8:00am PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor: Ghost Island': Who Went Home in "Always Be Moving"?
[This story contains spoilers for the latest episode of CBS' Survivor: Ghost Island.]
Well, that's one way to land a gut punch.
Heading into the seventh installment of Survivor: Ghost Island, "Always Be Moving," it was hard to imagine how anyone could topple the dynamic duo of Domenick Abbate and Wendell Holland, the two players firmly in charge of the game ever since booting Chris Noble at the top of the merge — at least not without some help from Laurel Johnson and Donathan Hurley, Domenick and Wendell's secret allies who were frequently courted by the other players in the game to make a move against the two top dogs.
Laurel and Donathan declined the opportunity in last week's episode, and this week, Laurel declined again, despite having the safety of immunity on her side. For his part, Donathan was ready to blow everything up with some self-proclaimed "truth bombs," but his plan to incinerate Dom and Wendell amounted to little more than a fizzled-out firework. His antics prompted Domenick and Wendell to rally a split-vote decision against Donathan and Kellyn Bechtold, and on the revote, it was the latter who was sent home.
Kellyn, the Naviti tribe loyalist who played Survivor by ignoring her head and heart in favor of her gut, becomes the seventh member of the jury, and the last player eliminated before next week's double-sized finale. Throughout her time in the game, Kellyn was the No. 1 cheerleader for the "Naviti strong" strategy, imploring the members of her original preswap tribe to stick together and vote out anyone and everyone from the original Malolo. The plan worked for a time, but "Naviti strong" eventually weakened, leaving Kellyn with few options in the final stretch of her game.
Where does Kellyn think her strategy fell apart? Does she regret how she used her extra vote in the Tribal Council where Michael Yerger went home? And as she exited the game, what was her view of the players left on the beach? Here are her thoughts on all of that and more, speaking with THR the morning after her exit episode aired.
It sounds like you knew you were going home last night, and the real victory was making everyone vote twice. Can you explain that?
I understand it doesn't make great TV, but Wendell and Sebastian both gave me a graceful nod that it was my time. I figured it out once Chelsea was run up against a brick wall. But we had spent the afternoon having a great time, because I had already worked for three days. We had a day off between the reward and immunity challenges. I spent the entire middle day trying to work every single angle that I could. Mostly, I tried to talk Dom through every single potential jury vote about how he couldn't beat Wendell, and I tried to talk Wendell through every single potential jury vote about how he couldn't beat Dom. At that point, believe it or not, I felt I had more wiggle room with Dom and Wendell than I even did with Laurel. She had really shut me out. I don't think she could get over that I had written her name down twice. My angle was trying to get Dom and Wendell to think it was risky as hell to take the other power person.
Angela was with me, then all of a sudden, Donathan got very emotional: "They're going to play an idol for you!" Thanks, but they definitely aren't. But I realized that Donathan was willing to make an emotional vote here. I'm going to tell him, "Let's vote for Dom. Let's show him what it feels like to see his name on the paper." I thought it was pointless, but going into Tribal, they were openly talking because they knew I was going home: "Let's just split the vote." And I was like, "Holy shit. If I don't vote for Dom for emotional reasons, and instead I vote for Donathan, I can get them to tie and they're going to be scared shitless because they don't know it's coming." (Laughs.) It was a fun little nugget I had in the middle of that final Tribal, which was kind of my swan song. I knew it on the revote that there wasn't going to be anything changed. But it was so fun to make Dom and Wendell sweat. (Laughs.) Just a little bit!
In your final three days of the game, then, you really felt you were on borrowed time?
Honestly, for me, it was pretty clear I was on borrowed time when I totally fucked up and didn't pull the trigger on Wendell in the Michael vote. Michael and I were starting to work together. Really, we were. We had worked together in our plan to vote for Wendell, and I just couldn't pull the trigger. We were getting ready to go to Tribal, and Jenna — whom I love, but she was never playing super hard — she was like, "Yeah, Michael told me he wants you out next." Wait… what? Michael's not going to work with me if he stays? So I just couldn't pull the trigger. [At that Tribal], Wendell got up to whisper in Laurel's ear, telling her to vote for me and she did it. That's why I was crying, why I was emotional when Michael walked out. That was the moment I thought, "Holy shit. I don't know how I'm going to get out of this." After Chelsea went, my name was next.
I think most people who play Survivor must experience an element of paranoia. Did you feel particularly paranoid in your final stretch of the game?
I don't know about paranoia, but I felt things slipping away from me. Pretty much everything had gone the way I wanted it to go, working with who I wanted to work with. I had known what was happening at every vote. But I can't find the exact moment, other than when I should have flipped on Wendell in the Michael vote, but I slowly started to see that Dom and Wendell just had everyone doing exactly what they wanted. That's when I got emotionally confused, when I started trying to figure out how to get to the end, and Dom and Wendell were two big dogs keeping me from getting in. It was a sense of paranoia, but also a sense of knowing I wasn't able to fix this. That's where I started getting emotional and upset. The guys were playing so cocky, and it was frustrating. It was frustrating. I felt how Donathan acted last night. (Laughs.) That's what I wanted to do every single day.
Tracking moments where things started slipping away, how badly did losing Bradley before the merge impact your game? Was that vote ever explained to your satisfaction and did you feel like it rocked your game at all?
I think Donathan was the one who came to me first and said, "He was such a jerk!" And I felt like I just had to go with it. So I just said, "Yeah, if he's gone? Great! He was a jerk! Sure, I was working with him, but whatever!" But on the inside? I was like, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. My best bud is gone! My ride-or-die is gone! I need to figure out a new No. 1!" It was definitely eye-opening. At the time, people could probably tell I was a little upset, but I kept it under wraps.
