No other Survivor season has created more debate in the fan community than Edge of Extinction. The game mechanic that saw voted out castaways live on a separate island with limited food, hoping and vying for a spot back in the game, created an interesting dynamic and an unorthodox set of events…to say the least. No event was more unorthodox than when Chris Underwood, the 3rd person voted out, came back into the game at the final six and ended up winning the season. Although the finale did not fail to entertain, Chris Underwood’s win will forever be the strangest and couldn’t help but disappoint a large section of the fan community. For the five days that the 26-year old was in the game for, Chris really made the most of his time on the island and made one of the best moves I think we’ve ever seen in order to eliminate Rick Devens, even if it was the only move for him to make at the time. But that is not enough to earn him a spot on our Top 5 Players from Survivor Edge of Extinction. Here’s who makes the cut instead…
5. Kelley Wentworth
Coming into the game with the biggest target on her back, Kelley somehow managed to position herself in the perfect spot at Manu beach. Everyone who went home in the early stages of the game, wanted Kelley gone. But they quite simply couldn’t pull it off because of how well she had positioned herself. Kelley had Lauren as her number 1 ally, Wardog as her number 2, and had good relationships with Chris, Rick Devens and David up until the point of their eliminations from the game. David always wanted her out, but could never actually take the shot because of Kelley’s positioning and social aptitude. The perfect mix of shrewd and social, Kelley was never allowed to be under the radar like she had been in Cambodia and it’s a testament to her game that she managed to escape four votes at the start of the merge while building relationships with Gavin and Julie in the process. She might not have continued her legacy in the way that she would have liked, but Kelley Wentworth remains one of the greatest to ever play. Her achievements this season remain remarkable given that she was down in the numbers for the entire game and managed to make it by four votes in the merge, while constantly having one of the biggest targets of any player on the island.
4. Ron Clarke
Ron Clarke was at the forefront of everything Kama did for a long portion of the game. He even had everything set up in his favour at the merge, highlighting his truly masterful pre-merge game. In the pre-merge, Ron had a massive amount of social capital and control over Kama. Not only was he at the helm of a six-person alliance, he was also one of the only people willing to give Joe and Aurora the time of day. When he came into the merge people like Gavin and Julia felt on the outside and decided to make a move against him and Eric, but it was Eric who was sent home. Ron had no trouble pulling people like Gavin back in and with subsequent eliminations of Julia, David, Kelley and The Wardog, Ron again had set himself up in the perfect spot to win. Unfortunately, final seven is not when you want to be sitting in the perfect position to win, and Ron was dispatched at the hands of his own Kama alliance due to an idol play by Rick Devens.
3. Lauren O’Connell
Given the adversity she had to face, Lauren O’Connell’s achievements in Survivor Edge of Extinction are highly commendable. Most Kama members at the merge seemed to be vying for David Wright’s attention initially, but Lauren assimilated better than anyone else from her original Manu tribe. She developed a strong bond with Julie and quietly earned herself trust with the power players of the game, Gavin and Victoria, to create the most dominant alliance of the season. Out of anyone, the return of Chris Underwood might have screwed Lauren over the most, although it’s unclear if Gavin and Victoria would have turned on her at the final four in favour of Julie. Although she should not have played her idol for Chris at the final six, you can’t really blame her too much. Chris came back into the game specifically telling her that Lauren’s biggest advocate on the jury, Kelley, was saying she needed to play her idol in order to have a resume move big enough to win the game. Unfortunately for her, where you can blame the former soccer player, is in the fact that she played it at final six to save someone she didn’t need to save, instead of at the final five when she needed it most. It has to be remembered that Lauren was only voted out by a) a twist, b) an idol given to Chris by production after the twist and c) a piece of brilliant manipulation by Chris that Lauren will probably never give him credit for. The way she worked her way from bottom to top was incredible to watch and Lauren has to be one of the very best to play the game this season.
2. Gavin Whitson
With 0 votes cast against him the entire game, Gavin is truly one of the nicest people to ever play Survivor. I still really don’t understand Victoria’s reasoning for not voting for Gavin in the end, but he easily secured the votes of the 4 players who were the least brainwashed: Aurora, Rick, Kelley and Lauren. Although the jury claimed to be open and unsure of where their votes were going to go, I really think the players who were more removed from the game like Aubry, Reem, Julia and Joe were never going to vote for Gavin to win and so when he didn’t even get Victoria’s vote, he really had an uphill battle. Ron Clarke said in his exit interview with RHAP that he was looking for aggressive game-play. If Gavin had been able to articulate the moves that he had made at the final tribal council, he might have secured someone like Ron’s vote. Despite being one of the nicest to ever play, Gavin was actually an aggressive game-player. He stealthily cut loose his ally Aurora at the final six, while helping lead the charge to vote out another one of his really good allies in Eric. Aubry said that no one gave her the time of day, but Gavin was one of the few to remain open to working with her and was crucial in her elimination. The newly married man also voted for the eliminated castaway on 9 out of his 13 votes. Ultimately, Gavin lost the game by having spent no time on a beach that all the other jury members had spent most of their time on. Secondary to that, his failure to articulate really how grand some of his moves in the game were and why they got him to the end ensured that possible swing votes had no choice but to vote for Chris who a day ago made one of the boldest moves this game has seen.
However, as he was able to articulate, Gavin was the connector between alliances and always remained in the good graces of everyone, whether they were in his alliance or not. Every single person wanted to include him on every single plan and that is almost unheard of in the game of Survivor. He had more allies than anyone else in the game and within his four person alliance he had both Victoria and Lauren saying that he was their number one. Gavin’s game will forever remain underrated, but he actually played one of the most stellar games I think we’ve seen in recent memory and Victoria really needs to do a long interview on RHAP so we can all understand what happened at the final six to lead her into not voting for her closest ally in the game.
1. Victoria Baamonde
Despite being idoled-out of the game at the final six, Victoria has to be the best player of the season. She always knew what the best plan was for her game, but if it didn’t head in that direction she always remained open to going along with the majority. She wasn’t always the pilot, but Victoria did have a lot of stellar plays including completely bamboozling Aubry Bracco – one of the greatest this game has seen. Chris came back into the game claiming Victoria was the biggest jury threat other than Rick Devens and immediately after that, she was on everyone’s radar after never being on anyone’s radar the entire game. A key part of every Kama alliance imaginable, Victoria received 2 votes the entire game and unfortunately for her, it was the two that eliminated her from the game after production’s sacred Chris idol came into play. Victoria knew that it wasn’t necessarily the best move to take out Aurora and she resisted from pushing harder for it to be Julie, probably to ensure she didn’t make herself a target. Unfortunately, Aurora’s elimination from the game was a key factor in Victoria’s downfall and she was idoled out, after playing a stellar, shrewd game in which she always remained in power but never became a threat. Had she made it to the end with anyone other than Rick, Victoria might have done enough to beat anyone.
So there it is! The 5 Best Survivor Players from Season 37: Edge of Extinction. There were some fantastic players this season. Castaways like ‘The Wardog’, Rick Devens and Chris Underwood all deserve credit for the games that they played given the cards that they were dealt with. David Wright played well despite always being at the bottom and even someone like Aurora had a really compelling story given that she had to fight her way from bottom to top in order to make it to the final six. However, the five names and faces listed above are The Mastermind‘s picks for Top 5 Players from Survivor Edge of Extinction. So who do you think should be higher, lower, on the list or not on the list? Let me know below or on Twitter @realitytvtms.