I'm back! Following my self-mandated 4 episode quarantine, I've now completed my rewatch and am ready to dive into some edgic takes. For those unfamiliar with my model, I only look at stories and themes; I never so much as look at an edgic chart. Furthermore, I'm a strong believer in not doing any edgic whatsoever until after 4 episodes. This helps avoid confirmation bias and lets me wait until stories are actually developed to really dive in. This method helped me successfully get all three new-era winners. So without further adieu, the character stories:
Carolyn gets the opening breaking the fourth wall confessional, telling us she's going to be a main character. Her early content presents her as awkward and on the outs, struggling to make connections because she can be overbearing. Her entire life people have said she's loud and crazy but she has already accepted that that's who she is and knows it's okay to be different, but realizes that maybe out here she needs to work on strategically reigning it in.
She goes crazy looking for the bird cage key and eventually finds it, overcoming her fear of snakes. She is paranoid she will get caught opening the cage, but gets away with it and gets the idol. After losing an immunity challenge she feels absolutely crushed and is worried because she says she is on the outs and doesn't feel good about her tribe. Helen comments that she has too much emotion and it too unfiltered, and Yam Yam says she's paranoid, but her, Yam Yam, and Carson work together to take control of the tribe. Despite her being scared, she puts her faith in those relationships, saves her idol, and wins the vote.
She ends up re-hiding the key and creates an X marks the spot situation to lead someone to the fake idol.
Re-hides the key and creates an X marks the spot trap to lead someone to the fake idol. Worried it looks fake but doesn't think it's too unbelievable. Isn't pleased about being the decoy plan and says she's done with it. Says she wants agency and to not just being told what to do. She's never felt secure with her tribe and is eager to jump ship, which she does, voting Sarah out with Josh after seemingly telling him to play his idol. Yam Yam
Yam Yam is very excited for all parts of survivor, including the elements. He is focused on the idea of the tribe as a family and wants to see everyone give it their all because they need each other. Being from Puerto Rico, he's not concerned about the elements and actually think he has an advantage in this regard. The bird cage, and not knowing what's in it, drive him crazy. He thinks Sarah is the one with the idol and wants to target her for it. He bonds early with Carolyn, saying they gel because they have the same energy and they're both "weird but here to play." They target and vote out Helen because they see her as too strategic.
Carolyn doesn't tell him about her idol and he remarks how the X clue has everyone paranoid. He's very sad to lose Carson because he had invested so much in his relationship with him. He reads Josh as a lair and wants to vote him out, but doesn't handle his relationship with Carolyn well, telling her everyone sees him as a threat and not her and that she has to be the decoy vote. At tribal he further deteriorates the relationship with his bye, Felicia comment and implying he doesn't want to be Carolyn's friend anymore. Ultimately, he's blindsided as Carolyn jumps ship to vote out Sarah and he's left on the wrong side of the vote. Josh
Josh wasn't supposed to live past five, but survived and now says he's not afraid of anything. He initially wants to target Frannie and Matt for being a couple, but when he finds out they have a (fake) idol he wants to work with them. When it's time to go to tribal he's back to wanting to target them, but says he doesn't have the votes to do so and doesn't want to rock the boat.
After tribal, he seems to think he's in the middle of Matt/Frannie and Danny/Heidi, but in actuality they're a foursome that would target him. He's very worried going to a new tribe, but ends up saving himself by playing his idol and getting Carolyn to vote with him, seemingly taking control of the tribe majority.
