Hello all, welcome back 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.
This episode was the perfect conclusion to the pre-merge, as one of the season’s main stories across the first few episodes came to a close. Of course, I’m talking about the Elie versus Gabler feud, which gloriously came to a head, ending with Elie’s elimination.
As we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, Elie’s edit was always pointing toward a downfall. She was consistently undermined and made to look deluded in terms of her position in the game. The question was whether that downfall would come at the hands of a blindside or whether she’d make it to the end and face the wrath of the jury. Well, we now know it was the former.
Outside the Elie and Gabler drama, the rest of the episode was very narrational. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time devoted to new relationships and tribe dynamics, as it seems we’ll have to wait until the true merge episode next week.
However, now that we have our 12 merged players, I want to shake up this week’s Edit Bay format slightly. I’m going to look at each remaining player and track their story (or lack thereof) across the first six episodes. I want to see who has a clear arc, who has consistency, and who is drawing dead in terms of winning chances.
I just want to rewind to the premiere for a second and look back at the intro confessional getters. Remember, these were the 12 people to receive intro confessionals: Ryan, Nneka, Noelle, Morriah, Sami, Lindsay, Karla, Cody, Cassidy, Elie, James, and Owen.
Based on the past couple of seasons, I predicted that at least 8 of these 12 would make the merge, with 4 non-intro-getters joining them. That held up, as Ryan, Noelle, Sami, Karla, Cody, Cassidy, James, and Owen are the 8 that have officially made the merge. While Gabler, Jeanine, Dwight, and Jesse are the 4 non-intro-getters to make it.
Knowing what we know now, the winner is highly likely within the first group of eight. Only Jesse has a potential winner edit from the group of four. And so the plan now is to determine who has the best chance of the larger group.
Does she have a story arc? Kind of. Cassidy laid out her strategy in the premiere, but it has been somewhat contradictory. “I’m not gonna sit around and wait for other people to determine my game. I make my fate. I make my game,” she said in her intro confessional. She followed this up later in the episode by saying she wanted to “play like a fox, clever and cunning” and to be sneaky. “I don’t want to play a loud, in-your-face game because a lot of times women can’t get away with that the same way that men can.”
On the one hand, Cassidy’s game (and edit) so far has been pretty quiet, which fits her non-in-your-face strategy. And this season has seen woman after woman voted out (though not necessarily all due to loud gameplay). But we have yet to see any real sign of her taking control of her own fate. Each time Coco went to tribal council, Karla and James were portrayed as deciding the vote. And in this episode, Cassidy initially pushed for Cody, not realizing Elie was plotting against her.
In addition, for someone who wants to remain behind the scenes, her name has come up at every tribal she’s attended. Geo and Ryan outright targeted her at Coco’s first two tribals, and her name was a split vote option in this “mergeatory” episode. So, does that say Cassidy is failing at her sneaky fox strategy?
That said, she has managed to survive each time. And her previous reads on the game, particularly regarding Geo and Ryan, were shown to be correct. This was the first episode where she was blatantly out of the loop, as she believed “the girls could get together” and do something, all the while Elie was lying to her. Now, she later found out the truth and course-corrected, so it will be interesting to see where her story goes from here.
When looking for an UTR winner contender in the vein of Erika, Cassidy made the most sense of the pre-merge contenders. However, this episode hurt her chances. Her success will likely be determined on her edit in next week’s true merge episode.
Does he have a story arc? Yes. From his very first confessional, Cody told us he would “play the game as hard and as fast” as he can, just like how he approaches life. And that is what we’ve seen from Cody across the first six episodes, from his salesman pitch to get rid of Justine to his beware advantage antics to his camp raid shenanigans.
The latest episode showed that Cody still has the gameplay mindset, as he commented on the fake niceties of his fellow tribemates. “It’s like Normandy here, and it’s about to hit the fan,” he said, showing he was very much still focused on the game at hand.
However, Cody also demonstrated tact in this episode, as he joined in with the group camaraderie despite his reservations. And, even though his name came up, he remained cool and collected, acknowledging that other plans were in place that should keep him safe.
