Edgic is a weekly feature analyzing each player’s edit, mapping characters to their story-arc. Note that our focus is not solely to determine the winner, as is typical of other Edgic sites. For more information on how Edgic works and rating definitions read our Introduction to Edgic article.
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Survivor: David vs. Goliath has come to a close and what a season it was. Without a doubt one of the best edited seasons in recent memory. You only have to look at how colorful the overall chart is compared to the last few seasons to see how this one was brimming with character and personality. In catching up with in-season press interviews this past week, it seems that exec producers Jeff Probst and Matt Van Wagenen wanted to shake-up the show’s editing and focus more on character moments and humor.
“From a storytelling point of view, we’ve been exploring lots of new ideas,” Probst told The Hollywood Reporter‘s Josh Wigler in a recent interview. “We’ve been leaning into our sense of humor and experimenting with fresh ways to create mystery and surprise for the audience. We really believe that we have to continue to try new things and take risks in the editing bays in order to keep ourselves sharp and our fans entertained.”
That fresh style of editing definitely came across in the episodes and it made David vs. Goliath one of the most fun season’s to Edgic in quite some time – and one of the most difficult too! It’s been a mixed bag of success and failures in my personal Edgic this season. There are certain story-arcs and characters that I think I nailed fairly early on: Bi, Daniel, Natalia, Jeremy, Carl, Alison, and even Angelina, who seemed destined to be in it for the long-haul from those first couple of episodes. However, there were other characters I didn’t quite hit the mark on, such as Nick and Mike, Jessica was an early misread, and Elizabeth was a character who I always struggled to place in the narrative.
There were a few overarching themes this season: underdogs, social charm, social awkwardness, nerd camaraderie, feminism, information = advantage, and give versus take. Some of these recurring motifs were more important than others, and I believe at times I placed too much emphasis on certain ones at the expense of others. For example, in the end, the feminist theme was simply part of Angelina’s story-arc, and not a season-wide narrative like I sometimes suspected. Whereas the underdog theme, which was mostly associated with the Davids, was also applicable to the Jabeni 3, and their statements about sticking together in Episode 6 proved more prescient than one might have initially realized. And while the social charm v social awkwardness theme was certainly highlighted a lot over the preceding weeks, it did not ultimately tie into the winner’s story, or at least not to the extent this theme played for character’s like Christian, Gabby, and Kara.
That brings me to Nick, the newest Sole Survivor. From the premiere, I knew Nick was going to be an important character and play a significant role in the season’s narrative. What that role was exactly I wasn’t sure. In the second episode, he basically hit a reset on his premiere negativity, recognized how close he came to being the first one out and made it his mission to play hard and “win or die trying.” Throughout the majority of the season, I thought his edit was pointing towards “die trying,” what with all the different alliances that fell in and out of relevance. However, while Nick’s edit had flaws, it also had its positives, such as the “give versus take” theme which I sadly overlooked until near the end.
Nick made his “give and take” speech at the Episode 8 Tribal Council and in that week’s Edgic I noted it as something potentially important. At the time, I mentioned how this could have explained flaws in Nick’s pre-merge edit. Nick wanted Lyrsa out in Episode 2, but he gave up Jessica instead because that’s what his alliance wanted. He wanted Angelina out in Episode 6, but he gave up Lyrsa because that’s what Mike wanted. That is how Nick continued to play throughout the merge; he didn’t just take-take-take, he gave, and yet I underestimated its significance until the loved one’s visit when Nick’s dad hammered the theme home. “It ain’t about what you have or what you don’t have, it’s about what you give.”
In the season finale, when Mike shot down Nick’s plan to take out Alison in favor of voting out Davie, Nick talked about how he has given all season, and that it was never reciprocated. And he was right. We saw Nick share information about his advantages and idols with his fellow Davids and that helped even up the numbers… only for Gabby and Christian to turn on him, and that ended up being the downfall of the David alliance. When Mike wanted to vote out Christian instead of Alison, Nick acquiesced and joined him in the vote. It also formed part of his Final Tribal Council speech, when he talked about how he gives back in his line of work, helping drug-addicted criminals rehabilitate.
Bearing that in mind, when looking back at the opening of the premiere now, it seems obvious that Nick was a top winner contender. Not only did he have the confessional about growing up poor in Southeastern Kentucky and working hard to achieve his dream of becoming a lawyer, but he was also the one to talk about how David didn’t just beat Goliath, he eventually became king. The fact this was set-up as the antithesis to Angelina, who openly mocked the David tribe while talking about how much more of an advantage the Goliaths had, just cemented it even further. Nick and Angelina both ended up at the Final Tribal Council, bringing this narrative to its natural conclusion.
in order of elimination in the finale.
