Sandra Diaz-Twine had one final power move left in Survivor: Winners at War and her career on the show: leaving the Edge of Extinction minutes after she arrived. She basically said, Eh, screw your twist, Jeff Probst.
“I have no interest in running up the mountain for a little scoop of rice, sleeping in a raggedy shelter, being bitten by rats. I don’t want to deal with it,” she said, and I cheered. “I’m not very good at the challenges. Everybody knows that. So I feel I would be wasting my time just for an opportunity to go back into the game, which I’m not going to succeed at. I got voted out, and now it’s time for me to go.”
Oh Sandra, that’s so old-school! Being voted out and actually leaving is how old Survivor used to work.
Seriously, it’s an impressive decision, because Sandra knows her strengths: sitting out of challenges was for the benefit of her team. And she was voted out essentially because she played against her strengths, gambling to try to get a fire token instead of playing it safe.
Survivor is a game that has many paths to victory, although only some are valued more than others by some fans (and, I’d argue, by its host and showrunner).
The only reason for Sandra to stick around is to become part of the jury and help choose the first all-winners season winner, but also that’s clearly not important to Sandra, and I respect that.
Plus, whether she and Rob lived in the shelter for 39 days and foraged for food or not, she’d just spent 39 days in Fiji not actually playing the game, I can understand why turning around and basically doing that again just isn’t palatable.
Her exit came with a glowing edit—the show did not present her actions as quitting or giving up, in the way that it’s punished people in the past for quitting—and ended with her saying, “I’ve gained a lot because of Survivor; it has changed my life; it’s given me opportunities that I might not otherwise have had. I’m happy to go into retirement and know that I did the best I could with what I did. At the end of the day, I’m still the queen and I’ll always stay the queen.”
While we’re on the Edge of Extinction, two things of note happened. First, they received tiny scrolls with information that four fire tokens had been scattered across the top of the island.
They ran up, and Tyson immediately found one. No one else did. Rob offered, “Let’s frisk,” and lifted up his shirt. But as we saw in a flashback, it turned out that Rob had found the other three, all by himself.
“I’m the best that’s ever played,” said the guy who lost three times in a confessional on the season in which he was voted out early simply because he “found” three things placed on the ground in front of him.
Meanwhile, Ethan was feeling depressed, and talked to Parvati, and this conversation was the single-most frustrating conversation I’ve watched all season—and there’s a dysfunctional relationship playing out in one of the other tribes.
“This couldn’t be good for me, my body,” Ethan said, saying that, in low moments, he considers leaving, especially because, as a two-time cancer survivor, he’s not sure of the effects the physical part of Survivor. “I think about it. There’s no long-term data people who have gone through stem cell transplants.”
He didn’t actually finish that sentence, because Parvati interrupted. “You know what, it’s actually—fasting, is actually incredibly good for the body,” she said, as if she was auditioning for a role in season two of The Goop Lab. I’m surprised she didn’t try launch into a sales pitch for a multi-level marketing scheme.
Correcting a cancer Survivor who just said there’s insufficient medical data is not helpful. And for the record, fasting “can be quite dangerous” for some people, including those with “any kind of compromised immune system functioning,” or even people who are taking Tylenol, as a doctor told WebMD.
So it’s not some miracle cure. Everyone knows that miracle cures are only available from Gwyneth Paltrow’s web site.
Yul, last of the old-schoolers, joins the party on Edge of Extinction
I’m not convinced there was anything Yul could have done to save himself from being voted out. But the editing suggested that he, Nick, and Michele were going to vote out Wendell until Yul suggested a strategy that might help the three of them get Wendell’s fire tokens.
All you have to do is look at the string of players who’ve just been voted out since the tribe swap—Rob, Parvati, Sandra—to see that it offered an opportunity to get rid of the high-profile players, never mind that the previous players voted out—Natalie, Amber, Danni, and Ethan—were all from earlier seasons.
Is this because the more-recent winners have relationships? Or that these players are so high-profile they seem more threatening than other people who’ve won the game?
What was most interesting to me about this was the discussion at Tribal. Nick said that, should he be voted out and return to the game, he’d still want to be the final four with this tribe, which had voted him out. Wendell basically said the opposite: if he got blindsided, he’d hold it against his tribemates for lying to him.
Probst called on Yul, who said he’d be “bitter” if he did get voted off but if he returned, he’d want to work with this tribe because “that may be my only option.” (Did he know he was going at that point? Hmm.)
Yul also said that he’d already lied more this season than he had on the entirety of Survivor: Cook Islands, which is a new way of hearing about the distinction between the way the game is now versus the way it used to be.
At the immunity challenge, Wendell called for Probst before finishing the puzzle—an action that makes sense when you recall that, on his season, Wendell lost an immunity challenge after finishing first because he forgot to notify Probst.
What’s weird is that the editing framed this repeatedly as Wendell “showboating,” when it easily could have framed it as him learning, or over-correcting, or something. What the editors are picking and choosing to show us of Wendell is, well, not at all flattering.
Asked if she regretted her relationship with Wendell, Michele said, “We didn’t date that long. But yes.” And she added, “I would love some revenge … just to make sure I don’t fall for his tricks twice.”
But then, after Yul was voted out, she was playful and cheerful with Wendell, teasing him about being worried he could be voted out. I don’t want to psychoanalyze anyone’s relationship based on a heavily edited and condensed competition reality show, but to go from a very uncomfortable and awkward exchange (“let me correct you briefly”; “my sincerest apologies, Michele Fitzgerald”) to that was jarring.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning the absolutely hilarious freak-outs Adam is having over on the green tribe—and, apparently, on next week’s merged tribe, too—which manifested this week in being convinced his tribemates had an idol and were just pretending to look for one to trick him: “I’m not an idiot, guys!”
Watching him complain about this to Sophie, who’s the one who actually found and possesses the hidden immunity idol, was even more delightful than the very amusing spectacle of watching Tony do sprints while his tribe mocked him doubled-over in laughter.
Next episode, all of these people will be together, as the merge has arrived.
And based on the preview, it seems like they maybe won’t They will be joined by the first Edge returnee, like on Survivor: Edge of Extinction, because the first challenge to bring someone back into the game will also happen next episode, Jeff Probst told EW.