I had the great pleasure of watching this week’s episode at the Rob Has a Podcast live Know-It-Alls event in Boston! This was only the second time I’ve watched an episode in a large room full of Survivor fans (freaks) with the first being in the studio audience of the Game Changers finale, and let me say, it was an experience! Watching in a setting like that makes every moment better whether it’s an uproar of but-gusting laughter, audible “aww”s, or crazy cheers after a hashtag Survivor blindside. A few “Tropical Tornado” drinks in me (a Survivor special the mixologists at the bar were serving specifically for the event) maybe played a part, but this was a fun episode to watch with a satisfying outcome which was Michael not leaving in a boring, unanimous vote. There may have been a vicious riot at the venue had that happened.
HUNGRY TO MAKE A MOVE
I have no idea why the episode kicked off with Domenick’s dream about having Martin Sheen over for breakfast. Maybe Martin’s just a Survivor superfan and begged the network to have his name dropped on the show. I mean, Laurel being Charlie Sheen’s sister? Dom can have some wild ideas, but that one seems a little too bizarre, even for a dream.
I suppose they were trying to transition into this week’s main storyline of Desiree being hungry… to take out a Naviti (while also highlighting the Domenick/ Wendell/ Laurel/ Donathan foursome that’s still looking pretty strong as our fated final four). Desiree decided that the time to act was now to take out one of the big Naviti players—Domenick, Wendell, and Kellyn—pitching her plan to the four remaining Malolos.
Normally the minority alliance would be quick to take her up such an offer, but unfortunately for Desiree, this wasn’t actually the minority alliance given that Laurel and Donathan were sitting pretty with Dom and Wendell who were very much determining the majority’s next move. We saw last week Laurel in a position to make a game-changing move only to back out, so we were again presented with Laurel’s dilemma over what move to make. This further supported Laurel being the person with the best position in the game with everyone wanting her on their side, and while that’s a huge credit to her game, I continue worrying that with her always defaulting back to saving Dom and Wendell, the jury’s not going to reward her based on what could have been big moves.
REWARD – SEA CELLS DOWN BY THE SEASHORE
Sebastian had the chance to be the Prince Charming to rescue his Princess Jenna in this challenge joined by Kellyn, Michael, and Chelsea on the orange team. The purple team consisted of Domenick, Wendell, Laurel, Desiree, and Angela. Donathan was not drafted in the schoolyard pick which I can understand—had he played, once his jail cell was open, would he have jumped right out or sat there for 20 minutes before having another “hero” moment?
Orange took a quick lead as Jeff drove the “reverse the curse” narrative. The Malolo tribe did seem rather cursed, but now that we’ve merged, I guess Jeff had changed the tale to the color orange being cursed so he had an excuse to shout REVERSE THE CURSE this episode.
The curse on the color was, in fact, broken (…again?) by the outcome and Sebastian was about to get higher than he’d ever been before, but not before an even more exhilarating rock draw sending Angela to Ghost Island… meh. I blame last season’s loved ones challenge for killing the excitement of rock draws on Survivor. Now that’s a curse that needs reversing.
HIGH AS A HELICOPTER
As they flew to the reward picnic via helicopter, Sebastian claimed that the group didn’t even need food with how high they were feeling. Then what are “the munchies” Sea Bass? I love that the editors are all in on the “Sebastian smokes pot” joke that the audience is loving, making sure to insert soundbites like this from his confessionals or Jeff shouting last week “he’s high every time!”
Feeling less of a high and more of a Malolo low, Michael took the reward as an opportunity to offer himself as a vote which received a response of essentially, “Yeah, okay great, who wants more sandwiches?” On the flip side, Kellyn was very much feeling the high and witnessing the group shut down Michael’s cry for help made her feel swell. Michael still seemed to be the most in trouble, but I thought this was a pretty damning scene for Kellyn especially with this shot of her:
There have been several flashes of Kellyn’s game eventually falling apart, one of which has been the repeated image of her in front of the “One bad decision can haunt you forever” sign at Ghost Island as Pitman’s pointed out. Kellyn’s smart, but I think it’s clear at this point that Domenick and Wendell are much higher on the totem pole than Kellyn. She may not be the immediate next to go, but she’s definitely going to get duped by that duo.
There isn’t much to say about Angela’s unsuccessful stop at Ghost Island. Losing her vote could have had a significant impact had Desiree rallied the Malolos behind her, and with the cocky Kellyn scene just before, it was in this moment I started to wonder if we’d actually see that, but while Angela wasn’t lucky in the Ghost Island game, she ultimately lucked out and didn’t cost her alliance its numbers. Are we even sure who her alliance is at this point? Desiree and Chelsea? Just Naviti in general? I wish we could hear more from Angela’s perspective, but her edit is one that suggests we aren’t really supposed to care. She didn’t even get to cry or have triumphant music play behind her while at Ghost. Yeah, as if we needed any reassurance, she’s not winning.
