we finally got an idea of how Libby is approaching this game. After Chris talked to the former Malolos about Domenick and his idol, Libby was the first Malolo we heard from in confessional. “Chris has a big personality. So when he talks to me, I have to nod and smile, nod and smile and act like I’m just like, this girl that he might think that he can take advantage of, and drag in as a number. I can play dumb, but I won’t be dumb about it.” She wants to play dumb. You can also read that as wanting to play naive or innocent. That is how her narrative developed over the course of the episode, especially in regards to Morgan. “We are both Catholics, so I really feel closer to Morgan than anybody else on the other tribe,” she said, but she was still thinking about things in terms of the game (listen to how the music changed from lighthearted to serious). “The good part about people coming up to you, wanting to trust you, is that you can choose between which alliance you want to be with. And I really do feel strongly with Morgan; we get each other, we understand each other. It’s finally feeling like a real alliance.”
Now, here’s the concerning parts of Libby’s edit, and why I’m still down on her winner chances. Did she go against her best interests? When James brought up voting for Morgan, she said: “I wasn’t really keen on that idea because Morgan is someone that I can trust. So I would rather not bring her up in this vote because I’d like to keep her around as long as I can.” She then doubled-down on this in her next confessional. “I don’t want to vote out Morgan, I feel like it ’d be way easier to just vote out Angela and it be a unanimous vote,” she said. “The big question is will we bank on the alliances we did make back on Malolo or will we blend together. And this decision really turns this game.” It presents Libby as someone not in control of the game, which is fine, winners aren’t always in a power position, but usually, the edit will help disguise that when necessary. The fact the edit kept in Libby saying she wanted to keep Morgan makes me believe her story is not that of a winner. Also, just to add to this, she also said she doubts that Domenick has an idol, which as we know, is wrong.
Where does Libby go from here? I think Libby could go far and be a mid-to-high level character. Even though James put together the plan, tribal council put a large amount of focus on Libby and her ability to lie. I could easily see that continuing, and perhaps she will eventually backstab her Malolo allies, and that would explain why they kept showing her indecisiveness about taking out Morgan, it provides a reason for her to split.
I debated between MOR and CP for Angela this week. Ultimately, I felt like there was just enough for CP, between the personal talk and the strategy content. Much like Morgan with the Legacy Advantage last week, it’s hard to tell quite how important this episode is for Angela in the grand scheme of things. She went to tribal council and received votes, so she had to have content. So was it all just circumstantial? Or is it the start of a proper character arc?
Before the swap, we saw Angela get emotional, talking about how she loves her tribe and didn’t want to see them broken up. She explained in confessional why she felt this way, tying it into her personal life: “I did two deployments in the military where you build strong, lasting relationships in a very short time. And to me, this is exactly the same, so I’m absolutely nervous about this switch.” This confessional helped explain Angela’s actions throughout the episode. She felt close to Naviti and wanted to remain Naviti strong, for better or worse. We saw this when Chris talked to her back at camp, trying to bring her aboard the “blindside Domenick” plan. Angela told Chris “we have the numbers” and should keep it that way. Chris told her, “You need to start putting your army instinct on and stop thinking with your heart. If you wanna win, you need to start thinking like that.” The way Chris said this might have been overly blunt, but he was not wrong, and the edit backed that up, as Angela’s “keep Naviti strong” mantra was not reciprocated by her fellow tribemates.
Angela didn’t like the way Chris spoke to her, and later in the episode, she decided she wasn’t going to follow his plan. Instead, she followed her heart. “What I see happening tonight, is the four Malolo will vote for Domenick because they’re keeping to Chris’ plan. I decided I wasn’t going to go with Chris, and I wasn’t going to go against my team. I would rather have loyalty versus doing something I’m controlled in, and having no choice in,” she said. She told Wendell pretty much the same thing. “I’m expecting a split vote 4 and 4 that will have to pull rocks. But I’m willing to go to rocks for old Naviti; I’m staying strong with my team.” But Angela was wrong. The tide was already moving against her. Nobody else was willing to go to rocks. “Angela wants to stay Naviti strong. But it’s a little sketchy to me. She’s Chris’ right-hand man, so whatever conversation we had didn’t hold a lot of weight to me. I don’t want to draw rocks for Angela,” Wendell said.
