- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
[This recap contains spoilers for the May 9 episode of Survivor: Ghost Island.]
Are you as stunned as I am by Wednesday’s Survivor?
I really thought I’d never see the day.
I mean, you wouldn’t believe it either if you hadn’t seen it for yourself.
Chelsea said something quotable enough that she was responsible for this week’s Survivor episodic title!
Indeed, wonders will never cease.
If anything, this week’s Survivor result was way too heavily telegraphed by just how frequently Chelsea spoke throughout the episode. She kept getting screen time to chirp helpfully about strategy even when she wasn’t saying anything that hadn’t already been contributed before by somebody else. She even got a confessional moment, only her second or third of the season, and again it wasn’t a profound or hilarious thought. The editors just really wanted to make sure that the Queen of Standing Still got to show more sides to her game than just her aptitude with being placid and, I guess, her very attractive sister (not to sound creepy).
I’ve said it before, but I remain convinced that Chelsea is the kind of player who is going to get another chance to play Survivor because I think there’s going to be a narrative that she was a better competitor than we really got to see and because of the only semi-accurate contention that she was a “challenge beast.”
Excessive in-episode presence aside, Chelsea got a much more dramatic exit than her gameplay warranted. This may have been the most uncertain I’ve been about a vote all season, even though there were really only two options.
Donathan and Laurel were the pivot votes as the women of Naviti — Angela, Chelsea and Kelly — prepared to make their first attempt to target the men of Naviti — Wendell and Domenick, plus Sea-Bass, who still is a member of an ongoing power alliance even though he’s becoming less and less memorable with each passing week.
So with Domenick winning his second straight individual immunity, Wendell was the most likely target for the spurned Naviti women and Chelsea became the target for the Wendell-Dom alliance because, as I’ve already said, she was a “challenge beast,” even if she wasn’t.
The editors refused to tip their hand on which way Donathan and Laurel were leaning. She seemed inclined to stick with Wendell or Donathan for one or two more votes, while he was getting antsy about making a big move. As Laurel very accurately put it, her choice was between sticking with two guys she trusted but couldn’t beat, or jumping to a group of women she didn’t trust but thought she could beat.
Then at Tribal Council, Donathan and Laurel caused a little chaos, or at least uncertainty, by basically announcing that they were the swing votes, that they’d found a crack in the Naviti alliance and that the vote was going to be a blindside. It was strange.
If you want to give Donathan and, particularly, Laurel credit, their Tribal Council loose lips could have been an attempt to get Wendell to play the idol Laurel knew he had, while still voting Chelsea out. That would have been the best of both worlds for their alliance of two. Strip Wendell of some of his power, while getting out an alleged “challenge beast” and living to make strategic moves against Wendell and Domenick at the next vote or two. They both seemed screwy and loopy enough that if they’d had that strategy, even if Wendell had approached them after Tribal with a well-earned “What the heck were you doing?” — as he probably still will — they could have played dumb, especially Donathan.
Instead, Chelsea went home as Donathan and Laurel chose their side. Unfortunately for them, though, Wendell held on to his idol. So we’re down to seven, with both Wendell and Dom holding idols. They should be close to unbeatable as long as they stick together, which is appropriate since at this point, they’re the two castaways who deserve to win this season and the last line on the eventual winner’s resumé should be that they knew well enough when to backstab the other. And at this point, Wendell has to know that, resumé-wise, Domenick currently has him beat. Domenick vanquished his rapping adversary, found multiple advantages/idols and he’s now won a pair of individual immunities. If Wendell is smart, and we’ve been led to believe he is, he has to know that head to head, Domenick has a better case. Of course, by the end of Tribal deliberations, I thought that if Wendell was smart, he’d have played his idol. He did not and, after what I have to assume was a brief heart attack, he was vindicated. So I guess I just have to trust Wendell, but, man, I was yelling at my screen for Wendell to play that idol. Shows what I know.