DES GETS DISCOVERED
After weighing options for a day, Laurel finally decided that it was in her best interest to report to Domenick on Desiree’s deal. Being a snitch is never a good look on anyone, but I think Laurel made the right call if her intent is still to stick with Dom and Wendell to the end. They once again owe her their lives, but at the same time, she’s giving them her own when it comes to using her connections in the game.
As I’ve said before, Laurel probably isn’t going to win if she’s at the end with Dom and/or Wendell, but she’ll be the single most responsible person for either of those two being the Sole Survivor. She’s “Loyal Laurel” to a fault.
With a Godfather-esque response to Laurel’s intel, Domenick didn’t like some of the Naviti women going against “the family” and he approached Kellyn to fill her in on what was happening. I thought this was an interesting decision on Dom’s part because telling Kellyn that he heard everything about Des from Laurel should have tipped Kellyn off that Laurel is in Dom’s pocket. Kellyn didn’t fully believe Dom and from what we saw she didn’t find anything suspicious about Laurel’s actions either. She said that her girls wouldn’t flip on her and it was all just a ploy to shift the target from Michael and onto someone else which she confidently claimed was “never gonna happen.” That made two statements this episode that put some alarming nails in Kellyn’s coffin…
LOCKED AND LOADED
Not caring if anyone followed since he had nothing left to lose, Michael set out in search of his third hidden immunity idol of the game. This time, Donathan decided to “help” even though finding idols doesn’t exactly come with a two-person reward. Donathan did end up pulling the prize out of the box – err, tree – this time, but only half. He found one half of Tai and Scot/Jason’s combined idol from Kaoh Rong which we were reminded resulted in one of the “biggest betrayals in Survivor history.”
Yeah, I’d list several others bigger than this one since it wasn’t like Scot and Tai were besties the entire time. I certainly don’t recall Scot breaking down in tears at Final Tribal Council when he addressed Tai, but whatever. TIME TO REVERSE ANOTHER CURSE!
The second half of the idol was hidden underneath the shelter back at camp, but in order to discreetly find it, Donathan had to distract the rest of the tribe, so he enlisted his Malolo mates to cover him while he looked. I can’t remember an idol being hidden underneath shelter ever preventing someone from getting their hands on it, so idols are hidden that way just to manufacture some “drama.” It didn’t take long before Donathan had the other piece to make his idol whole which made him, as he said, locked and loaded.
It’s funny that Donathan would find Tai’s idol because I can see them having a similar fate in the game. I went into the season seeing Donathan as someone who no one would want to bring to the end because of how much of a jury threat he could be, but after watching him play, I think he could be seen as more of a goat. I also don’t believe that he’ll play his idol on anyone but himself, so we could potentially get another Tai/Scot “betrayal” with Donathan withholding his idol from, say, Michael in the near future. We’ll see if Donathan can reverse the curse, but keeping with all the talk of BIG MOVEZ never panning out, I’d more likely add “Donathan playing his idol to save someone else” to that list of missed opportunities.
IMMUNITY – THE ONE WHERE CHELSEA WINS
I like how they make all of these endurance challenges seem like epic showdowns and this one lasted a whopping 10 minutes. Take that record time challenge length, Palau!
Being in the RHAP room for this episode was great to experience laughs and cheers throughout the episode, but the biggest applause definitely came when Chelsea won the challenge. No one expected it, and I’m sure Probst hated it, so, naturally, we all went nuts when it happened. The show does not like Chelsea since they’ve barely given us enough to even remember her name, so it’s a big win when someone like her can give a big fuck you to production. Since earlier we were told that Tai’s betrayal of Scot was one of the “biggest… in Survivor history” can we make the claim that Chelsea’s immunity win was one of the biggest challenge wins in Survivor history? I think so.
This also marks the tenth individual immunity win in a row for Survivor women with the last male win coming from Cole last season in Desi’s boot episode. Probst probably hates this statistic too, so I’m expecting to see in Survivor 37 and 38 a lot more brute strength challenges to give his men a fighting chance and to end their long-standing oppression on the show.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
Des was finally confronted by Kellyn about her approach to the four Malolos and in that moment, she learned that Laurel ratted her out, so the plan to blindside Kellyn had to be buried, and Des was PISSED! She had to then go on the defensive to clear her name, but it was some of the most aggressive defense I’ve ever witnessed. In that moment, while she did have to scramble, she should have kept her cool a little more, but instead she attacked Laurel and, as Domenick pointed out, was acting erratic. There was no trial necessary—Desiree was clearly guilty of all charges.
Des slumped back into getting rid of Michael, but hearing of and seeing her behavior, Domenick wanted Des out instead. He approached Michael with a “the big threats have to stick together” pitch but that set off Kellyn. Kellyn didn’t want Des to go, even if she had been accused of trying to turn on Naviti, and firmly told Domenick that the girls were tired of doing what he wanted, and they wanted Michael out NOW. As we could see, Domenick gave her demand fierce consideration.
