Originally posted Wednesday, May 8, 2019 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Rick Devens, the goofy Macon TV broadcaster, seemed like a lightweight coming into season 38 of “Survivor.” His doughy dad bod posed no physical threat. He didn’t seem like a strategic threat. He didn’t seem like a social threat.
His only consistent ally at one point was a returnee David Wright and Rick was voted out fourth. Most seasons, Rick would be a forgotten footnote by episode 13.
But thanks to the controversial “Edge of Extinction” gimmick, two players who were voted out get to come back in. Rick left Day 11 and came back Day 17, winning the first challenge to return to the game. (The second one will come during the final episode next week.)
And now he’s become the most entertaining cast member remaining.
After he returned a second time, he wasn’t paid that much heed at first. Other threats were sent packing before him: Joe Anglim, Eric Hafemann, Julia Carter, his buddy David, Kelley Wentworth, then Wardog. Once he became a big target last week, he saved himself last week by finding another Idol, leading to fellow Georgia and Atlanta educator Ron Clark’s departure.
His gameplay became more apparent as the season wore on. He won immunity challenges. He found immunity idols. As he said in this episode, he was working harder than anybody else and it showed. Knowing he was clearly the target to go home this week again, he hunted for an idol again while the others (based on the show edit) seemed to just sit around and complain about him hunting for an idol.
After he found one, he kept running around “hunting” for an idol, just to mess with the others and they half-heartedly followed him around in a ridiculous game of nothing, really. Rick was having the time of his life knowing he was safe.
Then he went ahead and won the individual immunity challenge as well, which involved a puzzle instead of some endurance challenge. And once Jeff Probst said the word “tonight” with just the right emphasis, Rick got the message and figured out the answer: “Not living on the edge tonight.”
So Rick had double protection.
He’s been an underdog and a power player at the same time. Everyone knows it. He knows it. He is super entertaining for the viewers even while he’s infuriating and frustrating for the remaining players.
As Aurora said during tribal council, “I have learned not to listen to 90 percent of what Rick says but I completely respect everything he’s doing. He is out here giving 100 percent and to me, that gives me more energy to go after him.”
Then he proves that by whipping out what he says is an immunity idol and hands it to Julie so the core four (Lauren, Gavin, Aurora, Victoria) theoretically have to go after each other - unless they think he’s bluffing. That could be a fake idol.
And even if it were real, why would Rick give it up now when he might need it next tribal council?
Still, he knew this would play well with the jury if Aurora got voted out. And indeed, she is.
But the jury didn’t know that Lauren had talked to Julie earlier and felt Julie was a better person to keep around than Aurora, a bigger challenge threat. It seems as if Gavin and Victoria agreed and planned to blindside Aurora anyway.
If that were the case, Rick wasn’t quite the puppet master he made himself out to be to the jury.
Rather than lifting Rick up, his fellow survivors need to remind the jury that Rick is almost always on the wrong side of votes (as opposed to, say, Victoria) and has not been able to build a sturdy alliance for himself. Oh, and he was voted out once already.
But instead, he is now the man the jury will embrace if he makes it to the final three.
Rick told Probst and the jury that he has played better now that he’s back in because “I’m playing with house money. There’s freedom to being on the bottom.”
He is still going to need some luck and pluck to make it to the final three. There are five left but someone from “Edge of Extinction” will be back next week as well. The finale will be jampacked and the live show (which used to be an hour) will likely get shortchanged again.
Overall, fans have not liked “Edge of Extinction” for good reason. It really hasn’t worked well because nothing interesting goes on there and the show has barely any reason to show the folks there. This week, they had them read letters they wrote to themselves before the show began. Really? Is that supposed to be interesting?
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