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.
THE FUTURE OF EDGIC
Is Edgic dead? That was the question I was asking myself after Wednesday’s finale, which delivered one of the most shocking moments in Survivor history. Yes, Mike Gabler won Survivor, and judging by the reactions from across social media, from the hardcore superfans to the Facebook casuals, it was a result nobody saw coming. According to most, Gabler was drawing dead heading into the finale (I foolishly listed him as a ‘no chance’ last week). Yet, here we are, with Gabler as the latest Sole Survivor.
So what happened? Did we all just miss the signs in the edit all along? Or did Survivor purposely troll us? There are certainly reasons to believe it was a troll job, based on CBS’ “You just got Gabler’d” posts and recent comments from production about how the show doesn’t have winner edits and focuses more on singular episode storytelling. It certainly feels like the show wanted a shock-value ending, especially after losing front-runner Jesse.
“‘Winner’s Edit’ is a fan term. We don’t use it. The people who last longer get more screen time and appear to be “highlighted” but that’s not something we consciously do. They appear “highlighted” because they are the story. They survived.” – Plowden Schumacher (Survivor Editor), Cinemontage.com
Then again, a big part of Gabler’s post-merge edit was about “hiding in plain sight.” He kept telling us he was a sleeper threat, but, like the players in the game, we underestimated him. We had already written him off for his pre-merge antics. Yet, through all this, Gabler kept reminding us that his camouflage gameplay was intentional. He was self-aware of his perception in the game and his position within it. But we continued to ignore it.
That said, was this enough to make for a satisfying narrative and rewarding ending? It was certainly a huge surprise and made for a shocking TV moment. But was it earned? Usually, when Survivor gives us a surprise winner, there are at least clear reasons why the runner-up ultimately lost. For example, take Natalie White, one of the show’s most surprising winners. While Natalie’s win shocked a large portion of the audience, the edit provided reasons why Russell Hantz wound up losing — we had seen his aggressive gameplay and off-putting social game throughout the season. It made sense.
Did we get that for this season’s runner-ups? Owen, sure. Owen had this Charlie Brown narrative where no matter how hard he tried, he kept being outplayed and ending up on the wrong side of the votes. Owen himself was aware of this and owned up to it at the final tribal council. He painted himself as the season’s underdog, who managed to make it to the end despite a tragic series of missteps throughout the season. So, when it comes to Owen, the edit gave us reasons as to why he lost.
But Cassidy? All we’d heard from her fellow players was that she was a threat, both socially and strategically. This went back to the pre-merge when Geo and Ryan targeted Cassidy because of the danger she posed. And it continued into the post-merge as the “Cassidy Curse” became a theme. We were shown and told that anyone who comes after Cassidy ends up going home. In addition, we were repeatedly told how Cassidy had always been on the right side of the votes (this wasn’t even 100% accurate, as she’d voted Ryan at Jeanine’s boot, but the edit brushed over that fact). Plus, she was presented as a challenge threat and had the story of playing for her late sister.
Conversely, Gabler had his fair share of negativity across the season, especially in the pre-merge. Others had described him as unpredictable, all over the place, a loose cannon, a wild bull in a china shop, etc. We had these goofy scenes of him asking to be voted out and putting palm fronds on his sleeping tribemates. Even when his edit improved in the late post-merge, we rarely heard others talking about Gabler as a threat or a capable player. Sure, you could put this down to the “hidden in plain sight” narrative, but that doesn’t make it any more satisfying.
The edit didn’t really give us any reason as to why Gabler should win over Cassidy, not until the finale (actually, final tribal) itself. And even this final episode was mostly told from Cassidy and Owen’s perspectives; in fact, Gabler had the least amount of confessionals in the finale (tied with Jesse).
Therefore, the only thing you can point to for Cassidy’s loss is her lack of agency in the votes. While there was a consistent “Cassidy Curse” theme, we never really saw Cassidy herself directing votes. Instead, the edit always credited Cody and/or Jesse. Sure, Cassidy got to comment here and there, but she was never the one leading the charge. Perhaps if she had ultimately won, the edit would have presented Cassidy’s role in the votes differently.
That said, we never really saw that for Gabler, either. Like Cassidy, Gabler also took a backseat to Cody and Jesse. The only time a vote was led by Gabler was the Elie vote. Now, seeing as the Elie vote was highlighted at the FTC, perhaps that was all Gabler needed. Because other vital points brought up at FTC, such as the Ride or Die alliance, came out of nowhere. Sure, we saw Cody reach out to Gabler at the Ryan vote, but we weren’t given any indication of how tight Gabler’s alliance with Cody & Jessse was. The FTC made it seem like Gabler had been plotting behind the scenes with Cody & Jesse all along; that’s not what we saw on TV. In fact, we saw Gabler plotting against Cody and Jesse. So there was a clear disconnect there.
My overall feeling is that the producers decided to go for shock value, probably partly due to losing three top contenders (Cody, Karla, Jesse) back-to-back-to-back and ending up with a lackluster final three. Rather than craft a satisfying narrative for the finalists, they instead focused most of the season around the Cody & Jesse partnership, with Jesse’s loss at the fire-making challenge bringing a conclusion to his arc. Therefore, the final three became almost an afterthought.
So what does this mean for Edgic and The Edit Bay going forward? That’s something I’m going to need to think about this off-season. I think it’s apparent in this “new era” of Survivor that certain tried and tested Edgic methods can no longer be relied on. And the producers dismissing the idea of “winner edits” and talking about singular episode storytelling brings season-long narrative analysis into question. Does it still serve a purpose?
I don’t know if The Edit Bay will be back for Survivor 44. For one, there appear to be several spoilers for the season going around, which makes me cautious about doing edit analysis. If it does return, it will probably need to adapt to the modern era, perhaps a return to more theme and story focus rather than winner contenders. Time will tell. For now, all I can say is, we got Gabler’d.
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