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[This recap contains spoilers for the Wednesday, March 28, episode of Survivor: Ghost Island.]
There is no lede formulation I enjoy more than a good “Won’t Get Fooled Again” reference, but we’ve had enough new alignments on Survivor: Ghost Island that I’d have to go with this:
Meet the New New Malolo same as the Old New Malolo, same as the Old Old Malolo.
After Wednesday’s episode began by shuffling New Naviti and New Malolo into two New New versions of those tribes, as well as a fledgling Yanuya tribe, my notes for this season have become an utter disaster of a flow-chart attempting to figure out which players have been together since the beginning, which players have been together since the first shuffle but are still being loyal to an original tribe they spent three days with, which players are now together for the first time and which players have presumably never met other than the occasional elbow to the head in an immunity or reward challenge.
The only constant, the only thing that still makes sense to me this season, is that whoever is on the Malolo tribe pretty much automatically loses. In six Tribal Councils, in three different tribal configurations, a Malolo castaway has had their torch snuffed five times. Things got so bad that Jeff Probst was suggesting at Tribal Council that Malolo could be one of the least successful tribes in Survivor history, which we all know isn’t really true, especially since, again, “Malolo” has been three autonomously sucking tribes, but it’s still a thing one can posit without getting laughed out of the fire circle.
Or as Michael put it, in a confessional quote that totally didn’t sound coached by a producer immediately off camera, “This is Survivor: Ghost Island. It’s all about reversing curses, not creating new ones.”
The shuffle already felt like a desperate effort to reclaim the drama of the season and to keep Michael and Jenna and their Old Malolo alliance from getting entirely Pagonged, but it didn’t work. Michael, he of the apparent curse, ended up on New New Malolo along with fellow New Malolo carryovers Kellyn and Desiree, plus James from Old Malolo, which proved to be too much taint. The only member of New New Malolo without any sort of Malolo black mark was Angela, who nearly got voted out by her own alliance in the season’s lone Naviti appearance at Tribal.
For all of the shuffling and all of the occasional backbiting and in-fighting, some form of Old Naviti alliance remained in place and New New Malolo voted out James, even though they’re a bad and weak team and James was their only ostensibly strong player, though I only say “ostensibly” because James nearly got himself voted out earlier in the season because of how weak he is in the water. Look, this is all confusing. We went to Tribal Council tonight and either Angela was going to turn on old soft ally Desiree, who clearly was at fault for the immunity challenge defeat, or she was going to stick with people who hadn’t been her friends for a long time. Why did she stick with Kellyn and Desiree? Dunno. When did the conversation become such a foregone conclusion that even Michael voted for James? Dunno. Given that there were only five people in the tribe and he was a part of a minority alliance, why did James call this vote a “blindside”? Dunno.
You could already tell from the shuffle that Malolo was going to be in trouble. The new Yanuya tribe got Sea-Bass, Jenna, Wendell, Chris and Laurel. That’s a strong tribe. The reconfigured Naviti got Donathan, Bradley, Chelsea, Domenick and Libby. That’s not quite as strong, because Donathan still feels like a liability and Chelsea still seems like an abstraction who cries when she drinks coffee, but it’s better than what Malolo got and that’s before you get to that pesky curse.
What a strange episode within a strange season. Do you remember the last Survivor episode in which no idol played even partially into negotiations or strategy? Other than Domenick’s mockery of Chris for maybe, or maybe not, buying into his fake idol, nobody mentioned idols, advantages or any of the other gadgets that usually add suspense. Presumably there’s an idol at Yanuya camp, right? There tends to be? Nobody mentioned it at all. And whichever camp Michael’s misplayed idol came from, is there a new idol there? We don’t know. Domenick’s legacy advantage can come into play in two weeks, right? We may need the excitement.
