What Do Former Players Think About The Edge of Extinction?

Former castaways share their thoughts on the controversial twist.

Photo: CBS

The Edge of Extinction may very well be the most controversial twist in Survivor history. The twist that allows eliminated players to live in limbo waiting for a shot to return while affecting and influencing the active game with advantages was first introduced in season 38 and has been the subject of much debate ever since. The heated discussion revolving around the EOE has only grown more intense since it was confirmed to be returning for the highly-anticipated all-winners season.

A large segment of the Survivor fanbase has reacted negatively to the EOE, many of them voicing their opinions on social media. In recent weeks, a small #EndtheEdgeofExtinction campaign has picked up steam on Twitter after The Hollywood Reporter’s Josh Wigler aired his critiques of the twist and its likelihood of becoming a permanent feature of Survivor. Meanwhile, host and executive producer Jeff Probst has continued to praise the EOE in interviews, suggesting it may be a staple of Survivor going forward.

But what about the people who have played Survivor? How do former castaways feel about the Edge of Extinction? Inside Survivor reached out to a broad range of former players, including those who played on the original Edge of Extinction season, to get their thoughts on the twist.

Karishma Patel, Survivor: Island of the Idols

There are certainly reasons to like the EOE twist. However, after weighing the pros and the cons, I come to the conclusion that the game is better without it. And therefore, I dislike it. Here is why.

Survivor is a game of strategy, strength, and luck. The almost impossible trick is finding the right balance. So watching someone play a great game of Survivor, it’s like magic. When you introduce a twist like EOE, it takes control out of the magicians’ hands … and as an audience, that is not fun to watch. We need to believe that what we see unfolding during the season, it was due to someone intelligently achieving an incredible balance of strategy, strength, and luck. And that is why we cheer when they are rewarded with a win. 

Now getting into the nitty-gritty of EOE, if a player is playing the game and knows EOE exists, suddenly every aspect of strategy, strength, and luck required to pull off the magic trick is changed. If you make it to the final 3, you may not be pleading your case to the exact same people who had a hand in voting you out. So how do you plead your case to someone who never even met you? There’s no magic there…. if they vote for you, it’s just by default (yawn). 

Also, EOE isn’t just colorless exile… it’s a second game identical to the real one, only this time there are no challenges or Tribal Council. That still leaves the single most important test on EOE—the social game. So how is it fun to watch two games playing simultaneously, one testing every aspect and the other only testing the social? Ultimately, the result is an uneven competition… leading to losing credibility. EOE messes with the integrity of the show at its core. 

There are positives to EOE, and that’s because so much of the game is based on luck. Sometimes the wrong person is voted out. Sometimes there’s a fluke hiccup in the magic trick, and poof, it’s over before it got to the best part. Meaning, because of luck, a really great player goes out too soon—and so EOE giving that player a second chance is like what we in real life always dream of getting if we were to make a “deadly” mistake. But as it doesn’t exist in reality, it should not exist in reality TV. The reason is that the person was chosen to be voted out by peers who rely on their victim (and the information that the victim possesses) to be removed from the game permanently. The possibility of that information making it back into the game, instead of remaining solely with the jury, damages the ability of players to play their hardest and get their “wins.” Instead, you can’t manipulate the same way anymore, knowing everyone has a chance to come back. Bottom line—you can’t play Survivor anymore.  

So even though EOE may give deserving players a second chance, the existence thereof renders “outwit, outplay, outlast” meaningless. And this is a very dangerous slippery slope for a show that is losing viewers each year as it is. People watch Survivor—old fans and new—for the long con… for the magicians using what we all have, our traits, to perform the trick and achieve every small “win” before the big one. The perfect balance. Adding elements like immunity idols or fire tokens doesn’t necessarily have to interrupt the game if maneuvered well by the players for a small “win” along the way. But EOE definitely does. And no one wants their show interrupted. No one. Not players, not viewers. 

Tai Trang, Survivor: Kaoh Rong

I love that the game of Survivor evolves and reinvents itself with each new season. It’s basically the same game since season 1 with the players learning from past seasons and the producers introducing new twists making it fresh and exciting to watch and play. 

I do like the Edge of Extinction twist. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to come back into the game after been voted off? And I agree with the show limiting the food and comforts on EOE, keeping those players at the same physical and mental distress as those in the game. 

However, the timing of when and how many players come back l think is crucial so that it’s fair to the remaining players and should be the major focus of the game. In season 38, Chris Underwood came back with 5 players left, almost guaranteeing him the final 4 fire-making [challenge]. It just seems way too late to get back in the game, giving him a huge advantage of an idol in addition to the strong relationships made with the jury during his stay on EOE. I think perhaps a player could come back a couple votes before the merge and another join just a few votes after the merge. This will give them enough time to play out the rest of the season and [is] more fair to the remaining players.

