Hello all, welcome to the Edit Bay, a swanky island resort located just south of the Edge of Extinction. As you may know, I’ve decided not to write Edgic this season due to a mix of fatigue and not having the time or desire to do a deep dive edit analysis on a season with the EOE in play. However, because readers have been asking for some form of edit-based content, I’ve decided to create the Edit Bay as a happy compromise. I won’t be assigning ratings or breaking down every character, instead, I will offer some “hot takes,” if you will, on the narrative arcs and top winner contenders.
LIONS VS. HYENAS — This storyline was put on the backburner for a couple of weeks, but you always knew it would return, given the amount of focus it had earlier in the season. Again, it was Tony leading the narrative, talking about the threat of the hyenas teaming up and taking out the lions in the home stretch. It’s this reasoning that explains the targeting of Michele and Nick in the latest episode.
With Nick eliminated, it leaves Michele as the last remaining hyena, while Tony obviously stands out as the main lion. At this point, with Michele as the lone hyena, it means we can rule out a conclusion involving the hyena pack devouring the lions. That is unless a “lesser threat” returns from the Edge.
What we do have, though, is a potential underdog story for Michele as the last hyena standing. Could it be a winning story? It’s not impossible, but I find it unlikely, given Michele’s post-merge edit. That said, I expect the lions vs. hyena narrative to continue in the season finale.
FIRE TOKENS REPRESENT YOUR LIFE — The last day for spending fire tokens has come and gone. In the previous episode, we saw Nick pay a whopping eight tokens for a chance to disadvantage Ben in the Immunity Challenge. Despite using the advantage, Nick didn’t follow through with targeting Ben and ended up getting blindsided himself. There was definitely some irony here, as Nick was the person in the premiere that talked about using fire tokens correctly to find success.
On the other side of the coin, there is Natalie, the Queen of the Edge. Natalie has been a mascot for the fire tokens from the start, and if anyone has used them to her advantage, it’s the San Juan del Sur champ. “All I care about is getting fire tokens,” she said in the latest episode. And boy, did she get her hands on tokens… 14 in total.
Using her tokens to purchase multiple challenge advantages, an idol, and a jar of peanut butter, Natalie is the odds on favorite to return. I will be shocked if it’s anyone else. It makes sense edit-wise, with Natalie being the representative of correctly using tokens. But even beyond the edit, she is a challenge beast with three advantages in the BuyBack challenge. How do you bet against that?
GOTTA GET TONY — Surprisingly, Tony’s name wasn’t even on the chopping block at the past two Tribal Councils, despite having no Immunity necklace. But there was one player who recognized the threat Tony poses. Michele told Sarah that nobody will beat Tony at the end, and so, he has to go. Sarah, though, kind of laughed it off to the rest of the group.
This ties back into the Lions vs. Hyenas story, with Michele, the crafty hyena, being the one person looking to take down the lion, that being Tony. I would imagine Michele vs. Tony to be a big part of the last episode.
ENDURE & LET GO — Denise finally got some substantial post-merge content in the latest episode. She talked about how the game had been getting to her and how she had to learn to “endure and let go.” It was more of a personal story than a strategic one.
I also think it’s a strong sign that she is not winning. The whole “endure and let go” mantra means that Denise doesn’t have to win to succeed. She can still take something away from this experience, win, lose, or draw. It’s almost like she is accepting the defeat with grace. The endure portion could suggest she makes it to Day 39, but the let go part hints at failure, but a failure that will be accepted.
BEN’S SOCIAL GAME — This has been a simmering story from very early on in the season. Ben talked a lot about how he wanted to have a good social game this time around. He’s brought it up since then in several confessionals. But the edit has often undermined his so-called improved social game. We saw him rubbing Boston Rob and Adam the wrong way in the pre-merge, and post-merge, he beefed with Jeremy.
Is the story that Ben’s failure to improve his social game will cost him? If he’s sitting at the Final Tribal, will the jury rip him apart?
COPS R US — As suspected, the season’s most prominent alliance is finale bound. Sarah and Tony have had their ups and downs along the way, but they’ve managed to stick together. Tony made a promise back in Episode 2 that he’d remain loyal to Sarah this time around and make it up to her for his betrayal in Cagayan. And, despite the Sophie vote, he’s stuck to his word, even offering to play his idol for her.
For her part, Sarah has stayed loyal to Tony, even when his actions have annoyed or worried her. It has always been about Cops R Us first, fighting to the end, and battling it out to see who is the better player. The pair cemented that in the latest episode as they reminisced about their journey across three seasons. “You won one, I won one,” Sarah said. “Tie-breaker,” replied Tony.
It really does seem like we’re heading for a Cops R Us showdown. And it seems unlikely that one will turn on the other at this stage. The question is, though, does the showdown take place at the Final Tribal Council? Or could the face-off in fire? Tony brought up the latter option in this episode, so it’s definitely on the table. There is one other option, and that could be Tony falling on his sword for Sarah. For example, Tony could play his idol to save Sarah and wind up getting voted out himself. I feel like that is the least likely of the three options, but it’s certainly possible, even if fire or the FTC battle is more realistic.