Speaking of which: Ghost Island? Anybody remember Ghost Island? Why did nobody go to Ghost Island tonight? After the competitive three-team immunity challenge, nobody went anywhere. Come on, people! We’ve got a theme that needs feeding and Michael sometimes mentioning “curses” isn’t enough.
So… farewell to James. I liked his humility in how he handled the challenge he screwed up, even if he was only humble with the assumption he wouldn’t actually get voted out. He had an interesting backstory and his memories of re-assimilating to American culture after returning here alone when he was 16 were touching. There’s this vein of sadness, struggle and thwarted reinvention that keeps coming up this season, particularly dominating last week, but continuing this episode with James and Angela, newly retired from the military and newly divorced.
Let’s get to some Bottom Lines…
Bottom Line, I. Yeah, I don’t get Angela deciding to stick with Kellyn and Desiree in this situation. She had no emotional ties with either of them and no emotional ties to her original Naviti alliance. Then you have two women who keep saying over and over again that they can’t imagine ever not voting together and one of the women was at fault for costing your tribe immunity. How do you not just say, “OK. Those two are a power couple. They’re two votes as a package for the rest of the game. Let’s split them up, knowing it won’t hurt our tribe.” As soon as Michael gave an indication he was prepared to vote against James, which must have happened, you should go, “Those two have no allegiance and we’d rather not keep losing, so why not keep them around?”
Bottom Line, II. Desiree got the episode title quote even though fate proved not to be her homie. Fortunately, Kellyn was totally Desiree’s homie and protected her. Desiree was really bad as the direction-caller in the traditional blindfolded immunity challenge. It wasn’t just that she lost her voice very early on and that she kept telling people to avoid bumping into obstacles basically as they were bumping. Mostly, Malolo got to the puzzle portion of the challenge with a big advantage, but for some reason Desiree wasn’t instructing her solvers to form the outside of the circle and work in. It looked like a no-brainer strategy, one that Domenick and Wendell were much better at. The challenge had a fair amount of good physical comedy, including face-plants from Chelsea and Libby, plus Donathan and Chelsea’s generalized confusion.
Bottom Line, III. The actual title of the episode probably should have been “Beneficiary” after Chris’ quote, “For some crazy reason, people think that models might be self-absorbed, might be dumb, just a lot of things that might not be beneficiary [sic] to me.” Chris is hilarious and his heartfelt, secret-sharing conversation with Laurel in which he admitted to being a model with representation in Miami, Chicago and New York was great. I appreciate that Chris contains multitudes. He’s tremendous in challenges. He had that sad Ghost Island confessional talking about his mother that was easy to sympathize with. He was very clever in how he handled Donathan last week. But man he’s insufferable, too. And he almost cut Sea-Bass’ arm off with a machete!
Bottom Line, IV. Bradley is still more insufferable, because unlike Chris he hasn’t quite displayed the same range of exceptional attributes. In lieu of displayed skills, his hubris is impressive, giving himself an “A+” for gameplay. Bradley and Domenick may be one of the most abrasive alliances in Survivor history and there’s something unavoidably unsavory in watching them ogle and criticize Libby, who Domenick called “The Devil in an angel’s body” and “Parvati 2.0.” I hadn’t thought much of Libby previously, but since Parvati is a top five Survivor player for me, now she’s got my attention. Impress me, Libby!
Bottom Line, V. Or maybe the title of the episode should have been “Reeking of Dead Conch.” I’m certain that Sea-Bass has spent more time at the beach than I have, but wasn’t that a cowry shell (not a conch) that Wendell saved for him and brought to their new tribe as an alliance offering?
Bottom Line, VI. Once again Probst looked like he sensed a thin Tribal Council coming when he asked players if, in their own lives, they typically lead with their heads or their hearts. Good for Kellyn refusing to play his reindeer games and saying she goes with her gut. I feel confident that the reality is that she leads with her heart, but no matter!
That’s about all I have to say about this week! But don’t forget to read Josh Wigler’s interviews for more insights!
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