From the audience's perspective, Domenick and Wendell are so clearly running the game. Was it that clear to you while you were out there, and was there one of them who you felt was a bigger threat than the other?
I didn't want to go to the end with either of them, but if push came to shove, I would have been more willing to go to the end with Dom than Wendell. Dom and I never really got off on the right foot. We were in alliances together because it worked for us and it kept us in the numbers. I like to think that Dom was the fake father of fake Naviti, and I was the fake mother of fake Naviti. We kept having these conversations: "Oh, yeah, we're just one big purple family!" But both of us knew differently. I never trusted that guy. As far as those two, I felt much closer to Wendell. I was working with him until I saw him whisper to Laurel, and realized he had chosen her over me. But Dom and I had such an interesting relationship. We pretended to be working together, but I don't think we were really meshing out there.
You mention "fake Naviti." Other than your "gut," the idea of "Naviti strong" is your big pull quote from the season. So are you saying that "Naviti strong" was more of a ruse than a reality?
It's a tough one. I think around the 10-person vote, I dubbed it "the purple mist." It was an idea. But man, it's so crazy, because you're so in the game, and I felt like selling the Naviti-strong narrative was my only shot. I slit the throats of a lot of the orange Malolo, so they didn't trust me. Dom and Wendell were going after anyone who had a whiff of strategy. You saw them flip on Des quicker than I flipped on Des. I felt like I came into the merge bringing a knife to a gunfight, and my knife had orange blood all over it. I feel like with Dom and Wendell, the only thing I could do was sit underneath them and say, "I'm the mom! We're going to stay together because we're the strong three of this family!" I felt it was my only choice to make sure the big dogs weren't coming after me. Would Michael and Jenna have actually worked with me and taken me to the end? I'm not sure, but you just never know. You never know.
There's a lot of audience frustration toward Laurel and Donathan for not turning against Domenick and Wendell, more so toward Laurel from what I'm seeing. What was your experience playing with them?
It was really frustrating. I feel for Laurel. You see her. She feels like she has a really great shot at the final three. To make it to Final Tribal and feel that sure that you're going to be there? That's a hard thing to give up. I feel for her. I feel for Laurel. Of course, all I wanted was for her to come with me and make a move. The most frustrating thing is actually watching it back. I didn't know she was realizing that she couldn't beat them. I didn't know she was realizing it: "I could probably beat the Naviti girls at the end." That's what I was trying to pitch to her! "You can beat me! You can't beat them! Please! For women everywhere, dear God, can we just make this move? Wendell is dating both of us, and he has two dates on one night, and he has the nerve to take us to the same restaurant! He's not even taking us to two different restaurants! Holy fuck, Laurel! Please, can we do this?" She would not budge. She wouldn't budge at all. It can be frustrating, but when you think you have a straight shot to the final three? I feel for her. I wish people would be kind to her, but I understand the frustration.
In terms of kindness… empathy is your superpower, of course. You're a longtime Survivor fan who got to experience the genuine article. A lot of people are big fans of yours. Others? Not so much. Can you articulate the experience of what it's like to live through actually playing Survivor, then coming home and living through it again with an audience of millions of strangers picking you apart, for good and for ill? Talk about a rollercoaster ride, I'm sure.
Yeah, the whole thing… it's been well over a year now, since casting started and all of that. Really, 99.9 percent of being a part of Survivor just blew my expectations out of the water. It's a total dream come true to be out there with Jeff Probst yelling in your ear, to be having conversations on the beach, to sit at Tribal Council. All of those things coming to life? It's the most amazing thing I've ever done. I've made friends for a lifetime. I can't even tell you the bonds it creates, starving with someone on an island, even though you go to slit each other's throats. I have some amazing friends from this season. You would be surprised to know who my best friends are after the show. Watching it back, you just have to take it with a grain of salt. I have been getting quite a bit of negative backlash, which is strange to me. I had great friendships out there, and still do. But you know what? The best part of being a Survivor fan is sitting at home and saying, "That person is an idiot. I'm so much smarter than them — and when I get out there? I'll never do what she did." That's the best part, right? So the whole experience has blown every expectation of mine out of the water. I really, honestly wouldn't change a thing.
• Week 1: Gonzalez and Jacob's exits, explained
• Week 2: The return of James Clement's idol
• Week 3: Michael's "double idol" gamble
• Week 4: Ending Stephanie's dreams
• Week 5: Probst on James' elimination
• Week 6: The return of three iconic artifacts
• Week 7: The Noble One's bogus journey
• Week 8: Probst on Libby's elimination
• Week 9: The anatomy of a brazen and risky move
• Week 10: The double elimination twist, explained
• Week 11: Big moves and small edits
Weekly exit interviews:
• 20th place: Stephanie Gonzalez
• 19th place: Jacob Derwin
• 18th place: Morgan Ricke
• 17th place: Brendan Shapiro
• 16th place: Stephanie Johnson
• 15th place: James Lim
• 14th place: Bradley Kleihege
• 13th place: Chris Noble
• 12th place: Libby Vincek
• 11th place: Desiree Afuye
• 10th place: Jenna Bowman
• 9th place: Michael Yerger
• 8th place: Chelsea Townsend
• 7th Place: Kellyn Bechtold
Preseason player profiles:
• Angela Perkins
• Bradley Kleihege
• Brendan Shapiro
• Chelsea Townsend
• Chris Noble
• Desiree Afuye
• Domenick Abbate
• Donathan Hurley
• Jacob Derwin
• James Lim
• Jenna Bowman
• Kellyn Bechtold
• Laurel Johnson
• Libby Vincek
• Michael Yerger
• Morgan Ricke
• Sebastian Noel
• Stephanie Gonzalez
• Stephanie Johnson
• Wendell Holland