Davie was in the unfortunate role of first-one-out in the finale and he was shuffled off almost as unceremoniously as Christian last week. Between the Immunity Challenge, the Reward, and Angelina’s hilariously chaotic idol search, there just wasn’t a lot of room to fit Davie in before his torch was snuffed.
He had just the one confessional. He was feeling vulnerable without an idol or immunity, but he believed Nick still had his back and was hoping Alison would be the next target. It was like a bare minimum kind of confessional. The story was already moving past Davie and focusing on the Jabeni 3 and their inner-workings and disagreements. And that makes sense, seeing as those three characters made up the Final 3. Davie’s part in this episode was more about how it played into Nick’s story-arc. Nick wanted to protect Davie, and when he was blindsided, he took it badly. It sort of set Nick up as the underdog following Davie’s elimination.
Overall, I have rated Davie as OTTP for the season. I feel like he will be remembered as this big positive force of light that brought a sense of fun to the game and never took anything personally. People will have a harder time recalling his strategy or personal story because the edit never particularly focused on those things. I imagine if Davie had made the Final Tribal Council, win or lose, he would have been given a much more consistent string of CPs, like Angelina and Mike. Instead, the self-confessed “blerd” will be remembered as the idol-finding, squid-spearing, stick-spinning Devilish Davie.
Alison undoubtedly had the quietest edit of the season. The only character I would rate as UTR overall. She was barely visible in the pre-merge and her post-merge narrative just never really took off, despite being teased on a couple of occasions.
That word “teased” is rather fitting for Alison’s story. Throughout the season, especially post-merge, she toyed with making a “big move” and flipping to the join the Davids. But every time she backed down and stuck with the status quo. That ultimately left her in the position she found herself in in the finale. She was a sitting duck and at the mercy of her old Goliath tribemates, Angelina and Mike. Her strategy was to either win immunity or follow Kara’s pitch and somehow turn the vote on Mike. She talked a little bit of game in this episode, but nothing approaching CP.
Much like how Davie’s exit tied into Nick’s story, Alison’s departure formed part of Angelina’s narrative. I’ve mentioned it multiple times across the season, that Angelina and Alison were often connected Edgically, ever since their idol search in the premiere. There were many times I thought this was suggesting a future alliance. What it actually turned out to be was a rivalry, and we’ve seen the two at odds at several post-merge Tribal Councils. Here, that story culminated with Angelina trying to fool Alison with a fake idol on her way out the door. It played into Angelina’s theatrical nature and became a topic at her jury questioning at the Final Tribal.
As I said earlier, I’ve rated Alison as UTR for the season. I could perhaps see an argument for a MOR-lite, but I just don’t think we ever got a true sense of who Alison is or what her actual endgame strategy entailed. She had a couple of confessionals about being “empathetic,” but when looking back in a year or two’s time, will the majority of people remember that? At best, Alison might be remembered as a Goliath that sort of became an underdog towards the end, but partly due to her own doing.
Kara stands out as an example of this season’s improved editing. She had far more complexity and visibility than someone of her archetype would usually receive. A young woman who plays a strong social game but doesn’t make “big moves” or cause camp drama is almost always underedited unless they happen to win. It’s part of the reason I was so high on Kara’s edit in the pre-merge. The fact she received this edit despite not winning is a testament to this season.
That said, Kara’s edit lost momentum after the Dan boot, and especially since Gabby was eliminated. Kara was never the most complex personality of the season, but she often got to express her thoughts and defend her actions. She hit on the social charm theme in a major way. And was also rarely undermined. But her story pretty much ended when Dan was eliminated, a move which the edit gave her credit for, despite not actually voting for him. After that, Kara still had her moments of CP, but she didn’t have a place in the narrative and her connections to the remaining players were thin at best. My initial optimism for Kara began to wane, and as I said last week, I struggled to see how this edit would translate into a win.
Kara’s finale edit was sort of similar to Alison’s, in the sense that they both talked a bit of strategy but ultimately played second fiddle to the Jabeni 3. She was brought on board with the Davie vote, and once again, told us that that was something she wanted. That is part of what soured me towards Kara’s edit these past few weeks – she was always a cog in the wheel, rather than the one driving the story. We only heard about her desires after a plan was already set in motion by somebody else. However, in the finale, she did suggest taking out Mike. For the first time since the Dan vote, Kara was the one to put forth a plan. But in the end, she stuck with the Jabenis and voted out Alison, and went on to lose to Mike in fire-making.
