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.
You can read previous weeks Edgic posts here.
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What Does This Episode Tell Us?
The final episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng was kind of a microcosm of the season as a whole.
Aubry was the one who dominated the game despite her bad luck and no immunity wins. For example, she convinced Tai to vote with her against Cydney and forced a tie.
Michele was the one doubling down on her social game and had some fundamental challenge wins. When she had power (immunity), she was willing to fight for her friends (Cydney).
Tai was conflicted and emotional as he has been throughout the game.
Cydney’s story switched to one of loyalty. But she was also depicted as being in control until Michele won immunity. Even then she still had a shot but couldn’t make fire.
Aubry, Cydney, and Michele were all portrayed as potential, and deserving, winners. Just as they have been all season, and why they’ve remained the only three Edgic contenders for weeks now.
Overall, Michele won, and the edit explained why – her social bonds and late-game challenge wins. But the edit refused to highlight why Aubry lost. Instead choosing to keep things close right until the end and creating a situation where the majority of the audience were expecting an Aubry win.
The editors have the power to create whatever story they want. We saw last season how easily they can show a traditionally positive character as negative, when Spencer ended the finale as CPN, explaining his 0 votes against Jeremy. But here, the edit kept Aubry positive, refusing to explain why she ultimately lost. This suggests the editors intentionally wanted this final result to become a big talking point amongst Survivor fans.
Last week, we mentioned that there were some ominous signs in Cydney’s edit. Specifically regarding her playing the middle and hoping she wouldn’t “screw herself” in doing so.
Her content this episode was about her being tight with both Aubry and Michele. She thought that everyone wanted to go to the end with her now that Joe had gone. But she was too focused on being in the middle. When Michele won immunity, it threw all of Cydney’s plans out of whack. However, she stayed true to her game style and reacted to the circumstances. She double downed her loyalty to Michele and decided to vote for Aubry because Michele said so, and Michele held the power. Cydney read the situation perfectly. She even mentioned practicing fire, which was the right call. She ultimately lost the fire challenge and went out crying for her mother but with her head held high.
There wasn’t a deep story here in the finale for Cydney. It was pretty straightforward with the only added bits being that the edit started showing more of her relationship with Michele. This of course went some way in explaining Cydney’s vote for Michele in the end, as well as demonstrating Michele’s social game.
Looking back, you can pick up on hints in the edit throughout the season to do with Cydney and fire. The Brawn tribe famously couldn’t start the fire and gave up on it until Alecia spent five hours alone to get it going. But then they voted Alecia out. She was later shown not wanting to help Joe with the fire. “We don’t need no more heat, baby.” On a rewatch I would guess we will pick up on even more of those moments that foreshadowed Cydney’s ultimate fate.
You could also point back to her story with Tai as her downfall. She told us that all she needed to do was to eliminate Tai and that would get her to the end. She never got her chance to remove Tai and in the end he went to the finals not her. It ties back nicely to the Episode 8 immunity challenge which came down to Tai vs Cydney. During the challenge Tai made his speech: “But she can’t be that strong. Sometimes strong people strong until one point and then they break. I’m like a bamboo. Wind keeps blowing, blowing, blowing. I’m resilient. I went through war. I went through refugee camp. This is not a comparison. She’s a strong redwood… but she might snap.” Cydney did eventually snap by not being able to make fire.
But the edit never really criticised Cydney’s game. She left as a CP player – she received complexity for explaining her strategy and what she was thinking each step of the way. Her positive tone was obviously her tears and story about her mother at tribal council – accompanied by sympathetic music.
The edit basically told us Cydney was a good player and it was simply fire that ended her chances. When the final three arrived back at camp, Michele said “I seriously knew if it went to fire with Cyd, that there was no way. She’s never made fire with flint.” That’s the edit telling us Cydney only lost this game because she never made fire with flint. Even though Michele was referring to her losing the specific fire challenge, it was really reflective of the whole game.
Her overall season rating is CP. Her story was that of a reactive player who laid low until the time was right then made her big move. It paid off. She always read the game correctly. She had deep enough bonds with people every step of the way. She was never really in trouble until the tribal she went home.
Tai’s story-arc this season came full circle by the end of the season. The mixture of positives and negatives that were present in his premiere episode were just as present in the finale.
At the start of the episode he was neutralised. His main story was that of the man no longer protected by his advantages. He was vulnerable and therefore couldn’t do anything that would make him stick out – for example, Mark the Chicken annoying people.
