7:01pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor' Sends Biggest Casualties Yet to 'Edge of Extinction'
[This story contains spoilers for the fifth week of CBS' Survivor: Edge of Extinction.]
The first returning player of Survivor: Edge of Extinction has been knocked out of the game, followed immediately by the biggest breakout personality from the new cast: Aubry Bracco and Big Wendy Diaz, respectively, voted out in a two-hour episode.
In the first half of the super-sized installment, the ex-Manu members of Lesu finally spared themselves the fate of heading to Tribal Council. Their gain was the current Manu's loss, and ultimately, Aubry's loss. After finding a hidden immunity idol a couple of rounds earlier, and even earning an unexpected advantage in the form of an extra vote at Tribal from the folks lurking at the Edge of Extinction, Aubry was seen deliberating between using either of her special powers for the coming vote, or trust her gut that the numbers were in her favor. In the end, she chose the latter option, and wound up voted out by her former Kama tribe members, sent packing with both the idol and advantage still in her possession.
For Aubry, the blindside marks the three-time player's earliest elimination yet, and only the second time she's been voted out of Survivor. She's the first returning player of the season to meet the business end of executive producer and host Jeff Probst's torch, and surely not the last.
"The goal [in bringing returnees back] was to illustrate how hard it is to win this game, even though you're good, and there are lots of different versions of good — and Aubry is an obvious one," Probst told The Hollywood Reporter about casting Aubry, speaking at the start of production on the season. "She had one of the most uncomfortable first few days anybody's ever played, and she kind of referred to herself as a city girl who's not made for this. Then she went on to the final three. It reminds me why you never give up on yourself. Who would have thought Aubry would go on to last 76 out of 78 potential days? She's very good — she just had to acclimate."
Acclimation proved problematic on Aubry's third time out, not the least of which was due to the overall attitude from the new Edge of Extinction castmembers toward the returnees. Both the original Manu and Kama tribe lineups have featured narratives about targeting veteran players, with Aubry firmly in the crosshairs as early as the season premiere. In a recent conversation with THR, Aubry stressed that she felt the discomfort in her original camp and was desperate for a drastic shake-up at the swap.
"I knew I was at the bottom of the tribe," she said, referring to her starting Kama tribe. "Although I was making personal progress with people, and I felt like the crazy experience we were going through together (including wild rain) were big equalizers, I could still sense the energy toward me and Joe was one of: 'they are not one of us.' Since people were pleasant, I felt like it was important for me to make connections on that tribe. I got the impression that if we swapped with the obvious train wreck that was Manu, the Kama would want to hold onto someone they could trust, like me, over some of the other huge and unknown/unpredictable personalities on the other side."
Due to the unusual results of the swap, Aubry landed on a tribe with three other original Kama and the lone Manu outsider of Wendy. It seemed like a straightforward vote. Little did Aubry know who she was up against: Victoria Baamonde, who Aubry previously described to THR as "a question mark."
"Personally, I had some similarities with her: family from NYC, Italian, we both have unique hobbies (she's got guinea pigs and some wild adventure stories)," Aubry said about Victoria. "While I knew she wanted Joe out, I didn't quite know where she stood in regard to me. I thought I could work with her if she was separated from other players on the tribe."
Turns out? Not so much. In the episode, Victoria tells Aubry one thing — that she wants to make a big move against her own fellow former Kama tribe — and tells the audience another thing entirely: she wants to get rid of Aubry. The private plan is the one she executed, much to Aubry's surprise.
"Overall, I want to be a memorable player," Victoria told THR about her strategy heading into the season. "I don't want to be someone who's out soon, but even some of the people who make it to the end of their seasons … are boring in terms of gameplay. I don't want to be like that. I want to be someone who makes big moves and bold moves, whether it serves me well or not. I want to make sure I leave everything on the table while I'm out there."
Victoria's gamesmanship was once again on display in the second Tribal Council of the week, which took a page from one of the most controversial twists in Survivor: Game Changers. Instead of one tribe forced to vote out one of their own, two losing tribes were combined into one, with no time to communicate with one another heading into Tribal. The losing groups of Lesu and Manu both walked into the battle prepared to go to the Survivor tie-breaker: randomly drawing rocks to eliminate a player. The foursome of Lesu voted for Wendy, the chicken liberator, while the new Manu cast their votes for Lauren O'Connell, one of the season's two remaining immunity idol wielders. Before Tribal, Victoria revealed in confessional that she was not interested in drawing rocks this early in the game — which led quite nicely to the ultimate result of the evening, as she and allies Eric Hafemann and Gavin Whitson eventually joined with Lesu to vote Wendy out of the game.
"I don't really know if we've ever had anyone like Wendy," Probst said about Wendy in the preseason. "She makes her own clothing, sometimes her hair is purple, sometimes it's another color, she talks super fast and she's really interesting. Every time she starts to wind herself up, I go, 'I'm in. I'm in.' I don't know how she's going to do in the tribe. She'll either be the person that is the glue for everybody, or she'll be on the outside."
Following the double elimination, Wendy's now officially on the outside — but she, like Aubry, is on the outside looking into the game proper, as the full Extinction lineup stands ready to compete for another shot at the Sole Survivor title in next week's episode. Follow THR.com/Survivor for more coverage heading up to that occasion.