The Problem with the “Survivor: Edge of Extinction” Isle of Extinction Ultimatum

“Survivor: Edge of Extinction” (CBS)

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The 38th season of “Survivor” kicked off last week with the introduction of their latest twist; the Isle of Extinction. It played out like this; as recently eliminated player Reem Daly was making her way out of Tribal Council, she was greeted by a choice; “If you do not want to play anymore, follow this path and your adventure will end” or “If you want a chance to get back in the game, take the torch and get in the boat.”

Reem quickly snatched up the torch and booked herself a trip on the S.S. Extinction.

But honestly, what were we expecting her to do? The process to get on “Survivor” involves interviews, physicals, grueling travel, endless waiting, and a seemingly never ending barrage of questions from sweaty press members. With disappointment, anger, and a desire for revenge all bouncing around in her head, how could she possibly turn it down?

So, I decided to put my theory to the test. I reached out to a wide variety of former “Survivor” players from pre-jury, to jury, to finalists, to winners, to ask them a simple question; “If presented with a similar choice during your season, would you have gone to the Isle of Extinction?” The results were overwhelming…

“If there was any shot to stay in the game somehow, no matter how small I’d take it. Everything changes so fast you can almost never count yourself or anyone else out.” – Sunday Burquest

“No one is eliminated and is like, ‘Cool, I’m happy with this placement.’ And I didn’t come to go on vacation at Ponderosa” – Gabby Pascuzzi

“I would never give up the chance to stay in the game!” – Eliza Orlins

“I can take a vacation anytime, this is work. Bring it on!” – Josh Canfield

“I signed up for 39 days of blood, sweat, and tears and I would do whatever I needed to or at least attempt to get me to the final day.” – Ciera Eastin

“I tried out 16 times, so I would have done anything to stay in the game. I can’t imagine this would be a difficult choice for any former player.” – Brendan Shapiro

“Absolutely. And I would have done everything I could to make everyone else as miserable as possible. It would have been a blast!” – Bradley Kleihege

“Of course I’d take it! It’s a second shot at life in the game! You gotta do anything to win out there.” – Wendell Holland

“Don’t get me wrong: if it’s offered, I’d have taken it. That doesn’t mean I’d have agreed with it being there, though.” – Shirin Oskooi

“Survival is one of my strengths. I grew up in Hawai’i, spear fishing and I’m good at living off the land in a tropical climate. Edge of Extinction ain’t no thing for my set of skills. Definitely worth a shot at getting back into the greatest game of all time.” – Jonas Otsuji

“Can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t, like take your bonus life!” – Adam Klein

“I am good at starvation and don’t need a pre-jury trip.”– Dr. Mike Zahalsky

“I obviously would do it! Any chance to stay in the game.” – Parvati Shallow

“Abso(expletive deleted)lutely. That might not be appropriate…” – Jessica Lewis

Add to that the fact that you’re dealing with a type of person who has actively sought out this adventure and the idea of simply walking away would surely leave them with a feeling of regret.

“Losing ‘Survivor’ for me is always close to the surface, I think about it often. So if you do lose and you have another opportunity to win your season, no question you go to that island and try and fight your way back.” – Ryan Ulrich

“What would I do if I wasn’t on Isle of Extinction? Probably twiddle my thumbs and regret not going as soon as I had my first meal.” – Michele Fitzgerald

“I would’ve killed to have that kind of opportunity. To know that I can continue fighting on for my game and a chance to reach the end would’ve meant the world to me. Especially as a player who didn’t reach major milestones such as the merge, the family visit, or the final Tribal Council, I would’ve endured anything on the Isle of Extinction to get further.”– James Lim

The response was so overwhelming, (100% affirmative from more than 80 former players) that I almost started to wonder if choosing the path to Ponderosa would be tantamount to simply quitting. The popular sentiment seemed to support that theory as well.

“To me, not going to (Isle of Extinction) is quitting the game.” – Chrissy Hofbeck

“Anything less would of been a quit.” – Bret LaBelle

“Would people actually say no?” – Andrea Boehlke

“Doesn’t seem like a choice, May as well try to win the damn thing.” – Tyson Apostol

During the polling process, a former player (and occasional podcaster) raised an excellent point about how the ultimatum was presented…

“I’m not sure why somebody WOULDN’T at least go to the Isle of Extinction and check it out. The clue seems vague enough that almost anybody would follow the path to go there, right?”– Rob Cesternino

And finally, I decided to let a robotics professor break the decision down into mathematical terms…

“Any chance to maintain a chance of winning is favorable to not doing that.” – Christian Hubicki

So, what’s the point? Is the purpose of the ultimatum to give the recently voted out person a win by letting them choose their own destiny? I reached out to the man himself, 40-time Emmy Winner Jeff Probst, to get his two cents…

“It’s a great question. Yes, the fundamental purpose of giving players the choice was exactly that, to force them to choose. You’ve just been voted out, are you done with the game? Or… do you want to choose to take on a new adventure? Grabbing the torch is the decision point. Once you grab it, you’ve committed yourself to a new adventure and once again you have ownership.” – Jeff Probst

So, there you have it. Maybe my theory is wrong and someone will pass on the torch and head off to Ponderosa for all-you-can-eat breadsticks. Or maybe, if I dig deep enough, I can find yet another reason why someone would be foolish to reject this offer.

“I will always take an opportunity to be on camera. I prefer attention over food.” – Corinne Kaplan

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes