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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What did this episode tell us?
The season finale was a culmination of many of the Edgic threads that we’ve been following throughout the season. Themes of humility, connections, disproving misconceptions, millennials vs. gen x, personal growth, dreams, were all present. The top contenders (Adam, David, Jay) remained the top contenders going into the episode, and within the episode itself, as the longshots (Bret, Hannah, Ken) proved to be exactly that.
The edit told us, leading up to this episode, that Jay, and more specifically David, were the biggest threats left in the game. This was hammered home by the players themselves every single week. It’s why we finished David’s section last episode saying, “David seems to be the one to beat going into the finale.” He WAS the one to beat; the other players continually told us that, and he needed to be taken out for the others (specifically Adam) to win. That was one of the big stories of the finale – can Adam take out David? Adam was the main proponent of taking out Jay and David in the finale, and as an audience, we knew he was right to want them out.
Ultimately, Adam, a millennial, won. Despite David’s big edit, Adam’s win made sense given the way this season started. The premiere and the pre-merge gave much more focus and complexity to the Millennials tribe. As we said in our Episode 1 Edgic:
“For a tribe not to attend tribal but still receive that much care and detail it suggests more long-term value in the players that are part of this tribe. It gives a better chance that the season’s biggest characters will be from this tribe. Also, there’s an excellent chance it means the winner is from this tribe, although it’s too early to go all in on that summation.”
The season’s biggest characters, other than David, did indeed come from the Millennials tribe (Adam, Hannah, Jay, Zeke, Michaela, Taylor), and one of them did indeed go on to win.
The season recap summed up the edit of each player in bullet point form and told us what would happen in the finale:
“Adam – this Survivor superfan has won challenges, found an idol, and a reward steal. The only thing left to do is win for his mom.”
It basically said that Adam had done everything you can in this game (all the checkboxes), and all that was left for him to do was win for his mom. “My mom told me ‘You can do anything that you set your mind to’ and I set my mind to winning this game. I’m going to finalize that dream.” It was the only clear winner quote by any of the final six in this intro.
“Jay – since the merge he’s managed to avoid the vote, now without an idol to protect him, he is vulnerable. Can he win his way to the end or will he finally have his torch snuffed?”
The story of Jay was that of the underdog that could easily win if he made it to the end but he’d have to scrape and claw his way to make it there. He would have to “win” his way to the end due to how big of a threat he’d become.
“Hannah – early in the game she suffered a panic attack while merely watching a challenge, but she has matured into a dangerous player. If she makes it to the end will her resume be strong enough to convince the jury?”
While Hannah got credit for her plays, the question at the end signaled that Hannah’s resume wasn’t going to be strong enough to convince the jury. She was also undermined within her own section: though she thinks she’s “never been more focused than ever in her life,” she was then easily distracted by minutiae like her armpit hair. “Wait, is my armpit hair out?”
“Bret – the likable Boston police sergeant, his game has focused on relationships, and he has a lot of friends on the jury. If he can survive the last three votes it could be worth a million dollars.”
Bret was the least likely to win going into the finale based on edit, and this quote pretty much told us why. He was likable Uncle Bret, sometimes brash but also funny and relatable. But we never really got much game depth, and his edit was too quiet throughout to suggest a win. The fact it mentioned his friends on the jury gave a reason why he would be targeted. “You’re hungry. There’s no food. You’re starving. I swear to god I’m digesting my spleen right now. Just get me to the final three where I can rip them absolutely apart!” It was OTT and funny but not a winning quote.
“Ken – a single father playing for his daughter and with the legacy advantage in his pocket, he has at least one edge on everyone else. Ken has never strayed from his alliance with David but will being loyal pay off in the end?”
While Ken got some personal insight, which was great, and also set-up why he ultimately voted out David, this quote told us that Ken’s whole game was about his loyalty to David and that it wouldn’t pay off in the end. Even though he did eventually turn on David, his loyalty based game was brought up at Final Tribal Council (FTC), and it wasn’t respected.
“David – a self-described ‘fearful, neurotic oddball’ has transformed into a strategic powerhouse. Ironically, his impressive gameplay is now his biggest obstacle.”
