Casual Survivor fans may not spend a ton of time thinking about or talking about how the show is edited, but how certain castaways are depicted is always a divisive topic amongst hardcore viewers (and players). That edit-related speculation was particularly lively by the middle of season 41 with many wondering why we were seeing so little of Heather Aldret and Erika Casupanan. As the women advanced, Erika picked up more screentime and confessionals talking about her strategy, but Heather remained more of a mystery to viewers. The lack of screentime was so apparent that it picked up a lot of buzz on social media, and apparently Heather herself called the casting director to ask what was going on.
Following her fourth place finish, Heather did the normal round of exit interviews, and her edit was, of course, a favorite topic. She spoke with Entertainment Weekly and dropped some really candid quotes about how disappointed she was and how she wanted a reason to tell her family so she called up the show to ask. Here’s a portion of her quote…
Apparently the powers that be at the show told Aldret much of the early season edit was focused around the new advantages that were added to the show. Because she didn’t figure into any of the advantages, it was difficult to weave her into the larger narrative. She, of course, figured prominently in the episode where she had a lot of trouble in the challenge, but that’s hardly the lens you want everyone to see you through.
I’m normally not a big fan of obsessing over a show’s editing decisions, but I think there were a lot of confusing decisions made by producers in Season 41. Let’s start with Heather. We got almost no insight into her game to the point where many fans just assumed Erika was telling her who to vote for each Tribal Council. There really wasn’t any other conclusion to jump to given how little we saw of her strategizing or talking in confessionals about why she voted the way she did. But at the Final Tribal Council, Erika said very explicitly that she and Heather were strategizing together throughout the season and many of the ideas came from Heather. Finalist Xander Hastings also said very explicitly that he did not see Heather as some goat to take along to the finals (though he should have taken her).
I’m not saying she was an all-time great player or even one of the better players of the season. Ricard, Shan, Erika and some others definitely played stronger and/ or more interesting games, but she finished in fourth place, clearly built strong bonds with other cast members and forged one of the three most important alliances in the game next to Ricard and Shan and Danny and DeShawn. We should have been hearing from her.
And Erika has every reason to be annoyed at her edit too. I don’t remember the last time a winner was shown that little early in the season. Yes, the pace at which we heard from her picked up considerably after the stupid hourglass twist. Yes, she’s not an absolute quote machine like Xander or Ricard or Shan, but it would be really nice to know what the hell was going through her head those early weeks. Survivor fans want to know how the best players navigated throughout the show. That doesn’t mean they need to be the focal point of every episode, but they should be appearing regularly.
In defense of Survivor, the show had many highlights this season (despite the obsession with constantly adding new advantages). A lot of episodes were well-edited and many players were done right by the show. But several players (you can add Sydney to that list too) were mistreated by stupid rules and/ or disappeared from large stretches because producers didn’t feel like showing them. Survivor needs to clean that up. The point of the season isn’t to bend over backwards to obsess over the new things you added to the game. The point should be to let fans watch the players strategize and figure out how to get to the end. We need to hear from them regularly in order to be able to follow along.
Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.
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