Chris Underwood’s $1 million victory on Survivor: Edge of Extinction has sent social media into a frenzy. Many fans are expressing their frustration that he won after only playing 13 days in the game itself despite getting voted out early in the competition. After spending weeks at Extinction island, Chris conquered a challenge and found himself back in the game on Day 35 before ultimately solidifying enough jury votes to win it all. We wanted to see how some of this season’s cast feel about the controversial outcome and if they believe Chris is truly the most deserving winner. Read below to see what Rick Devens, second place winner Gavin Whitson, third place winner Julie Rosenberg, Victoria Baamonde, Ron Clark, Lauren O’Connell, Reem Daly and Joe Anglim had to say at the finale’s red carpet in Los Angeles.
SheKnows: A lot of fans are saying on social media that Chris didn’t deserve to win. What’s your reaction to his victory?
Rick Devens: I got a lot of that same hate that I shouldn’t win because I came back in the game. We’re leaving everything behind for seven weeks of our lives to go out there and play. I don’t know what you want us to do. We’re playing as hard as we can to win the game within the rules of the game. Chris came back, and this jury worked harder than any jury in the history of Survivor. They decided Chris deserves to win. He absolutely deserves to win. He should be super proud of himself. He’s a great guy, and I’m really proud of him. He’s going to do great things with the money. You go out on the island and stay out on the Edge of Extinction for however many days and see how you like it when people criticize you, social media.
Gavin would’ve also been a very deserving winner. First of all, I think Gavin had a lot more agency in the game than it seemed like he did. He’s just a very quiet guy and it’s hard to translate that. I spent time on the Edge and in the game, and I thought time in the game was a lot harder and a lot more stressful. When I was on the Edge I could walk off for a four hour nap and I did it without any worry of repercussion. I would’ve never done that in the game. I was constantly grinding in the game. If you get kicked out of the game you go to the Edge of Extinction. You can’t get kicked out of Edge of Extinction. Chris wasn’t in the game for quite long enough whereas Gavin and Julie both did something I couldn’t do. I was real close to a Julie vote. She was great in final Tribal and won two Immunity challenges with agency in the game. Julie deserves a lot more credit than she’s probably getting.
SK: Pop star Sia gifted you $100,000 as a surprise because you’re her favorite player of the season. How does that feel?
RD: I was floored at the Sia money. I did not see that coming at all even though I did find a hermit crab out there on the island, maybe that did it. Unbelievable. Thank you, Sia. Talk about a generous lady. I’m so excited. That money is going to make a huge difference in my life. $100,000 is monumental, and it’s going straight to our kids’ futures. What could’ve been a really depressing night, I’m just on top of the moon.
SK: You seemed frustrated at the final Tribal Council that the jury would even consider giving Chris the money since he only played 13 days in the actual game. Tell us about that.
Gavin Whitson: I wasn’t ready for the theme Edge of Extinction. Chris played it great, and I feel like I played classic Survivor great. I played 39 days, I won Immunities, never had a single vote casted against me and in my mind that’s what a winner entails. That’s what happened for JT and Cochran. They never received a vote due to their strong social games and they were rewarded for it. Whenever I did have those rebuttals, the frustrations of the idea of Chris winning over me was just because in my mind I was thinking I played into what I expected out of a winner.
I’m OK with it. I think the hardest part for me is my family. I didn’t want to even want to look at them out in the stands because I knew it was hard on them. Since Day 1 they expected me to win. They were like, “We know you’ve got this.” I know I didn’t disappoint them, but we had it. It was right there. It was in my grasp and I let it go. That’s something that I have to live with now. I’m going to be OK with it, but I want to just make sure my wife and my family are OK with it. That’s it. It does suck, but it’s part of life. Everything happens for a reason. Going into final Tribal Council, I was confident. I thought I was the winner. I misread the jury. I thought some of the people who might vote for me didn’t. It does suck. I didn’t get voted out. In my mind, if someone duped me then I would say, “Good game play. You still get my vote.” It didn’t turn out that way, and that’s just part of it. I’m not going to hang my head or anything like that, I’m proud as heck of the game I played. I have no regrets.
