"The Finish Line Is in Sight" on a Twisty 'Survivor: Ghost Island'

Survivor Ghost Island Finish Line Is In Sight - Publicity - H 2018
CBS

[This recap contains spoilers for the May 2 episode of Survivor: Ghost Island.]

On this week's Survivor: Ghost Island, everything ultimately went down exactly the way you'd probably have predicted if I'd told you it was going to be a double-elimination episode. That sounds boring, but even if the results in Wednesday's episode were what you would have expected, the path to those two votes was anything but smooth and pointed to a half-dozen ways the episode could have gone really weird.

So Jenna and Michael went home. After some recent dithering sent less favored Navitis packing, this week's two bootees were Malolos, continuing a seasonlong spiral for the ill-fated tribe.

It wasn't necessarily supposed to go that way. After Chelsea's screwy vote at last week's Tribal, even though things stood at 6-4 for Naviti, Chelsea was a swing vote and it could just as easily have been 5-5 this week with a chance to finally break up the seasonlong chasm.

Nope.

As a twist, Survivor did a double-immunity challenge, splitting the remaining 10 castaways into two randomly selected tribes, giving two immunities and promising two separate Tribal Councils. Like most of the show's more aggressive manipulating, this felt more like a Big Brother twist than a Survivor innovation, with the potential to undermine nearly 30 days of strategy on the flip of a coin. What if the four Malolos had been placed on a tribe with Wendell or Domenick (leaving aside both of their idols)? Or what if Sea-Bass had been stranded with four Malolos

The possible game-shaking splits were myriad.

Nope. Instead, we got 3-2 Naviti advantages on both Purple (Chelsea, Sea-Bass, Angela, Jenna and Donathan) and Orange (Michael, Laurel, Dom, Wendell and Kellyn) tribes. And then, in each case, a NavitiDomenick and Chelsea — won immunity, basically guaranteeing a Malolo vote-out and, given the divisions, you'd have said Michael and Jenna were doomed.

Yes. Kinda.

Lots of people had to do lots of silly things first. Bless you, Survivor, and your silly people.

We need to begin the discussion of the silliness by saying that Kellyn is very bad at Survivor. She made a mess of everything last week by refusing to believe that Desiree could possibly be scheming against her and this week she made a mess of everything by trusting Michael when he insisted he had an immunity idol that he refused to show anybody. Why, in this situation, would you believe Michael? Well, he'd found idols before, twice, ergo precedent. Also, though, Kellyn is just very, very bad at reading people, which just so happens to be one of the more important Survivor skills. Domenick told her in no uncertain terms that Michael didn't have an idol. This was also just guesswork, but it was conjecture based on an observation of Michael's behavior and not just sheer, misguided credulity.

Somewhere I think there was a conversation that could have assuaged Kellyn's fears. Laurel, who knew Donathan found the last idol reintroduced into the game, could have told either Dom or Wendell, in no uncertain terms, that Michael couldn't possibly have the idol he claimed to have. She did not. Laurel wanted Kellyn out and, at this point, can you blame her? Kellyn makes a mess of things. You want a Kellyn in your alliance exactly as long as you need her and then you want her gone. So Laurel wanted Kellyn out and she wanted Dom and Wendell to help her, as a sign of respect for how Laurel protected their alliance last week. That's fair. And Kellyn wanted Laurel out just because she wanted a Malolo out and she feared Michael's imaginary idol. Also fair. Adding more mess to the pre-existing mess, nobody knew that Kellyn had a bonus vote from Ghost Island.

That meant that at Tribal, you had two people voting for Michael, "two" (both Kellyn) voting for Laurel and a vote apiece for Kellyn and Wendell. People on the jury went, "Wait, that's six!" but nobody at the Tribal commented. Strange. At the revote, without any risk of idol play, Michael got the votes. It took a pointlessly complicated vote to get a simple result.

The same was true at the other Tribal, where the Navitis all decided they wanted Jenna out, but told Jenna that they were voting Donathan so that she would go to the slaughter docilely. What they didn't anticipate was that Jenna would go to Donathan and say the votes were all going on her so that he wouldn't use his idol on himself. Then Donathan, swelled with nobility, got the idea that the only way to reverse the curse on his idol would be to help his friend. Jenna took this altruism in the trashiest way possible and declared, "He's an idiot and I'm willing to vote him out." That's not a way to make viewers like you, Jenna. 