Then we went into all of his negatives. Both in terms of negative SPV (Second Person Visibility) and him being wrong, wrong, wrong. Aubry said he was a “tricky person to be in bed with because he switches on a dime.” Aubry showed that she was worried he might flip, which has been one of the negatives aimed at Tai for most of the merge. She also said he was being “super shady”. Michele stated that he “can’t speak in front of people, can’t talk.” When Michele told Tai they were going to vote for Aubry, Tai said “Are you sure? Because I put your name down.” Tai was literally questioning Michele’s decision not to vote for him and giving her a reason why she should. The edit was showing us his bad game-play.
This all leads back to Tai’s character arc of being emotional and conflicted. After his talk with Michele, we got a Tai confessional where he talked about not wanting to betray Aubry but “at some point alliance got to break.” Later, the camera cut from a creepy spider, to Tai delivering flowers to the girls. This was to show us that Tai is still that sweet, emotional guy we fell in love with. He is a wonderful human being but a bad game player.
But after Cydney was voted out, the edit started to show Tai in a more positive light. There was sympathetic music playing when he talked to Aubry and Michele about how Jeff didn’t congratulate them for being in the final three. He believed there was another challenge. The girls said he was wrong but Tai was actually right! Ultimately, this highlighted how misunderstood he had come to be by everyone else in the game. It showed us why he would lose. Even when he was right and did the right thing and made the right call, people didn’t credit him and told him he was wrong. Even Aubry and Michele, the most open people in the game, dismissed him.
Tai was also the one credited with convincing Michele who to take out from the jury. She told him that she was leaning towards Joe because he was an obvious Aubry vote but Tai “using my brain side” pointed out that Neal would be a more vocal advocate for Aubry. In rare form, Tai was the articulate one about this point even at tribal council! And this decision was shown to be the correct one. Great game play.
He had some positive SPV in an indirect way, when Aubry said to Michele “Who is going to be a sucker for his epic David versus Golaith story?” It’s true. Tai has had an epic David vs Goliath story. “Who he is and what he’s been through… huge threat.” This all credits Tai’s journey both in life and the game. This up and down, mixture of positivity and negativity, good game-play and bad game-play, speaks to Tai’s story throughout the season. He is a great human who struggled with the shadier aspects of the game. This often led to a conflict with his conscience and emotional break downs. It caused distrust from others, so even when he was making the right calls, people weren’t willing to listen.
His overall season rating is CPM. He will be remembered as a tremendous character with a big heart that struggled with the game and ultimately wasn’t respected enough for his wishy-washy game-play.
While Aubry may not have won the season, her edit leading into the finale, and in the episode itself, was the edit of the top contender. Not was this confirmed by the players in the game, who described Aubry as the biggest threat, but approved by the majority of the audience and their reaction to the season and finale.
After winning the reward challenge, Aubry described it as an important win. “We needed this” (subtitled) had a double-meaning, not only did her and Cydney need the food, but she needed Cydney back on side to take out Michele. Aubry successfully won over Cydney at this reward. Confirmed by Cydney in a later confessional when she said her “ideal option would be myself, Aubry and Tai.”
Aubry instinctively thought that Michele and Cydney would vote for Tai. This moment mimicked the season – all season long people have been saying Tai would be a significant threat, harkening back to Cydney’s “We can’t go to no final three with no damn Tai.” However, they switched the target to Aubry because they perceived her as the biggest threat. “Aubry will work the jury like no other” and she will be a “tough competitor”. Cydney even said that her and Aubry have been “ride or die homies”, meaning that Aubry had even shown a great degree of loyalty to her allies. Later Michele said, “She’s made great relationships with everyone, you know, and fought her way here.” This was all positive SPV for Aubry.
Once again the edit highlighted how Aubry was able to work Tai. She was shown holding hands with him while walking to the well. Using her emotional connection to keep him on side. Michele had tried to take Tai away from Aubry and believed she’d succeeded, but was wrong. But Aubry was unsure of Tai’s loyalty. “Getting kind of a funky vibe and I could be totally wrong.” She was wrong, because Tai did stay loyal, but unlike Tai and Michele, when Aubry was wrong she got to express doubt. The edit gave her the opportunity to say she might be mistaken, rather than stating something as a fact. What is right about this is the way Aubry perceived Tai. She pretty much represented the voice of the whole jury. Everyone saw Tai as suspicious and a flipper, even his own closest allies.