Don’t forget that the EOE players have already been voted off and are now given way too much power to influence and upset the game. Advantages and idols should be difficult to earn and find. It’s extremely challenging to take time and go search under the watchful eyes of others at the tribe. The power of found idols and advantages is the reward of this difficult and risky task. It just does not seem right to have them so easily gifted and suddenly show up in ones’ bag. 

As a past player and fan, I enjoy seeing the dynamics of personality and the finesse of play. Producers have to edit down 3 days footage to less than an hour per episode. We’re filmed 24/7, so much gameplay, side stories, and crazy fun things happen at camp that can’t be shown due to time limitations. The addition of EOE takes away even more time from the main storyline. As a viewer, I want to focus on the few remaining players rather than a larger cast with EOE. It’s exciting to see how the strategies, manipulations, and blindsides of our favorites play out. EOE players coming in nearing the final diminishes the work that the players have laid out throughout the season.

I do hope it’s just a one-off twist and would not want to see it all the time. If EOE becomes a regular feature, then Survivor becomes a different game. I would love to see it pop up at any returning player season, which offers the fans more time to spend with their favorites. I suppose I am old school and want a more pure and straightforward game. The first EOE was a fun twist and just needs some fine-tuning. I can’t wait to see how Jeff and the producers might tweak it for season 40. 

Victoria Baamonde, Survivor: Edge of Extinction

I personally do not like the EOE twist. Of course, that comes with some biases—it can be argued that without it, I had a very good shot at winning the game. Aside from that, however, my gut reaction to when EOE was announced on my season was instantaneous dread. As a player, and somewhat of a Survivor purist, I had always known that if I was out, then I was out. Survivor is typically a one-shot game. Trying to plan on having people reinsert themselves in the game was a layer I wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with. I know it meant a second chance for me as well, but honestly, being who I am physically, I never saw much of a chance for myself to reenter the game solely based on one challenge when I would have to go up against someone like Joe.

Of course, there are positives to EOE; I mean, just ask Rick and Chris. I think they can count a combined one million hundred thousand positives. But I personally do not think the positives outweigh the negatives. Sure, players have a chance to redeem themselves. But what does that look like for viewers? How does it contribute to the overall storyline? How is it fair for people who have played their ass off for 35 days to suddenly have to face someone they potentially have never met, who is armed with an idol and massive amounts of jury information and bonds?

If EOE is in every future season, I think viewers will be upset. It takes away from those big moments. A huge blindside is so much less fun if you have to watch the person who was voted out cry for the next 5 episodes. But then again, it allows for characters such as Reem to have a spotlight they never would have. So in some ways, audiences may enjoy it, but I can tell you the players aren’t keen on people who were voted out day 1 getting more air time than they did.

There’s definitely a way to make EOE more palatable. If we are sticking with 2 challenges, then those people who lose challenge 1 around merge time need to GO HOME. That’s it, one shot, you lose, and you’re done. Challenge 2 needs to be earlier, maybe final 8, MAX. And no damn idol for them!! Having the first round of people be sent home mitigates that jury bonding time. There is no opportunity for a Chris situation to happen again if the losers go home on day 17. And make EOE have more going on! Those advantage scrambles were awesome. The random gifting of an extra vote to someone in the game was weird. Either do more things like that or eliminate that aspect completely.

S38 Keith
Photo: CBS

Jonny Fairplay, Survivor: Pearl Islands, Micronesia

I think the verdict is still out on the Edge of Extinction. I feel the format does not work with new players, in that they don’t value the integrity of the game. Although I believe the first incarnation of EOE led to the most dynamic final episode of Survivor in recent seasons, it was a slap in the face to those that believe in the purity of what constitutes a Sole Survivor. 

As far as a returning season is concerned, as a producer, I would want my talent to remain on my television show for as long as possible. With that, I trust that EOE is a smart decision for an all returnee format. That being said, issues still remain of a larger than necessary jury pool. 

In conclusion, I resolve that in an all returnee season, EOE works for me IF it ends at the merge and the jury consists exclusively of voted out castaways post-merge.

Lyrsa Torres, Survivor: David vs. Goliath

I think the Edge of Extinction is a good plot twist in a season like the upcoming Winners at War. As a past player, I would like to use all the options I can to stay in the game and become the Sole Survivor. Survivor, in my opinion, is a balance of different qualities: physical, strategic, and social. But to me, the social aspect is the one that affects the outcome of the game the most (let’s be honest, nobody will give the title to someone that has been terrible in the social part of the game, and we have seen this in past seasons). 

The advantage a player has at the EOE is that they can maximize the social aspect of the game. I think many fans did not expect or were happy with the outcome of the first EOE because they saw EOE as not part of the game and that players were in what we can call a “limbo” (not the dance, more like the purgatory in religious view). Still, that is where relationships were solidified, and you could clearly see the true nature of the players since they were not absorbed with the strategic part of the game—that part came later once the player “came back” to the game. 

I think that EOE was a game inside of the game. The EOE will make more sense to fans in a case with all winners. I think in an all-winners season, there is more to prove by the players, and the EOE will give them the chance to maximize all aspects of the game as a whole. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens this season. Hopefully, the edit will provide us with more airtime of EOE, which was also a downfall of the original use of this twist. We really did not see what was going on there except for the magic and beauty that is Reem Daly once people got to EOE (Love you lady!!). And see which winner will come back and how they will put to use all that social time they spent with other players at the Edge.

Tommy Sheehan, Survivor: Island of the Idols

The EOE twist, in my opinion, has to be changed but has potential! It definitely isn’t something that should be in every season but only once in a blue moon at most! Mostly I do not like the twist. 

Changes: EOE should only allow one player to come back ONE time, and it should be at the merge and only at the merge. Letting someone back in the game at 6 people left is totally unfair. Some other negatives are that players now on the Edge form bonds without having to play Survivor. Players from the Edge will want one of their own to win, so it leads to a biased jury. Also, the jury’s become way too big, and a player can be at the final 3 without meeting or talking to a player on the jury, which is totally unfair. So after the comeback challenge, the losers should not be on the jury. 

A positive is that it can give a “robbed” pre-merge player that got swap screwed or advantage screwed another chance to play the game, for example, Jason from my season.

Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper, Survivor: Africa

As a player, the idea of getting the chance to get back in the game once voted out is an absolute dream come true! However, as a player NOT voted out of the game, the idea of having players voted out and then return is a nightmare unless, of course, that player or players were a solid part of your alliance. I did like that the conditions on EOE seemed “brutal,” as they should be! But as an old school player, I would love to see the franchise “getting back to basics.” 

EOE was a fun twist to watch, and the anticipation of seeing one of your favorites push through the harsh conditions to possibly get back in the game was exciting. But, it is NOT a twist I wish to see every season!!! I love the idea of different twists, but please mix it up for us and pleaseeeeeee limit the twists (and IDOLS!).

I think adding too many twists takes away from the strategy and social game of the players, which has made this amazing social experiment so popular starting back in Borneo. The awesome job casting does has proven that the players can carry the show and keep the momentum going. I actually believe in the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle! The US Navy in 1960 used the KISS principle, which states that most systems work best if they are kept simple. I think the late, fan-favorite, old school player, Rudy Boesch, as a former Navy Seal, would probably agree with me on the KISS strategy!

[If EOE is to remain part of the game…], I would tweak it by keeping it right up to the merge ONLY. And keep all EOE players isolated from each other, so they aren’t able to pass “opinions” or biased information to those that may get back in the game, making that an obvious unfair advantage for those never voted out of the game. 

Erik Reichenbach, Survivor: Micronesia, Caramoan

I don’t like the EOE because it removes the dramatic elements of Survivor fans have come to love, and it offers an alternate path to the end that brings into the credibility or ability of a contestant that takes that route. I have seen pushback online for Chris Underwood’s win on the first EOE season, saying he is not a real winner or player because of how he won with the help of EOE. I think it injects the wrong kind of debate/drama into the game and is adversely derivative from the initial format that already works when a great location or cast is applied.

The only positives I can see from EOE is the “Returnee Player Fast-Track” element. I described this effect to Rick Devens when I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Celebration Florida event, Hearts of Reality. It basically is the idea that returnee players are more experienced from playing and being voted out, and thus, have an advantage returning to play a second or third season. In the case of EOE, a player is “fast-tracked” into becoming a returning player within the season. They gain confidence and knowledge from playing until they are voted out, and then return into the game with added confidence, knowledge, and motivation not to screw it up again. I believe this is one of the only advantages to the EOE format.

EOE is a departure from strategy and relationships and a focus on chance. I believe EOE’s greatest failure is that it introduces too much skill and luck into the game, whereas the original format (even with a plethora of advantages and twists) is fair because it is a good mix of skill and luck. EOE removes a lot of skill and replaces it with dumb luck and chance—a lot of people believe Rick Devens was #robbed when Chris re-entered the game to win. This sours the fanbase—people like to watch Survivor when it is a fair shot for everyone and circumstances are somewhat equal. EOE tips the scales away from fairness and strategy.

Reem Daly, Survivor: Edge of Extinction

Did I like the EOE twist? Normally, NO, but since it gave ME a chance, sure, yes. Why? Because it gave ME an opportunity, but as a fan, I prefer not. I will say that when you are there, you know who you really are. That place can really break you down.

