'Survivor Ghost Island': Season 36 Winner Revealed

SURVIVOR  -Ghost Island Logo  -Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of CBS

[This story contains massive spoilers for the season finale of Survivor Ghost Island.]

The final votes are in, and a new Survivor winner has been crowned — but not easily.

In the season finale of Survivor Ghost Island, the battle came down to two dominant players: Wendell Holland, a furniture builder from Philadelphia, and Domenick Abbate, a construction supervisor from Long Island, New York. The two players were joined at the hip all season long, controlling the game for virtually the entire 39-day experience, one Tribal Council in the pre-merge notwithstanding. 

The season finale, "It is Game Time Kids," turned the two allies into friendly foes as the game came to its final closing moments, thanks to a new rule implemented last season: the winner of the final immunity challenge gets to select one person to join them at the Final Tribal Council, while the two other remaining players battle it out for the third and final spot in a fire-making challenge. Domenick won immunity, and parted ways with his longtime friend Wendell, sending him into the fire-making challenge. Like a phoenix bursting forth from purple ashes, Wendell managed to defeat rival Angela Perkins in the fiery showdown, securing a spot in the finals.

All season long, fans and prognosticators alike have struggled to rank Domenick and Wendell against each other, as their games were so interlocked. As it turns out, the Ghost Island jury were similarly up in the air, as the group of 10 banished players were deadlocked in their votes for the winner, resulting in the first-ever tie at the final Tribal Council. The rules for how to settle a tie were revealed in 2017's Survivor Game Changers season finale: whichever finalist was left out of the tie would become the final member of the jury and cast the deciding vote between the two remaining castaways. A difficult position, to be sure.

In the case of Ghost Island, that third-place finisher and final juror was none other than Laurel Johnson, closely aligned with both Domenick and Wendell through most of the game. Agonizing over the decision, Laurel cast the fateful vote, which was revealed at the live Survivor finale and reunion show: Wendell Holland, crowned as the new Sole Survivor in the closest final vote in the show's history.

Wendell's win feeds into the season's theme of "reversing the curse" on a meta level: before shooting on Ghost Island began, host and executive producer Jeff Probst named Wendell as his pick to win the season. He couched it with a caveat: "I have to say this: every time I pick someone to win, I kill their game. What I'm hoping is that since this is Ghost Island, Wendell will reverse my curse and actually win to show I'm not cursed!" That's one curse reversed, at the least.

Keep an eye out for a deep-dive interview with Probst all about Wendell's win, the final vote and much more posting at 11 p.m. PT. Additionally, stay tuned to THR.com/Survivor for an interview with Wendell, as well as interviews with the other finalists.