A large portion of the episode was played to make us believe Aubry was winning. In the fire making challenge, the jury was shown rooting for Aubry. It felt like foreshadowing of jury support come Final Tribal Council. After Cydney lost the challenge, she hugged Aubry and said “You know it’s all love.” Again, there were no signs within the first half of the episode that Aubry was losing. Even after the final three returned to camp, Michele herself said that Aubry has “been in control a lot of this game” and told Tai he “just handed Aubry a million dollars.” Michele, the winner herself, was rewarding Aubry’s gameplay as the best. It harkened back to Survivor: Cagayan when Kass told Woo that if either of them took Tony to the end they’d be giving him a million dollars.
All of the above were reasons to why Aubry should win, and were set up to lead the audience in a particular direction. The reasons below are why she ultimately lost.
Aubry had an episode-opening confessional reminding us, “Every time Jeff arrives on the beach, my closest ally goes home.” The edit always depicted Aubry as being in control of her game, but she has been the victim of bad luck. Both post-merge medivacs directly impacted her.
The final immunity challenge was deemed the most important. “This Immunity Challenge means everything because we don’t want Michele to win.” Aubry correctly saw that if Michele won immunity, she’d be in trouble. Aubry was still correctly in touch with the game… and she lost, Michele won immunity. This laid the foundation for why Aubry lost the game (or at least why she lost the game according to the edit) – because Michele won this immunity.
Heading into Final Tribal Coucil, Aubry said, “It’s okay to be in control and it’s okay for people to perceive you as a threat.” She was the voice of the audience here. As viewers, we believe that being in control and being a threat means you played a winning game. Yet she ended up being wrong. Despite being “the woman behind the curtain making things happen,” as we’ve been shown all season, the jury didn’t reward her. We don’t know why. We aren’t shown why. We are left questioning the jurors. That is not to say we don’t know why Michele won. We do. But the edit refused to highlight why Aubry lost.
Of course there were negatives to Aubry’s edit over the season. Maybe some we overlooked. Her indecisiveness and neuroses probably being the main factors of why she lost. If you listen to the Jury Speaks videos on YouTube, you will hear those as exact reasons why she didn’t receive certain people’s votes. However, those were neglected from the edit of the episode. Not one of the jury questions directed to Aubry covered those topics. The final tribal did a lot to explain why Michele won – her social bonds were better and she turned it on at the end of the game – but it didn’t shed any more light on why Aubry lost (those were left on the cutting room floor, and one would have to think intentionally).
The ending was reminiscent of the movie Rocky. Rocky Balboa is the protagonist. We follow his journey throughout the film, watching him grow stronger and become more of a threat. He puts up a great fight in the big battle at the end. He seems destined to be the champion. Yet the judges award Creed the win. The audience is left feeling like Rocky deserved it more. But Creed gets the boxing title while Rocky keeps the movie title. In the end of this season, Michele got the title of sole Survivor while it was Aubry who steered the show and was the story’s protagonist. That is the story the edit told. Aubry got the journey edit and that edit was given more prominence than the winner’s edit.
This episode elucidated why Michele won the game while also showing an unusual number of signals that she didn’t have always have a good read on the game. The story of the season and Michele’s win was that, Aubry and Cydney had the good read on the game and the right relationships to control the game. But in so doing, they upset a lot of jury members while Michele was unmarred. Furthermore, she had a critical win at the final immunity challenge which got her into the final tribal council.
With that said, this episode told us why Michele ultimately won. Her social bonds with the jury were stronger. Aubry stated that Michele was a threat because she was “…the only person who has not pissed off anyone on that jury” and that “…she’s someone who has built very close personal relationships.” Throughout the season Michele has talked about her social game. We didn’t often see it in action, but rather heard about it through her words, but this episode backed it up with Aubry’s confessional.
Michele said that she was “screwed if I don’t win immunity,” and given everyone else’s confessionals, that was a correct read. Cydney later stated that Michele would have been “the easy vote” had she not won immunity. The theme of Michele’s game this whole season can be summed up in her confessional: “The beauty of this game is that you never know what’s gonna happen, and everything is up in the air right now. It’s anyone’s game if you play your cards right.” There was always chaos, and many times Michele was surprised by the turn of events, but she played her cards right as the calm centre who didn’t make enemies with anyone on the jury.
