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S38 E1
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TV Show
February 20, 2019 at 09:00 PM EST

You have a decision to make. If you do not want to read anymore, follow your web browser to another URL and your adventure will end. But if you want a chance to bleed your eyes senseless by reading way too much about a single hour of reality television, take your laptop or smartphone and prepare to do a hella lot of scrolling.

Welcome to the Edge of Survivor recapping! (And, granted, sometimes over the edge.) I’m your cruise director Julie McCoy, and I will be your guide for yet another season going over all the strategy and shenanigans with a fine-toothed comb — which, coincidentally enough, can also be used on Joey Amazing’s new mustache. Before we get into it, a few quick programming notes I would love to bring to your attention.

First off, the hula-hoop competition on the Lido deck has been postponed due to inclement weather. Check the bulletin board for rescheduling. Next, if any you missed my insanely exhaustive behind-the-scenes report on the Edge of Extinction marooning, then you should stop missing it. Honestly, in my 38 seasons of covering this show, I have never spent more time on any Survivor article. I’m not sure if that is an advertisement or a warning, but I do know that you will learn all about a secret tribe reward and a fake Legacy Advantage that never made it into the episode. And I also know that you will learn more about what happens behind-the-scenes on Survivor than ever before. So again, please do me a solid and check it out right here.

Also, before we get out of the gratuitous self-promotion part of the proceedings, I would like to draw your attention to the press roundtable I did with Josh Wigler (Hollywood Reporter, RHAP) and Mara Reinstein (Us Weekly) where we shared our thoughts on the new cast immediately after speaking with them in Fiji. You can listen to that in the SoundCloud below. Like everything else I do, it’s not short, but there’s some interesting insight in terms of what the players were like the day before the game started. You won’t hear that kind of stuff anywhere else.

Okay, someone named “Wardog” is on my screen talking, so that must mean I should get to the episode, but first I want to share some general thoughts about the Edge of Extinction twist. Here’s what we can say at this point in terms of what Edge of Extinction is. When players are voted out, they will be offered the choice to either leave the game or go live with minimal supplies and food for a chance to get back in it. The when and how that will happen will be revealed later.

Anyone that goes back long enough and reads my recaps from Pearl Islands or the Redemption Island seasons knows that I am not a fan of twists that allow people back into the game after they have been voted out. It’s not an issue of fairness as much as it is that I believe it neuters the show’s signature moment — the vote-off.

The fact that someone can think they are running the game and then be completely ousted from it is the drama on which this show is built. I firmly believe that compromising that in any way is a losing proposition. (There’s also the fact that anyone that does go to Redemption Island or the Edge of Extinction has a wildly unfair advantage in terms of final jury voting should they make it back into the game because they just spent time bonding together with potential jury members against the people that voted them out.) So, not a fan.

But here’s what I will say: Just because I am not a fan of that twist, does not mean I can’t enjoy seasons with it. I love Pearl Islands, even with the Outcasts. Blood vs. Water was a fantastic installment as well (and the one in which the Redemption Island twist actually worked the best because it created myriad strategic possibilities due to the presence of loved ones). Hell, I even like the South Pacific season! Nobody likes the South Pacific season. But I do! I’m a card-carrying South Pacific apologist! You can even @ me!

The point is, I am not writing off the Edge of Extinction season just because I worry conceptually about the Edge of Extinction twist. We’ll just have to see how everything plays out. Here is one interesting note, however. Jeff Probst hated the Outcasts twist from Pearl Islands, and he often said the big problem he had with it was that they did not let the players know in advance about it. That’s why in the Redemption Island seasons, they always made a point right off the bat to let players know about people voted out having a chance to get back in, so they could adjust their games accordingly.

However, the host did NOT tell the season 38 players about it, and like with the Outcasts, these contestants will presumably not know anything about it until much later when a person — or people — are getting ready to come back in. So what’s that all about? I asked Probst about his change of thinking in this week’s Q&A and you can read his response there, but let me be clear about something: Just because I am pointing out how Probst said one thing then and says another thing now is not me trying to ensnare him in some sort of GOTCHA! moment. The show evolves and so does Jeff’s thinking about it: That’s what I find interesting.

It’s kind of like the Celebrity Survivor angle. At one point, Jeff told me on the record that they would NEVER do a Celebrity edition of the show, and then a few years later they actively pursued one. But there was context to that change of heart. When he first showed disdain for the concept, it was after one of the ill-fated runs of the super cheesy I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, and he was pointing out what made Survivor special and different. Once that other show went away and they were looking for different twists and themes to employ, they reconsidered the celebrity thing. And that’s what they should do — always be reconsidering things. So why did they have a change of heart on not telling the contestants this time about voted out people not being out of the game? Check our Q&A for his answer.

One last thing about Edge of Extinction. (There’s always a “last thing” with me.) It’s no coincidence that it is in play for a season with returning players. In fact, the whole reason Redemption Island was created was to make sure the producers got at least a few episodes with Boston Rob and Russell in case one of them was booted early — which is exactly what happened when Russell was voted out of his tribe first. Putting Edge of Extinction in play here guarantees them keeping Joe, Aubry, David, and Kelley on the show, even if they get voted out. Again, not an accident. Okay, now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get to…

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