Kane got to narrate the bird cage and comment on the unprecedented body damage this season. Early on he doesn't want to target Brandon but also doesn't want to be on the wrong side of the vote, but in an attempt to go with the majority ends up being the only surviving person vote for a surviving Brandon. At tribal he compares the game to therapy. After being on the wrong side of the vote, he is very worried and spends time idol hunting but only finds crabs. After they win he comments on how good morale is on the tribe and talks about his love for DnD and how he wants to be a hero in the battle of good versus evil. Lauren
Lauren has goose bumps because the game is starting. She cheats the rock draw so she can go to the summit, saying she wants to play the game and "can't just be here at camp." She wins the bank your vote advantage which she effectively uses, but doesn't do well lying about it. After which, she says she's the most powerful person in the tribe because she has an extra vote. She overcomes her fears to eat a worm. Matthew
Matthew knows he should be fearful about survivor starting, but he's not because he's just trying to hold it in and focus it into the game. He steps up to do the sweat challenge because he's the oldest and wants to prove he's not a physical liability. The challenge pushes him to the limits and he says it's the hardest thing he ever does, and he doubts himself, but succeeds, and now he can do anything. Everyone has good things to say about him and says he's very capable and they'd be lost without him. He is having more fun than everyone and this is fueled by the sense of adventure he gets from his mom. He should be having a midlife crisis but he is instead taking on a midlife challenge. Notes that he left his husband and son to be here.
He falls on the rocks and gets hurt, but toughs it out. This is a wakeup call that he needs to start being more careful and play more safely. He mitigates the bird cage risk by suggesting everyone goes in groups which works, Maddie catches Brandon getting the idol, which he gets to narrate. When they go to tribal, he doesn't want to target Brandon but also doesn't have the votes to save him, so he plays SITD. He says he doesn't know if he can trust anyone or where he stands before the first vote.
He's very happy with the result of tribal because the idol was flushed and Brandon stayed, without him exposing his game. He finds the idol and rehides a fake. Jaime feels she is very connected with him, but he actually sets her up with the fake idol. He pulls in Carson and gives him information about idols in order to develop a close relationship with him, and calls what they have a bridge of trust. Brandon
Brandon doesn't have faith in the savvy challenge and knows he'd be the number one draft pick for sweat, but he's ok with that. He didn't realize it would be so hard and so much pain, but they push through and overcome it. He knows nothing will come easy and you have to want to win bad enough to succeed. He finds the key and gets caught by Maddie, but when she suggests hiding it gets spooked and opens the cage publicly, making it a public idol. He targets Maddie because of this and ends up idoling her out.
After tribal, he is very upset Kane voted for him but has to act cool and not show how mad he actually is. He tells us he never shies away from anything physical because it builds character. "Anything worth doing is hard to accomplish." He calls himself a renaissance man. Carson
Carson has been preparing for this forever, with spreadsheets of data and puzzles. He doesn't volunteer for the savvy puzzle because he doesn't want a target on his back, but is willing to do it when asked. He has never dated anyone or been to the gym in his life - he had to bulk up for survivor. He makes a deal to work with Sarah and Helen but goes back on it after misidentifying Helen as the one that got into the bird cage, an example of him being overconfident in his ability to read others.
He talks a lot about wanting to diminish his threat level and hide how smart he is, a rocket scientist, but we keep getting commentary from others about how they can tell he's really smart. He thinks he's playing both sides but everyone seems to know he's connected with everyone. He loves pulling off a blindside with Yam Yam and Carolyn and says they bring out the chaotic, thrilling side of him.
He's excited to go on the summit but his emotion changes from excitement to anxiety when he has to go to a new tribe and knows he's on the bottom. He's very nervous being on a new tribe, but seemingly gets in well with Matthew and successfully lowers his threat level by presenting Yam Yam as the one running his old tribe.
Frannie says this is the ultimate test and she loves it. She says the tribe is bonded together as soon as they job off the boat. On the beach, her and Matt bond instantly because they're cut from the same cloth and are similar people, which is very important to her when working with someone. Her and Matt's bond deepens and they start to flirt. Everyone seems on to the fact that they're a pair and she knows she should separate from him but can't bring herself to do it. They're like magnets gravitating toward each other.
She continues bonding with Matt and is happy he has an idol but is upset Danny and Josh know about it. When they go to tribal, she would rather work with Claire, but can't save her because Matt doesn't have a vote. After Claire goes home she forms a foursome with Matt, Frannie, and Danny, with two pairs to keep the alliance balanced. When Jaime joins them she wants to target her but astutely realizes she probably has an idol. Matt
Matt has been imagining playing survivor for an eternity but now it's real and he's terrified. He just got out of a bad relationship before coming out here and he's still dealing with that, and feels like a baby bird being pushed out of a nest. He connects instantly with Frannie and it looks like a showmance. He is very worried about getting sent on the summit because he doesn't want to miss out on building relationships and finds the summit itself very overwhelming - he just wants to curl up in a little ball. He says he's here to "fulfill a dream and conquer anxiety." He knows survivor is all about risk: putting himself in a vulnerable position to gain strength, but loses his vote at the next two tribals. He beats himself up over this and says he feels worthless.
