Survivor: Edge of Extinction Episode 11
If you don’t like Rick Devens, and scouring the internet world there are many of you, this week’s Survivor episode probably wasn’t ideal for you. On a week where he should have been going home, Rick managed to find a way to cockroach himself into staying an extra week to the cries of “Ben Driebergen 2.0” from the haters.
Thankfully for my own personal enjoyment, I enjoy Rick Devens as a character and thus thoroughly enjoyed what was presented on my television. Sometimes personal interaction between characters delivers more than just simple strategy and that has basically been my mantra for the entire season.
Before I talk about any of Rick or Ron’s stuff, I’d like to get this said out loud: Lauren and Victoria played a wonderful round of Survivor. They both acknowledged that they had been on separate sides of the war that’s been waging all season but realized they might be better off together. Victoria was able to pull in Gavin and Aurora, who has previously declared she will vote where the numbers are, wasn’t too hard to pull in as well. I love the agency Victoria and Lauren demonstrated by not letting Rick or Ron dictate who the backup plan might be. It’s that kind of foresight that separates good Survivor players from the great ones.
I was less keen on Aurora’s decision-making in this episode. If she was intent on giving her extra vote to someone, it should have been Victoria. There was no doubt that Victoria might go home and she was the one hatching the plan. Victoria didn’t vote for Ron by design but if she had been given the extra vote, she would have used that extra vote on Ron just like Gavin did. Giving the extra vote to someone who was only added into the plan later was an unnecessary risk. For a couple of minutes, I was convinced Aurora was going to be voted out with her own extra vote.
As soon as Aurora gave her “I don’t want to be a Survivor idiot” quote, I started worrying for her. That was then followed by Gavin being told the plan was Ron, being given the extra vote and him vocalizing in a confessional, “I’m not sure I want to vote out Ron. He just gave me the best day of my life.” I was so convinced Aurora was fulfilling her self-prophecy of becoming a Survivor idiot so I will admit that production got me good on that one.
Now I can focus on Ron and his downfall. Before anything else, I would like to note that Ron was the best kind of Survivor “villain”. He was never nasty or evil for the sake of being a dick. He wasn’t making people uncomfortable living with him. He just had a cutthroat mentality and he was aiming to control the game as much as possible. I love seeing people really get into the gameplay and have fun doing it and Ron really embodied that for me.
All that said, being voted out in this episode or not, Ron was playing a losing game. Up to this point, he had betrayed an ally in almost every vote since the merge. He was purposefully positioning himself as the swing vote in every round which meant he got to decide who went home but on the flip side, whoever that person ended up being was going to feel raw towards him.
Tonight, he doubled down on his chances of losing by needlessly giving Rick a fake advantage. The trust he was gaining with Rick while Rick was still alive in the game did not outweigh the loss of his vote he was going to end up with when Rick was sent home after playing a fake idol. It was fun for us to watch at home but it was unquestionably a terrible decision in terms of gameplay.
I think that Ron’s biggest flaw is that he got too comfortable. He saw himself as the puppet master and thought of everybody else as his underlings. Nobody makes a move on the mob boss in the movies because they’re afraid of retribution. In real life, mob bosses get taken down by their closest henchmen all the time because those under him get thirsty for power. Ron thought he was living in a movie but Victoria and the others were firmly grounded in real life. And they slit his throat.
It’s a very full circle moment for Ron to be sent home immediately after the family visit. He’s the one who propped up that specific reward to keep his group together. “Let’s all just make it to the family visit.” Well, he did and he even won it. Then he was promptly sent home. Poetic.
While the edit tried to point out the reward as the reason for Victoria flipping away from Ron, I don’t think it has much to do it with it. It may have been one of several factors but I think that the reason Victoria made this move is because she is a smart player. She knew that the numbers were already dwindling and that with fewer people, the less opportunity you have to change your position. She saw this backdoor of “what if Rick does have an idol?” as a chance to get rid of somebody in her way and she took it.
That doesn’t mean anyone should go out and try to win the family visit. It’s so much better to be picked for this reward even if it means having to throw it. I understand why players don’t. The emotion felt when you’re really in the moment is so much stronger than anybody could ever conceive and at that point, game theory usually goes out the window. The optimal strategy is to come up with a good story that will make the reward winner pick you but not such a good story that people will vote you out because of it. Gavin’s wedding story from this episode is like the perfect balance of sweet but not so heavy that it makes him too big of a contender to win because of it.
And now about Mr. Rick Devens. I understand why some people might not like him. He hams it up. As a game player, a lot of fans have overrated him because he is has the nerdy super fan look to him. He’s already been voted out of the game once and many feels like his continued presence is unwarranted. Because he has this big personality, production has edited him strongly to the detriment of other players (not his fault but still a complaint from many). I understand all of that.
Having considered all of that, if you didn’t get at least a little hyped about the way Rick played his idols tonight, I don’t think you’re watching the right show for you. He had his suspicions about Ron’s advantage but he gave him the benefit of the doubt. When it came out that it was expired, Rick completely turned it on Ron and Julie. He made them look very bad in front of the jury and in comparison, Rick looked like a genius by playing his real idol. In reality, Rick did very little in this round to impact the game other than save himself but in the eyes of the jury, he got all of the credit for a vote he didn’t even participate in. That’s how you posture in front of the jury.
As for the people calling him the second coming of Ben… stop it. He’s found one idol and the second was given to him for returning from the edge of extinction. That would have been given to any of them had they managed to return but Rick rightfully earned that idol by winning his way into the game. Besides, that idol had no power in his first round back and he had to share it with someone. The idol he found in this episode was in two steps. It didn’t magically appear to him in the spot where Rick sleeps like it did for Ben. He had to find a clue to the idol and then climb a tree above the camp to rescue it. There is no conspiracy theory going on here. Rick just worked hard to find the idol and he did. Take off your tin foil hats, stop claiming everything is rigged and just enjoy the season.
I think a major part of why Rick is disliked is because he isn’t that good of a player. He’s voted wrong multiple times since the merge and always seems to end up on the bottom. People feel that we are devoting time to someone who isn’t very good at the game at the expense of people like Victoria, who has a good grasp on the dynamics and always knows what’s going on. There needs to be disassociation between the strategy and the story. The edit we are getting is the story of the season. The story doesn’t care if you’re good player or not, it only cares about if you ultimately feed into what the end narrative will be. Winner or not, Rick obviously figures heavily in the season’s final story and thus, gets airtime. It’s always how it’s been and it’s always how it will be. Survivor on the island is all about strategy and winning the game. Survivor the television product isn’t about strategy, it’s about the story around the strategy and that always takes precedence.
All that to say that if you hate Rick Devens, you probably shouldn’t tune into next week’s episode. If you think he was a focal point this week, next week I think we will see even more of him. It’s possible that this goes another direction but the two paths I see are that either Rick gets voted out and the entire episode is him fighting against that from happening or that Rick wins immunity/finds an idol (which would infuriate so many people) and the story is about his continued survival. Just giving a fair warning to anyone who can no longer stomach the Rick Devens show.