By Dalton Ross
March 13, 2019 at 09:00 PM EDT
Robert Voets/CBS
S38 E4
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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.

New Kama
So new Kama looks a lot like old Kama, with Aurora, Julia, Ron, Joe, and Julia — who is once again talking about peeing herself — still at the old camp. And you know what that means… lots more super-awkward dancing! (At least Aubry swapped out and does not have to suffer the indignity of having to pretend to enjoy such shenanigans.)

Joe was no doubt hoping for a better swap where he could have ended up with more returning players, or at least some disgruntled Manu where he could have worked his magic, but at least he still has Aurora. He pleads his case to Dancing Ron, who appears to be somewhat receptive, but as we learn later, was just a diversion while Julia rifled through Joe’s bag back at the shelter. Continuing to play around with editing techniques, the producers actually show the Joe and Ron convo, and then use the same Doc Brown DeLorean Aubry revved up last week to time travel back to Kaoh Rong and Game Changers, and this time go back 20 minutes to show Ron instructing Julia to commence the riffling.

She finds nothing. It’s a well-edited segment, but it’s the only Kama segment we get, and like pretty much every segment this season, it once again revolves around a returning player. As we talked about two weeks ago, that’s the risk when you mix old and new players: Often the stories you tell about the newbies are merely how they react to the all-stars rather than allowing them to stand out individually on their own merits or foibles.

Lesu
The new Lesu tribe is filled with all original Manu folks: Rick, David, The Wardog, Kelley, and Lauren. Seeing as how they will clearly lose the next immunity challenge, the producers wisely decide not to spend too much time here now since we can catch up with them later. The problem with this group — besides, you know, being cursed — is that there is no longer an easy vote with Wendy gone. In fact, the deck seems pretty stacked against Rick and David since The Wardog has basically already identified Kelley as his closest ally. And since Kelley and Lauren are close, that means Rick and David are in trouble. Unless…

Lauren is not looking good. Or, judging by the puking noises she is making back in the bushes, sounding good. The Jeff Probst proclaimed triple threat feels nauseous and misses her parents back home. You can tell she is just out of it. Speaking to Lauren before the game, she was a bundle of energy. You still saw that on day 1 as she started shrieking at the mere sight of Wentworth and Joey Amazing. But now she appears drained and much more subdued. Which, by the way, is totally normal. Often the most excited people to hit the beach have the hardest adjustment once they get out there. I see it every season. But usually the people who experience that momentary lapse fight through it and persevere. (Need I bring up Aubry crying in the shelter on day 1?) I believe Lauren will as well. But if she appears too weak, will her tribe give her that chance?

New Manu
Wendy ends up being the only old Manu to be on new Manu, joined by Aubry, Victoria, Gavin, and Eric. That’s great news for her because now she can just put all this chicken nonsense behind her. I’m sure it was just temporary insanity and Wendy can now get back to focusing on the game as opposed to the self-sabotage that has marked the past few days when she………. Wait, where are the chickens? Has anyone seen… DAMMIT! Not again! Yes, Wendy is up to her old tricks. And some new ones as well. She starts off by telling her new tribemates that “My tribe sucked. They were bullies.”

Can I just pause for the cause to note that people get called bullies way too often on this show. Sure, I could pick out a few examples over 38 seasons where that has definitely been the case, but way too often someone is just not getting along with others and all of a sudden they are being “bullied.” I’m sorry, but a bunch of meat eaters wanting to eat a chicken is not bullying. It’s called lunch. Alas, Wendy notices that the new Manu sounds a lot like the old Manu when it comes to the chickens, with Eric especially salivating at the thought of consuming them. Wendy’s solution? To set them all free in the middle of the night while wildly gesticulating in a celebratory manner. “They’re free! Their lives are saved!” she proclaims. “This is my master plan. I’m ecstatic.”

Wait, this is your master plan? Your master plan doesn’t involve some sort of strategic jiu-jitsu to get you to the million dollars? Your master plan is to just carry chickens out of their enclosure? DO YOU HAVE NO INTEREST IN PLAYING THIS GAME?!? Judging by the fact that you are telling us that your tribemates catching the chickens “would be worse than me going to Tribal Council,” I suppose not! This has to be a bummer of epic proportions to see for anyone who has been dying to get out there and play this game.

To already be on the bottom of the tribe and need to work your way into their good graces and then do this? Yikes. And to think that Wendy’s new tribemates were even calling her Big Wendy! The old Manu seemingly wanted nothing to do with that nickname, but the new folks came in and were all “Sure! Big Wendy. Whatever.” And then she still set free their food source. No doubt Brandon Hantz and J’Tia Taylor are somewhere silently high-fiving each other.

Once Again Immunity Is Back Up For Grabs
Why does Probst always say both “once again” and “back up for grabs”? Seems a bit redundant. No matter. I love it. And you know something else I love? That badass dragon looking immunity idol. So cool. And now, with three tribes, Probst has to introduce a second-place idol as well, and it’s also super-badass. I don’t even know what it is — some sort of bird of prey, it seems. But it looks dope. Nice job, art department.

As for the immunity challenge, it is basically the second immunity challenge in Survivor: Second Chance as the tribes have to go up and over a series of A-frames, pull a create of puzzle pieces, and then solve a slat puzzle. I actually ran this in a press run-through back in Cambodia, and not only did I almost kill poor Gordon Holmes by tripping him with the rope, but I also retrieved a hidden immunity idol at the top corner of the third A-frame (which was not hidden in the actual challenge because nobody found the clue back at camp).

