A not-so-subtle-in-the-least elimination kicked off Survivor’s 38th season: Survivor: Edge of Extinction. After 19 years of immunity challenges, survival instincts, and betrayed alliances, the castaways are pretty attuned at this point to what it takes to play the game. Some are more adept than others, although the bare basics are enough to understand. The early votes typically pick off weaker competitors, misfits or the strong personalities that make life at camp uncomfortable. Based on the varying reactions from the Manu tribe, Reem seemed to hit every category.
Right from the get-go, Reem started off on the wrong foot. Her leadership quality and directness clashed with Wardog (aka Tony Vlachos 2.0), and regardless of what she said, she couldn’t shake the bad reputation she built in the tribe. We as viewers don’t get to see everything that happened at camp (as compared to Big Brother), so we need to rely on the editors to provide the full encompassing story. When it came to Reem, I didn’t see this “overbearing motherly figure” that irritated everyone with her strong personality. Sure, she placed out the clothing to dry and defended herself at Tribal Council, but this narrative didn’t make a lot of sense.
Reem’s chances may have faulted from the infamous “anyone but me” strategy. She already stood out as the oldest member in her tribe, and the others tried to parlay her age as a reason that she wouldn’t be “strong enough” to compete in the challenges. Since she tried helping Keith learn to swim, she got branded in the misfit alliance with Keith and Wendy, even though no such alliance existed. Plus, with David and Kelley looking for any reason to divert attention off them, Reem served as an easy choice. In addition to all that, the obviousness of her impending elimination ruined any excitement to see who would be going, regardless that Wendy was on the opposite side of the split vote.
While I believe much of the decision to vote off Reem came from her connections with her tribe, she did have a point about the age discrimination. Survivor has a bad habit of eliminating older females in the early pre-jury phase, especially as the first boot. No season is the same and the criteria for eliminations change, but this is a narrative that gets tiring to witness when it does appear. Let it be known: if someone gets cast on Survivor, they’re “strong enough” to compete in the challenges. Medical wouldn’t allow anyone incapable of competing to step on the beach.
Survivor brought back the marooning intro (i.e. castaways having to secure supplies from a ship and raft to their new home) for Survivor: Edge of Extinction – and I couldn’t be happier! It’s so much fun to see the castaways jump into a frenzy and grab as many supplies as they can in the short amount of time. Sometimes they find secret twists, like what Ron found, or they make a mess of things in their first outing, like Keith being exposed as a bad swimmer. The chaos starts the game off on a high note. This intro needs to come back again for the future.
Speaking of Ron’s twist, he found one of the best powers yet on Survivor! Options on a reality TV show are the best thing to get because you have some type of control over the game and your future. Even though he can only use it in the first three rounds, it’s three big powers that can come in handy. Based on the options, he should ONLY take the hidden immunity idol. Safety in Survivor is the most precious thing you could ask for. An extra vote is great, but if you can ensure your safety, nothing else truly matters.
Survivor: Edge of Extinction brought back four past players to compete alongside the 14 new castaways. As much as I am a fan of these returning players (especially Kelley Wentworth), I don’t think they were needed. Like past twists that mixed veterans and newbies together, the veterans got a lot of screentime and they killed all of the drama that would’ve stemmed from the newbies learning how to survive. Everyone turned to Joe, David, Kelley, and Aubry for how to make a fire or set up a camp. These newbies experienced an easy first few days with their Survivor experience, and they immediately bowed down to the returning players. I wouldn’t be surprised if a returning player wins Survivor: Edge of Extinction. Can’t Survivor ever learn from the past? Unless it’s a Blood vs. Water or Fans vs. Favorites twist, keep the seasons to only all newbies or all veterans.
The best part of “It Smells Like Success” came in the last five minutes of the episode. After Reem got voted out and faced the Edge of Extinction twist, the tension kicked up to new levels of creepiness. The editing was superb and beautiful! The mix of creepy music and silence, the use of the night’s natural darkness, and Reem’s genuine fear/confusion rounded out the scene to leave us on a worthy cliffhanger. Whenever Survivor hits the right note with its editing, they hit it right out of the park – this scene will go down as one of its best.
“It Smells Like Success” came across as a “by-the-numbers” Survivor premiere until its final few minutes. Reem’s decision with the Edge of Extinction twist and her venturing to the mysterious island made up for a season premiere that we’ve most likely seen in the past. The premiere wasn’t bad – in fact, it was fun and hit the beats it needed to hit – but it kept to a mellow tone after a chaotic intro and mysterious ending. Hopefully, the momentum of the season rises from here on out and the players don’t hand the game to the veterans too easily.