As far as having a second chance, YES, that is a positive. It’s hard to complain, so I would have to say yes, it outweighs the negative. In all honesty, YOU COULD LEAVE… no one HAD to stay.

But I hope there is no more EOE. It is not what old school folks like. I also do not care for a lot of idols. I understand it is part of season 40, but I think they can win stuff, which is not cool because if EOE is part of the season, it should be a place where you do not get handouts.

Dr. Mike Zahalsky, Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers

I have no desire to partake in an interview bashing the Edge. That said, one of the biggest problems with the Edge is that Reem was First One Out, and first on the Edge of Extinction, and she made it so entertaining, some would say, possibly more entertaining than the game. 

With Reem and the returnees all on the Edge, and then the winner coming from the Edge, the last Edge season was the perfect storm. Yes, theoretically, an “Ozzy” can go to the Edge, hang out and cook and fish for everyone, then win his way back into the game, but in my opinion, that is never going to happen. 

As a fan, as long as it makes good TV, I am ok with it. As a player, the other players needed to ensure that the winner could NEVER come from the Edge; the players didn’t do that; that is their fault, not necessarily a problem with the Edge. Hate the player, not the game. 

Personally, I think 30-minute post-show Ponderosa episodes on CBS, highlighting the favorites and what they are doing, would be a good way to keep our favorites on our TV and keep the game with the traditional format.

Twitter gives everyone a voice, and I hear the anger, however, let’s give the Edge a second chance and see how it plays out in Season 40. If, after two seasons of the Edge of Extinction, Jeff is saying the Edge is great, I trust him, he has taken us through 40 seasons, let’s not judge so quick and give it another chance. 

Eliza Orlins, Survivor: Vanuatu, Micronesia

I absolutely HATE the EOE twist. The fundamentals of Survivor are “outwit, outplay, outlast.” That means once you’re voted out, that’s it. It’s over. Your torch gets extinguished, and your game is over. I hate that now people who didn’t have to engage in the entirety of the 39-day game have the opportunity to win! It devalues the win and gives an unfair advantage to someone who didn’t have to have a hand in voting out each of the jurors and dealing with the physical, emotional, and psychological toll it takes on you to be IN THE GAME for 39 days. 

Are there any positives of the EOE? No. So, no. Well, I’d LOVE it as a player because I would want to stay in the game, but I HATE it as a viewer. It neuters the drama and produces problematic winners like Chris [Underwood]. I guess the only positive for a returning contestant season, with so many viewer favorites, is that even if your favorite is voted out early, you get to continue to see them for the rest of the season. 

The ONLY thing that could be done [to tweak EOE] is to end it at the merge. Because then everyone would still have to engage in the same level of jury management and vote outs. But it would give one early boot a chance to get back in the game at the merge.

Photo: CBS

Jessica Lewis, Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X

I liken the Edge of Extinction to childbirth. Having experienced the latter, I can say that it is a horrifying, painful experience. However, the end result of childbirth is something beautiful. The ordeal of Edge of Extinction, not so much. I’m not dumping on Chris Underwood. I’ve met him, and he is a great guy. Unfortunately, he saw the end of his game come too soon. 

Now, who am I to judge: I was saved by an idol, right? The difference between idols and the Edge, however, is the required gameplay element of the idol. Whoever plays it needs to know who to play it on and when, if not playing it on his/her self. And if an idol is played for you, you must then add that layer to an already complex game: being grateful yet mindful that this person has a plan and now views you as a pawn in their game. The Edge allows players to bask in the sun, with no challenges (besides the occasional treasure hunt) and with a complete lack of accountability. 

Every move a player makes in the game produces a ripple effect. Those ripples could be positive, or they could be catastrophic. Voting people out pisses people off. Period. Chris Underwood became celebrated for what he did on the Edge. He won people over. He fed them. He took care of them. He was revered. He did not need to defend his game in the final three. He needed to defend his LACK of game. Now don’t misunderstand my point here. The lack of gameplay was not his doing, it was the Edge twist. His response to the Edge twist was exactly what he needed to do in order to win. Crazy idol deals, winning immunity, going to fire, add that to the relationships he had built while on the Edge, and the combination put him over the top. 

Unfortunately, as in childbirth, CBS has forgotten the pain and agony, as all women MUST in order to decide “yes, I want to do that again.” This amnesia must stem from the end result, right? That beautiful little child gazing up at you. The overwhelming realization that you created this precious life. For CBS, in its dreams, that pretty little face likely looks like Boston Rob. I love Boston Rob. I have CRAZY respect for him. But I have more respect for the game. A game that these winners have all demonstrated they can play at the highest level. Why cheapen it with this gimmicky twist? A twist that takes away the catchphrase “39 Days” and adds an asterisk. Can it be done better? Sure. End it at the merge. One shot to get back in. And do not give that person a free idol in his or her bag. Make them fight like every other player. Survivor is supposed to be hard. 

