This week I learned, or confirmed, that Rick Devens can’t carry an episode all by himself, yet that’s what the show tried to let him do. The stars of the season are all trying to not kill each other on the Edge of Extinction, but I thought the whole point of that twist was to keep them on TV, so why didn’t we get anything? I was promised Reem ripping The Wardog a new asshole on the morning of Day 30 — DAMMIT, WARDOG, where was it? As soon as I was let down with that, I really could have used an “Aubs” to make it through the hour that maybe had my crying but not because of the family visit.
THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
For approximately the 30th time this season, Rick left tribal council wondering what the hell had happened, blaming this blindside again on trusting Ron too much. Ron “felt bad” he told Rick and in a grand act of kindness gave Rick the advantage menu which would give Rick the ability to order himself an idol, extra vote, or reward ... if he also procured a time machine to travel back to the first nine days of the game. Ron left that very small caveat out of the conversation.
Details ... who needs ‘em?
“I honestly don’t know why Ron would give this to me,” Rick pondered, not yet coming to the conclusion that this was way too good to be true. “Sorry I blindsided you last vote — please accept this hidden immunity idol as an apology” — said no one ever. We’ll sooner witness The Wardog win an individual immunity challenge than see that happen. This should have been an immediate red flag for Rick, but instead he saw it as just another miracle like he the phoenix rising from its ashes. If Rick’s a phoenix, then it makes sense now how he eliminated Chris and his basilisk.
REWARD – LIQUID LOVE
Maybe it’s just the bit of lacking of emotional investment I have left in this season, but I was abnormally numb for this loved ones visit. I think I only cracked a tiny bit, and that was at the very end with Gavin because he was trying so hard not to crack. In the old days (I know, I’m an old schooler), we heard a lot less of Probst during these reunions so I’m thinking he’s more responsible for killing the vibe for me.
Jeff makes everything uncomfortable by asking questions that either have an obvious answer like “does knowing your son doesn’t know where you are make you sad?” or don’t need an answer like when he said to Lauren, “I don’t want to ask what you whispered in your dad’s ear,” while obviously hoping she’d share that intimate moment with the group. I would never advocate for cancellation of the family visit, but can we at least cancel Jeff during it? Give Rosie O’Donnell a call and have her host this challenge instead.
The one thing I loved about this was the return of the game all the Donaldson boys now play at their own annual family reunions, the “Dammit, Reid” challenge that Survivors get to play with their loved ones. Fortunately for everyone, no duo was as dysfunctional as Colby and his brother Reid, but some family members did end up taking a little more water to the face than in their bucket. Ron and his husband Lloyd proved the best at the bucket brigade, winning a feast back at camp to be shared with two more couples. Ron picked Julie which was expected and he made his second pick Gavin to give him and his new wife Carly a proper honeymoon. How sweet!
On the salty side, Victoria made a mental note of Ron’s choice of companions, making her question her relationship with Ron after not being chosen. It’s been said before, but as great of a reward it would be to win love from home, it’s the one reward that should not be so eagerly won. Julie and Gavin got the best of both worlds, being picked to enjoy without having to pick who went back to camp alone. As for the other four, “No love for you!” Ron’s win forced him to become the loved ones Nazi.
SCREW THIS, DUDE
We got ZIP from the Edge of Extinction this week which was 100% the worst week in which this could have happened. The last words from the last episode were Reem promising The Wardog she’d raise hell the next morning. Well, morning came so where the hell was everyone? Did things too violently graphic for primetime television or the extra-family night of this family show?
We later saw The Wardog at tribal council, so I’d say we’re safe to assume Reem didn’t commit murder ... or did she though? Maybe the scene turned into a whole Weekend at Bernie’s situation to try and cover up the horror.
I’m sure The Wardog already reeked like a dead body, so the smell of a rotting corpse wouldn’t have raised any additional questions. It’s actually the perfect crime!
SO MUCH TO PLAY FOR
Gavin and Carly are #goals. Ron and Lloyd are too, but it was funny to see the contrast between the two couples. Gavin and Carly were being all cute and cuddly while Ron was listing off his long laundry list of sins, also revealing that the “honeymoon” factor played no part in his decision to take Gavin along for the reward. He didn’t care about that — it was 100% a game move. This is the villain I’ve been craving!
Aurora channeled her inner villain too in the act of digging through Rick’s bag, wanting to confirm or deny him having an idol or other kind of advantage. Whoever was on lookout did a terrible job, however, because she only had seconds to cover her tracks when Rick came roaming back to camp. Luckily, Aurora wasn’t one to get worked up or feel awkward about this kind of ordeal.