David received a huge swell of hero music that none of the others received in this intro. His section called him the “strategic powerhouse” of the season, but it signaled to us that his “impressive gameplay” would cause him to fall short of making the end. He’d become the biggest threat in the game.
What are we meant to take from all this? It pretty much told us that Ken and Hannah would make it to the end, but both lose. That David was the MVP of the season, but Adam, the worthy superfan playing for his mom, would ultimately win it all.
in order of elimination.
This episode continued the storyline of Jay being a threat who needed to be taken out as soon as he lost immunity, and he left the game the way he played it: having fun, being a good sport, and making everyone smile. We said last week that Jay was a contender going into the finale but that he had lots of flaws in his edit (failing to make fire, being wrong on multiple occasions). While we felt there was enough good content to mask these shortcomings, ultimately Jay fell on the losing end.
He started the episode upset that he played his idol and wanted to start looking for a new one right away. He found David’s fake idol and instantly reverted to cocky Jay, calling the others “fools,” “bitches,” “train of losers,” “how stupid they didn’t see this.” Even though there was a light-heartedness to his tone, we were shown insult after insult, hammering it home so that there was no mistaking it for negative overconfidence. Even when he played it at tribal council, he said, “You guys can chase me, but you gotta be quicker than that.” David was quicker than that, “caught the fish” that is Jay, and Jay went home.
The other way in which Jay was “caught” this episode was that he didn’t cover his combination lock at the immunity challenge, enabling others to copy his numbers and catch up to him. Even Jeff acknowledged that Jay lost the challenge because of this mistake. And the edit included his final words, “That was a million dollar lock combination,” as if to lend one last nod of support to the notion.
Upon leaving the game, he showed a great attitude despite being tricked by the idol, he laughed, said he “had fun,” and everyone laughed along and hugged him. All this plus the positive SPV of what a threat Jay was plus his emotional scene with Adam gave us his P tone.
During the episode, Jay used the reward steal advantage gifted to him by Adam. He chose David and Adam to join him, listing “honorable” seeming reasons. However, as soon as they sat to the steak meal, it was also clear that Jay’s reasons for bringing those two were more strategic in nature. He pitched David as the other biggest threat left in the game to shield each other to the end. Adam was the next biggest threat after these two, and later he also pitched Adam on their emotional connection. David had a confessional lending credibility to Jay’s game plan. All this landed Jay his CP for the episode.
Jay’s overall season rating is CPM. He started out as a bro in the Triforce alliance who formed his connections based on who’s “hot.” Throughout the season, he chipped away at that reputation as a legitimate strategic force in the game and a warrior in challenges who was capable of emotionally connecting with people beyond looks. He’ll be remembered for his aggressive move taking out Michaela and the dramatic scene at tribal council that ensued between them. He’ll be remembered as someone who had fun with the experience, laughing even as Probst put out his torch. He’ll be remembered for winning loads of challenges. And he’ll be remembered for his unlikely emotional connection with Adam. This is as strategic and well-rounded as characters get on Survivor.
While Bret was a genuine threat to win within the game itself, edgically he was an absolute long-shot. His overall visibility for the season was low, and he wasn’t as fleshed out a character as many of the other players, especially those in the final six.
In the finale, Bret was the likable, funny Greek chorus. He was the audience’s voice screaming from the rooftops to vote out the threats, David and Jay. He called people–namely Hannah and Ken–crazy over and over for not making the obvious, correct “easy easy easy” moves. When he was voted out, Bret said, “The flipper flips again,” referring to Hannah who had turned on Adam. Perhaps his most OTT moment was at the start of the episode when he compared not taking out David to the Navy Seals not taking out Osama Bin Laden.
There was also a lot of talk of Bret as a threat to win; David said Bret had a lot of friends on the jury and called him the “most likable guy in this game,” with Hannah validating, “that’s true.” It not only set up reasons for Bret’s boot, but it summed up his character as “a likable guy.”
His overall rating for the season is OTT. Though most of the season he was MOR or UTR with a few CPs sprinkled in, his lasting impression as a character will be the sometimes brash but always fun, likable guy who got drunk at rewards and preached the truth in the end game to vote out the threats, hilariously. Good old, Uncle Bret.