SK: What’s the deal with your pineapple clothes this season?
GW: Before Survivor, I don’t know if I’d ever worn a pineapple before in my life. I thought if I’m going out to Fiji, I’m going to dress the part. Once the show started, I wasn’t being called Gavin. I was being called pineapple guy or pineapple boy. If that’s what I’m known for, then I’m going to embrace it. I’ve got the pineapple socks on. I’m team pineapple now.
SK: What’s your reaction to Chris winning?
Julie Rosenberg: I’m not going to say that Chris didn’t deserve to win. He won the million dollars, he got the votes so that’s it. Kudos to Chris. It is hard with this twist that we had this season with the concept for someone to be able to be voted out on Day 3, come back on Day 35 and spend a few days with us to win the game. Look, he made some great moves, but one thing I would say I didn’t think was so fair was that he was given an Idol when he came back just like Rick was on Day 17. To me, if you’re making the final six and you’re there on Day 35 and you only have a few days left I’m not sure that Idol was necessary to have given him. That’s the one thing I maybe had a problem with, but Chris made a lot of big moves and the jury obviously rewarded him for it. He was able to make a lot of those connections living out there for so long with those people and I’m sure a lot of friendships were formed. I didn’t have the chance to do that with anyone out there. It is what it is. I love Chris. I’m happy for Chris, and I’m glad that he won. The theme is not his fault at all. Everybody played the game they were dealt. He played a great game. He obviously made great relationships at the Edge of Extinction. It is what it is.
For me, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get any votes. I feel like I’m pretty realistic about the way I played my game. I know that jurors don’t love emotional players and juries don’t like subtle players. They reward very aggressive game play. Looking back there is so much more I should’ve done, could’ve done, but I have no regrets. If I ever play again you’ll see Julie 2.0. I think I’ll do some things that I know I needed to do in this game.
SK: How did you get on the show?
JR: I first applied for Survivor back in 2001 for Season 3, Africa. I almost got on. I didn’t get on, but I was close. It was my dream. Whenever I would watch Survivor from day one, Season 1, I knew I had to play the game. Fast forward, I moved on with my life. I got married, I had kids and a career. Then, about six or seven years ago, my kids were like, “What is this Survivor you always talk about?” We turned it on and they became obsessed. That summer we binged watched every past season. I was like, “Wait a minute, this is what I’ve been wanting to do my whole life. Why can’t I do this now?” My kids are older and how amazing would it be for them to watch their mom play this game. I applied for the last six or seven years consistently. I kept sending video after video after video. I heard very little from casting, but I just never gave up and I finally got the call. My kids love it. Even to this day, every so often my daughter will wake up and say, “Oh my gosh! You’re on Survivor!” It’s like we all still can’t believe it actually happened.
SK: Do you think the right person won and how do you feel about social media’s reaction toward the outcome?
Victoria Baamonde: I know I said I was going to vote for Gavin to win, but I actually knew Gavin had betrayed me in that moment. That was my last-ditch attempt to have people think that he had a jury vote to try to get him out. I felt pretty betrayed by him in that moment, so I did actually vote for Chris to win. I felt like me and Gavin did do a lot of the game together. At a certain point he kind of left me for Lauren, so I kind of knew everything about his game. I said it in the final Tribal, and I’ll say it again, I felt like Chris did more with his few days as far as power moves and big plays, and he’s the only one who got me out of the game. It’s the kind of game I respect, so I did vote for Chris to win.
I completely understand how the fans feel because I’m a hardcore Survivor fan. It’s 39 days and that’s what gets you to the end. 13 days is not 39 days, but we had the final three that we had. I think Julia said it. It’s not how many days you played, it’s what you did with those days. That’s really how I felt. He did a lot with those few days. It was close. It was really close who I was going to vote for, Gavin or Chris. It did go back and forth in my mind. He gave away his Immunity necklace, he got Lauren to give him an Idol. How did he do that? I respected his game play and you just kind of have to. He did so much in those few days.