When Michele won the final immunity challenge, Jeff said “Wow. Nobody saw that coming.” At tribal council, he brought it up again, reiterating that she was “dead last” then won. This more broadly referenced Michele’s overall game and eventual win. We, the viewers, didn’t see her as the one driving the game. At the swap, she was portrayed as in dead last, even. Split from her Beauty girls alliance and screwing up a challenge. Throughout the merge she was never in the driver’s seat, and a couple of times found herself outside the vote. But now she has come from behind to win the whole thing.
Once we hit Day 39, the story switched to Michele. She narrated most of the final day, discussing her game. She was the first one shown standing on the platform to look at herself in the mirror, which was a nice, humorous call-back to her starting out on the Beauty tribe. She appeared regal with Aubry and Tai in her wake. When Aubry looked into the mirror, Michele was standing by her side, instead of behind her. Soaring music played over this whole scene and Michele’s confessional. This was her crowning moment and the manifestation of her “outlasting.” All positive tone.
Above were all the positives and reasons why Michele won. But some ominous signs suggested why she might lose, and kept things open right until the vote-read.
During the reward, there was a scene back at camp between Michele and Tai where she tried to get him over to her side. But she failed in convincing him. She demanded a handshake from him, and he didn’t even make eye contact. It was kind of similar to when Debbie tried making a deal with Tai back at the merge – a less blunt version. But both represent proactive game-play which we have seen does not work this season. Michele said “I think Aubry made a really poor choice… She chose Cydney last time and left me and Tai on the outs, and then she gets reward today and she chooses Cydney again.” However, we were shown Aubry successfully winning Cydney over at the reward, and Michele failing to win Tai over. So Aubry did make the correct choice.
After Michele won immunity, Cydney asked “Should I start working on my fire making skills, just in case?” Correctly recognising that it might be a tie vote. But Michele said, “No. I mean, you can. But I’m telling you we’ll be here tomorrow.” Michele’s read of Tai and what was to come was clearly wrong as Tai voted against them and a fire making challenge did ultimately transpire. It’s rare for a winner to be shown as wrong, but in the end it didn’t really matter. Michele was shown to win through her social bonds and loyalty, not her reads on the game. And this scene demonstrated her unwavering commitment to Cydney. We saw in this moment why Cydney ended up voting Michele to win.
Back at camp after Cydney was voted out, Michele said that it “changes my chances in a really negative way,” and said to Tai, “I think you literally just handed Aubry a million dollars.” She saw Aubry as a bigger threat to beat than Cydney. Either we were meant to believe her and Aubry genuinely was the greatest threat and deserved to win, or she had a wrong read on the game and jury. This content was also used to create doubt and set up Michele as the underdog. But in doing so it failed to show Aubry in a negative light, making the final result all that more confusing for the general audience.
When Michele won the jury twist, she was initially set on removing Joe. Tai explained in a confessional: “I brought up Neal ‘cause I don’t think Neal would vote for me, so I make her feel like it’s her idea, and hopefully, Michele vote the right person.” It made it seem like Tai had a better read on the situation. When Tai told her this, Michele said that unlike Joe, Neal might not necessarily vote Aubry. As we saw when Neal was booted, he was never planning to vote for Michele. As Tai predicted, Neal denigrated her in front of everyone. Also, while Joe did vote for Aubry, he did not belittle Michele at Final Tribal Council the way that Neal clearly would have. Though she did make the “right choice,” as Probst himself validated, the credit for that choice was given to Tai.
These negatives ultimately didn’t matter because the edit explained that Michele won due to better jury bonds and fighting her way into the FTC. This was cemented by her jury questions; best laid out by Julia, who listed a range of Michele’s negatives throughout the game, but then talked about how she fought at the end and got herself to the final three. Scot then confirmed this, “Michele, if this was four tribals ago, and somebody said that you three were going to be sitting here, I would’ve said you’re last place.” But he complimented her on getting stronger at the end. The edit might have not gone out of its way to explain why Aubry lost, but it did its best to show why Michele won.
Overall Michele is CP. She found herself in all positions throughout the game but used her deep connections with people to stay out of the crosshairs. She maneuvered fluidly, following others’ plans to the end, mostly playing reactively (until her talk with Tai this episode), and winning key challenges when she needed to, proving that she wasn’t weak, bro.
That is it for Survivor: Kaôh Rōng Edgic! We all have different interpretations of the edit and that is what makes this column such fun to write each week. We thank you all for reading and hope you will be back with us next season!