Couldn’t be bothered.
Rick tried using this as ammo against Aurora, hoping the tribe would label her as untrustworthy, but Vata couldn’t be bothered either as they were all firmly against Rick by this point, leaving him with just one alternative:
ask Production for more help find an idol!
I feel a little bad because I don’t dislike Rick as a person, but he’s literally turning into Ben 2.0 and actually worse since Rick already lost the game once. I just can’t believe we’re going down this exact same path again. Rick was outnumbered 6-1 with no one wanting to budge, so if he makes it to the end and wins, it’s almost certainly going to be only because of immunities or idols. That’s just no “game” I can support.
Yeah, Rick can be a fun character when we’re not being forced to root for him to climb out of the humungous hole he’s dug himself into, but that doesn’t make a good story, and if he wins after being booted once (or, god forbid, twice) then he’ll objectively be the worst winner ever in my eyes. Voted out, on the wrong side of half the votes, having to rely on immunity or idols to survive ... case closed. I don’t mean to be a hater (I probably am, but I don’t give a shit) but I’m just not having any of this Rick Kool-Aid. Call me “underneath the moon” on him I guess.
IMMUNITY – CHIMNEY SWEEP
^That was basically me at everything Rick did this episode.
This was another throwback challenge called “Chimney Sweep” because this must be the position chimney sweeps have to stand in when they clean chimneys? I don’t know, I never have had the misfortune of having to clean a chimney nor will I ever. I’m white collar. I’d pay someone to do that.
For an additional fee, Debbie will also sing and ferry children to and from a fanciful cartoon world with their nanny.
With Rick dropping out of the challenge first, the winner of the challenge didn’t matter much. I’d have expected Julie or Aurora to stand the tests of time and add to their immunity wins, but it was Gavin who was the only one to not give up as Ron then laid the obvious groundwork to drop Rick Devens even harder than he had in the challenge — not a great prediction coming from Ron with Rick’s recent idol find.
NO ONE IS TALKING TO ME
As Victoria laid out, the vote for Rick was so obvious that even he knew it was coming, but he still arranged with Ron and Julie to vote out Aurora with the small hope they weren’t just screwing with him. *cue Ron and Julie cackling as soon as he walked away*
The real GAME CHANGERS of the night were Victoria and Lauren who had a hunch that Rick would play an idol, so rather than letting his one vote control who left, they decided to throw a few extra votes on Ron. This was so freaking smart. If Rick didn’t play an idol, Ron may have been upset over the votes from the girls, but at this stage of the game, you’ve got to play hard fast and make apologies later. Either Rick or Ron leaving was a win for Lauren and Victoria, so they added Aurora to the mix who then revealed she had an extra vote which had to be played at this tribal council.
The girls had the game on lock, but the only hiccup could be somehow a tie vote happening and Aurora being unable to use her extra vote on the re-vote, so they recruited Gavin to use Aurora’s extra vote instead, since as the immunity necklace holder, there’d be no scenario in which he couldn’t use it. With Aurora being so quick to share her extra vote, I was a little worried that would be her undoing, but she proved to know what she was doing instead and for that I give her some props for using the extra vote, a many-times misplayed advantage, in an equally effective and creative way.
The issue was that Ron had just given Gavin one of the greatest gifts he’d ever received with this episode’s reward, and the girls were asking him to completely disregard the gesture and vote Ron out anyway. Rick was still the main plan, but fully expecting him to play the idol with how the episode was trying so hard to make Rick *happen* that meant it would come down to the backup plan. Whether that would be Aurora or Ron — that depended on Gavin’s plan.
Totally not dead.
Rick was the story of hour, of course, with his main diversion tactic being trying to turn the tribe against Aurora for being such an awful human being that searches through people’s bags. A) That isn’t a sin, and B) even if it was, when the whole tribe supported Aurora’s action, good luck Rick trying to use that as the reason to get rid of her.
Openly discussed was how most of the tribe felt about going to the end with Rick, a final three scenario no one wanted. He argued that someone within the six needed his vote more than they realized, which is fair, but giving the jury’s whooping and hollering over what came next, there is no argument one could make to me to convince me that anyone should take Rick to the end. It’s stupid that he’d be such a shoe-in to win, but the jury has no poker face this season and they’re cheering for him as the Edge’s own underdog.
As much as I didn’t like Rick finding an idol (at least he found this one) when someone plays an idol or advantage when they know they’re on the bottom, more than a bit of theatrics is acceptable. Rick played the advantage menu very well and smoothly moved into his second act of playing a still-active power. The jury went full-Reem and erupted like a volcano, but at least half of the Vata tribe expected this and had prepared accordingly.
Gavin went with the girls and played Aurora’s extra vote to stack 2 votes on Ron in addition to one thrown that way by Lauren, sending Ron to the Edge of Extinction in a 3-1 vote after Rick nullified four votes that were cast for him.
Now, was it just me, or did it look like Rick was trying to take some of the credit for the Ron ouster? True, Ron wouldn’t have left had it not been for Rick’s idol, but Rick’s target was Aurora. After the menu mayhem, Ron ended up as the person Rick may have wanted out most, but Rick still went into tribal council anticipating Aurora leaving. He only inadvertently took out Ron yet turned to the jury like he had just dropped some sort of Rick Bomb on Ron. Congrats on the first correct idol play of the season, but Rick’s still just 2 for 7 on merge votes, so dude ... don’t get excited.
Ron’s storyline was so confusing to me. I don’t necessarily think everyone needs to be either a hero or a villain, but Ron’s edit bounced back and forth one too many times. One day he was fun, goofy Ron and the next he was cutthroat, backstabbing, puppet master Ron with no explanation in between. Maybe it’s just hard to edit someone who’s playing on the villainous side while at the same time jumping up and down and dancing all around with so much positive energy.
I had low expectations for Ron, thinking he wouldn’t fit in with Kama, so him being their pilot for the longest time was an impressive run. We got a little bit of his dark side, but I think he could have been a greater character had Ron really been ramped up to be the big villain who got his iconic comeuppance at final seven (or even better, that tribal council where we lost Julia). I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a villain like that (don’t you dare say Natalie – she was 100% a hero), someone who we loved to hate all season that eventually got their ass handed to them in an epic fashion. Ron was a great player, but I wish we had gotten more than just shades of his sinister side to make his rue-the-day moment all the more electrifying.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
^Me looking ahead to another episode of Rick’s CPPP5 edit.
I’m happy with the alliance of Aurora, Victoria, Lauren, and Gavin becoming official but I’ll also be thrilled if Julie pushes her way in too. Just…anyone but Rick. Please. Rick’s an entertaining enough character on his own, but no one asked for nor needed this second coming of Ben, barreling his way to a win with idols and immunities. Sadly, this episode sort of solidified that as the timeline we’re traversing. I need that mystery box on the Edge of Extinction to contain some sort of reset button, or at the very least a Men in Black memory wipe device to use on the world when this season’s over.
Gavin — Gavin had a big week with getting to see this wife, winning his second immunity, and making the Big Move™ to vote out Ron who had nearly given him the world with that reward. Gavin’s heart went from wonderfully warm to cold as ice but as Ron called out before tribal council, “there’s a reason why the game’s called Survivor.” Talk about a “thanks” for that honeymoon! Gavin’s played a low-key game, but with so many big personalities, while it’s not the most exciting strategy to watch, it’s an effective one. The edit wanted us to root for Rick above all the rest this week, but I found myself most quoting Kelley with, “Go Gavin!”
Victoria — While she didn’t technically vote out Ron, Victoria’s been “in” on the vote at every single tribal council she’s attended this season which can’t be said for anyone else in the game. Victoria spearheaded saving the game from being left all up to Rick. With how she talked about him at tribal council, I’m sort of fearing a final three where she’s stuck there with Rick who robs her of her win just because he can put on a better show with lights and cameras pointed at him. Being the loudest doesn’t make someone the smartest. On the contrary, Victoria’s the quietest one left but I think the best positioned to make it to the end without any votes cast against her. If she does, she should receive the votes to win.
Lauren — Lauren co-signed the big Plan B with Victoria and while we didn’t get to see how Lauren came to camouflage herself among the old Kamas, she’s shown to have done exactly that and is someone else who, like Victoria, could completely escape becoming a target until the end which is impressive with her Lesu alliance completely crumbling. Secretly, though, I hope Lauren finds a reason to use her idol because she’s our last hope of a woman playing one this season after they’ve done so record-breakingly well at finding them – an idol play that I hope happens if only to see Kelley lose her fucking mind stanning her island sister.
Rick — This was officially the Rick episode as he “survived against all odds” or whatever underdog story was being told. I liked Rick in the beginning, but he soured for me at the merge with his attitude, and now he’s clearly the one the audience is supposed to be rooting for as told by the edit, and 9 times out of 10 I don’t root for that person. I can’t hate the player, but I can hate the game for rewarding Rick despite his many, many mistakes. Our march toward this miserable million-dollar win continues:
Per your wishes, Ben Martell.
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser