'Survivor: Edge of Distinction' Recap: In Defense of Chris

Didn't David warn him not to tell Wardog about the Wentworth vote?

Stephen Fishbach has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. He is the host of the podcast Paraphrase, where he interviews writers about the openings to their novels. Follow him on Twitter at @stephenfishbach.

Erik Reichenbach is a former two time Survivor Fan/Favorite and Comic Book Artist. Follow him on Twitter: @ErikReichenb4ch.

“I’m basically controlling the information flow. … And to the extent possible, I want to remain that bridge. Because if my allies connect, I might become a less essential part of the loop.” — Stephen Fishbach, Survivor: Tocantins

Survivor is a game of mistakes. You tell the wrong person the wrong piece of information, and you find your torch snuffed.

But sometimes you can get voted out even when you’re doing everything right. Sometimes it’s the other people who are making mistakes, and you’re the one who pays the price.

Pity poor Chris. I’m sure we all want to dogpile on the solar company sales manager for a classic Survivor screwup. Didn’t David warn him not to tell Wardog about the Wentworth vote?

Well, there’s no question the decision ended up costing him his place in the game. Chris tells Wardog. Wardog tells Wentworth. And suddenly it’s Chris who’s taking the boat ride to Reemtown.

Survivor: Edge of Extinction
Timothy Kuratek/CBS/Getty

But I’m not so sure that Chris made such an obvious mistake. We’ve seen that Wardog and Chris have a strategic relationship. Last week, the vote between Keith and Kelley came down to their decision. From Chris’s perspective, they’re allies.

“My biggest fear is that I burn bridges with some of the relationships I’ve built out here,” Chris says. That’s a totally legitimate fear! Blindsiding Wentworth without giving Wardog the head’s up would be a real betrayal.

The cast of Survivor. Robert Voets/CBS

I actually thought Chris did a fantastic job of bringing up the possibility of voting out Wentworth. He didn’t come in guns blazing, demanding that Wardog get on board with David and Devens’s plan. He doesn’t even mention David or Devens! Really, you couldn’t ask for a more reasonable strategic conversation:

Chris: Just to prepare for tonight, what are you thinking?

Wardog: It’s only Wendy.

Chris: Is it?

Wardog: What do you think? Talk to me.

Chris: I think it’s either going to be Wendy or Wentworth. She plays this game kind of like a snake.

Wardog: I’ll go with what you want to do.

Chris approaches Wardog, asks for his thoughts first, and mentions Wentworth as a possible option. He’s not demanding anything. He’s just batting around some ideas.

The stranger thing to me is that Wardog uses this information, turns around, and votes out Chris. Okay, your ally Chris is targeting your other ally Wentworth. But he’s also coming to you first and pitching the idea for your approval. Isn’t that ideal? As Jeremy showed in Cambodia, there’s no better situation than being in between two allies who don’t like each other. Moreover, Chris is a giant challenge threat, and we know that Wardog likes to keep around meat shields.

SurvivorCredit is Erik Reichenbach/www.dabudoodles.com
Erik Reichenbach/www.dabudoodles.com

So if you’re Wardog, why on earth are you gunning for Chris instead of Wendy? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that Wendy is still in the game. I love her sense of mischief, her obstinacy, and her fearlessness.

But from Wardog’s perspective, Wendy should have all of Chris’s negatives and none of his positives. Wendy’s against Wentworth, too. And now with her busted ankle, she’s going to seem so innocuous, that nobody is going to want to vote her out. Meat shield? Not she!

Whenever a rational player like Wardog makes a move that I don’t understand, I give them the benefit of the doubt. Nobody’s interactions on Survivor boil down to “I like him. But I like her more. So I’m going to vote him off.” There’s a shifting web of allies and enemies, and we the viewers end up like archaeologists, trying to understand entire civilizations from a few shards of pottery.

So I assume there’s some reason that Wardog wants Chris out over Wendy. But for now, I don’t really get it. To me, it looks like Big Moves-itis. Wendy is so obviously the boot, that it’s boring to actually boot her. The players get restless, and want to do something SHOCKING!

Cut to: goodbye, Chris.

Meanwhile, I’m also left wondering at David’s choice. David makes it crystal clear that he wants Wentworth out. “She’s the person I least trust in this game,” he says. But when Chris spills the beans to Wardog, he decides to turn on Chris.

Here’s the reason that he gives: “If I vote Chris out, no one in the game would know that I’m the one coming after Wentworth.”

Please explain this to me. If I don’t vote out Kelley, the nobody will know I’m coming after Kelley? What about just voting out Kelley?

The rationale we see in the episode is befuddling. But I do think there are some good possible reasons that David took this route. Archaeologists, take out your chisels!

First, it’s possible that David and Devens want to preserve Devens’s relationship with Wardog. Blindsiding Kelley without ever telling Wardog would be shady. But blindsiding her after specifically agreeing that you’re not going to do that would be a real betrayal.

Maybe more importantly, the tribe has to assume a swap is coming soon. Tribal loyalty is crucial in the vote right before a swap. If you take out Kelley now, you have Lauren and Wardog thirsting for revenge later. Blindsiding Chris is a tribe move that doesn’t lead to anybody feeling salty. Except, well, Chris.

And except Wendy. “I think Wendy is someone I can use,” David says, early in the episode. “She’s loyal to me. She’ll vote with me every time.”

But this is the second time in a row that Wendy’s been misled about a tribe vote. I believe that she’s loyal, but I don’t think she’s stupidly loyal. There’s very few ways to prove trust in Survivor other than the voting booth. These two small betrayals by David could take their toll.


The Fishy for this episode goes to Aubry, for finally finding her idol. I loved the montage of her digging throughout Kaoh Rong and Game Changers. Three seasons of effort finally paid off – just when she needs it most.

Edge of Extinction

Meanwhile, Edge of Extinction is the most fun part of the show. Watching Reem almost quit the game – only to find a second life as Keith’s protector – is a beautiful, fascinating dynamic. Their trek across the entire island for rice is moving. Their discovery that it’s just a few spoonfuls is almost heartbreaking. Jeff Probst laid it out in his pre-game press: how far are these people willing to push themselves for a shot in the game – even when they don’t know what that shot is?

It’s much more interesting than what’s actually happening on the tribes. More Extinction, please!

Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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