Survivor 43

Finale – The Edit Bay

What is the edit telling us after the finale?

Photo: CBS

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.


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),

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.

Photo: CBS

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.



Name EP 1 EP 2 EP 3 EP 4 EP 5 EP 6 EP 7 EP 8 EP 9 EP 10 EP 11 EP 12 EP 13
Cassidy2Cassidy CP2 UTR1 UTR2 MOR4 CP5 MOR3 INV CP3 OTTP3 CP3 MOR3 MOR2 CPP4
Sami2Sami CPP4 CP2 MOR3 UTR2 MOR2 MOR3 UTR3 CP5 CP3 UTRN2 CPM4    
Noelle2Noelle UTRP2 MOR3 CPP5 UTR3 UTR1 OTT2 MORP4 UTR1 CP3 CPPP4      
Ryan2Ryan MORP3 MOR2 UTR1 MOR3 OTTN4 OTTN2 UTR1 OTTM4 MOR2        
James2James MOR3 UTR1 UTR2 MOR4 MOR3 MOR3 MOR4 MORN3 OTTN4        
Jeanine2Jeanine UTR2 MOR3 UTR1 INV CP5 CP4 CP4 MOR3          
Dwight2Dwight MOR4 CP4 MOR3 UTR2 UTR1 INV UTR3            
Elie2Elie CPP5 MORM4 MORN3 MORM3 MOR3 CPN5              
Geo2Geo MORP2 OTTP2 UTR1 OTTN3 OTTN5                
Lindsay2Lindsay MOR3 UTR1 UTR2 OTTN5                  
Nneka2Nneka UTR2 MORM3 MORP4                    
Justine2Justine UTR2 MORN3                      
Morriah2Morriah MOR3                        

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.

4 responses to “Finale – The Edit Bay”

  1. I have enjoyed reading this for the past 13 seasons. Even if I didn’t always agree with your takes it was nice to read your perspective. It taught me to pay attention to what the show is telling us. If this was your swan song season, thank you for the past 13

  2. I’ve come to the conclusion that the editors/producers were just as shocked because there was no reason for Gabler to win except for Jesse and Karla convincing the jury before final tribal, which they can’t show. They even had the dodo music over gablers answers at final tribal a couple times. Since there was no story to tell, they just treated it as a big joke on the people who read columns like yours. Good for Gabler. I can’t imagine watching this season again on purpose.

  3. I was pretty flabbergasted by how so many people said Cassidy was winning this when I’d had her drawing dead for a while. She had always been a secondary character, someone who was never shown in the spotlight, and that became crippling as the merge went on. Erika had started to come alive later in ways Cassidy didn’t even broach. Cassidy’s irrelevant “fox” comment that people kept mentioning was something I didn’t even remember because the show never made a story of it, the way Erika had “lamb to a lion.” There was no story or substance to Cassidy’s edit, and thus I had her eliminated from contention at F8. I got downvoted for it on Reddit, but it feels vindicating now. She reeked of a runner-up who was going to be called a bystander, which she ultimately was. I think her arrogance at FTC reflected how the jury already saw her – this is why Karla and Jesse led a charge against her. She’d already declared herself the winner. They didn’t like that.

    Gabler was actually someone I had as a possibility going into the finale because we had at least seen his perspective, such as with the Elie vote and the need to break Cody and Jesse up. My thought going into the finale was “well Cassidy is clearly second and Owen third, just a matter of who is with them.” I had Jesse as the most likely, but Gabler as second. Karla was third and I actually had Cassidy as 5th.

    I don’t think edit analysis is dead. I just think a lot of people were looking at it through the wrong lens. It’s best to stop attaching so much to one single comment and look to see who is shown to have agency and perspective. Gabler was shown to have both. Cassidy hardly had either.

  4. As someone who has watched Survivor since the very first episode, I have experienced many season winners with satisfaction and I’ve experienced many season winners with dissatisfaction. That said, I always come back to the show because what I appreciate the most about Survivor versus other reality shows is that it always accepts and embraces what happens on the island and doesn’t seemingly try to game the outcome. While I loved Gabler as a human being, I like many viewers this season was left feeling that other’s were more worthy of the final vote. If I could speak directly to the producers of the show I would like to say that my observation is that after the last three seasons especially, there seems to be more outside conversation about the drama and politicking going on behind the scenes with the jury at Ponderosa that has cast a bigger shadow over the final outcome. As a fan of the show this feels like something is going on behind the scenes that we’re not a part of. My suggestion to the producers to address this growing jury conversation would be to A: include the jury politicking and drama in edits to the final episode of the show, or B: individually sequester those that were snuffed at Ponderosa so as not to be able to politic and or be swayed by others in an attempt to make sure their opinions are their very own. Transparency versus individual opinions and honesty. Either way I feel these suggestions would make for a more satisfying outcome. For me at least.

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