While his hard and fast gameplay has proven effective, it has also been portrayed as reckless. His eagerness to open the beware advantage almost screwed up Vesi’s first tribal council. And his approach to the camp raid set off alarm bells for Karla. Then there is the lingering and unresolved distrust between Noelle/Dwight and Cody.
So, while Cody is portrayed as a positive and well-liked character, he’s also shown to be a threat with a penchant for getting himself into sticky situations. It certainly feels like we’ve had the groundwork set up for a situation that Cody isn’t going to be able to wiggle his way out of.
Does he have a story arc? No. Dwight has become one of the season’s most underedited players and was the only player not to receive a confessional in this episode. That marks two episodes in a row for Dwight with no confessionals. It tells us Dwight isn’t important to the season’s overall narrative arc.
It seems clear now that Dwight’s edit has been rather circumstantial. His only significant air-time has come during the Summit and for pre-tribal suspense in episodes where Vesi went to tribal council. He isn’t a player like Jesse, Karla, or Sami, where we would hear their thoughts even in episodes where their tribe didn’t have to vote anyone out.
While Dwight doesn’t have a story arc, he does have a recurring theme of not getting what he wants. We’ve seen this with the risk a vote, with him pushing for Cody to go over Justine and even things like wanting to do the camp raid. No matter what he does, Dwight just never seems to get his way. Perhaps that will continue throughout the merge, or maybe he’ll do something bold to reverse his luck.
Does he have a story arc? He did. Gabler’s defining story of the season so far has been his rivalry with Elie. It has been a back-and-forth battle on Baka, with each side plotting against the other behind their backs. That finally came to a head in this episode, as Gabler immediately threw out Elie’s name at the merge feast and painted a target on her back. And, in the end, he got his way, as Elie was booted.
The question is, does that mark the end of Gabler’s story? His main adversary just left the game. It probably marks the closure of his primary story, but it could very well spin off into multiple side stories. He still has beef with Jeanine, which is undoubtedly worse now after he blindsided Elie, and he has his connection to Sami & Owen, both of whom have aired their own reservations about Gabler’s brand of chaos.
As we’ve said in previous weeks, Gabler is a prime example of a personality edit; he’s a divisive character whose function in the narrative is to stir up trouble and cause drama. His goal early on was to show his younger castmates that his age isn’t a hindrance, and he’s showing that by making aggressive plays. It’s not a winner edit, but it’s a big character edit and one I’m sure will kick up more chaos before all is said and done.
Does he have a story arc? No. I said last week that James has the most difficult edit to grasp. In many ways, he looks good. He always appears to be in the know and controls where the votes are going. It was he and Karla portrayed as the decision-makers on Coco, and, in this episode, he rightly knew he couldn’t trust Elie and helped shift the votes off of himself. This might have even been his best episode yet.
And yet, I can’t help but feel something is missing. There is a lack of an overarching story or theme. And no real depth to his relationships. There is also a disconnect from his opening confessional in the premiere, where he said, “I want the game to be chaotic. I want no one to know what’s going on. For me, that’s my comfort zone.” But the James we’ve seen so far has tried to curtail chaos at every turn.
Maybe that chaos will come as we hit the merge, and we’ll see a different version of James emerge. If he can connect back to his premiere content and/or establish some new, solid relationships, I would feel much better about James’ chances.
Does she have a story arc? Kind of. This was a significant episode for Jeanine, who received a bunch of screen time and was part of some of the key moments. She tied into the whole Elie versus Gabler saga, and, with Elie now gone, Jeanine could possibly be the one to continue that story arc.
Jeanine was the last person to receive a confessional in the premiere, and it specifically connected to the first vote-off. However, the concerns she aired in that confessional proved prescient. “I’m worried about how that will go in the future in terms of… it makes it pretty easy for the majority of three guys now to work together to vote out the women,” she said. Elie and Jeanine keeping Gabler/Owen over Morriah ultimately proved to be a mistake, just as Jeanine worried.
While Jeanine has often felt like a sidekick to Elie throughout the pre-merge, this episode saw the roles reversed. Jeanine was the one trying to put out fires and keep Baka together for the vote. She was the person wrangling votes and trying to talk Gabler back down. Yet, she failed. She wasn’t able to get the boys back on her side, and she didn’t realize Elie was in trouble enough to play her idol for her.
So, what happens next? I see two options. Either Jeanine crumbles and follows her ally out the door. Or, this becomes the start of her individual arc and she scratches and claws her way through. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I kind of lean toward the latter. Remember, we’ve been told by other players, Sami and Jesse, specifically, how Jeanine is playing the game hard. I initially thought that might be setting her up to be targeted, but perhaps it was a hint that she will not go down without a fight.
Does he have a story arc? Yes. As one of the main strategic narrators of the season, we have a solid understanding of Jesse’s character and arc. He is the former gang member who turned his life around and is now a Berkeley grad with a wife and kids, trying to be a good role model for his family. Those experiences have translated into his game so far, as we’ve seen Jesse take a more social and tactful approach to strategy and relationships, choosing to suppress his more cutthroat desires.
Despite not having an intro confessional, Jesse has been a consistent presence throughout the pre-merge. We always hear from him and know what he’s thinking, even if it’s just a brief check-in. This episode was a good example of the brief check-in. Jesse wasn’t a driving force of the action, but he commented on the coming together of the tribes early in the episode and later expressed concerns about Elie and how he thought she was the right vote to go with.
There is no major flaw in Jesse’s edit, outside of his lack of intro confessional and not being introduced until 40 minutes into the premiere. That would be unusual for a winner, especially a male winner, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The question is, where does his story go from here? Does he continue to play the safe and social game? Or does he let his more devious side come out?
“But this is where you got to really prove yourself. This is where, you know, it really gets going,” he said in this episode, which could be foreshadowing Jesse stepping up his game in the coming weeks.
Does she have a story arc? Yes. Another of the season’s main strategic narrators, Karla, has the cleanest edit of the bunch. We always hear her thoughts, her reads are always correct, and she’s portrayed as a smart and competent player. On top of that, she has this great story about overcoming her nervousness and playing with confidence.
Like Jesse, she wasn’t a huge presence across this episode, but we still checked in with her, and, as always, her perceptions were accurate. She started by tempering her expectations of a merge, noting how the past two seasons have made players earn the merge. That turned out to be the case again here. And during the merge feast, she recognized how fractured the Baka tribe was, which, again, was true and became the central story of the episode.
While we saw Karla involved in conversations at camp, she wasn’t presented as the one leading this vote. That is probably a good thing, especially as she was seen to be in charge (alongside James) of the Coco tribe. Her edit can afford an episode where she sits back a little, that way she isn’t being set up as an immediate threat that needs taking out.
As as I’ve said before, Karla’s edit is pretty much flawless, so there is no real reason not to have her as a top contender. My only concern is that her edit is too good. Where is the doubt? Where is the tension? Those things give me pause. Modern Survivor doesn’t like to make things this obvious. And so while Karla is technically a top pick, I have my worries.
Does she have a story arc? Kind of. It’s not the most complex of narratives, but Noelle does have the story of overcoming setbacks and not giving up. She’s told that through her experiences with losing her leg and becoming a Paralympian, and we’ve seen it in the game, from how she bounced back after Justine’s elimination.
However, outside of that, Noelle hasn’t really been presented as a featured character. We know she’s aligned with Dwight, but we don’t get the constant strategic check-ins like we do with other players, such as Jesse and Karla, for example. And her role in this episode was basically narrational, commenting on the earn the merge twist and the merge feast, which showed her stuffing her face.
This episode also included a moment where Noelle talked about Cody’s palm frond hat, which ended up tipping Elie off about Cody’s idol. This was very likely circumstantial, but it did show Noelle out of the loop, as she also commented that nobody on Vesi had found an idol.
Unless Noelle has a massive break-out episode next week, I’m not sure I see a win in her future. She seems very much like a mid-level character who will come in and out of focus, depending on what’s needed in a particular episode.
Does he have a story arc? Kind of. Owen is a really interesting one to look back on now that the pre-merge is complete. On the surface, he can be somewhat easy to write off, as he’s had these goofy moments, from his opening chyron comment (brought back again this episode) to his poor coconut chopping skills to his deputy water boy comments. And yet, he has these strategic narrator moments which mark him out as a player to watch.