Domenick and Kellyn were left to whip out their Debbie Wanner BS Detectors™ to determine who was the bigger liar between Desiree and Laurel and while Michael was still at risk, Dom was more worried about “the goats” forming up an alliance against him, so he wanted to put a stop to that before it gained any traction. Kellyn again didn’t look good here, being so adamant about protecting Des even though Des had ben trying to get rid of her the entire episode, so the MVP of this pre-tribal scramble was definitely Dom as he was able to rope mostly everyone back in and regain control of Lavita.
CAUGHT IN A LIE
The fireworks from camp did not flame out and made this tribal council lit (a word that didn’t seem to be in Jeff’s vocabulary). It was an all-out battle to see who could throw whom under the bigger bus, and sadly for Desiree, she was all alone up against the Malolo four who were making sure to run her over with said bus as many times as possible. Desiree tried to deny, deny, deny, but it wasn’t working. When she claimed that she said none of what the Malolos were accusing her of saying, we got the best finger-wagging moment since Alicia with Donathan’s “uh uh, honey.”
Kellyn said she started out like Sherlock Holmes trying to figure out who was lying and who was telling the truth but her senses were about as good as Helen Keller’s (nothing like a good Helen Keller joke). After closely examining both versions of the story, Kellyn Keller must have deduced that Desiree was the true culprit of the crime as Kellyn stuck with the majority in a 8-2 decision to vote out Des. Angela didn’t vote, so we’re only left to wonder if she would have voted for Michael with Des and Chelsea or if she was in on the Des vote. Either way, the fireworks were finally extinguished and Desiree was sent out the door.
In an ironic twist, the person most “ready to take out a Naviti” was the Naviti taken out this week. Desiree’s personality finally emerged in full force this episode with a quick rise and fall of a wannabe big player. I appreciated the fire she brought, and her move wasn’t even bad in theory—it just failed because Laurel was already committed to going to the end with Domenick and Wendell. Should Des have waited a little longer before striking? Maybe, but I think her bigger mistake was trying to turn on Kellyn before Domenick and Wendell. She and Kellyn, together, could have worked to eliminate them later, but instead, by trying to go after her ally, Kellyn Keller didn’t need eyes or ears—her gut told her Des needed to go.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
So, this is interesting. One tribal council, but two immunity necklaces (like we needed another one of those atrocities) and two people going home? Sounds lit! This is actually something juicy to speculate. Will the immunity challenge winners being immune from two back-to-back votes, or will there just be one vote with the two highest vote-getters getting voted out? Seems like a twist designed to guarantee at least one person from Naviti leaving. With four Malolos together, the vote split can at best be 4-4-2 so a Naviti and a Malolo would go. Even if everyone is able to cast two votes, making for 20 total (yikes, what a tally that would be), then the best split is still just 8-8-4. Donathan, honey, this would be the time to use your idol on Michael… if you don’t, it could go down as “one of the biggest betrayals in Survivor history.”
Domenick – I’m the most confident I’ve ever been about Domenick winning Survivor: Ghost Island and #TeamRyan (#TeamArrogant) winning its first TDT draft. Domenick had his pulse on everything this episode, and unlike Kellyn, his reads were 100% correct. Laurel had a large role in getting out who he needed to get out by being his “in” with the people he labeled as goats, but all that’s doing is just supporting Domenick as the Godfather with everyone else working for him. His apparent partner in crime, Wendell, was less visible than Chelsea this episode which should kill anyone’s chances of winning, especially over Domenick. We’ll see if anyone can stop Dom, but with this episode killing Kellyn for me, Wendell going ghost, and Laurel doing all of Dom’s dirty work for him, I think it’s clearly Domenick’s game to lose. Michael could beat Domenick in a jury vote, but I don’t see Michael getting the 5 or 6 immunity wins needed to get there.
Laurel – Another week of playing an important role, but a supporting role to Domenick’s. I’m reminded a little of Tony and Trish’s relationship in Cagayan with Tony (Dom) playing a little more wildly with a target on his back and Trish (Laurel) having to play a strong social game with everyone to make sure her buddy isn’t on the chopping block. I consider Trish one of the most underrated players of all time, and while Laurel has a bigger presence than Trish did on her season, I think their games can be viewed pretty similarly. Domenick will likely get the big win and a lot of credit for Laurel’s A+ social maneuvering. Domenick’s obviously doing something right on his own because he doesn’t come across as unpopular with the tribe as Tony did, but Dom’s best move in the game may end up going down as linking himself to Laurel after that first swap.
Desiree – I wish we’d have seen more of Des’s fiery side before her boot episode. We caught glimpses of it, but not enough, and I also think we were robbed of more of her involvement in strategy discussion since she’s got some chops there too. I guess she ultimately landed in 11th place but while her story may have not had the biggest impact on the greater Ghost Island narrative, it would have been nice to see a bit more build-up toward her big move because with the way it came out of nowhere, it did seem a little heavy-handed in making her the obvious boot.
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser