‘Survivor: Edge of Extinction’ recap: The edge of quitting


Look, I’ll admit it: I tend to get paralyzed when purchasing anything online. Doesn’t matter how big or how small. I’ll sit there reading 10 zillion online reviews of a potential microwave oven or the highest-rated disinfectant spray to get the smell of cat piss out of my carpet. And after that painstaking process is complete, I then need to comparison shop for five days straight to find the best price. It’s exhausting.

The worst of all, of course, is booking a hotel. You’ll read 10 incredible reviews praising a perfect little hideaway and be all ready to click on the “Book Now!” button before reading one stray report from a disgruntled guest warning “DO NOT STAY HERE! YOU WILL GET MURDERED! AND IF YOU DO NOT GET MURDERED YOU WILL BE KIDNAPPED AND TURNED INTO DRUG MULES FOR THE CARTEL!!! Also, the water pressure in the shower is sub-par at best and they don’t leave mints on the pillows. BUT SERIOUSLY, YOU WILL GET MURDERED, CHOPPED INTO PIECES, AND FED TO THE COYOTES THAT ROAM THE PROPERTY AT NIGHTS!”

The whole online process is a nightmare and the total amount of wasted hours I’ve spent on it in a fog of indecision is roughly approximate to the amount of time I have spent actually raising my two children. So I get having a bit of a panic before making a life choice, but I repeat my question: What are you waiting for?

This question, of course, is directed to Keith Sowell. Keith was voted out of Survivor. Bummer. And, truth be told, it wasn’t a great showing from Keith. He almost drowned two minutes into the game. He then aligned with the two other people who were clearly on the outs of the tribe. And then he looked positively Fishbachian while attempting to toss a ring onto a paddle. So, yeah, the guy struggled.

But how, when you are voted out on day 6 and offered a chance to stay in the game — as Keith was when he got to the Edge of Extinction sign — do you not take it IMMEDIATELY?! Let’s be clear: Keith appears to be in fine medical shape. No dislocated shoulders. No broken toes. No infections. No #SevereGastrointestinalDistress. He’s good. He also does not (that we know of) have any issues with family back home that would lead him to realize he never should have come out there in the first place. No sick parent on the verge of death. No pregnant spouse or recently born baby. No reason to leave.

The kid is 19, for crying out loud! This is precisely the age where you embrace the bold and the crazy. So what the hell was up with Keith not immediately grabbing that torch and heading in the boat to go get Reemed? (Okay, that came out wrong.) Sure, I guess it made for a dramatic cliffhanger as Keith repeated the phrase “Come on, God” approximately 37 billion times with the occasional intermittent “Jesus” thrown in for good measure, but I don’t understand what the hesitation was.

I asked Jeff Probst before the game began if he anticipated anyone not choosing to remain in the game when offered the choice, and he told me that if someone opted to quit then “we cast wrong.” Well, now Keith is considering quitting, and so is Reem. Did they cast wrong? We’ll find out. But even the fact that he is so pained over the decision as to whether to continue is pretty troubling.

It was also a bit weird, right? Cliffhangers don’t happen on Survivor very often. The natural parallel would be when they first introduced the Outcasts back in Pearl Islands. I actually watched that episode with Mark Burnett in Panama while on location for the filming of Survivor: All-Stars and threw my notepad at the TV when the words “To be continued…” popped on the screen. Last week, there was no cliffhanger as we saw Reem’s decision, so why one this week for Keith? Who knows! Maybe Keith actually stood there for a full week chanting “Come on, God” before deciding, so producers are trying to simulate that experience for viewers. Maybe Keith read the online reviews for the Edge of Extinction and heard he might get murdered there so is starting to rethink his drink. Or maybe they just cast wrong. I suppose we’ll find out next week, but there’s still plenty else to touch on this week, so let’s hit the other big points of the episode.

Edge of Extinction
The episode starts with Reem at the Edge of Extinction. Great! But what the hell is the Edge of Extinction? Oh, there’s a note telling her (and us): “This is the Edge of Extinction. You will have to work hard for everything. When fear or loneliness sets in you must find the resolve to overcome. If at any point you wish to end your adventure, raise the sail and a boat will pick you up.”

Okay, still doesn’t tell us much. I mean, we kinda figured it wouldn’t be easy. While the obvious comparison is to Redemption Island (because that was another place where people who were voted off went in an attempt to get back in the game), a more apt comparison would be to the early days of Exile Island. Back when that started, you were given a flint, a machete, a pot, and that was about it. There was not even a shelter. The focus was primarily on pain, suffering, and, yes, idol hunting.

And it seems Reem is already suffering. While we hear weird tribal moaning and random sitar playing in the background, Reem wonders about what she will have to go through for her second chance. And then she does her best Gabby Pascuzzi impersonation by crying about being stranded. This — along with Reem’s comment at the very end of the episode that she may raise the flag to quit if nobody shows up — is everything producers could have hoped for. Reem likes to project herself as being super-tough. So if someone like that can be reduced to tears by the experience, that then drives home the narrative of how hard it will be to be there. Who’s getting Reemed now?!?

Big Wendy Makes a Big Move
I wrote in last week’s recap about how Kelley Wentworth took a much bigger hit at the first Tribal Council than you saw on TV, and the person now most on the outs of the tribe, Wendy, tries to exploit that back at camp. Either that or she is attempting to rob a bank with that buff over her face — I can’t tell. But she talks openly to a few other tribemates about how the returnees are going to ruin the game. Now, this is a bit odd as one of the tribemates she is talking to is a returnee himself in David, so maybe not the best sales pitch, but the point is she’s trying to magnify that target on Kelley even more.

Her chat pays dividends as Rick and David both agree they want her gone. And more so, they seem to agree with what I wrote last week when Wendy told The Wardog that she would not betray Reem. That made The Wardog want to get rid of Wendy immediately, while I said that was a huge mistake because someone that is loyal to the end is the perfect alliance partner and should be cultivated as such. Rick and David see that value as well, meaning perhaps there is some hope for her after all.

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