As a former player, I can honestly say I wanted nothing more than to get back in that game. I was hoping that my walk down that path would not be the end. But that is what happens in Survivor. You get voted out (or rocked out), and that’s it. Much like life, you never know what the end result will be. You can plan, prepare, and feel certain you are ready. Then the game starts, and all of that no longer matters. As Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Then you have to adapt on the fly. If you get knocked out, you haven’t outplayed or outlasted. You’ve just lost. Whoever wins Winners at War, the ultimate Survivor battle royale, should be just that—a Winner. 

Benjamin “Coach” Wade, Survivor: Tocantins, Heroes vs. Villains, South Pacific

I know most people dislike the EOE twist… but I myself quite like it. Here is why:

It gives us a chance to see more of the cast when they are “voted out.” I mean, what kind of season would we have had without Reem?? She was a focal point of negativity and discontent, and we all yearned to watch her reem someone out once they got to EOE, pun intended. We all want to see more, that is why Ponderosa videos were created, of our favorites. 

I would like to see more challenges on EOE, almost like a parallel game of Survivor…

Aurora McCreary, Survivor: Edge of Extinction

I think that a major fault in EOE is that it deprives the viewers the ability to connect deeply with more players. The popularity and reason Survivor has lasted so long is that people connect with the players. People become household names, and they root for them like family and hate them like enemies. Other shows like Big Brother have the ability to have multiple episodes in a week, so people really get invested into the people. Survivor has to do that in a single weekly show while also including challenges, rewards, and Tribal. Edge of Extinction takes away from that. Even if it’s only 5 minutes an episode, it takes that away. There is already so much that is left on the cutting room floor, why add more? Why ask fans to apply and tell [them] why people will watch them and connect to them if you’re not going to show them? Why think that we, as humans, have the ability to process, let alone become invested in something when it feels like we are a dog at a squirrel farm? 3 tribes, Swap, Merge, 13 Challenges, 9 Rewards, 1 tribe out of the game, 14 advantages?! I already got lost typing that.

I think the reason Jeff brought back EOE and why he likes it is that it brings out new psychological aspects that were never challenged before. Jeff says this show is for him, and I believe it. It’s not just his creation, but it’s his experiment and challenge—like putting different substances on a slice of bread and leaving it outside for days to study the mold. The first round of EOE may have been about seeing if people would stay, but it ultimately became an experiment in forgiveness and understanding. It was about being surrounded by people you lied to or were tricked by. It was about having to sit by and watch from the outside with no way to escape. It was about emotion—I mean they literally taped a single tear running down Wentworth’s face. I think that’s great, but it’s a separate show, not Survivor. 

I cannot understand why CBS All Access wasn’t used as a place to watch episodes/clips from EOE. I believe it would have made CBS money, allowed them to utilize EOE’s story more, all the while letting us concentrate on the players in the game and strategy. There’s an obvious correlation between the view that 38 had no strategy and characters and the lack of time spent understanding relationships, votes, and characters.

I am skeptical as to the second use of EOE—let alone with the adding of tokens. I can see how it adds more strategy and another level of secret alliances, but I also think it does nothing but allow people who were voted out to continue to control the game. It just seems like a game without rules. Not only do the people who get voted off get a chance to come back in, [but] they can continue to control the game when voted out. So what’s the point of voting someone out? 

However, I also think 40 will not be like 38. In my opinion, EOE of 38 became their own tribe. They saw part of themselves in whoever went back into the game. They saw their game continuing to be played with the returnee. They felt like they were still controlling and winning the game. Thus why I think most of them voted for Chris [Underwood]. I do not see that for 40 at all. I think EOE of 40 will be the same as they were in the game. They will still be playing. They will still be alliances. Maybe combining smaller alliances that were in the game and working for their remaining alliances? 

Look, I’m all for watching it if it’s going to be on—it’s not my decision, and I’d be lying if I said I would turn down playing again if it was EOE—but don’t take my hour. Go find somewhere else.

Julia Sokolowski, Survivor: Kaoh Rong

When I look at EOE from a player perspective, I like it. As someone who was voted out on day 29, I would’ve definitely welcomed the opportunity to have had another chance to get back in the game. From a fan perspective, I don’t love the twist. Yes, the players on EOE are ’surviving,’ yet they don’t have to worry about being voted out, which is essentially the core of what Survivor is.

In my opinion, the positives of EOE come from a production standpoint, giving more air-time for character development. But from what we’ve seen of EOE, I’m not convinced that this outweighs the actual impact EOE can have on the results of the game. 

I think, as viewers, a debated topic at the end of most seasons is whether or not the jury was “bitter.” However, I think the time spent on EOE can be even more threatening in regards to voting influence than a “bitter jury.” Not only are players spending a vast amount of time together, but they are still in the ‘game mode’ mentality—so by the end of the game, the outlook they have might not be settled and well-rounded. 