There is one person, in particular, who Owen’s edit sort of mirrors, and that’s Survivor 42 winner Maryanne. Both had their goofy moments and both seemed to be on the outside of the core group on their pre-merge tribes. But, most importantly, both had comments about how much of a danger they could be later in the game. Sami, Jeanine, and Elie all spoke of Owen being a potential threat.
“Owen is the kind of player that, down the line, when we get down to it, I’m going to end up seeing just how dangerous Owen could be,” Sami said in the premiere. “The downside to keeping Owen is that he could be trouble down the line,” Elie added in her own confessional.
Now, Owen has made the merge, and so we have to consider whether those comments were intentional foreshadowing, just like they were for Maryanne last season. On top of that, some of Owen’s early comments have proved prescient. Remember, a large part of the premiere was Owen being frustrated with his tribe’s guarded approach to strategy. “I think, later on in the game, it might bite us in the butt,” he said.
And, well, what happened in this episode? The Baka tribe was fractured and outplayed and Elie was voted out. “All of a sudden, my name had bubbled to the surface, and in that moment, I’m like, ‘Oh, THIS is Survivor? What have I been playing?” Elie said at tribal council.
So, it will be very interesting to see if Owen continues to go on a Maryanne type trajectory at the merge. Will he be that underdog on the outside looking in who is suddenly able to boost himself up the ranks with a couple of crucial moves? Or will his goofy moments prove to be more than just fun asides and spell his downfall?
Does he have a story arc? No. Ryan’s edit started well in the first couple of episodes, he looked like he would have the tribe provider edit, and he had that really sweet bonding scene with Geo. But the last couple of weeks have sent his edit plummetting. Last week, he was shown to be deluded regarding the control he had on Coco, and he was constantly undermined by his fellow tribemates. And things weren’t much better this week.
Now, on the plus side, he did at least get a post-tribal confessional at the start of the episode and had enough awareness to recognize he was now on the outs. Although, he still said he “went from the top to the bottom,” even though he was never on top to begin with. He also declared himself a free agent, which could open up some new potential story avenues at the merge.
But the rest of the episode didn’t do much in his favor. His pitch for a final seven alliance at the merge feast was met with eye rolls and mocking confessionals. It painted the picture of a desperate man. Yet, later, we saw Ryan as part of multiple conversations, picking up bits and pieces of crucial info, even unintentionally. So we could have a character who is underestimated and ends up throwing a spanner in the works.
Overall, though, Ryan just doesn’t have a strong narrative or the strategic backbone to his edit. Similar to Noelle, he had this early personal story of overcoming adversity, but it hasn’t really reemerged so far.
Does he have a story arc? Yes. From the outset, Sami told us he is a 19-year-old who is way more than his age. He told us he could cater to multiple different groups, which we’ve seen, and explained why he was lying about his age. He also told us his goal from the beginning: to be the youngest person to ever win Survivor.
While there have been a couple of goofy moments in Sami’s edit, particularly the business with his chyron in his intro, he has been one of the most consistently portrayed characters. Much like Jesse and Karla, we always check in with Sami, know what he’s thinking about the game, and his reads are always accurate. And, on Baka, he was always shown as one step ahead of Elie & Jeanine.
Even in this episode, where Sami wasn’t a major focus, the edit made sure to air his view on the vote, and, once again, he got what he wanted. “James would be a really easy target to get rid of, but Elie is so much more of a threat to have around here. So I think Elie has to go tonight,” he said.
If there is a potential sticking point in Sami’s edit, it’s Owen and Gabler. Firstly, Sami told us back in the premiere that Owen could be dangerous down the line, and we’ve previously seen that Owen was favoring the girls more than Sami & Gabler. Then there’s Gabler, the proverbial wildcard of the season. Sami has been working with Gabler for a while, but even he has noted Gabler’s unpredictability, including in this episode, where he stated Gabler blew things up.
While Sami has one of the stronger edits of the remaining 12, that relationship with Gabler has me the most concerned. Will Gabler end up torpedoing Sami’s game in the long run? I’d feel more confident about Sami’s chances if Gabler wasn’t there.
So, with all that said, who are my Contenders heading into the merge?
Top Tier: Karla, Sami
Second Tier: Jesse
Maryanne Possibility: Owen
Erika Possibility: Cassidy