His recent breakup continues to haunt him. He feels so vulnerable entering the game because that relationship meant the world to him. He wanted to leave it behind but it's still with him. He says his stock is at an all time low, but he's building a great connection with Frannie, flirting and bonding. He completely trusts her and tells her the truth about his two lost votes. He continues to be a clear duo with Frannie and there's talk of it putting them on the outs, but after he finds a fake immunity idol, it gives him a way to build trust with the tribe and seemingly almost everyone is aligned with him. Post tribal he forms a firm foursome as two pairs with Frannie, Heidi, and Fanny. Heidi
Heidi says people always underestimate her because she's small and latino, but she's actually an engineer and her job is all about finding solutions, just like survivor. She makes fire and describes herself as tiny but mighty.
At their first tribal she won't commit to voting either way or aligning with anyone. Danny is her #1, but she needs to be cutthroat and do what's best for her because she's playing for her family. Following their first vote, she joins a firm foursome of two pairs with Danny, Frannie, and Matt.
Won't commit to voting either way or aligning with anyone. Thinks Danny is her #1. Says she has to be cutthroat because she's in it for her family.
In a firm foursome with Frannie, Matt, and Danny. Danny
Danny likes his tribe and says everyone is warm, friendly, and enjoying the journey, which annoys him because he wishes someone stood out as a consensus boot. He's always looking for something because he needs to be active which leads him him finding the key and getting the birdcage idol, a moment he's always dreamed about. He sees Matt and Frannie as a sort of shield for him because everyone is focusing on their relationship instead of him getting the idol. He then sets Matt up with the fake idol which he uses to further get eyes off himself.
After their first tribal he forms a firm foursome with Heidi, Matt, and Frannie, with the idea being to have two duos to keep power balanced. He goes through Jaime's bag looking for an idol and mistakingly is very confident she doesn't have an idol. Jaime
Jaime is a yogi which means her word is her bond. She says she can speak her goals into existence. Her goal is to build personal connections. At tribal she comments on how tense the tribe is. She is so nervous she plays her SITD even though she was told not to, which spooks Brandon into using his idol.
Other players describe her as always on a high and good for morale. She's excited about eating the word and seems to really love the experience of being outside and being creative - she was born for survivor. She says she really connects with Matthew, the plant alliance, but she finds his fake idol and he doens't tell her it's a fake.
She's very excited to go on the journey and believes she spoke it into existence. She's happy Carson and Josh are there because she'd like to work with them and is happy about the swap. She already conquered her old tribe and is ready to do it again on a new tribe.
So far I'm seeing two themes really prominently popping out:
- Group dynamics vs. interpersonal relationships: Jeff talked about his on the opening mat. There's been a big focus on group decision making at challenges and at tribal. And a heavy emphasis on a handful of what I'm sure are key relationships. Matt/Frannie, Yam Yam/Carolyn, and Matthew/Heidi/Carson all fit this theme for me.
- Fear, anxiety, and mental health: This theme is popping off the screen for me. So much emphasis across different characters. Do a rewatch and take note every time you hear "fear" or "anxiety." Matt, Carson, Matthew, Carolyn, Lauren, and to a lesser extent Brandon all working in this theme.
Taking all of the above into account, my contender groupings are:
- Probable contenders: Matt, Carolyn, Matthew
- Likely contenders: Frannie, Carson, Yam Yam
- Maybe contenders: Danny, Brandon, Jaime, Lauren
- Unlikely contenders: Heidi, Josh, Kane
So that's what I have! Nothing is set in stone and I'm sure it will all move dramatically over the next few weeks (the merge episodes is when I've clued into each of the last two winners). Haven't looked at any edgic yet, so I'm excited to see how this stacks up against the consensus. Feedback welcome!