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S38 E4
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March 13, 2019 at 09:00 PM EDT

Welcome, class. Please take your seats. Feel free to fill in those front few rows, don’t be shy. Everyone set? Okay, great. Welcome to Survivor Philosophy 101. I’m your professor, Dalton Ross. And let’s start this semester with a question for all of us to ponder: If a tribe swap happens on the beach, and nobody swaps, did it ever really happen? Ah, the possibilities on unperceived existence are indeed limitless and will be discussed at length in this class. For example, are we sure Cowboy Rick actually played on Survivor: South Pacific? Did Julia Landauer really compete on Survivor: Caramoan? WAS THERE EVER EVEN A PURPLE KELLY?!?

To prove they were indeed cast, they would have needed to be seen. (We will also examine this topic in much further detail later in a section I like to call “The Aurora Experiment.”) But back to the tribe swap conundrum. In this case, we can confirm a tribe swap did indeed take place due to the fact that one person actually did swap. And two tribes became three. But still, that was weird, right?

We started with one tribe filled with original Manu and one tribe filled with original Kama. We left with one tribe filled with original Manu, one tribe filled with original Kama, and another tribe of all original Kama and Wendy. I can’t imagine that deep down the producers were thrilled with that outcome. The whole point of a tribe swap or expansion is to shake things up. They want to see what happens when you rip apart alliances. They want people on the top shifted to the bottom and vice versa. They want people going from in-the-numbers to out-of-luck and vice versa. And none of that happened here.

Even worse, the tribe filled with original Manu (now on a new tribe named Lesu) lost yet again, meaning we had to overdose on those same five people while several others like Julia, Gavin, and the aforementioned Aurora are still struggling for any screen time whatsoever. Compare this to the tribe swap last season on David vs. Goliath and it’s kind of a disaster. Everything just stayed pretty much the same. Bummer.

But this is also the beauty of Survivor. Hear me out on this, and yes, this will be on the exam. As I mentioned, I can’t imagine the majority of producers were happy with this outcome. Why would they be? But the fact that these things are left completely up to chance as opposed to clearly engineered — as would happen on many other “reality” shows — is what makes Survivor special. They leave such matters up to the Survivor gods and allow the chips — and players — to fall where they may.

Obviously, if they were going to expand to three tribes, I would have hoped to see a lot more cross-pollination, and I imagine the majority of viewers would have as well, but I love the sanctity of the random draw more. Leave it up the fates. Or, you could always go back to the schoolyard pick-’em — randomly selecting three tribe captains and then forcing them to pick a player from the opposite tribe, who then has to pick the next player from the other team, and continuing along that opposite-tribe-pick trajectory until the end when the extra Kamas could fill it out. That would be cool. Anything that lets luck or player strategy decide, rather than producer interference. This is a situation where the process is more important than the result, even if that result did not work out so well this time around. At least that’s what we have to keep telling ourselves. (I do think they should explore going back to that schoolyard pick-’em though. It’s been waaaaaaay too long.)

Okay, I’m actually out of town for a thing right now so am going to try to get through this episode a little quicker than usual. I know I have promised that before and those promises have come up empty, but my wife is kinda staring me down right now waiting for me to take her out for a night in Nawlins so she can instead stare at me while I suck the brains out of crawfish heads so let’s hit it!

Loser Island
God, I wish they actually called it that. Loser Island is a much better name than Edge of Extinction. I hate myself passionately for knowing this, but there actually was another reality show that sent people to a place called Loser Island after they were eliminated. Is anyone else sad enough to remember that show’s title? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? Well, consider yourselves lucky for having an actual social life rather than knowing the answer to obscure and irrelevant reality show trivia from yesteryear. Anyway, it was called Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage. (Suffice it to say there was no second voyage.)

The show aired on Fox and was blatantly terrible. I watched every episode. To give you an idea of exactly how terrible this show was, the best moment of the season revolved around one of the contestants reciting poetry. (Again, WHY DO I KNOW THIS?!?) However, Love Cruise did launch the reality television career of one Toni Ferrari, who later when on to star on the vastly underrated gem that was Paradise Hotel. So there’s that.

Whatever. I’m getting off track again. The point is, let’s check in with the folks that were dismissed from their tribe before we check in on the three new ones. Chris arrives at Loser Island to a warm welcome from Keith, who proclaims “I’m not sad” that the latest arrival was voted out. Harsh. At least Reem can provide some much-needed sympathy for his plight, having been discarded as well. “You’re not going to be welcomed here with open arms… read the sign, bro!” Ouch. Sorry, Chris, but YOU JUST GOT REEMED!

A few days later, things are not much better. Keith says he is annoyed by Chris and appears to be attempting to raise the mast with his eyes by staring at it, hoping that will somehow do the trick and enable him to quit. As for Chris, he calls the Edge of Extinction experience “voluntary torture” because he is stuck with two people who are pissed at him for voting them out. However, we then see something very revealing from him as Chris does some honest self-reflection, talking about his fear of failure and constant need for approval. “Coming to terms with that, maybe that’s part of my journey too.”

This is actually the most interesting thing we have seen at Loser Island so far. I don’t need constant shots of Reem or Keith complaining about how hard it is. We get it. You don’t need to keep selling that angle. But if Survivor is indeed one big social experiment, then watching a super attractive and athletic alpha male having to come to grips with his embarrassing and early defeat does make for an intriguing piece to that puzzle. And it only works because Chris is so open about it. Unlike Reem and Keith, who are content to simply blame everyone else for being voted out, Chris appears to actually be taking a personal inventory. Sure, he’s pissed as well — as evidenced by his repeated declarations last week of “screw those guys” — but he’s also examining what his own reactions say about him as a person. That’s interesting, and I appreciate him being open and honest about it — especially when jerks like me are making fun of him for being on an island for losers.

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