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Survivor: Edge of Extinction Finalist Shares Why He Thinks He Lost In the End

Survivor Edge of Extinction
(Image credit: CBS)

Survivor: Edge of Extinction was a monumental season in more ways than one. It battled new players against old ones, and even gave contestants opportunities to re-enter the game after being voted out. But no one could have predicted that a formally voted out player would actually go on to be the Survivor winner, which is exactly what happened to Chris Underwood. Two years later, one of the other two Edge of Extinction finalists shared why they think they ultimately lost the title to Underwood.

According to Survivor: Edge of Extinction finalist Gavin Whitson, who sat alongside Chris Underwood and Julie Rosenberg to plead his case for the $1 million prize, he lost that episode's 9-to-4 vote because he was “too quiet.” Following his season in 2019, Whitson was initially “too proud” to admit to any direct responsibility. But since hindsight can be a boon as much as a bane. Whitson can talk about it now with a new perspective, and while he's still proud of how he played the game, he knows his bank account missed out on a $1,000,000 deposit because of his unwillingness to speak up at crucial tribal councils. He told EW:

It is easy to be critical of the choices people make in Survivor when you are sitting on your couch on a full stomach. When you are actually in Fiji looking Jeff Probst in the eyes as he asks you questions, you feel a whole new sense of pressure. I did anyways, and every time I went to Tribal, I stayed a quiet as possible because every time I saw someone give a huge performance at Tribal Council, they were the next person on everyone's hit list.

Gavin Whitson spoke to one of the trickiest dynamics to navigate in the game of Survivor – finding the right time to put up versus shut up, so to speak. Somewhat ironically, former contestant Zeke Smith thinks he talked too much on Survivor: Game Changers. Heck, even the winner of Edge of Extinction, Chris Underwood, was the third person voted out of the game for that exact complication. Thankfully, he had the season’s twist to fall back on, allowing him to return and conquer.

Conversely, if there hadn't been the Edge of Extinction element involved, Gavin Whitson would have by all rights been the winner of his season. He played up his southern drawl and the whimsy of pineapple shirts to the endearment of his castmates and the love of fans. But he didn't actively argue for himself during the final tribal council, and Chris Underwood's initial vote-out and climb to final three became one of the greatest reality TV underdog stories possible. As Whitson himself put it,

I thought I was doing myself a favor by laying low and only speaking when spoken to. I was wrong. I thought this would keep a target off my back and let me keep advancing in the game. It turns out I was right, but it also doesn't earn you any respect from your peers, when you have one of the greatest narrators to ever play (Rick Devens) giving the performance of his lifetime night after night. To sum all that up, I should have been more vocal at Tribal Council, plain and simple.

Truer words have never been spoken. Not the big about being more vocal, but that Rick Devens was one of the greatest narrators to ever play, because wow. But I mean, it's also possible that Whitson was right about his silence costing him a victory. The world will probably never know for sure. While mulling over that, stay tuned for further updates on CBS' upcoming Survivor Season 41.

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Lauren Vanderveen

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.