Hello all, welcome to the Edit Bay! This weekly feature takes a dive into the edit of the latest Survivor episode, analyzing the key stories, main characters, and top winner contenders.
While intended as a condensed version of Edgic, for this season, I will be including my ratings for each castaway at the end of the article.
With Survivor 41 over, it’s time to look at the finale and summarize this season’s edit as a whole, taking stock of what we can learn going into future seasons. There are important lessons to take away from this season, especially in regards to analyzing the winner’s edit.
Erika was my top contender going into the finale, and she ultimately walked away with the Sole Survivor crown. Her finale edit summed up her character arc as a whole. She was quiet and unsuspecting (the last to figure out the puzzle but ultimately the one to find the advantage) but also smart and determined to play hard.
The first Tribal Council of the episode continued to play up Erika’s rivalry with Deshawn, with her perspective forming how the endgame would play out. In addition, her relationship with Heather was given the most focus it had all season. She also provided insight into why it made sense to take out Ricard. And Xander’s decision to take Erika to the end not only highlighted his mistake but cemented Erika’s narrative as a player that might look like a lamb but is a lion underneath. Once the Final 3 was set, it was no real surprise that Erika would be securing the victory.
So what to make of Erika’s edit overall? It took a while for me to jump aboard, as I spent the first half of the season hooked on the complex tribe theory. This meant I put all my eggs in the Yase basket, primarily focusing on Evvie and Tiffany. However, once those two players were eliminated, I had no choice but to change direction. Sticking by Yase would mean banking on Liana or Xander to win, and I just didn’t feel confident in their edits.
It wasn’t until my self-imposed season re-watch after Evvie’s boot that I cottoned on to Erika’s edit. While Luvu’s pre-merge edit was lackluster, the Episode 4 focus on Erika and Deshawn really stood out. It was a story that hadn’t been resolved at that point, and yet it had been present from the very first episode, sometimes subtly, other times more overt. And with Deshawn describing Erika’s game as “the slow beginning game and then emerging at the end,” it gave the edit a reason (excuse?) to under-edit Erika in the pre-merge.
Once Erika started receiving credit for the later post-merge boots, from organizing the split and swaying Danny at the Shan boot, being presented as the swing vote at Liana’s boot, and pushing the vote away from Deshawn at the Danny boot, it was becoming more and more obvious that there was intent behind Erika’s edit. And combined with the lack of negativity in her edit, Erika made sense as the front-runner.
However, although Erika’s edit made sense within the context of her gameplay and the season’s narrative, it doesn’t mean it was a GOOD edit. Given that Erika is the first woman to win in six seasons, plus only the show’s third Asian winner and first winner of Filipino descent, it is more than ridiculous how under-edited she was, especially early in the season.
Survivor has a history of under-editing its women winners and an even more alarming history of under-editing women of color, so to give Erika this edit in THIS season, after touting their new diversity initiatives, it’s incredibly disappointing. Even if the edit wanted to play into the “quite early game” narrative, not highlighting Erika’s relationship with Heather in the pre-merge is beyond frustrating. Erika and Heather were the last two women standing and made up half of the Final 4—their alliance being so neglected is simply poor story-telling.
Heather was neglected in the edit even more so than Erika, despite her close bond with the eventual winner. She went episodes without being seen, and her “story,” if you can even call it that, basically amounted to “the older woman that doesn’t give up.” That was hammered home in the finale by Jeff’s commentary during the challenges and Heather’s insanely close fire-making battle with Deshawn.
Speaking of Deshawn, he had by far the most complex edit of the final five—perhaps of the entire cast. We always heard his perspective on the game and the other players. He had strategic insight and personal moments. And he had a compelling mix of positive and negative content. But the thing that always held me back regarding Deshawn’s edit and his winner chances was how often the edit undermined him.
Deshawn was shown to be playing hard, but he would get into these sticky situations, and the edit wasn’t afraid to spotlight them. Other players called him out for being “emotional” and “indecisive” and not owning his moves. That came up again in this final episode, with Deshawn taking the heat for throwing Erika under the bus at the Final 6 Tribal Council.
And it’s that relationship with Erika that ultimately proved to be the most important. From the moment Erika gave the confessional about Deshawn and Danny idol searching in the premiere, this back-and-forth relationship was set in motion. And Deshawn failing to throw the challenge to take Erika out in Episode 4 would become a defining moment of the season. This was clear foreshadowing with a healthy dose of irony, as Erika would eventually be the one to “save” Deshawn at the Final 6, making sure she got the credit in the process and undermining him in front of the jury.
If there was any surprise in the finale, it’s probably the fact that Xander didn’t receive a single vote to win. We talked about this possibility last week, as the edit hinted that the other players didn’t consider Xander as big a threat as he believed. But I imagine a lot of casual viewers were taken aback by this. However, the finale did a good job showing just why Xander lost out in the end.
From the opening moments of the episode, Xander was shown to be overly confident, bordering on arrogance. He relished the opportunity to start over on a new island and how this would break the other players. And his choice to pick Erika was signaled as a huge blunder. He told us repeatedly that he didn’t think Erika could win in the end, despite the edit and other players saying otherwise.
Now, the edit didn’t entirely bury Xander. He wasn’t made to look like a horrible person or anything. In fact, he was still shown to be sweet, reacting with compassion to Ricard’s news about his second child’s impending birth. But he was also made to look oblivious, and not for the first time this season. Xander finishing as a zero vote finalist now makes much more sense of previous moments, like his failed idol lie and Tiffany rolling her eyes at him. Xander’s edit was that of a player with a lot of heart but not always a lot of brains.
Finally, Ricard, who ended up leaving first in the finale. As I said last week, this is kind of where I saw Ricard’s edit ending up. The edit had made it far too obvious that he was the BIG THREAT that would win hands down if he made the Final Tribal. While big threats have won in the past, there is usually more to their edit. I never felt that with Ricard because we never got enough from his perspective or personal goals, especially in the penultimate episode.
Combining the above with some early negativity and being presented as second fiddle to Shan, Ricard’s edit just didn’t scream winner to me. I saw him as the big threat that would become the final obstacle. And that’s basically what we got in the finale. Ricard lost the immunity challenge and was voted out, but not before receiving compliments for his gameplay and being serenaded with an intensely emotional soundtrack.
And so, what should we take on board heading into Season 42? Well, I think the major take away is not to rely so heavily on complex tribe theory. Sure, CTT can be very helpful and has proved a success a lot, especially in recent seasons. But it’s not the be-all and end-all, as this season has proven.
More important is spotting the most consistent story/narrative/relationship. We need to pay attention to which stories and themes the edit keeps returning to, even when it doesn’t necessarily figure into that specific episode. Even if it’s minimal, those story beats can turn into something bigger and more important down the line. This is why I like to lay out the stories in my Edit Bay articles, to see which ones keep returning.
I spent half of this season focusing on the Yase underdog arc because not only was it consistently featured, but it had the complex tribe theory to back it up. If I wasn’t so obsessed with CTT, perhaps I would have given other running story arcs equal focus instead of being forced to reevaluate after Evvie’s boot.
Thanks to everyone for reading along with this season’s edition of The Edit Bay. I will be back in the new year to cover the edit of Survivor 42!
For more information on how Edgic works and rating definitions read our Introduction to Edgic article.
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