BEN, SARAH, & TONY — These three have been working together for a while now. But it wasn’t until this past episode where we heard of their Final 3 deal. I could see this FTC configuration being a possibility, with Sarah and Tony duking it out while Ben is brushed aside by the jury due to his failure of a social game. But it’s perhaps a little too clean. And after the Denise, Michele, & Nick Final 3 alliance went nowhere last week, it’s probably not a good idea to put faith in a F3 mentioned out of the blue this late into the season.
BEN, DENISE, & SARAH — The same can be said about this grouping. Denise broached the subject of going to the end together while Tony was listening from his Spy Nest. The fact that Tony overheard Denise’s plan and talked to Sarah about it, most likely suggests this is also a dead-end of an alliance.
Next week will see the first battle back challenge of the season. Who will return? Well, let’s have a look at the contenders.
Who will return from the Edge and make up the Final 6? As I said earlier, I’d be shocked if it was anyone other than Natalie. Perhaps early on in the season, you could argue her air-time was circumstantial. She kept finding tokens and advantages, so, of course, she would get content. But, likewise, all those tokens and advantages are what make her the favorite to win the BuyBack challenge.
The other thing is, Natalie’s edit has been great outside of just dominating the EOE tasks. They didn’t need to show so many of the castaways showering Natalie with praise. “She’s a machine,” ” a Terminator,” “the Queen of the Edge.” And then there are little things like asking for good vibes from her baby niece. If Natalie didn’t return, I could see all those things being left aside. She could have just been a mouthpiece to explain the tokens and advantages, but there was personal content and positivity on top of that.
I don’t think this is going to be a Chris Underwood situation, where an underedited player comes back into the game. I said it way back, but this is Season 40, the all-winners season. The person coming back at the end will be edited as being worthy of returning. So, if it was a quieter player that came back, say Amber or Danni, I still think the edit would have focused on them a lot more, even if they weren’t winning tokens, etc.
The only other possibility that I could consider is Tyson. We did get the scene where Natalie bought him an idol, and he talked about fighting to get back and how if he did, he would win. I still think it’s a longshot, however. This scene seemed more about Natalie than it did Tyson. The Edge of Extinction, along with the fire tokens, is Natalie’s story.
And so, it’s come to this, we’re down to our Final 5, soon to be Final 6, and a champion of champions is about to be crowned. As I said last week, the contenders are pretty much narrowed down to Tony or Sarah. In fact, I think things are even more set in stone than before.
Last week, there was an outside possibility of the hyenas taking over when we suddenly had a mention of a Denise, Michele, and Nick final three alliance. The alliance had no immediate impact in that episode, which felt strange. So I considered whether it was set up for this episode, with the three coming together to topple the majority.
Of course, that didn’t happen. There was no real mention of this trio, outside of Tony worrying they may come together. But as we saw, Denise was firm with the Tony/Sarah/Ben alliance. And Nick once again voted opposite to Michele, leading to her giving him a grilling back at camp. After all this, it basically ruled out the hyenas coming out on top.
Even if Michele goes on an underdog run, I still don’t see her winning. She’s had a solid story, especially in the pre-merge. A large part of her narrative was about proving herself, showing that she deserved her first win. But that screams journey edit, to me at least. And her post-merge edit was massively inconsistent, particularly the conclusion to her storyline with Wendell. And there were important moments where we didn’t hear her perspective, such as at the Tyson vote. If Michele was the winner, I feel like we’d have heard more from her. Not to mention, she was on the original Sele tribe, and as a complex tribe believer, I have to go with the winner being from Dakal.
So, that leaves Tony and Sarah, at least, as far as those currently in the game. The whole season seems to have been leading to this Cops R Us showdown. Both are strong contenders, but the edit leans heavily in Tony’s favor. We’ve heard his perspective on the game and the dynamics far more often than Sarah. His premiere and merge episodes were far stronger than hers. And this episode sort of made Sarah look unaware of Tony’s threat level at a Final Tribal. While that might not be the reality, as I believe Sarah could probably give Tony a run for his money, the edit suggests that Sarah is mistaken for thinking she stands a chance.
Tony’s edit has been crafted from the start. He began by explaining how he had to contain himself… Tony on probation. He didn’t want to make himself a target by running into the jungle looking for idols. We saw him channeling his energy into other things, like building ladders and collecting fruit. These japes lowered the guards of his competitors and showed of his social, likable said, commented upon by several players throughout the season. All the while, he said he was waiting for his chance to deliver the sucker-punch.
After making the merge, he came alive, returning to the Tony of old—the frantic pace, the idol searches, the spy shacks, the flip-flopping. The question was whether this would be his downfall or he got the timing just right. As he heads into the finale, the signs look to be that he got the timing right. On top of all this, he has been the main proponent of the lions vs. hyenas narrative, which has been a central theme of the season. So, as crazy as it may have seemed pre-season, Tony heads into the final as the favorite to win it all.
The only other option is an Edge of Extinction wildcard. As mentioned, Natalie looks to be the favorite to return, and she has an edit big enough and positive enough to pull off the win. I’d like to think, though, that this all-winners season wouldn’t end with the first boot being crowned champion. Perhaps that is just me being an optimist, which is probably foolish given the state of 2020. And that’s not a knock on Natalie, who I enjoy as a player. I wouldn’t want anyone previously voted out winning, so I have to think and hope that Tony is taking this, and if not Tony, then Sarah.