Let’s hop along to some Bottom Lines…
Bottom Line, I. It was Loved Ones Week on Survivor, but it was a more muted example of the genre than some we’ve had in recent years, which the Survivor editors absolutely understood. The sentimental music played extra hard over the obligatory hugs and tears, yet the segment was shorter than in past seasons. I feel like the Millennials vs. Gen X visit took up nearly half the episode. This was a tight 10 minutes. Angela and her daughter talking about Angela’s military service and the sacrifices that required produced my only real threat of tears. Otherwise, it was Wendell being sincerely respectful of his father, Kellyn being nerdy with her brother, Donathan getting positive news from his aunt, Laurel being stable with her brother, Chelsea being attractive with her sister, Domenick’s highly dramatic wife and Probst being creepy with Sea-Bass and his sister (“What is the feeling of hugging your little sis?”). The challenge was also a bit of a dud, culminating with Sea-Bass throwing one sandbag on one platform for the win.
Bottom Line, II. Part of why the split with the Naviti women occurred was because Sea-Bass was really, really dumb in selecting who got to join him in the BBQ reward. In a precarious eight-person tribe divided evenly by gender, how do you take only the guys? You might as well say, “Have fun conspiring against us, ladies!” I guess Sea-Bass had made a promise to Wendell already and he saw how terrifyingly intense Domenick’s wife was and then Donathan seemed the neediest? If it’s me making those choices, I take Kellyn for sure because as I’ve mentioned before, Kellyn makes a mess of things and the last thing you need is for Kellyn to be back at camp angry and making a mess of things, which is exactly what happened. Kellyn got really angry. I’m going to stick with “angry” as my description for Kellyn’s reaction because “emotional” and “irrational” are gendered pejoratives, but her ranting was particularly aggressive when it came to Wendell because …
Bottom Line, III. The only interesting twist was Probst telling Sea-Bass that he got to select somebody to go to Ghost Island with the promise of a guaranteed advantage and saying that Sea-Bass could go himself or that any of the other people getting the reward could choose to skip family and go to Ghost Island themselves. I’m not sure this was the right call from the producers. Offering Sea-Bass the choice is one thing. He won the challenge. But the other three “winners” didn’t do anything for their reward, they were just chosen, so how did that earn them the right to get a promised advantage? It should have been Sea-Bass getting the choice and then the Ghost Island decision going to choosing rocks for the four women. As it stood, Wendell happily sacrificed his BBQ for the advantage and I don’t know if the producers were prepared for what would happen if two of the “winners” had been willing to go. It all could have been weird. And it wasn’t Wendell’s fault that Probst didn’t say, “OK, Wendell’s going to Ghost Island, so Sea-Bass, choose one of the women to join you.” Kellyn sure treated it like it was his fault.
Bottom Line, IV. Wendell’s advantage wasn’t a bad one. It was Malcolm’s advantage from Season 25, where he would get a second shot at the ball-balancing immunity if his ball fell off. It didn’t help Malcolm and he was voted out. It didn’t help Wendell either. I don’t love how it was implemented. Basically, he dropped his ball, but everybody got a restart. He was the only one who required it because he was the only one who would have been eliminated otherwise, but they all got the chance to stretch their muscles, to re-establish their grips, to start fresh. It would have been a far larger advantage if they’d all had to keep going and only Wendell had restarted. As it stood, his ball dropped again and he was eliminated. “The curse remains in effect,” Probst said, pointlessly. They need to step it up on individual immunity challenges. My tolerance for players getting immunity by standing still is limited.
Bottom Line, V. Did Donathan and Laurel back the wrong pony? Like I said, their best move was voting Chelsea, but obliquely hinting that their vote was up for grabs during Tribal and making Wendell paranoid enough to play his idol of his volition. That way they could have continued to have flexibility going forward. Their worst move would have been voting Wendell and having Wendell play his idol, sending Chelsea home and leaving Wendell angry about having been lied to. This was the safe middle ground. They still have Wendell and Domenick’s trust, but Wendell and Domenick still both have idols, making them harder to blindside. To some degree, every Tribal you don’t split Wendell and Domenick up is a bad Tribal and people have known that for a while. Meanwhile, everybody taking Donathan for granted is bad business. His smartest move might be attempting to oust Laurel next week, painting her as a dangerous floater and making himself the only dangerous floater left.
Bottom Line, VI. As of now, with two weeks to go, Domenick has the best resumé by a wide margin, right? Followed by Wendell? Then a big gap. Then Laurel and Donathan, with Laurel in the lead just because we assume she’d outdebate Donathan?
I’ll be back next week! And don’t forget to check out Josh Wigler’s interviews!
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day