This put the audience in the weirdest position of knowing Jenna was the target and wondering how we would react if she somehow talked Donathan into using his idol to protect her, thinking it would be a sign of his idiocy, and then that play purely accidentally saved her. It would have been the most bittersweet of bittersweet feelings. And Donathan pulled out his idol before the vote! And Jenna smirked! And... HE PLAYED IT FOR HIMSELF. So Donathan wasted his idol, which was bad. But he didn't spare Jenna, which was good. That mean that Donathan misread the situation and played the idol on himself, which was stupid. But he didn't get manipulated into using the idol on Jenna, which was smart. Except that using the idol on Jenna would have helped his alliance, but I guess that if he'd used the idol on Jenna, it would have been a tie with Sea-Bass, and Donathan would have gone home on the revote, right? So Donathan's best play would have been not using the idol at all. But we already knew that. 

See, this was all confusing!

And yet it wasn't confusing. Michael and Jenna went home. That was easy.

Let's get to the Bottom Lines...

Bottom Line, I. Turning on Kellyn next week ought to be the easiest of no-brainers for Wendell, Dom and that alliance. She's dangerous and she's the worst kind of dangerous, because she's bad at this and that makes her unpredictable. And yet I wonder if after two straight individual immunities, people are starting to think of Chelsea as a threat. Chelsea is not a threat. I don't know a thing about Chelsea's personality. Not a THING. Is she smart? Is she funny? Is she playful and whimsical? Not a thing.

Bottom Line, II. Find yourself somebody who looks at you the way Domenick and Wendell look at each other. It's going to be so heartbreaking when one decides to turn on the other, especially if idols are then used and they have to stick around at camp the next episode knowing the truth of their betrayal. This week's hint was that Domenick was the one willing to turn on Wendell. My hunch is that Laurel will pour poison in Wendell's ear, stoking his insecurity, and Wendell will turn on Domenick first. You'll be able to watch Domenick's heart break on national TV, just like Ralph Wiggam when Lisa yelled at him and told him that she did not, in fact, choo-choo-choose him.

Bottom Line, II. So this week we got rid of Donathan's idol and Kellyn's advantage. A new idol will be hidden to replace Donathan's idol. I'm not sure if we're done with Ghost Island or if we just skipped it this week. As it stands, Domenick and Wendell both have idols and Domenick has a fake idol that he found, a fake idol that failed to attend Ghost Island Community College for the requisite 10 years and thus never received a diploma as a real idol. So what's the point? Is it just a fake idol that Domenick doesn't have to create? So it's a time-saver? I don't get it.

Bottom Line, III. Where was the advantage of going second at the dual Tribal Councils? Was it a hypothetical advantage? Was the advantage negated by the way the temporary tribes got split? Seeing Jenna on the jury just let the second temporary tribe know that Naviti had stuck to the numbers. If they'd been able to watch the full Tribal and had seen Donathan play an idol, would they have been able to guess/assume that his idol was the one that Michael didn't have? Probably not.

Bottom Line, IV. Both Tribals were a little strange. The first had Jenna and Donathan simultaneously playing a competitive game of possum, each trying to surrender more thoroughly so that Probst finally just gave up and went to the vote. The second Tribal had all that talk of predators and prey, interspersed with Kellyn talking about how intensely she's stared at Michael all season because of how hot he is. Will the revelation that he's 18 make her feel at all uncomfortable about this episode? Probably not. Is she feeling bad about her Survivor gameplay at home watching the past two episodes? I hope so. I don't dislike Kellyn at all. But come on! Listen better!

Bottom Line, V. Donathan refusing to let Michael hold his idol and use it as a distraction was gangsta. Go Donathan. Too many people know too much about too many people's idols. The last thing you want to do is blow the element of surprise associated with your idol for somebody else's benefit. No, you want to keep the element of surprise so that you can triumphantly play your idol at a Tribal Council when you don't need to.

Bottom Line, VI. Dumb immunity challenge. Good blustery White Men Can't Jump-style trash talk between Domenick and Wendell. Dumb challenge, though I was sure Angela was going to win. She seems like a mind-over-matter queen. Instead, it was Chelsea winning for a second straight challenge by standing still. Chelsea is GOOD at standing still. Can you win a million dollars for consistently standing still? "Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. Stand Still."

Catch y'all next week and, as always, check out Josh Wigler's interviews!