The finale told us that David was the MVP of the season and that he only didn’t win because he was too good. The recap played swelling hero music just for David. It called him “a self-described fearful, neurotic oddball transformed into a strategic powerhouse.” But ultimately he lost because “his impressive gameplay is now his biggest obstacle.” He wasn’t able to overcome that last obstacle. While David was the one to beat heading into the finale, last week we questioned “is a David win too obvious now? Is he just a growth arc?” It turned out to be true even though the edit certainly wanted us to believe David was the winner going into the finale.
Throughout the episode, even into FTC, everyone continually talked about David as the biggest threat of the season. He was such the representation of a kingpin that other people got negative tone for not voting him out and therefore looking foolish. Adam summarized it best at tribal council, “He has such a beautiful story out here. On day one, he was scared of birds. And now, he’s won individual immunity a couple times, has made people smile, made people laugh, made people cry.” All of this was said fondly and respectfully with shots of the jury agreeing, leading to David’s P tone for the episode.
His theme of humility and being gracious continued this episode. Though Jay stole his reward, he thanked Jay profusely for bringing him along. He said in confessional that “Ken and Hannah saved me,” doling out credit to his allies. After being voted out, he told his tribe “Vinaka” (thank you in Fijian) for the experience. He also said, “In a way, I really did win,” because he was so grateful to have had the opportunity to play and grew so much as a person throughout the season.
He slipped on this theme just once, in the tribal council he was voted out. Adam talked about what a threat David is, and David finally “admits it.” David said he played a better game than Adam, and as Adam then put David on a pedestal, holding his hand high representing Dave’s level of gameplay, David moved Adam’s hand higher. It was a fun moment pandering to the jury, but it was in stark contrast to the way he played the entire rest of the game. Not enough to register N tone, but enough to give us pause as to whether he’d survive this tribal…which he didn’t.
His fake idol was a double-edged sword for his edit this episode. On the one hand, he never rested on his laurels (his allies) and always felt he had to do more to stay in the game. Zeke had a quote back in Episode 8 that we highlighted as a Survivor mantra: “In a game for a million dollars, you have to practice a little delayed gratification because it might cost you a million dollars down the line.” Here, David exemplified this quote by delaying sleep to further his game. How’d this fake idol further his game? Jay was on the hunt for an idol. We later learned that an idol was, in fact, reburied. Jay, however, found David’s fake one first and therefore stopped searching for the real one.
On the flip side, David was shown saying no fewer than three times that he didn’t believe there was another idol in the game, which we knew to be wrong wrong wrong. He had been wrong a few times since the merge but never as blatant and persistently as about this tidbit. Though he didn’t end up needing that idol because he made it to the final four, it very nearly came back to bite him…had Adam just not told Hannah about the idol. Regardless, it was all very strategic. This combined with his talks with Jay plus always starting the voting plan discussion to Ken and Hannah kept David in CP territory for the finale.
David, along with his “winner’s edit,” highlighted all the qualities Survivor is always lauding as most valuable to winning this game. He made genuine, deep connections with people to maneuver in the game, plus always showed humility and sensitivity towards others. He made Big Movez™ by playing his idol for other people twice, forcing the game to rocks, and even making a believable fake idol. His edit is the embodiment of a CP Survivor player. He is CPM for the entire season because of his growth arc as well, starting out afraid of birds and chopping sounds, and ending up the “strategic powerhouse” of the season.
Ken had such a strong pre-merge edit, but the merge all but killed his winner chances with near invisibility and negativity. Last week, Will said,”If Ken somehow gets to the end, not even a contest,” implying that Ken would have no chance of winning and that proved true in the finale. His game of loyalty, which the recap reminded us about, wasn’t a respected strategy by the jury. He didn’t receive much depth in this episode – challenge wins, loyalty, daughter. Just soundbites with no real expansion on his thoughts, hence the MOR rating.
At FTC, Chris gave credit to Adam for getting Ken to flip on David, brushing off Ken’s claims that it was his own decision. It called back to Jay’s comments last week after the immunity challenge, “ is so full of s**t. Adam helped him. He didn’t win that thing.” This has been a recurring theme throughout the season and one that we admittedly didn’t focus on as much as we should have done. As early as Episode 3, Ken tried targeting Paul, but failed, and it wasn’t until Jessica took control that the Paul blindside happened. In Episode 4, Ken wanted to take out Lucy, but he messed up by spilling the plan to Jessica (foreshadowing his blunder with Will later in the season), and instead David took control with his idol. In Episode 6, Jessica had to literally tell Ken word for word what he needed to say to Adam to get him on their side. We said at the time, “Maybe it’s bad for Ken that we were shown Jessica as the one telling him what to say, but this was most likely to continue the story of Jessica owing Ken.” It seems that story was much more about Ken than it was Jessica.
What protected Ken from these negatives early on was his humility and connections (mainly with David). He was often shown to be humble and respectful, both positive signs in this season. But even those aspects of his character began to slip. He never thanked Adam for helping him last week, and in this episode, he overly celebrated after winning immunity, and back at camp said, “Sorry, I’m usually a very humble winner.” It was good that he apologized and acknowledged it, but the fact that his humility was slipping pointed to a bad ending for Ken.
Even though Ken started this season showing respect to the Millennials and telling us not to underestimate them, he was unable to transcend his own Gen X stereotypes. At FTC he admitted to been perhaps too rigid and set in his ways – calling back to his speech about language and vinyl records in Episode 3. Survivor is about adaptability; it’s something Probst pushes at tribal council. While Ken was able to appreciate the Millennial way, he was unable to adapt to it, not until right at the end when he blindsided David, but it wasn’t enough, and he didn’t even get credit for it.
His overall season rating is MORM. He had a season of two halves, a mostly CP pre-merge and a mostly UTR post-merge, evening out at MOR. We never received much strategic depth from Ken, and despite his early positivity, his late-game negativity created a mixed tone character overall.
As has been the case these past few episodes, despite Hannah controlling many votes, the edit kept questioning her decision making. On the surface level, she did indeed look like “a dangerous player,” as the recap stated, but the beneath-the-surface negatives told us that her resume wouldn’t be strong enough to convince the jury (also like the recap told us). While she always explained the reasoning behind her moves, what she lacked was perception, and that is what the edit continually told us would cost her.
Throughout the episode, Adam and Bret said that David was the biggest threat. As an audience, we knew they were right. “David is dangerous. He should have gone tonight because we still have Jay we need to worry about,” Bret said, as we all nodded in agreement. “Ok. Ok. That’s your opinion. My opinion is different,” was Hannah’s response. That summed up her post-merge game, not understanding the perception other people had of her game; instead, she felt “my opinion is different” would be enough to win them over in the end.
In the first tribal council of the night, Hannah said, “You could end up having no chance because you didn’t read the jury right.” She was talking about herself. This editing trick was used throughout the episode to highlight why Hannah would lose. Another example from later in the night, “Everyone feels like they have a game plan, and for some of us, we’re wrong.” Hannah’s game plan was the wrong one.
Later, when Adam told Hannah about his idol, in a scene which showed them holding hands and laughing (demonstrating the closeness of their relationship), Hannah mischaracterized Adam as “bragging” when that wasn’t what we saw. She wanted to be the one in power and opted for a personal choice (voting out Bret) over the one the edit depicted as correct and strategic (voting out David). Hannah explained her decision to Adam (she felt Bret wouldn’t take her to the end), then Adam countered, saying Ken would most likely win the final immunity. Adam was right, Ken did win final immunity, although Ken did ultimately flip, it required effort to make it happen.
“I’ve been one of the more loyal players. That’s why they all thought I was an idiot last night,” Hannah told Ken. Another example of Hannah not recognizing the perception others had of her in the game. The jury didn’t see her as loyal. Bret literally called her a “flipper” on his way out. She then contradicted herself in a confessional, when she said: “It’s so frustrating because Ken is all about trust and honor even when it’s not the smartest game move.” Also, that frustration is what Adam and Bret had been feeling towards Hannah for the past few weeks.
