Advance warning here: This post is about something 99% of the Survivor-watching audience either doesn’t know about or doesn’t care about: edgic. It is also long. Proceed at your own peril.
Edgic, in theory, is a means of evaluating the Survivor edit without bias to determine the winner. But it has a major problem and it is entirely baked into the assumptions it is created to avoid. This may get a little technical- a little “inside baseball” for many Survivor fans- but if you want to discuss edgic as a tool for evaluating Survivor, read on. (I do want to quickly note that I actually really enjoy reading edgic analyses for fun, but I don’t take them that seriously).
Edgic is a portmanteau of editing and logic (we’ll get to that latter word later), and is meant to be a means of determining the winner through looking at the edit, reading it for three factors: rating, tone, and visibility. Rating considers a survivor’s personality in an episode, ranging from invisible to over the top. Tone considers whether the portrayal was positive or negative. Finally, visibility is how present a survivor was in an episode, usually evaluated on confessionals, rating from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high).
Edgic is an attempt to use those editorial choices that you might not necessarily pick up on consciously to explain the story Survivor is trying to tell. It is not merely the content of what people say that matters, but the music that accompanies it, the placement of the confessional, even the animal that is shown while they are speaking. Boston Rob and Phillip could give a confessional laying out the exact same plan, but Phillip will get the goofy musical cues as he speaks.
The core problem with edgic is rather simple. People are judging and rating two subjective categories (tone and rating), and thereby bringing in their own perceptions and preconceptions as to what constitutes such things as positive versus negative. And what one person may find complex, another may find over the top or middle of the road. Survivor is meant to play to a very broad audience, and as such the story beats it means as positive generally may not seem positive for all viewers.
But before we get too deep into the problem with edgic, let’s look at a few past seasons and their edgic evaluations to see how edgic’s track record is.
There is no “official” edgic as far as I can tell. To the extent that there is an edgic that is considered to be a consensus edgic, it exists on the Survivor Sucks forum. Unfortunately, there is a big, big problem with the Sucks edgics- but we’ll deal with that later. For now you should know I am looking at what edgics I can, but not using Sucks edgics.
Cambodia and Worlds Apart
I grouped these seasons together for a reason: edgic nailed the winner fairly early (though there was some odd doubt in that second World’s Apart one). These are good examples of edgic successes, where the clues are pointing one way for a long time and edgic gets it right. I will say that second WA edgic does symbolize a problem that edgic runs into in other seasons, where someone’s like for a particular survivor clouds their judgment. (Editor’s note: I appreciate you fighting the good fight, Shirin truther!)
San Juan Del Sur and Cagayan
Here is edgic doing a lot worse. The Cagayan one is noticeably awful, but SJDS is also quite poor. The one with the contender/winner pick row at the bottom doesn’t have Natalie there until the second to last episode, whereas the one without it has Jon receiving fewer under the radars than Natalie, the same over the tops, and generally a very similar if not stronger edit in general.
If I keep going you’ll see that Blood v Water, Caramoan, Philippines, One World, and Redemption Island fall in the same category as Cambodia (though there are always a few weird edgics out there, like the guy who didn’t have Rob winning Redemption Island until the second-to-last episode). South Pacific, Nicaragua, and Samoa are similar to Cagayan and SJDS, where the edgics don’t predict the correct winner until right before the end, or at all in Samoa‘s case. In Samoa everyone was predicting Mick or occasionally Russell, while Nicaragua had fun edgics like this (look at Ep 8):
So now that we have seen how edgic treated some past seasons, where does it go wrong?
The fact is that Edgic is reliant on people grading positive or negative qualities, but positive to one person is not positive to the next. Stuff like music, animal editing, and placement of confessionals is supposed to make this more objective, but even here Survivor may have an intention with these choices that is landing very differently for different people.
But there is a bigger reason that edgic may get the winner wrong in certain seasons: edgic is based off a theory that presupposes that Survivor always tells the same story. That certain music is positive because it is positive in other seasons. That certain editing choices presuppose good things, because they are good in other seasons. That certain animal cutaways are good or bad, because they are good or bad in other seasons. That a positive person wins, that negative people don’t, that visibility is important, etc., etc.
So in seasons where we have a winner like Rob, or Kim, or Tyson, or Cochran, or Mike, or even Jeremy, edgic is really good because they all fit the mold of the traditional Survivor winner- someone who builds control early and never lets go (and notice that all but Kim are male…). Whereas when our winner is Natalie A., or Tony, or Sophie, or Fabio, or Natalie W., Survivor has chosen to tell a different story about its winner, whether it be one where they took control late (Natalie A.), they were the most palatable alternative (Sophie, Natalie W.), they were a likable goofball (Fabio) or they were Tony (Tony).
But Survivor tells lots of stories, and as time has gone on Survivor has gotten increasingly sophisticated. It never gives its winner a truly negative edit anymore (though I wouldn’t rule this out in the future), but it has also realized that it doesn’t have to focus everything on building its winner up. Tony is probably the most interesting winner ever because the show didn’t hold back from showing us every side of Tony.
By now you might be saying: “Hey, edgic isn’t so bad. Look, since Samoa it has totally nailed 7 and struggled with 5. That isn’t bad.” Well first of all, it kinda is bad, and second of all getting that 7 right isn’t that impressive. Think about the winners they got right: Rob, Kim, Tyson, Cochran, Mike and Jeremy. Pretty much all of these seemed pretty obvious soon after the merge. Jeremy was probably the least obvious and he was always the front runner, the only question was whether he would make the end. Whereas the seasons that edgic struggled with had more unlikely or unpredictable winners (Tony was as obvious as the list they got right, but most people refused to see it). Any long time fan of the show could read the edit without using edgic and predict Rob, Kim, Tyson, Cochran, Mike and Jeremy.
But there is another reason that edgic succeeds, and it is the reason I am not using the edgics from Sucks.
The biggest unacknowledged problem with edgic is that it is being made with knowledge of spoilers. Now not all edgic people use spoilers, but think about the biggest community of edgic proponents… Survivor Sucks, also known as the place you want to avoid if you don’t want to be spoiled. In fact, spoilers are so baked into Sucks edgic that a group of Sucks edgic devotees broke off before season 24 (One World) to form their own site, http://unspoilededgicersunite.yuku.com/, where the URL says literally everything you need to know. The response of the Sucks board to them leaving was pretty simple: “There’s no such thing as unspoiled edgic.” (And if you want a visual example of that…)
So citing Sucks edgics at the end of the season (where they are aggregating everyone’s edgics into a percentage) is an exercise in looking at the most untrustworthy group of edgics, the ones where we are told outright that there is no such thing as an unspoiled edgic. And the unspoiled site’s edgics are behind a password wall to invited members only.
Friends, Survivors, podcast faithful, I came here to bury edgic, not to praise it. But edgic is actually fun for some people. They like applying media analysis to their evaluation of the show, and to those people I say, “You do you.” Just don’t pretend that edgic is actually any better than any veteran Survivor watcher reading the edit, because you can listen to our podcast for people who are reading the edit and doing just as well as edgic (and in Cagayan‘s case, better) at predicting the winner. (Editor’s note: When Matt says “just as well as” he means “equally as terribly as” edgic.)
Favorite seasons: Micronesia, Heroes vs. Villains, Palau, Philippines, Pearl Islands, Cagayan
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