If you are a Survivor fan, you are most likely wildly excited to see 20 former champions do battle in the upcoming Winners at War season premiering Feb. 12 on CBS. If you are a Survivor fan, you are also most likely less than enthused to learn that the dreaded Edge of Extinction twist that keeps people in the game after they are voted off is also back.
The twist was widely scorned by passionate fans of the show when it first appeared on season 38, especially after someone that was voted out on day 8 (Chris Underwood) won after befriending the jury in a non-game setting and receiving instructions from them on what he needed to do to win once he got back in. But Edge is back, and one reason is that the host and showrunner remains a firm supporter. “Selfishly, I like Edge of Extinction,” Jeff Probst told EW while on location in Fiji during filming. “I like the losers bracket, and I like seeing the idea of what proven winners — many of which have never been voted out — what are they going to go through? ‘Cause Extinction is just as hard this season as it was the first time we did it.”
Now, I would argue that the drama of watching an icon or winner that has never been voted out get truly blindsided out of the game — as opposed to the vote being far less impactful because they’re not really out — would far surpass anything gained by having them still on the show at the Edge of Extinction, but Probst also explains that the twist is back for another purpose.
“The number one reason,” says Probst, “is that I did feel that when we called winners, that if they thought it was one and out — ‘I’m voted out and I’m done’ — their chances of saying yes were not as high as if it would be if I said ‘No matter what, you will have another shot at the prize.’”
Probst says that the assurance he was able to give the winners that they would not return and be out after only three days made an impact: “It did make a difference because one player after another would say, ‘Are you doing something like Edge? Tell me you are.’ And I said, “I can’t tell you what we’re doing. I can only tell you you’ll have a fair shot to win the game.’ And they all read between the lines, which is what I wanted them to do. It’s fair. And so Edge of Extinction is really saying, in a season in which you are lucky enough to get these winners to come back and play again, give ‘em a chance to play.”
While several players told me unprompted before the game that they were not fans of Edge of Extinction and hoped it was not back, it is entirely conceivable that the promise of not being booted immediately (in addition to the higher financial guarantees) helped convince a few of the more iconic contestants like Parvati Shallow and Boston Rob Mariano to return. When I asked Probst if he thought some of the winners would not have returned without the twist, he was unequivocal: “Absolutely. And I think if you would ask them, that was the ultimate secret sauce is ‘I promise you that you won’t come out on day 1 and be voted out first and then have to spend your time on Ponderosa for 35 days.’ Because these guys want to play. And they don’t expect it to be easy. They just want to know, give me a chance! Well, now they’ve got a chance. And they will earn it. And Extinction will be hard.”
While many might debate Probst’s assertion that “I’m pretty sure the audience will love that we’re doing it because now everybody is still in — still got a shot,” the return of Edge of Extinction does pose an interesting debate for fans: Would you rather have the full Winners at War cast with the Edge of Extinction twist, or an all-winners season without the twist, even if it meant potentially missing out on a few of the top names? Personally, I would much prefer an all-winners season without the Edge of Extinction, even if it meant losing out on a few of the former champs. What about you? Would you get rid of the Edge of Extinction twist, even if it meant losing some of the big returning winners? Hit the message boards to weigh in.
To watch Probst talk about the return of Edge of Extinction, watch the video at the top of the post. For more Survivor articles, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss, and for exclusive season 40 photos, follow me on Instagram @thedaltonross.
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