Those were all the signs that Hannah wouldn’t win in front of a jury. But the edit did build her up as a decoy winner, and now it’s clear why – they didn’t want to make the FTC result so obvious. We needed to believe Hannah was a somewhat credible contender.
Hannah was always allowed to explain her strategy, she was edited as controlling votes, and Probst even lauded her. In this episode itself, Probst told us reasons why Hannah should be considered a threat – started out taking forever to vote. Now marches to vote with authority. Panic attack while watching a challenge. Now almost beats Ken in one. The edit was still trying to make Hannah appear like a credible threat while simultaneously showing us why she would lose. It’s why we never heard much SPV about Hannah in confessionals because clearly, based on FTC, people didn’t respect her game, but the edit protected her from that during the season.
At FTC, when Adam called her moves “blunders,” she responded, “But they were not blunders. They were my choices.” It was a reflection of how the jury saw her game (blunderous) versus how she saw her game (strategic choices). It became irrelevant that she was the one making moves because, in the eyes of the jury, they were wrong moves, and the edit had set us up to agree with that thinking. As we said back in Episode 2, during her coconut chopping scene, “It was messy. She wasn’t good at it. But she got the job done.” That was pretty much her whole season in a nutshell (or coconut shell) – she was messy, made bad choices, but she eventually got to the end – but the jurors didn’t want to reward the messiness. Hence her CPM overall rating.
Fitting the Theme
“We’re going to prove a lot of people wrong about their misconceptions about millennials,” Adam said in his very first confessional of the season back in Episode 1. It’s a theme that has cropped up throughout the season, mainly via Adam, but also Jay too. It’s why we said last week that “if this proves to be the most important theme of the season, then an Adam or Jay win would be more likely than a David win.” In the end, it was Adam who came out on top, and this theme was approached directly in his answer to Sunday’s question at FTC:
“What you have in front of you, the Gen X of Survivor, who may have done very well in Season 1 of this game. And then you have the other side of that, someone who was switching things up to the point where her allies weren’t sure what she was going to do at tribal council. You know, I do think I’m a combination of both.”
Not only did this tell us why Ken and Hannah would lose, but it showed Adam to be a mix of Millennial and Gen X qualities, not tied to the stereotypes of his generation. Back in our very first Edgic of the season, when discussing themes, we said “It was interesting to look at who was all about their generation and who rejected it. And, perhaps more importantly, those who exhibited qualities of both.” Adam was one of the small few shown to be accepting of their generation but also showing respect to the other. “Adam was also proud to be Millennial and was hoping to disprove misconceptions, but after the Millennials tribe had failed with the shelter night one, he praised the Gen X work ethic.”
Adam stuck to this theme throughout whereas others slipped. In the first episode, Ken also showed respect to the Millennial generation, calling them “sharp” and not to be “underestimated,” but over the season he swayed too far into old Gen X qualities (rigid, stuck in his ways). Hannah, on the other hand, was too impulsive and playing moment-to-moment. Adam flipped when he needed too, but also held back when necessary. In the end, he proved to be more than a head-in-the-clouds Millennial, he was a dreamer but also a worker, playing for his family.
The Biggest Threats
Outside of the recap, Adam didn’t make his debut in the finale until after the first immunity challenge. Jay took him on the reward — with some mild positive SPV because Jay said Adam played the advantage “fairly.” Though Jay and David did most of the talking during the reward scene, it set Adam up as the third biggest threat left in the game, meaning, if Jay and David were voted out, Adam would win.
This became Adam’s primary strategic theme of the episode: trying to vote out the biggest threats Jay and David from the game, which was supported by the edit and the juror reactions as the right move. We had been told continually over the past few weeks that Jay, and more specifically David, were the biggest threats, so when Hannah and Ken went out of their way to save David, we were meant to be right there with Adam thinking, “What are you doing?!” As he had been throughout the season, Adam remained the reliable narrator and mouthpiece for the audience.