In regards to the future of the show, I think EOE is just a piece of the game evolving. Survivor is where it is today because the show takes these risks. I just hope it doesn’t become a standard in seasons to come. 

Photo: CBS

Peih-Gee Law, Survivor: China, Cambodia

I think the Edge of Extinction twist is interesting. As a player, of course, we want another chance to get back into the game! 

As a viewer, I’m a little torn. Sometimes it’s fun to watch them on the island, but it’s taking away from already precious time with the castaways still in the game. And I do think it’s a bit unfair that someone who didn’t really play the game can win, as well as having someone who never met the finalists can vote for a winner. 

I think that Edge of Extinction should only be for pre-merge. One person can fight for a chance to get back into the game at the merge. And then no more Extinction island after that. 

Sunday Burquest, Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X

Endangered species are a part of our world, and I can’t think of a single animal I wouldn’t want to protect from extinction. Oh wait, I forgot about mice; I’d be happy if mice were extinct, and I feel the same way about the Edge of Extinction. 

First, I’m going to start with my thoughts as a player. Watching from home, I couldn’t imagine getting sent to the Edge. I believe most players would feel that making the choice to leave the game would feel like a “quit.” If I’d been on Season 38, I would have felt robbed of my experience. Many players apply multiple times before getting “the call,” and I can’t help but think they would be very disappointed to sit on the Edge missing out on gameplay and the actual adventure of Survivor. Also, it would feel like a crap-shoot waiting all those days to see if only one of you gets a shot to get back into the game. If the challenge that day happens to not be suited to your skillset, you’ve sat there for days on end wishing you were anywhere but the edge of Survivor. It’s like being able to smell a steak being seared on the grill but having to stay inside and eat a cold hot dog instead. 

Last, the following is what I think as a fan. The fan’s reaction to EOE wasn’t a great one. In my opinion, the biggest reason is the loss of camera time for the actual strategic gameplay of the game. In what many consider a short 42-minute weekly episode, giving time to the Edge makes the rest of the episode feel rushed. Fans (and players) want to see the Outwit, Outlast, and Outplay of the game. There are 13 episodes to a season, and wasting time on the EOE needs to be put on the endangered species list. But in this case, with EOE, we shouldn’t raise awareness to protect it—we should let the Edge go extinct. 

Reed Kelly, Survivor: San Juan Del Sur

As I’m sure a lot of other castaways will tell you, once you play the game, it really changes the way you watch the show. For me, now that I have played the game, it’s hard to compartmentalize my experience because, on some level, I know how the sausage is made (so to speak). That being what it is, I’ll take a crack at giving you some of my thoughts on the twist of the Edge of Extinction. 

When asked what I think about the EOE twist, I go back and forth between two parts of my brain. There’s the side of the pre-Survivor-castaway-viewer who was a nerd for the show, and the other side, the castaway who has now actually gone through the experience of Survivor — playing the game, competing in challenges, languishing on the beach, the hunger, strategizing, soul-searching, and the desire to compete, dominate and win — only to then also have Jeff snuff your torch. (For the record, I’m still as big a nerd/fan of the game now as I was before, if not more so.) 

When I lean into my fan-viewer-brain, I actually really enjoyed the twist. (I’m not so sure a lot of other fans are on the same page with me, but hey, to each their own.) From a viewing-standpoint, I’m in favor of anything that keeps the show and gameplay evolving. Do I feel like new things sometimes miss the mark? Absolutely, Jeff even says so himself. But overall, I thought EOE was a fun way for me to keep rooting for some of my fave torch-snuffed underdogs: like my girl Kelley, Aubry, Joe, and Chris Underwood’s thighs, lol. (Sorry not sorry, but I would have to give up my career and squat for two lifetimes to try to attain that aesthetic.) Wait, what are we talking about?? Oh right …. 

All the while you’re watching EOE, you have the “little-do-they-know” outside perspective and anticipation of the impending moment when Jeff is going to call those EOE castaways out of the jungle and have them compete to get back into the game. I enjoyed seeing the “awh WTH?!” moment from the tribe — mixed with the determination and resolve from the EOE castaways to really give it their all to take full advantage of this twist. For me, this was super satisfying.

When I lean into the already-competed-dying-to-go-back-castaway side of my brain, it gets a bit more confusing. If I were out there and had just been voted off, I would kill for this twist to be an option. I would fight tooth and Keith Nale [sorry, couldn’t stop that from coming out] to get another shot at having my torch relit in the same season. 

However, if I were one of the players who’d gotten blindsided by: 

“Surprise! You know that person you worked so hard to outlast and remove from the game? The one you hustled so many people over and had to anticipate nearing-impossible quantities of ‘what if’s’ and ‘who has what advantage’ variables — in addition to factoring in the vote-splits and schemes you had to calculate and then construct? (which sometimes feels more like string-theory-mathematics than simple arithmetic when you’re exhausted and hungry) Well, this person just won an unexpected challenge, and they’re back on your tribe!”

This twist would have driven me nuts lol. I guess, when I picture it in my head, the person coming back into the game is never someone who I have a tight alliance with. This hypothetical person could possibly end up being a temporary blessing, but in the long run, they’re most likely still another person I have to either vote out (again), or I still have to beat for the title of Sole Survivor. And if they’re in the game again and we’re still tight, ultimately it means they’re not someone on the jury voting for me to win that title.  

Would I want this to be the new format for every season moving forward? No. There’s something so great about the finality of the torch snuff and the castaway either going home or joining the jury, which I really like. It feels with the mere presence of EOE, the act of the torch snuff loses a bit of its impact and potency. 

As a viewer this many seasons in, I want it to be a foregone conclusion that anyone who becomes a castaway by now is going to take the road on the left and carry on to EOE, because that’s the kind of casting we want — players who are in it until they literally cannot go any farther. And to be honest, (as both a fan and castaway), if someone is willing to take the road to the right and call it quits when they’re offered a way to get back into the game, I wouldn’t want them on the show to begin with. There are far too many fans out there who would give anything to be in those shoes, so to do anything less (to me) just feels wildly disappointing and a little insulting.

Now, this is a bit off-topic, but it’ll come around. One of the things I miss while watching the show now is actually seeing how real the struggle truly is out there. Predominantly now, to make room for the *mostly* high-level strategic talk and gameplay, I feel viewers don’t really get to see just how hard everyone is struggling just to function. Castaways all seem so energized on TV: competing in challenges, flipping from platforms into the water, and running in and out of the jungle on idol hunts. While that may be a big part of the experience, in reality, a lot of the time we’re also fantasizing for hours about honestly shockingly-crazy food cravings, debating whether or not we have the strength to get up to gather one more armful of firewood so the fire doesn’t die, or figuring out if we have the energy to take what feels like an excruciatingly long and labored walk off into the jungle to try to use the bathroom (for the first time in days) out of sight from others at camp.

After talking with some of the Survivor fam who has experienced extended time on EOE firsthand, they said it was absolutely miserable. This is what I feel possibly didn’t come across as much as potentially the Survivor gods had hoped, and furthermore, this is what I feel is missing a bit from the edit currently. 

Lying around for hours while starving — with nothing to do nor the energy with which to do it — is a huge component of the “outlast” part of the game. Seeing a bit more of this struggle could have possibly added to the palatability of EOE for some viewers. Moving forward, I’d prefer if it were included as an early-twist element (which only happened perhaps once in the first half of the game) within the construct of a larger established season theme. Maybe then people could get more on board with it being brought back every so often. 

While I was beyond thrilled for the underdogs who succeeded in their attempt to get back into the game, I can say with all honesty that I actually cried at home as I watched certain player’s journeys come to an end after losing their battle to return from EOE — primarily veterans Kelley, Aubry, Joe, and David. Maybe it’s because I personally know how real and how hard it is to go through the experience of Survivor or perhaps it’s because I know it takes a certain kind of crazy to want to play Survivor in the first place — let alone the whole other level of crazy (and love for the game) it takes to want to commit to going back out there and doing it more than once. 

In any case — as a viewer or as a castaway — I freaking love Survivor and will continue to tune in for whatever iterations may come. Maybe you’ll even see me on one! So with that being said, let’s bring on the 75th annual Hunger Games: The Quarter Quell — err, I mean, Survivor Season 40: Winners At War!! And may the odds be ever in your favor … lol. Survivors ready?!! #SurvivorForever @thereedkelly 

Chris Underwood, Survivor: Edge of Extinction

“Do you like the EOE twist?” Is that even a question? Just kidding, I do for obvious reasons, but even if I lost the final Edge challenge to another player, I would still appreciate the EOE. Having said that, I can understand the push back.

To understand why I, or anyone for that matter, likes or dislikes the show’s new concept, I think we have to look at Survivor from a broader perspective. (Side note: is it a complete coincidence that the current divisiveness of the Survivor community on this topic follows similar footsteps as the divisiveness in the political landscape? Possibly, but Survivor does have a way of giving cultural insights in unexpected ways.) 