The rest of Kara’s edit revolved around the fire-making challenge. She talked about not giving up, how she has been underestimated all game, and that she would work her ass off to win. In a different season, this could have been a winning confessional, but it just didn’t have the content around it to back it up. Instead, it felt like its main purpose was to provide some tension for the impending fire-making challenge. And maybe that is the reason for a lot Kara’s content this season. She was always presented as someone socially capable, and willing to make a big move, even if nothing amounted from it. When she was in a sticky situation, she fought her way out, like her big edit after the Natalia blindside. It was sort of like Devon in Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers; he had just enough of an edit to make you think she could win out in the fire-making challenge, but overall lacked personal content and narrative urgency. You might wonder why Angela didn’t get this edit in Ghost Island, but let’s face it, that whole season was built around Dom versus Wendell, nothing else mattered.
Overall, I’ve rated Kara as MOR for the season. Her no-mance with Dan provided one of the bigger story-arcs of the season, and she was always presented as the rational one within that relationship. She was a big proponent of social charm, and we often saw her gaining information from others. However, despite moments of CP, we never quite knew what exactly Kara had planned or who she considered her strongest allies. There was also a significant lack of personal content.
Angelina was the certified star of the season finale. She had an enormous 17 confessionals across the episode! From the opening moments with the idol search to the fake idol to the Final Tribal Council, this became Angelina’s OTTN grand finale.
Ever since the premiere, Angelina was presented as the antagonist of the season; the overconfident Goliath that looked down at the competition. But whereas fellow antagonists like Dan fell into a pattern of OTTN much earlier, Angelina’s edit was a lot more fleshed out. Even when she had her OTT moments like jacket-gate and jury-management and rice negotiations, she always got a chance to explain herself and offer a different perspective. She was also correct a lot, making big claims which most often came true. Angelina was a villain, but not a one-note villain, and that is why I felt confident she was in it for the long-haul rather than an early OTTN boot such as Natalie.
However, with the finale approaching, Angelina’s edit stepped up a gear into all-out OTTN territory. It started last week and it continued in a major way across the finale. Now, again, Angelina still got to talk us through everything she was doing, and the reasons why, but her actions were so OTT that it wasn’t enough to balance things out. The entire idol search sequence in itself is pure OTT material and it took up a significant portion of the episode. From losing the clue, getting stuck at the top of a (100ft!) cliff, faking tears, pretending that she’d fallen, claiming on more than one occasion that she almost died, enlisting the help of Nick and a tipsy Mike to help her find the idol, it was glorious hilarity.
The idol-find also tied up a loose thread from back in the premiere when Angelina talked about hoping to boost the stat of women finding idols. Angelina has mentioned the disparity between men and women on Survivor a couple of times throughout the season, and while I initially took this as a broader theme, it seems now that it related specifically to Angelina. While she got credit for the idol at Final Tribal, the scene here was also played for laughs, and slightly undermined, with Angelina literally saying she needed some “man-power” to help find it.
Angelina’s descent into OTT villainy did not stop there. There was also the talk of feeling like a “mob boss,” plus the whole fake idol plot that she concocted in an attempt to fool Alison on her way out. Mike called her “crazy” and “evil” and referred to her as “a cruel psychopath,” “a diabolical villain,” and “Diary of a Mad Freaking Castaway.” She was also called out on a few of her big claims at the Final Tribal Council, like the 100 ft cliff climb and the constant mentioning of winning rice.
It’s hard to look past the OTT nature of her finale edit, but she did also receive some credit for fighting her way to the end. It was acknowledged at Final Tribal that she was in a tough spot after she was caught manipulating Elizabeth for her jury vote, and did well to recover from that and forge a path to the end. She was also praised by some members of the jury, specifically Gabby, for playing an aggressive game as a woman on Survivor, something which is often met with negative perceptions. That said, Angelina did not receive a single vote, and therefore it’s difficult to say that these compliments undid any of her previous OTTN content.
I went back and forth on Angelina’s overall season rating. Initially, I was thinking CPN because of how much she got to explain and defend her actions earlier in the season. But when thinking about the casual perception of Angelina, and how the majority of people would remember her in a year from now, I felt like she had to be OTTN. She will be remembered for her attempted jacket-heist, jury pandering, rice negotiating, and the funniest idol search in Survivor history. People will forget about the nuanced parts of her edit, but they will never forget about Angelina, who was one of the biggest stars of the season (with the most overall confessionals).
Mike was one of the edits that I struggled with this season, at least pre-merge. Even though he was quite often CP, it didn’t feel like we truly got to know Mike as a person in those first few weeks, not to mention he was quite often undermined or contradicted. That made it hard for me to place him within the narrative and I expected him to be booted on a few separate occasions.
