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Who is Rick Devens from ‘Survivor’ and why is he remembered?

Rick Devens "Survivor" run was one for the books.

Rick Devens
Image via CBS

Regarded by some as one of the greatest players ever, Rick Devens stormed into the Survivor world during season 38’s Edge of Extinction in 2019. It was a season full of familiar faces and cunning new castaways, and Devens stood among them as someone who narrowly missed the $1 million grand prize and title of “Sole Survivor.”

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A luxury reserved by only a handful of players, Rick was referred to by his last name by host Jeff Probst . And after dealing with the ups and downs from being marooned in Fiji — including leaving Tribal Council thinking his game was over — the then-33-year-old morning news anchor and self-professed Survivor superfan from Macon, Georgia, placed fourth overall.

So, how did his time on the island unravel and why is he such a beloved name in the Survivor community? Let’s dive into Deven’s reality competition stint.

Devens was voted out early only to win his way back from the Edge of Extinction

“No one thinks news anchors are tough,” Devens said in a confessional. “I’ve got [a] dad bod out here. But, I’ve got a lot of belief in myself. I want to come into this game like the Kool-Aid Man. I want to break through the wall — oh yeah!

That’s how Devens set the tone for Survivor fans during the first episode of Edge of Extinction.

But, unfortunately for Rick, he was placed on the Manu tribe at the start of season 38. The game opened up with 18 hopefuls, which included 14 new castaways and four returning players, and they were split up into two tribes of nine. And by the ninth day, Manu had already dropped to six players after losing three Immunity Challenges in a row to Kama.

For Devens, he was on the right side of the first three Tribal Councils, including when he helped orchestrate the blindside of Chris Underwood (the season’s eventual winner) on day 8. However, episode 5 marked a tribe swap which spelled the end of Devens’ first run. The morning news anchor formed Lesu alongside his closest ally, David Wright, as well as four other fellow Manu tribemates: Kelley Wentworth, Dan “Wardog” DaSilva, and Lauren O’Connell.

But, just because Devens donned a green buff instead of blue, and was living on a different beach with a newly-built camp, his fortune didn’t change. Lesu lost the first Immunity Challenge of the three-tribe format.

He and David angled to eliminate Lauren, but fearing Devens’ social prowess and the potential he’d abandon them at the merge, Wardog, Kelley, and Lauren wrote his name down on day 11.

Unaware of season 38’s twist, Devens had his torch snuffed and he made his way out of Tribal Council.

The Edge of Extinction gave players an opportunity to win their way back into the game. So, when Devens was faced with the option to sail over to the desolate island to join the three other individuals he voted off, he accepted.

There, he lived with little food and supplies while reflecting on how his game soured. Devens’ first few days on Survivor weren’t impressive, and in a normal season, he would’ve been sent home pre-jury. However, season 38 not only gave Devens more time battling in the Fijian archipelago, but it also allowed him to develop into a celebrated player.

Around a week later and after two more players occupied the Edge, the first battle-back challenge arrived.

Devens and the other five voted-out contestants competed in an obstacle course which ended with navigating a ball through a maze. And after the dust settled, it was Devens who landed his ball into the hole first and rejoined the game on day 17.

Devens won 4 Immunity Challenges and used multiple idols to make it to day 38

The tribes were now merged with 13 survivors, and Devens knew he was on several players’ hit lists for the simple fact that he was an easy target. However, Devens was wise to that, and when Wardog approached him about working with his former Lesu counterparts, a fired-up Devens responded: “Why would I work with you guys? You guys stabbed me in the back over and over again.”

Devens knew he had to change his approach to the game.

And with the help of an advantage he secretly earned for returning — two halves of an immunity idol that would activate if he gave one to another castaway and they survived the merge’s first Tribal Council — Devens went to work. He gave David a half and turned up his scheming, competing, and socializing.

Although Kelley, Lauren, and Wardog wanted to make Devens a resident of the Edge of Extinction again, several original Kama members decided to target Joe Anglim — the biggest physical threat in the game. Devens was hit with two votes at his first Tribal Council back and the three former Lesus tossed their votes onto David, but Joe was taken out by the Kama Six.

That was the momentum Rick needed.

Wheeling and dealing, he and David survived the next two votes as two former Kama members fell. The duo was split up on day 23, however, when David was voted out. Then what followed was vengeance for Rick.

After securing his first individual immunity win, Kelley was voted out in a razor-thin 5-4 vote.

Devens was supposed to follow Kelley to the Edge, but he picked up his second straight Immunity Challenge triumph. And although he voted alongside him, Wardog — one of the three who voted Devens out — met his fate.

Rick was blindsided by Wardog’s departure. So, he approached the man who misled him about the vote, Ron Clark. Ron attempted to repair trust by giving Rick an “Advantage Menu,” something he found at the start of the game.

But, here was the kicker: the advantage, which could produce an idol for Devens, had expired.

Knowing he was public enemy No. 1, Devens, who lost the Immunity Challenge, played the Advantage Menu. However, Jeff announced that it had expired on day 9.

“Ron and Julie [Rosenberg], you are villains,” Devens said in front of the entire cast.

Not to be deterred, Rick then put on one of the flashiest moves in that era of Survivor. He pulled out a hidden immunity idol and played it for himself, which negated four votes — enough to oust him. Rick’s idol play led to Ron leaving, which further bolstered Devens’ strengthening resume.

Then, he notched his third Immunity Challenge win in the next round of play, which kept him safe yet again.

With only five castaways remaining, Chris returned to the game by winning the final battle-back contest on day 35. Although Devens voted him out nearly a month prior, their bond grew during their time on the Edge together, and they instantly linked up.

Although Julie won the subsequent Immunity Challenge, Rick and Chris were armed with advantages and savvy gameplay.

Devens had another hidden immunity idol whereas Chris came back into the game with the same secret advantage Rick had when he returned. He gave Rick one-half of an idol, which was set to gain its power if they survived Tribal on day 36, which they did.

Rick used his idol and Chris convinced Lauren to play her’s on him. Rick had received the most votes but once again, he negated them and Victoria Baamonde was sent to Ponderosa.

Devens followed up his successful idol play by capturing his fourth Immunity Challenge victory. He also found another hidden immunity idol and gave it to Gavin Whitson in exchange for his word that he’d take Devens to the final 3 if given the opportunity.

Lauren was voted off next after Devens returned the other half of the idol to Chris, which he used to save his game by eliminating three votes.

By day 38, only four players remained and Devens stood out as the clear favorite to win the $1 million check. Chris went on to win the final Immunity Challenge. Aware of Devens’ jury-approved resume, he knew he had to eliminate the morning news anchor.

And he had to do it himself if he wanted to become season 38’s champion.

Chris gave up his immunity necklace at Tribal Council and challenged Devens to the fire-making competition. That’s how Devens’ game came to a close.

Chris ultimately defeated Devens and he rounded out the jury as its final member. Rick wrote Gavin’s name down to win Edge of Extinction, but Chris received the most votes and was crowned the “Sole Survivor.”

Even though Devens couldn’t seal the deal at the end, his clutch competition wins coupled with the strategic plays and resilience he displayed in Fiji made him a beloved and memorable Survivor character. And it would be a shocker if Devens didn’t play again at some juncture.