Adam even gave “up (his) shot at immunity just to make sure (David) doesn’t win.” Though he was thwarted at times, he was credited for trying to make the correct move. Adam told David straight to his face that if he didn’t vote him out, “I end up in 3rd place over 4th. I’m not here for that. The only way I have any kind of chance whatsoever is if you (David) go home,” and the edit supported this as true. Adam was playing to win, which Probst has lauded all season as the only way to play. David also called Adam strategic.
Adam did finally get his way and voted out both Jay and David. But it was a little surprising when Chris attributed full credit to Adam at FTC for getting Ken to vote out David. However, upon examining the sequence of events leading up to Ken’s vote, the edit does somewhat support this claim, albeit rather subtly.
Hannah was the one shown chatting to Ken at camp before tribal, but at this point, the edit showed Ken standing by his loyalty to David right up until tribal council. At tribal, David and Adam went head to head trying to sway Ken. David played to Ken’s loyalty, and Adam counter-pitched that it was more important to win the game for Ken’s family than to stay loyal to David. That was the last argument we saw on the matter going into the vote where Ken did vote out David. So when Ken later used this (Adam’s) same argument to the jury as to why he flipped on David, it makes a little bit more sense why Chris gave the credit to Adam.
Not Negative Enough
There were some oddly negative moments for Adam in the finale. When he was searching for the idol, he tripped goofily. Perhaps foreshadowing Adam proverbially tripping on his idol play, telling Hannah about it causing her to change the vote. Still, it was an odd inclusion in a winner’s coronation episode. When saying how he’d play the idol strategically, he said Ken and David were “going to look stupid. I have complete power over this vote,” a classic downfall quote, and perhaps Adam’s first time being categorically wrong as a narrator this season.
Then we saw Adam telling Hannah about his idol. When he told her, they were shown holding hands and laughing and celebrating. They appeared close. This was immediately undercut by a Hannah confessional where she said, “Adam brags to me and goes, ‘I have an idol. Vote out David.'” It was jarring to the audience because the words were harsh but we also saw the scene with our own eyes, and Adam neither bragged nor commanded Hannah whom to vote for. He was arrogant in his confessional but not towards Hannah. Thus, it was Hannah who was undermined (editorially) by her own words, not Adam, saving him from any overt N-tone for the episode.
It follows what we’ve been saying throughout the past few weeks, that even when other players spoke poorly about Adam, the edit did not back them up. He wasn’t damned with negative b-roll (like when players are shown sleeping for example). Yes, he was shown to be blunderous and messing up relationships at times, causing people to question him as a teammate, but he proved effective at turning around people’s opinions. He proved he was a team player when playing his idol for Hannah. He overcame Jay’s disdain for him and won him over as a brother. Even Taylor voted for him to win in the end.
Playing for Mom
There was a lot of coverage of Adam’s storyline with his mother this episode. It’s a story that was introduced in Episode 4 and has been present throughout the season. The recap reminded us that all Adam had left to do in this game was win for his mother. He did even more than that. He found another idol, “two idols for you mom, how’s that sound?” Very reminiscent of Jeremy Collins finding two idols for his wife, Val. All of this was to bring joy to his mom, as he told us in a confessional. At FTC, he told Jay he couldn’t bring him to the end because Jay knew what he was playing for (his mom). Adam then announced to everyone what he was playing for at the very end of FTC in answer to David’s question. All of this — and our empty box of kleenex at home — gave Adam’s his P tone for the episode.
Adam’s overall rating for the season is CPM. He was a top contender pre-merge, the reliable narrator with solid personal content and a clear objective (to win for his mom). Then he had the post-merge doubt, back-to-back negative episodes that made us believe he would struggle to win over a jury. But like he told us in Episode 3, we should never count him out: “Now I’m gonna have to play from the bottom, and it’s going to take a lot of work to, uh, get back into a position of power. But I wouldn’t count me out. I think I can get back up to the top again.” He eventually crept back up, redeemed himself, and eventually pulled out the win. His win was depicted as messy and with roadblocks along the way, but worthy, hard-earned, and certainly emotional.
That’s it for another season of Edgic. A big thanks to Shirin Oskooi for all her help. And, of course, a huge thank you to all the readers and commenters. See you in March for Game Changers!