Where is Angela’s edit heading? It’s hard to say, but after tribal council, you would expect this to be a wake-up call for the military veteran. It could put her back on the side of Chris and the old Malolos. Maybe now she starts thinking with her head and not her heart? If that’s the Angela we begin to see next week, then perhaps she has some longevity this season.
Domenick was another one where I debated over MOR or CP. Most of his content related to Chris, but I felt that his plan with the idol was complex enough to warrant a light CP rating. Domenick remains a big on-screen presence, and his rivalry with Chris continues to be a central focus. But that feud is also the reason why Naviti fell apart in this episode and allowed Malalo to swoop in. Both men were unable to put aside their differences for the greater good.
At the swap, Domenick received a confessional where he got to comment on his new tribe. “I’m concerned because I still have to deal with Chris on this tribe. So it is critical to me that I build relationships with everyone out here in order to take him out,” he said. I think it’s important to note who receives confessionals at the swap. It tends to be mostly key characters we hear from, those that matter to the season or the episode. For example, last season, at the swap, the four people to receive confessionals were: Chrissy, Jessica, Desi, and Ben. The winner, the runner-up, the merge boot, and then, Desi, who attended tribal council that episode. Going back to Millennials vs. Gen X, we heard from Taylor, Michaela, and Zeke – all three prominent characters. And going back even further to Kaoh Rong, there was just one person with a swap confessional, Michele, the winner. At this swap, we received confessionals from Angela, Stephanie, Domenick, and Kellyn. Both Domenick and Angela attended tribal this episode, and Stephanie and Kellyn are probably the most prominent female characters so far. I would say it’s worth keeping a close eye on those four.
Domenick later backed up his “I need to build relationships with everyone” statement when he approached the Malolos with his fake idol. He explained to us exactly why he was doing it: “I have in the back in my mind this fear that the former Malolo will go back to thinking about me being a threat to them, so I may expose this fake idol to the tribe so that they can get some trust for me.” The problem is that James saw through it and even referred to Domenick as a “Russell Hantz 2.0”. That’s two weeks in a row where Domenick’s fake idol ploy has been met with suspicion. It puts him in jeopardy. But the thing is, sometimes jeopardy can be good, especially in a winner story, there are often obstacles to overcome. And in an episode where Domenick ended up on the wrong side of the vote, it’s difficult to hide that kind of negative content.
The reason I still see longevity in Domenick’s edit is because of his premiere edit, and specifically, the confessional about his background and his family. “In my life, I have definitely seen some adversity, and I had some struggles but when my first daughter was born that definitely was a crossroads for me where I can sit there and say it’s time for me to step up and become a man and take control of my life.” Just like with Kellyn and Wendell, this confessional could stand-in as a metaphor for Domenick’s game. The rivalry with Chris has brought him some “adversity,” and now he’s on the bottom and will face some “struggles.” He is at a crossroads, and he will need to step up and take control of his life in the game. I mean, it doesn’t have to be that literal, but it’s worth noting because most players didn’t have as strong as confessional as that in the premiere. “Leaving my life and three kids behind has been difficult since the second I left the house, but my wife and kids gave me their blessing, but they also gave me their blessing with the notion that I have to bring home the bacon.” Domenick is very much in the mold of that Tony, Ben, Joe Mena type character. Can he translate that into a win like Tony and Ben? I don’t think it’s impossible. Or will he flame out like Joe? Next week will be very telling.
Chris received a very interesting edit in this episode. Much more rounded than the first two episodes. We saw two sides of him. His overbearing leadership side and his emotionally sensitive side. It didn’t completely wash away his previous negativity, but it certainly provided more scope for Chris as a character going forward. He was effectively awarded the chance for a character “reboot.”
As mentioned in Domenick’s write-up, the feud between the construction worker and the model was still a driving narrative. Both men were obsessed with taking the other out, to the detriment of their own tribe. “We have the 5-4 advantage, but it’s way more complex than that because 3 out of the 5 I didn’t feel I had huge connections with and Dom has an idol,” Chris said. “That scares the hell out of me, and I have to eliminate him.” He then approached Angela with the plan to take out Domenick, and while she believed what Chris was saying, she didn’t like his style.”When Chris tells me stories I’m kinda cringing because what Chris is doing is trying to manipulate you,” Angela said. “He’s talking to you, instead of with you. Just giving me orders like ‘follow this, stay on track.’ And even though I’m used to guys barking orders in the military, I don’t like that kinda confrontation at all.” It was a negative look for Chris, following on from his false sense of leadership last week. Libby continued to pile on the N-tone when she reacted similarly to Chris’ approach. “Chris has a big personality, so when he talks to me, I have to nod and smile, nod and smile and act like I’m just like, this girl that he might think that he can take advantage of, and drag in as a number.”
The thing is, Chris is often right when it comes to his game reads, but his way with people leaves a lot to be desired. It’s the same problem I had with his edit last week, the combination of arrogance and awareness makes it confusing to see where his story is heading. Are we meant to be rooting for Chris or not? The whole scene at Ghost Island certainly showed Chris in a sympathetic light. He received a ton of personal content, talking about his mom’s battle with MS and how he tries to remain strong for her. It allowed him a chance to reflect and move forward. “Ghost Island has given me a chance to let out all that negative energy so that I could reboot… Thinking about my mom, it was awesome. And that connection really helped me. It’s crucial that I recenter myself because it’s going to better my game moving forward.” Just look at some of those words? “Reboot,” “negative energy,” “recenter,” “moving forward.” It would suggest a reinvented Chris with a new story to tell.
So where does he go from here? The Chris vs. Dom story has been his primary focus until now, but talk of a “reboot” could change that. While a big part of me feels like one will take the other out, another part of me wonders if this is another Dr. Mike and Joe/David and Chris situation. Early enemies that end up working together later in the game. If Malolo ends up taking over the game, Chris and Domenick may be forced into helping each other out. Chris and Domenick are huge characters right now, and their edits next week will reveal a lot about their future in this game.
Stephanie remains a strategic force within the edit, and easily the highest-vis female character. There were a lot of positives here, but also a couple of lingering doubts from the premiere that are still causing pause for thought. Like Brendan, Stephanie was the flip side of the coin on new Malolo, the positive presence in opposition to Naviti’s negativity. She is presented as a fighter that will scratch and claw to survive. She said as much herself: “If you want to take me out you’re going to have to take me out fighting and screaming because I’m going to do everything I can to stay in this game.” Wherever Stephanie ends up this season, that right there tells us she will not go out quietly.
She was one of the four people to receive a confessional at the swap. “I’m in a bit of a power position right now, so I’m kinda freaking out. But, I knew I wasn’t going to be in power the whole game. I gotta ride the waves; if there is a wave there, you gotta surf it.” It showed self-awareness that she wouldn’t always maintain power, and demonstrated her ability to adapt and go with the flow. Very Michele-like in Kaoh Rong. At camp, Stephanie appreciated the sunrise, again, contrasted with Bradley’s complaints. Stephanie is a big part of the Malolo team spirit but also their strategic lead; we always hear her thoughts first. “Naviti pretty much hates everything about our camp. They are a bunch of complainers, but I feel like I’m in the minority on this new tribe, and I gotta find a crack,” she said. We then saw her and Jenna talking to Kellyn at the well, but Kellyn shut them down immediately, causing the girls to go on their idol search.
Now, I’ve touched on the idol scene earlier, but I do find it very intriguing that Stephanie and Jenna were the ones shown taking the initiative to go and look. Stephanie even had the longest narration of the scene, describing the ups and downs of the search. Not Michael, the person who actually found it. And it was Stephanie we saw telling Brendan that an idol must be “somewhere around here.” I keep asking myself, what does this mean? Did the edit give Stephanie and Jenna the lead-in to this scene because they’re more prominent characters than Brendan and Michael? Or is it meant to reflect poorly on the pair that they couldn’t find the idol but the boys did? I’m not so sure about that because the search felt like a team effort. Perhaps this was simply what I described earlier; a scene meant to represent Malolo as a whole, rather than an individual.
