Survivor is about to undergo its biggest format shake-up since it subjected us to Redemption Island in 2011. The upcoming Edge of Extinction twist is a game-changing concept which could have immeasurable effects on how Survivor is both played and viewed. But there is still a lot of confusion and speculation over how exactly this new twist will work.
Thankfully, with the season 38 cast officially announced, and the pre-game press in full-swing, we’ve been given a little more insight into the inner-workings of Edge of Extinction by Jeff Probst himself. The long-running host spoke to outlets such as Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter about the forthcoming season and shed some light on the controversial new twist.
Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to combine Probst’s new insights with the information we previously reported into one helpful, catch-all guide that will hopefully give us all a clearer idea of what we’re in store for this season.
Eliminated Castaways Can Quit or Stay
As I first reported back in June, when a player is voted out this season, they will be given a choice to either quit or stay on Extinction Island with the hope of getting a chance to win their way back into the game at a later point. In an interview with EW’s Dalton Ross, Probst explained how exactly this choice will be presented to the eliminated castaways:
“When you’re voted out, you’re going to leave Tribal and walk around the corner and finally come to this lighted torch with a signpost,” he explained. “And the signpost will say, ‘You have a decision to make. If you’re done playing and you want your adventure to end, keep walking. If, however, you want a chance to get back in the game, take the torch and get in the boat.’ That’s all you know.”
Edge of Extinction Is Its Own Separate Island
Much like Exile Island and Redemption Island before it, the Edge of Extinction (or Extinction Island for short) is its own separate island/area away from the tribe beaches. As far as I’m aware, the island will have limited supplies and is designed to be tough on the castaways living there in order to push them both mentally and physically.
“It’s truly a situation where you’re going somewhere where tribe life as you knew it on the island will seem wonderful, because on Extinction, you will have to work for everything,” Probst told THR’s Josh Wigler. “And with no certainty that you will get back in the game, it comes down to one question: how badly do you want this? How far will you want to push yourself? How curious are you to see what you’re capable of?”
“Everything you do will require way more effort than you were doing back on that thing that you thought was tough called Survivor,” he told EW. “And you’re doing it all on the idea that you have a shot to get back in.”
Players On Extinction Island Can Quit At Any Time
If an eliminated castaway decides to stick around and go to Extinction Island, it doesn’t mean they are bound there forever. If the situation proves too challenging, a player can quit, at any time, and there is a specific way to do it involving a broken ship mast and a sail which are located on the beach.
“The first person will literally arrive at Extinction Island in the pitch black with a single torch and a simple sign that says ‘Welcome to Extinction Island where you’re gonna work your ass off and if it ever becomes too much, raise the sail which is on the mast and a boat will come get you,'” Probst told Arisa Cox in his ET Canada interview. “In other words, you can quit, if you want.”
What Probst hasn’t explained yet, but what I reported back in July, is that players who quit Extinction Island pre-merge will leave the game for good and take part in the pre-jury trip as per usual. However, any player that quits after the first post-merge Tribal Council will still be part of the jury – more on that later.
Multiple Castaways Can Live At Extinction Island At The Same Time
There was a little bit of confusion when Probst told EW that “…the first person will be the only person there. And that’s it.” Some fans took that to mean that the eliminated castaways would live alone or that only the first person voted out would stay on Extinction Island. However, that is not the case; every person voted out (up until when the twist ends at Day 35/36) could theoretically live on Extinction Island together if they all choose to stay.
What Probst most likely meant is that the first eliminated castaway will be alone for those initial three days until the next person is voted out. He explained it better in his ET Canada interview, where he said, “The first person will wake up in the morning and go, ‘What do I do?’ And there will be no one to tell them to do anything. And maybe a second person will come; maybe everybody will come. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
As I explained back in July, there are no weekly elimination duels nor is there a merge-reset. Every player voted out is offered the chance to go to Extinction Island, and they can stay there until the final opportunity to get back in the game. That means pre-merge boots could live alongside post-merge boots. It could mean that come finale night, the entire cast couldstill technically be in the game, with the majority residing on Extinction Island.
The Twist Was Based On The Original Concept For Ghost Island
Extinction Island is an updated version of the original concept for Ghost Island which was at one point planned for season 30 back in 2014. I reported on the old Ghost Island concept in 2017 after a source shared with me a pitch document detailing the theme.
