Best Season Rankings – No. 33 – Edge of Extinction

The Best Season countdown continues.

Photo: CBS

Over the next few weeks, Inside Survivor is counting down all forty Survivor seasons from worst to first. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.

Season No: 38
Broadcast Date: February 20 – May 15, 2019
Location: Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
No. of Castaways: 18


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Survivor introduced many twists in its second decade, from Redemption Island to extra votes to Final 4 fire-making, but none more controversial than the Edge of Extinction. The Edge is not so much a twist but an entire format change that makes it extremely difficult to judge a season on its own merits. Before season 38 aired, Jeff Probst hyped the Edge in grandiose terms, talking up its ability to psychologically take the show deeper. “Is there a possibility of the spiritual death and rebirth that you seek in life, where you realize something deeper about yourself?” he said. However, while the Edge did provide a handful of intense, emotional moments, it was mostly an excuse for more advantages and scavenger hunts.

The fact is, a third boot returning on day 35 and winning the whole season overshadows everything that comes before. And yet, there is a perverse thrill to the Edge of Extinction finale. Chris Underwood’s comeback and charge to the Final Tribal Council is undoubtedly exciting—but also laughable. It’s one of those, “I can’t believe this is actually happening” episodes. There are certain “jump-the-shark” moments fans could point to throughout Survivor history, but a third boot winning the entire game doesn’t just jump the shark; it clears the whole ocean. It’s like a bizarre Survivor ORG (online reality game) come to life. Sure, Survivor has never been a fair game, but this is beyond anything witnessed previously. And after the initial high wears off, it ultimately makes the whole season feel empty and pointless.

Photo: CBS

A significant problem with the Edge of Extinction twist is in the execution. Allowing eliminated players to influence the game by sending advantages (and disadvantages) to the active castaways is ridiculous. And with all Edge inhabitants being on the jury, it gives a considerable leg-up to whoever returns, both in terms of information and jury management. Ending the twist at the merge might have helped with some of these issues, but as it stands, season 38 is weighed down by its format. The time spent on the Edge also eats up screen-time, resulting in underwhelming edits for the players still in the main game, especially on the Kama tribe. And the unnecessary inclusion of four past players only adds to the imbalanced editing.

It’s a shame because parts of this season are enjoyable, even parts owing to the Edge. For all its faults, the twist means we get a full season of Reem Daly, who becomes a de facto welcome guide to the new Edge inhabitants. The merciless blindside of three-time Survivor veteran Aubry Bracco is a stellar episode. David Wright and Kelley Wentworth’s frenemy relationship is a compelling running arc. And there are some lively new players, from the boisterous Dan “Wardog” DaSilva, comedic newscaster Rick Devens, the wild and free-spirited Wendy Diaz, likable underdog Lauren O’Connell, and the slick Victoria Baadmonde. The problem is most are stifled by an overbearing twist and the camera-hogging edits of the returnees, plus first Edge returnee Rick. Even Chris is an afterthought until the finale, making his victory even harder to fathom.

Edge of Extinction feels like the producers became tired of their own show and emptied an entire whiteboard of abandoned ideas into the same season. It was a bold creative risk, but one that strayed too far from the Survivor fans know and love.


Aubry’s blindside — Unlike previous mixed seasons, the newbies don’t let the returnees have an easy ride. No returnee feels this more than Aubry, who, after a tribe swap, finds herself completely hoodwinked by the rookies. Heading into Tribal Council with an idol in her pocket, Aubry is shocked when she becomes the fifth person voted out.

Chris makes fire — In the gamble that wins him the game, Chris puts himself into the Final 4 fire-making challenge against his biggest threat, Rick, and comes out on top.

Wendy’s chicken run — Wendy is a player that marches to the beat of her own drum, and this is never more clear than when she sneaks through camp in the dead of night to set the chickens free.

That chaotic Tribal — Things break down at the Final 12 when comments from Aurora McCreary and Julia Carter set alarm bells ringing for David and Kelley, leading to an eruption of chaos and ever-changing plans at Tribal Council.

Check back tomorrow when we reveal which season placed at number 32. You can check out the previous entries here.

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

7 responses to “Best Season Rankings – No. 33 – Edge of Extinction”

  1. Great stories overshadowed by the that a 3rd boot eventually winning the season.
    Otherwise good strategic gameplay overall.

  2. The saying, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”, is hereby amended to: “Don’t hate the third boot, hate the assinine game twist that allows a third boot to win”.

  3. See I don’t see it this way. I knew Chris won before watching the season but still thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s in my top 5 for sure. I thought the casting was great and enjoyed Chris’s perfect game dream ending up with him being probably the weakest winner in all of survivor. I loved all the cast and thought the editing of the edge was awesome with the close up shots and crazy scavenger hunts.

  4. What you really nail here is that there was SO much promise with this season given a lowkey very promising cast, that they were bogged down by the producers (*cough*Probst*cough*) wanting to experiment with the show’s format. Imagine if we had no returning players, and got even just 2 more new players for an old school 16-person season throwback. We had a strong cast to work with here, many came to play. Victoria was outright screwed by this twist, with Chris coming back with so much outsider information + an idol. It was a mess of a season.

  5. Yeah, I actually ended up watching knowing the winner as well and did not expect to like this season very much based on what I head, but I was completely wrong. This season turned out to be a lot of fun, I am usually not a fan of too many twists but I feel some are necessary to prevent a pagonging or something close to one, and without the Edge and some of the idols, the Kama’s would’ve just taken out everyone leading to a boring winner either Eric or Ron. The casting was great and I think they picked 4 great returnees who really fit the narrative of this season. Devens was the star but players like Victoria, Lauren, Wardog, Chris (yes, I liked him from the star), and Reem led for fun gameplay and good television as well, all could easily return in the future as well. Easily in the Top 5-10 range for me. Yes people hate Chris’ win but he did play the game flawlessly in the 3 days he was back in the game. Was he a great winner? No, but he took advantage of the twist which was good but executed poorly. Overall, great season!

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