So what are the lingering doubts for Stephanie? She still lacks in personal content. We know she is a strong player and a superfan, but we don’t know anything about her personal life. It’s also concerning that she didn’t turn up in the first episode until the 38-minute mark, after the immunity challenge loss. When it comes to winner edits, especially in recent seasons, the eventual winner tends to be introduced within at least the first 15 minutes. Ben was introduced within the first two minutes last season. Sarah had her first confessional at 14 minutes in Game Changers. Adam received a Probst question on the mat at 6:40 in Millennials vs. Gen X. Michele had her first confessional at the 12-minute mark in Kaoh Rong. Jeremy, Mike, Natalie, Tony, all introduced within the intro. It’s not a hard and fast rule by any means, but it’s certainly worth noting. There is also still a question mark about Brendan not trusting Stephanie in Episode 2. Maybe that was just to create suspense at that particular tribal? But it could come back later.
I still believe Stephanie is set up as a critical character, she is one of the most strategically edited players, and there is a positive slant to her edit. Whether she is the shock pre-merge boot in the vein of an Anna/Ali or is in it for the long-haul, she is going to make an impact. But I would like to see some personal content within the next couple of episodes to have more confidence in her season longevity.
James moved up the ranks in this episode in terms of visibility and complexity. He sort of bookended the episode. It opened with James once again taking responsibility for his challenge screw-up and stating that he deserved the two votes he received. Much like last week, he tied the situation to his background. “Tonight I ended up getting two votes, and I did deserve to be the second target. Being raised in a Korean -American household has taught me to take ownership of my failures, but I’m glad I’m still here to fight another day,” he said. And he did fight, taking control of the vote over on new Naviti and ending the episode by pulling off his plan.
He was also shown to have some good game reads. When Domenick pulled his fake idol stunt, James was quick to question it. “Naviti wants us to vote Angela out, but I see Domenick almost as a Russell Hantz 2.0,” he said. “I truly think he’s capable of lying straight to my face. It could easily be the case that he has the real idol, and wants to throw us off the path by showing us the fake idol.” While Domenick was telling the truth about voting Angela, James correctly saw through the fake idol and clocked Domenick’s ability to lie. He restated his belief that Dom could have the idol when talking to Libby at the well. It was then James who suggested throwing their four votes on Wendell or Morgan, as a countermeasure in case Domenick was trying anything funny. Despite Libby’s hesitance, James got his way, sending Morgan home with four votes at tribal council.
That’s the positive stuff. Are there any negatives to James’ edit? Well, firstly, despite getting the credit for this move, it felt like Libby got the story. James got the one confessional post-swap, Libby got four. When Chris approached the old Malolos with the “blindside Domenick” plan, it was Libby we heard from in confessional. When Morgan and Domenick said they needed to rope in the Malolos, it was Libby that Morgan went to first, and Libby we heard from in confessional. When James came up with the move, it was Libby’s reaction we heard in confessional, twice, leading into tribal council. And Libby and her “lies behind the smile” story was the big focus of tribal itself. That feels intentional. Also, I can’t help but come back to James’ first confessional of the season. “You don’t want to be the one to stand out for any reason in the early-stage game,” he said. The next episode he stood out due to flunking the challenge. Will he stand out again now because of this move? Did he play too hard too fast?
Here’s the thing, in a game-sense, James has the majority and looks to be in a decent position. But Edgic isn’t about the game, it’s about the edit, and in my read so far, Domenick and Wendell have much stronger edits than James. Domenick and Wendell had these complex personal introductions that tied so nicely to the season’s theme. It would surprise me to see either man gone in the next couple of weeks, which means, if Naviti loses again, Dom and Wendell must find some way of saving themselves. That means someone else will be going home. And I believe there is potential within the edit for that person to be James. He got the edit-credit without the story-longevity, meaning he could leave soon without it affecting the larger narratives. I could be way off-base – it wouldn’t be the first time – but for all the positives in James’ edit, there are those nagging ominous signs that make me worry.
That’s it for this week’s Edgic! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.