SK: How did you get on the show?
VB: I just applied online. My video was 27 seconds long. When I was contacted, my casting person told me it was the shortest video they’ve ever actually taken someone on. I did that and about a year after I submitted is when I heard back.
SK: What’s your reaction to Chris winning?
Ron Clark: I voted for Chris. Even though he was in the game for far fewer days, when he was there he made big moves. Gavin, he sat in the background and allowed other people to dictate what was going on. He was afraid to make a big move himself. Also, when I was on the Edge of Extinction with Chris, he was positive, helpful, hard-working, making fire, getting rice, cutting up coconut for everybody, trying to catch stingray. I didn’t see that from Gavin. In the end, that was the difference. If you’re upset with it, maybe blame the theme. Don’t blame Chris. He played the cards that he was dealt, and did a great job of it. Although he wasn’t in the game for all those days, he was still there not eating and living on an island. It was the relationships he built on Edge of Extinction that eventually got him the votes he needed to win.
SK: If there are any teachers like you who are sitting in the classroom with a dream to get on Survivor, what advice would you give them?
RC: This is a really important question because they don’t really cast teachers often on Survivor. Here’s why they didn’t want to cast me: They said teachers have to maintain a certain image, so they’re not going to play the game hard and play nice because they’re worried about their students watching. I hoped when I played I would be able to play hard and aggressive to show you can still be a compassionate teacher and love your kids to understand the difference between reality and a game. We’re just playing a game. Don’t go into it so worried about what everyone’s going to think about you. Play hard. Win the million dollars. It’s a game and anybody who’s smart will understand that.
SK: Who did you vote for and what do you think of Chris winning the game?
Lauren O’Connell: I voted for Gavin. It was so hard. It really was. I wanted to sit by Gavin and Julie at the end. I set that up. I was ready. To see them there, and to see Chris there who played 13 days of the Survivor that I played, I didn’t go to the Edge. I didn’t get voted out and the Edge didn’t exist anymore. It was difficult for me to understand the game he played because I only saw the eight days he played with me. I was with Gavin and I saw his moves. I saw the way he integrated himself into these alliances. He never got a vote. Some people think the people that deserve it are those who were targeted the whole game, like Kelley. But also, there are other people who are able to be on the right side of the vote most of the time and integrate themselves into alliances and make friendships with people so they aren’t a target. There are cases to be made for everyone. Personally, I felt like Gavin’s case was the most compelling.
Chris won at the end of the day. He played with the hands that he was dealt. He played with the Idol he was given to take me out. He played with the chance to get back in the game twice. That’s the theme. I love when Wardog said the theme wasn’t on trial, the final three players were. Every single one of those people had a chance to get back in the game. Every single one of those people had a chance not to vote for Chris. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have, I absolutely think that Chris played the best possible way he could with the few days he had to play. I understand why they voted for him, so I think he is a deserving winner. He got the most jury votes. He won.
SK: It was heartbreaking watching you play that fake Idol that Devens planted for you to find. What was it like watching that moment back on TV and how is your relationship with Devens?
LO: The fake Idol didn’t play any role in whether or not I got voted out. It was just to kind of be mean. Devens and I always had an interesting relationship. I don’t think the way he spoke to me on the island crossed the line. That was kind of on top of it. It felt a little bit cruel, but it’s fine. That’s the game. He’s playing the game, and I get it. It was emotional to watch it back because it felt very much like an attack on me from him personally on top of everything else that happened. It was fine, though. It happens. I think it’s going to be hilarious to watch back some other day than today.
There’s a line in Survivor where you have to understand that these people are humans, and you can’t speak to them the way that Rick spoke to me on multiple occasions and expect them to reward you. At the end of the day you’re rewarding the person for being a Survivor player, but you’re also giving a million dollars to a human. It’s an odd situation. I don’t know that having been spoken to the way he spoke to me that I could’ve given him my vote. You don’t see a lot. I think there’s a lot of conversations that happened. He was on the bottom a lot. I wasn’t. Once the merge happened I was able to maneuver myself from three vs. nine, and somehow at the end of the game I have the majority. It’s hard to be in those situations, and I know that can bring emotions forward. I think sometimes you just have to know the line of what you can say to people.