What makes the challenge so cool here is the rain, as the moisture makes the A-frames super slippery — causing everyone to run up… and then slide back down. At one point, poor Lauren appears stuck in the middle, unable to move. But it all (as always) comes down to the puzzle. And after last week’s debacle in which David Wright — who did more pre-season puzzle prep than any Survivor in human history — went into the puzzle with a lead and promptly lost it in spectacular fashion, there is simply no way he is going to blow it again. Sure, he may have gotten unlucky once, but there’s no way that’s going to happen twice in a row when he…… Wait, what? FUDGESICLES! Seriously, he lost again?!?!?

What. The. Hell. God, I went on and on and on like some sort of Survivor fan boy lunatic about how David was totally set to win this season because he was going to employ Jedi mind tricks on any puzzle that got in his way, and now he’s coming off more Jar Jar Binks than Obi-Wan Kenobi. Very disappointing. Well, at least he still has his best ally in Rick still in the game so it’s not like all is lost.

Someone’s Gotta Go
“We’re like the Cleveland Browns of tribes.… I feel like I’m honestly in a nightmare.” —Kelley Wentworth

Unfortunately for Kelley, Baker Mayfield is not likely to show up on Lesu anytime soon, saving these former Manu members from their epic run of ineptitude. How could a tribe with seemingly strong physical competitors like Lauren, Kelley, and The Wardog — along with an alleged puzzle whiz in David — lose every single immunity challenge so far? It’s mildly perplexing.

And now they have to vote someone out. David and Devens — again, not the name of a law firm — this time target Lauren instead of Kelley because the former has been sick, and of the latter, David says that he is “100 percent convinced that Wentworth has a hidden immunity idol.” (Well, there’s yet another puzzle my preseason pick to win has not solved.)

The problem for them is that Lauren is the one who actually has the idol. Not only that, but Kelley is tight with Lauren and Kelley is tight with The Wardog, so guess which way The Wardog is going to vote. Sure, he may play around like this is a tough decision. He may go and talk to everyone. He may say he needs 15-20 minutes to think it over. But judging on how he protected Kelley last week, we all know what he’s going to do. “It’s no longer about the tribe now,” he says. “It’s about Wardog. And I need a dance partner. Who can get The Wardog closer to try to win a million dollars.” I mean, personally, I would argue Chris, but that may no longer be an option. Also, will someone please dance with The Wardog and post the video on social media tout de suite.

Anyway, we head off to Tribal Council, which somehow morphs into the inaugural broadcast of the Lesu Evening News. But unlike most nightly news broadcasts (which are filled with updates about death, despair, destruction, and some rando lady out on route 47 who turns potato chips into earrings) the Lesu Evening News is just a big ol’ love fest. “We love each other!” promises anchor Rick Devens in his first (and probably last) report. And then The Wardog is saying how much they respect each other, and Kelley is crying because of how close they have become in less than two weeks, and David is saying it’s the most emotional and incredible Tribal Council he has ever attended, and frankly at this point I am starting to throw up in my mouth a little.

Spare me the kumbaya, Hands Across America sentiment. I come to Survivor for one reason and one reason only. Well, that’s not entirely true. I also come in the hopes that Jeff Probst will one day hop back on his jet ski to carry the votes thousands of miles on a single tank of gas back to America. But I also come to see people give zero f—s as they dash someone’s dreams on national television. (Which, incidentally, might be why I like Dr. Joe so much since he essentially does the same thing.) I’m not saying the Tribal Council love-in was complete phony baloney and just a bunch of Hong Kong Phooey. I mean, I guess I kind of am saying that. But I’m also saying that’s not as exciting as bitterness and resentment, so damn all five of these people for trying to play so nice.

But they do have to vote someone out, apparently with a big snake hovering right above the urn. In the end, Lauren does not play her idol and doesn’t need to as Rick Devens signs off from the Lesu tribe. David appears shell-shocked, but I’m not exactly sure why after the way The Wardog torpedoed the plans three days ago to get rid of Wentworth. And then, in the biggest surprise of the season, Devens does not give us a Kool-Aid Man “OH YEAH!” upon coming across the Edge of Extinction sign and realizing his game is not, in fact, over.

I’m sure it also makes producers happy that Rick is not done. You can tell that Devens was a go-to for Jeff at Tribal Council. Working in TV and as someone that does interviews for a living, Rick knows the value of speaking eloquently and entertainingly. If you go back and look at the Tribal Councils this season, he was the one that was providing the majority of the fun moments. And you can bet that they will put his narrating skills to use plenty at Loser Island to tell us what is going on there.

Now, allow me to tell you what is going on here. We’ve got an exclusive deleted scene from the episode you can see above. We also have our weekly interview with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. And if you want to find out what Aubry has to say about those regrettable dance moves she put on display, you can read our in-game interview with her as well. For a chance to win the entire collection of original embarrassing moment confessions written by the entire cast, follow me on Instagram @thedaltonross, and for more Survivor scoop, check me out on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, now it’s your turn. How do you feel about the tribe swap/expansion? Did The Wardog make the right call in siding with Kelley and Lauren? And will Julie actually pee herself before the season is through? One can only hope! In the meantime, I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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