With the the second episode of “Survivor: Edge of Extinction” in the books and all 18 players, new and returning, still officially in the game (but do we really think Keith Sowell is going to choose to stay?!) we can confidently begin our seasonal power rankings! So far it seems that the narrative thrust of this season is going to be newbies vs. the vets and all I can see right now is the newbies with a significant upper hand. Vets Kelley Wentworth and Aubry Bracco are in horrible positions while Joe Anglim and David Wright are being used as shields by newbies smarter than them.
Below I break down my first set of power rankings of all 18 players by grouping them according to similar strategies, edits and positions in the game. At the top we have four players with good edits despite having little yet to do strategically, followed by a middle group of eight players of TBD strength and then the disadvantaged vets and the two Extinction Islanders at the very bottom. What do you think of my assessment? Tell me how wrong I am in the comments!
1. Gavin Whitson – Kama
2. Eric Hafemann – Kama
3. Julie Rosenberg – Kama
4. Lauren O’Connell – Manu
Unfortunately, as is always the case early in the game, we haven’t gotten to see how the strategy of the Kama will actually play out because they haven’t had to put any of it into action at a tribal council yet. That being said, we have had the opportunity to see the seeds of two very different and strong approaches to the game among these three. Gavin and Eric seem to have developed a connection early on that reminds me a lot of the Christian and Nick bond that began early in Season 37. That connection, as we know, helped propel both deep into the game and Nick to the ultimate win. They certainly aren’t on the bottom at Kama so they’re already basically assured a spot in the inevitable tribe switch and likely making it to the merge as it is so if they can keep the others from seeing them as a threatening pair then… woo boy they’ll be in the finals.
As for Julie, I just simply like what I saw in episode 2 in terms of the edit. During the two idol hunts going on in both camps the editors thought it was important to give Julie narrative duties over the hunt at Kama. More importantly, her narrative was about the series history of male players finding idols more often than female players and then cut to a female finding an idol. That Julie is the voice given to a story that important signifies to me that she’ll be an important player in the dynamics of the season. Let’s lump Lauren in with Julie just because she’s the one that actually found the idol, albeit on the other tribe, and because I think her decision to not tell her closest ally Kelley about the idol, or consider saving Kelley when Kelley could have gone home, is a tell-tale sign of a smart player.
5. Wardog DaSilva – Manu
6. Chris Underwood – Manu
7. Rick Devens – Manu
8. Wendy Diaz – Manu
The players hovering in the middle of the game could, at this point at least, be switched around in my rankings pretty easily and probably dependent on my mood at any given hour. For now I’m really feeling Wardog and Chris at Manu for their decision to ultimately keep their tribe strong for challenges and not vote out Kelley before Keith. That Chris felt comfortable approaching Wardog with the plan to vote Kelley out in the first place means that they trust each other and are making decisions together. I think they’re a stronger pair than, say, Rick and David even if those two have the hold over Wendy’s vote, giving them a stronger voting block than Wardog and Chris. What worries me about Rick/David/Wendy is that Rick seems shifty and I think he’ll turn on his own alliance eventually (David even gave him the OK to vote him out at final four?!), David is vulnerable because he’s a vet and Wendy is way too unpredictable. Wendy’s decision to stick by Reem on the first vote, knowing full well the entire tribe wanted Reem out, was a rookie mistake and even if it spares her a few weeks she now has no say whatsoever at camp and will have to settle for being a goat for the rest of the season.
9. Victoria Baamonde – Kama
10. Julia Carter – Kama
11. Ron Clark – Kama
12. Aurora McCreary – Kama
This set of Kama players can realistically be divided into two pairs: Victoria and Julia who had a great moment calling Aubry out on her fake friendships in episode 2 and Ron and Aurora who I honestly didn’t even realize existed as players until Jeff said one of their names during the immunity challenge in episode 2. So, needless to say, all four of them really need to get the support of editors and some on screen attention before I consider any of them as potential winners. I do think what we saw from Victoria and Julia was a spark of brilliance, but was edited in a way that spoke more to the overall narrative of the season that the vets are in serious trouble from all the newbies as opposed to just Victoria and Julia being the threats to their safety. To put it differently, Victoria and Julia were used to tell the first chapter in a story of newbies taking out vets that they themselves aren’t actually the main characters in. (The main characters there, I think, are Gavin, Eric, Julie, Wardog, Chris and to an extent even Wendy).
13. David Wright – Manu
14. Joe Anglim – Kama
15. Kelley Wentworth – Manu
16. Aubry Bracco – Kama
Based on the conversations swirling among the newbies at both camps, none of the veterans are in a strong position in the game. For Aubry, the mistakes are many already and she gave us one of the stupidest moments on episode 2. How long will her luck last, honestly? As soon as Kama loses, Aubry is gone. Joe is also on her tribe, but my frontrunners Gavin and Eric acknowledged that of the two vets they want Aubry gone first and Joe to stick around as a shield, but refuse to allow him to get anywhere near the end of the game. Similarly, Kelley is also being positioned as a shield for two strong men on the Manu tribe. To make matters worse for her, David has aligned with the Manu newbies and is actively targeting Kelley for elimination. While David is probably doing much better than 13th overall, but he’s still a vet on a season of newbies that are not going to treat them like a god as the flops of Boston Rob‘s winning season did.
17. Reem Daly – Extinction Island
18. Keith Sowell – Status: Undetermined
With so much hanging in the balance of how Extinction Island is going to play out this season, we have to put its one current inhabitant close to the bottom and the silly player that somehow struggles with the decision to accept a second chance in the game at the very bottom. Do I think Reem could make a decent run and remain on Extinction Island for a couple weeks? Yes. Do I think she’ll eventually raise the white flag of surrender? Yes. Do I think Keith will even go to Extinction Island? No. If he does, do I think he’ll last? No. Would an Extinction Island of Reem and Keith be television gold, even if only for one scene? Yes. So many questions, so little chance that either of these players getting to the end of the game.
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