Should a show like Survivor evolve with time, or should it “stay in its lane” and “stick to what works”? Personally, I am for change. Blame the ADD in me, but I love seeing companies reinvent themselves, change things up, add new layers that keep customers on their toes. The EOE is no different! Imagine if in 20 years production never changed a single thing about Survivor. Would Survivor be the “same”? No, I think it would be a played out game show with no passion or drive from those involved in producing it. We are drawn to it, in part by the passion of Probst, the creativity of the camera shots, the ingenuity of [John] Kirhoffer in challenges. Do you really think anyone in production would stick around if they didn’t have the freedom to try new things?! Survivor is special that way, and it makes production push the boundaries on twists they are passionate about. As long as the originals stick around, I am a fan of anything they try, because at the end of the day, I am for change, not against it. 

With that said, here’s my take on why people dislike it. Before going on the show, I read a book called The Psychology of Survivor. I was fascinated by its take because it explains why people are so addicted to Survivor and why there are so many “armchair players” out there. The theory goes that humans are obsessed with watching the pain or heartbreak of people other than themselves. We can’t pull away from the sight of a car crash, we always prefer the actors of a romance film to experience heartbreak before we experience it ourselves, etc. Similarly, on Survivor, there is something carnal about the obsession of (insert Probst’s creepy voice) “a blindside” or the snuffing of a player’s torch. Our eyes are glued to the screen when someone gets stabbed in the back, an element of humanity that completely rips a person up if it were to happen in real life! Sure we feel bad if it happens, but at the same time, we love it. 

Now… imagine of all of us out there needing that kick on Wednesday night, to see that play out on the screen, when all of a sudden, the person being blindsided suddenly gets a second chance? Wait… what about the pain? What about the tears at the end of the episode? You’re telling me that EVERYONE is going to get a shot at redemption? BULLS**T! This isn’t Survivor! What is Jeff’s Twitter handle? I am going to tweet hate on full blast! And that Chris guy! What a joke!! He didn’t even play the game! I don’t care about the personal journey or the suffering of any of those people out there! I want to see BLOOD!!! You see the predicament at hand. Depending on which side of the fence you are on, your thoughts and opinions of the EOE and Survivor, in general, will lead you to have very strong opinions one way or the other.

The Edge gives another element for producers to work with. It adds a deeper layer to the human psyche, and we get the opportunity to follow individuals on that journey. For me and others on my season, the EOE was a place where some major personal development took place. It also added another element to the players “in-game” with advantages, extra votes, and disadvantages. Could there have been more interactive gameplay between the EOE and the camps? Sure, but we were the guinea pigs with a new concept. They saw what worked and what didn’t and added the fire tokens (which I am personally really excited to see how they are implemented). 

The negative on adding new elements to create richer stories is, and always will be, time. If you literally don’t have the time to explore 20 different stories on a deeper level because of a 42-minute time constraint, the result will be a shallow season with the audience wanting more (as was the case in Season 38 in my personal opinion). By extending the show an extra 30 minutes to an hour, or by adding content on other platforms that allow for better stories, a lot of the frustration might go away because of the emotional connections that would be made.

The EOE is an adaption that is important to the show’s evolution, as well as for the producers who make it all happen. Before my season, Jeff told us that for a long time, he and everyone else cared solely about the format and the ratings and the fans. He said that as Survivor grew into what it is now, he realized that a part of the show that was missing was making Survivor for the players as well. You can’t forget, before we were up on the television screen, we were just regular people with personalities, ambitions, and insecurities just like everyone else. I see Survivor digging into the development of the players more than ever before, and the EOE is just another way to do that.

“Are there ways to tweak the EOE?” Not sure yet! They are completely re-working the EOE in a matter of days, so I think an answer to the question may lie just around the corner.

Thanks to all the past players who took part!

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.

9 responses to “What Do Former Players Think About The Edge of Extinction?”

  1. EOE gave birth to THE WORST WINNER EVER– Chris. We don’t want this twist to keep on ruining Survivor.

    • Ehh… blame the twist, not the player. Hopefully he gets a chance to come back and prove himself for real.

  2. Victoria claims she is a Survivor purist and that she does not like the twist, yet she voted for Chris to win in EoE. Seriously? I agree with Mike in that part of it is the players fault for allowing someone returning from EoE to win their season. I disagree with him not to hate the game though since the setup was very flawed. It’s partially hate the player and hate the game in that situation.

  3. PREACH. Somebody @ Jeff Probst. Even Chris Underwood – the person who should be defending the twist the most – isn’t a fan of the twist hogging the edit! And really, it’s not Survivor anymore, and it’s a twist that was a new adaptation of a much-maligned twist from years ago.

    All of these – except for two, really – were fantastic reads. Thanks to all for contributing!

  4. When even Reem (the person who benefitted from it the most aside from the winner) is anti-edge, you know it needs to go

  5. Edge of extinction twist: I like the potential for day 1 jury. Suggest latest time to return from edge of extinction island: (number of contestants prior to one contestant return)*0.3 round up.

    Note: use this twist at most 2 times within last 6 seasons

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