“Survivor” is getting down to the nitty-gritty as only eight players remain in the proper game. After a post-merge of the Kama alliance getting picked off one by one, the Manu-turned-Lesu tribe finally lost some players last week and big ones, too — the exit of David Wright and Kelley Wentworth means there are no more returning players in the game. Looking at the edit, the Final 8 have had varying degrees of screen time through the first 10 hours of this season and we now have a pretty good sense of who probably won’t make it to the end and who has a plausible winner’s edit.
Meanwhile, another eight castaways are on Extinction Island getting ready to fight for a chance to get back into the game. It remains to be seen if one of those booted players can make it back in and somehow win the season, but for now, let’s try to determine who has the winning story among those not on Extinction Island. Here’s our ranking of who has the best edit as we head into the final weeks of “Survivor: Edge of Extinction.”
1. Rick Devens
Rick was booted early in the season and sent to Extinction Island but won his way back in at the merge. Since then, he has maneuvered his way through and stealthily avoided a roundtrip ticket back. He has been on the wrong side of the vote a few times but has been consistently edited as a heroic underdog figure, an everyday guy reliably commenting on the craziness around him. Rick is left without David, his closest ally, but he is amiable and strategic enough to not be totally isolated. If he were to make it to the end, you could see a large contingent of the jury voting for Rick as a “representative of this season” thanks to his battling back in and surviving so long in the post-merge. We’ve never had a winner who was voted out earlier in the game, but Rick might just be the first.
2. Dan “Wardog” DaSilva
Is Wardog the new Tony Vlachos? That is the Army veteran’s best hope as he moves through the game like a shark, hoping to gain the respect of the jury for playing such an assertive game. He just voted out his biggest shield, Kelley, so he is now exposed and presumably a target of others if they catch on to how hard of a game he is playing. The edit has presented him as somewhat villainous, which we don’t see a lot for winners, and social media comments suggest many fans do not like him. If the jury is turned off by his personality and gameplay, thinking it more aggressive than assertive, then he will probably be a losing finalist. Yet, we have seen such a focus on him this season that he is still a possible winner, divisive as he may be.
3. Julie Rosenberg
Is Julie another potential losing finalist? Perhaps, but we’re not ruling her out as a winner either. Early breadcrumbs suggested Julie would be an endgame player, and that has clearly come to fruition, even as she feels shaky about her position in the game. We have seen her trying to maintain her sanity as of late, but that has been presented in a sympathetic light. At the same time, older women really struggle at Final Tribal Council to get those winning votes, so she will have to start making active moves in the game that benefit her, or else risk getting accused of not doing enough/being too emotional in the game.
4. Lauren O’Connell
In “Survivor: San Juan del Sur,” Natalie Anderson had to face the loss of her biggest ally, Jeremy Collins, early in the post-merge. While initially devastated, she eventually branched out and went on to win the game. Could the same narrative occur for Lauren, who is now without her best friend, Kelley? Lauren has been shown as a person in power throughout the post-merge while being somewhat in the shadows compared to her screen time-hogging allies, Kelley and Wardog. Now she is an underdog position and a free agent. If her story starts to pick up, Lauren has the makings of a potential winner as we also know her personal story and her willingness to tough it out amid rough circumstances.
5. Victoria Baamonde
What exactly is going on with Victoria? The pre-merge presented her as a cutthroat assassin, willing to do whatever it takes to win. That probably remains true, but she has really disappeared into the background since the merge. She was part of key plans to backstab Joe Anglim and Eric Hafemann but hasn’t been anywhere near the spotlight through most of these past four episodes. We need to see more of that go-for-the-jugular vibe she had when trying to get out Aubry Bracco. For now, she is a rapidly fading winner contender.
6. Ron Clark
It is still difficult to tell what the editors are trying to do with Ron, but little of it suggests he’s our winner. The disintegration of his Kama alliance was a downfall and since then we’ve just seen him flying by the seat of his pants, just hoping he’ll survive the next vote. On one hand, people seem okay with him and he could pull off a strong jury speech at the end. Yet, there is a slight negative shade to his game, whether it’s focusing too much on getting to the family visit or saying he’ll vote Aurora out with her own advantage she gave him, that suggests he’s not the hero of this story.
7. Gavin Whitson
Gavin seems like a nice kid who has made a few strategic moves to get where he is, but like Victoria and Ron, this just doesn’t feel like Gavin’s story. We know he’s a superfan and has a likable presence, but we’ve seen even less of him than those other original Kama members. He has lost so many allies up to this point that it’s hard to tell where he will go from here. We have seen under-edited women get to the end and win but very few men, so Gavin will need some good screen time fast to leapfrog anyone listed above.
8. Aurora McCreary
Oh, Aurora. The fact that she has made it this far is somewhat of a miracle, considering how few allies she has and how many people have wanted to get her out, and yet here she is in the Final 8. A few Immunity wins have helped, and she is certainly scrappy, but there doesn’t seem to be much respect for Aurora in the game. On the show, we have barely seen her, and outside of those clutch Immunity wins, the content we’ve seen has been negative, whether it’s negotiating while Lauren was passed out or spilling the beans at Tribal Council.
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