In the pitch, Ghost Island was described as a location where eliminated players lived together with “a shelter and only meager supplies” while waiting for a shot to return at a later point in the season. It also said that the focus would be on “an entirely new kind of survival – of the mental kind.” You can read more about the original Ghost Island idea here.
Extinction Island Will Be A Secret To The Players Still In The Game (Until The Merge)
One of the most contentious aspects of the twist is the fact it will remain a mystery to the castaways still in the game, at least until the merge. That’s right; Extinction Island will not be revealed to the entire cast up front, meaning a player will only become aware of the twist once they’ve been voted out, similar to the Outcasts twist back in Pearl Islands.
“You’re voted out, and what you don’t know, and what nobody knows, is that you’re going to turn a corner and see a torch,” Probst told ET Canada before explaining the aforementioned ‘quit or stay’ signpost that will greet eliminated castaways upon their exit.
As I reported back in January, the players still active in the game will become aware of Extinction Island at the merge when Probst brings out the eliminated castaways for their first opportunity to win their way back into the game.
There Will Be Two Chances To Return To The Game
Similar to Redemption Island, there will be two opportunities for eliminated castaways to earn their way back into the game. However, unlike Redemption Island, there will be no ‘weekly duels’ resulting in the permanent elimination of one or more players. Instead, there will be just two challenges, one at the merge and the other around Day 35/36, and anyone remaining on Extinction Island can take part.
As far as I’m aware, the first challenge will take place at the merge with the winner leaving Extinction Island and joining the merged tribe as a fully-fledged active member of the game once again. An important detail, however, is that the losers of the challenge will not be sent home – they still have the same option of remaining on Extinction Island in the hopes of another chance to return.
The second challenge is believed to take place around Day 35/36 – supposedly when five castaways are remaining in the actual game. The winner of the challenge will leave Extinction Island and rejoin the game, turning the final five into a final six. After this, Extinction Island is over, and the losers of the challenge will head to Ponderosa where they will become members of the jury.
All of this means that, feasibly, a player eliminated on Day 3 could win one challenge on Day 35/36 and get back into the game and join the final six.
There are currently no details on how the Extinction Island challenges will work or what type of challenges they’ll be.
The Jury Could Include All 15 Eliminated Castaways
How the jury will work this season is one of the biggest points of confusion with the Edge of Extinction twist. While there are a lot of details still missing, here is what we know so far:
Any eliminated castaway who chooses to stay on Extinction Island after the first merge Tribal Council automatically earns a spot on the jury, regardless of whether they decide to quit after that point or not. That means if nobody quits (or is medically evacuated) pre-merge then the entire cast could be present at the Final Tribal Council – with 15 jurors and 3 finalists.
However, anyone that quits pre-merge or chooses to leave after losing the first return challenge will not be a part of the jury. Those people will permanently leave the game and take part in the pre-jury trip like in a regular season.
It is not yet clear if castaways on Extinction Island will get to sit in on post-merge Tribal Councils as a regular Survivor jury would.
Details of Extinction Island Will Unfold Gradually Throughout The Season
It’s not just the players that are going to be kept in the dark, according to the Emmy-winning host, the viewers will also learn details about the twist in bits and pieces throughout the season. Probst told THR that this is designed to advance Survivor storytelling and create a unique viewing experience.
“There’s no reason that we can’t treat Survivor like any other kind of murder mystery drama in terms of how we structure and edit. We don’t have to spend five minutes of screen time at Extinction Island,” he explained. “We just have to tell the story in the most dramatic and entertaining way.”
He continued: “So you may find our structure changing into a situation where we’re at a tribe camp, and then we pop over to Extinction just for a moment, and then we pop back to the original scene back at camp. We want to continue to break down the walls. We’re just telling stories. We want to tell them in whatever way is most compelling and works.”
Extinction Island Will Take The Show Deeper Psychologically And Spiritually
While many believe the twist was invented to keep the returnees on screen longer and give challenge-beast Joe Anglim a better shot at the million, Probst told the THR that the idea was born out of a desire to push the show deeper character-wise.
“As we continue to evolve the show, it’s really important to us that we continue to see how far we can take this experiment,” he said. “We’ve done a lot in the last few years about gameplay and advantages and twists and really wanting players to come in and play strategically. Lately, it’s also been occurring to me that we should try to get a little deeper psychologically, a little deeper spiritually.”
He added: “Let’s see how far people want to go. Is there a possibility of the spiritual death and rebirth that you seek in life, where you realize something deeper about yourself?”
Any new details revealed before the season premiere will be added to the article.