SK: How do you feel about Chris winning the game and what are your thoughts on the critics who say he didn’t deserve it?
Reem Daly: If it was between Chris and Devens, that would’ve been a hard toss. Devens busted his butt when he got back in. I voted for Chris because this particular season was called the Edge of Extinction. I’m not disrespecting anyone’s game. I heard all the great things both those other players did, don’t get me wrong. That was mental torture out on that island. What he did in the amount of time when he did get back in the game was extremely impressive. He had someone give him an Idol. He had someone else share the Idol and save him. He gave up his freakin’ Immunity and he beat somebody in the fire challenge who was his stiffest competition as far as the jury was seeing. He did it all. He did every aspect. I was honored to give him my vote.
I’ve been watching this game for 20 years. It’s not your sandbox, this is Jeff’s sandbox. This particular season was called Edge of Extinction. If you think you know everything, go sit your butt on this island of hell for however long that he did. Get back into the freaking game and have your butt saved repeatedly and then win it. Shut your hole until you can actually do something to prove that you could’ve done something differently. What he did in the amount of time that he had was extremely impressive. It really was.
SK: You spent a full month on the Edge of Extinction, which was longer than any other player. How do you describe what that island was really like?
RD: There’s nothing to do. Where are you sleeping? Let’s start with that. There’s a wannabe platform that rats liked to visit every evening if you do sleep good. The sand was filled with ants. I don’t know if you noticed the bug bites all over my face. There was also a bench I wouldn’t allow Wardog to sit on with me. It was cold and it was miserable. Guess what? It should be because you have a chance to get back in one of the greatest games in the world. Why would they make it easy? People in this world live like that on a day-to-day basis. I could’ve left, but I didn’t come to Fiji to not play Survivor. It is what it is, man. Yeah, I was miserable. Yeah, it sucked. Yeah, I was hungry. Yeah, there was hardly any food and people got on my damn nerves on a daily basis and I’m sure vice versa, but I picked it. I’m glad I was still in it, but yeah it did suck. Let’s be very clear about that. It was not fun island. They did offer rice, but we had to climb Mount freakin’ Everest to get that damn rice and it wasn’t that much. When you got it out of the bucket you had to somehow transport it. One time there were roaches in there. We had one freakin’ pot with a super dull machete and a spear that sucked. We were eating out of shells, and I don’t know where people were taking a piss. They could’ve pissed on the freakin’ shells that I’m now picking up to use as my spoon. That’s nasty.
SK: Who did you vote for to win the game and why?
Joe Anglim: Chris and I were very similar characters within the basic nature of who we are. We’re both outdoorsmen, fisherman and we’re both have some challenge prowess. Just being on the Edge together, we kind of became bros. We had a very natural bond, and then even our strategy out on the Edge was very similar. If either one of us gets in, what does the strategy look like? It was similar for both of us. He had my vote, and I think I would’ve had his vote or anyone from the Edge really. This group [the jury] was supporting and kind of rooting for the returnee to win. If that person can make it, you had to survive at least two or three more votes to get to the end. He did.
SK: Moments after the finale aired, Sia challenged you on Twitter to cut off your hair in exchange for $15,000. You accepted her challenge, but asked her to donate that money to charity instead. Tell us about that.
JA: She was there with me holding my hand while it was being cut. She was totally there to support me. I’m very blessed. This is my third opportunity to play the game. I found an amazing woman [two-time Survivor castaway Sierra Dawn-Thomas] and a lot of really true friendships. It was an easy thing for me to cut my hair and give back. It’s an honor to accept that money, but I couldn’t do that. There’s a kid somewhere who is going through chemo and parents can’t afford those payments or they want to buy a $1,500 wig for their kid and they can’t afford, that for me is way more impactful. That’s just me being me.