It wasn’t until Episode 8 when he had his walk on the beach, and talk of “just wanting to make it to the end,” that Mike’s edit finally clicked for me. He was making it to the finale and very possibly the Final Tribal Council. That explained his consistent visibility and string of CP ratings. But I never saw him as a winning edit. He had been undermined and proved wrong far too often – most prominently in that same episode where he claimed Carl and Davie would never be able to mount an insurrection. I never expected Mike would be the runner-up after those first few episodes, but as the merge rolled on, it made complete sense.
His big CP edit and take down of Christian in Episode 13 appeared to set him up as a late contender for the title. With Angelina descending into OTTN territory, the edit needed to present at least some competition for Nick, to make the Final Tribal Council as tense as possible. Mike continued to look strong in the first half of the finale. He sort of got partial credit for finding the idol, as he found the missing clue, and spotted the area in the rock wall where the idol was hidden, all while holding a glass of wine and calling tree branches “bitches.” He also orchestrated the vote against Davie, taking the control away from Nick and making the best move for his individual game. Things looked even better for Mike after Nick threw a temper tantrum back at camp following the Davie blindside.
However, even with all of that, it never felt like Mike was a serious contender for the crown. His content prior to Episode 13 just wasn’t strong enough to amount to a winning edit. And while this episode told us that everyone loved Mike, and he was praised for his impeccable social game, we also saw him stoop to petty insults, especially towards Alison at the Final 5 Tribal Council. He questioned her “dignity” when she called him out as a big threat and tried to turn the vote against him. Mike did later apologize for this at Final Tribal, but it was still a bad look, and partly responsible for his Mixed tone.
In a way, Mike kind of had a journey edit. He talked about wanting to come on the show to push himself and see how he faired; to take every moment and live it to his fullest. “I felt alive out here,” he said. His time on the show taught him a lesson to “leave it all out on the island” and he was going to take that approach back home into his everyday life. He did say that he came to win, not just make it to the end, and I think that was reflected in his edit in the past couple of episodes. But ultimately, Mike’s story was about the “adventure.” He summed his edit up beautifully at Final Tribal when he said: “They say every rainbow has a pot of gold at the end, and for me, it was never about the pot of gold, it’s about the rainbow.”
Overall, I’ve rated Mike as CP for the season. He did have a sprinkling of tone at various stages of the game, but never to the extent that it left a lasting impression one way or another. What we did see was Mike’s game and reasons for being out there. We heard a lot of strategy from Mike and always knew what he was thinking about a vote, even in the episodes where he didn’t particularly play a huge part in the outcome. The way his edit bloomed in the past two episodes cemented his CP rating in my eyes.
I talked a lot about Nick in the season summary, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much here. But I do want to touch on his finale rating and how it matched his season premiere. Nick started this season as CPM and closed it out in the same way. And that is how I see Nick’s overall rating for the season. While Nick certainly had his moments of positivity, and at times represented that David underdog spirit, the edit didn’t shy away from showing his flaws either.
In the finale, we saw multiple sides of Nick. The “giving” player that brought his closest allies Angelina and Mike on reward, and helped Angelina find the idol, allowing her to climb the ladder to retrieve it. We saw “angry” Nick, the “little boy” who threw a temper tantrum when Davie was blindsided. “He’s like a child that didn’t know he signed up for the game of Survivor,” Kara said. Then we saw underdog Nick, the last remaining David, having to win Immunity to stay alive. We don’t know for sure if Nick would have been voted out had he not won Immunity, but we did hear Mike saying that he should probably get him out of here before Nick comes after him.
Looking back now, it appears that some of the moments I considered flaws in Nick’s edit, could actually be perceived as part of the give/take theme and the David underdog story. Every time he was blindsided or made a mistake or didn’t get his way. Usually, those kinds of things look really bad for a potential winner because, throughout the history of Survivor, winners are nearly always presented to be in the right or protected when not. But this season was built around a theme of the underdog overcoming the odds, so when Nick was highlighted this way, it only added to his narrative. And that was the case right from the season premiere when he was almost the first-one-out.
“Each new day I get out here is a blessing because I was only supposed to get three. So I’m either going to win or I’m going to die trying,” he said in the second episode after he realized how close he came to being eliminated. From that moment on, Nick fought his way from the bottom, whether it was the dark days of Jabeni or being outnumbered at the merge or losing his allies Carl and Davie. Nick’s narrative was a player who never stopped trying and he ultimately overcame the odds to snatch the win.
That’s it for this season of Edgic! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.