My favorite story of the season had its abrupt sendoff this week as the curtain came to a close on the pre-merge of Ghost Island, but what a show it’s been so far! This week we were back to more of what I thought would be the staples of Ghost Island—the idols and advantages—but the cast of characters continued to deliver stellar performances. Malolo is still down in numbers, but I don’t see the merge being a simple Pagonging of those five. No, I think this season will end as strongly as it started. Call me Kellyn, but I’m going to trust my gut on that.
IT’S A F***ING STICK
Well the two episodes without any idol hunting were nice, but the top of this one reminded us of what we entered this season expecting. But, Michael, if you were going to track down another idol, could you have not done it two weeks ago when it could have been used to save Stephanie!? Honestly, it’s like you didn’t care about her at all…
There has been wild speculation over how the iconic f***ing stuck would come into play on Ghost Island and while ridiculously corny, I was actually in love with its grand reveal. Not even a Favorite, Hero, Villain, or Second Chancer ever received this epic of a montage when they returned to the game.
I really hope some idiot out there was watching this week’s show, maybe tuning in to Survivor for the first time ever, and actually believed that this damn stick had been sitting on an island for a decade waiting for its chance to reenter the game upon reaching “maturity.” I have a lot of questions over this, the biggest one being: how does a stick mature? Is it the same as a fine wine or cheese? This reminded me of one of those Cheez-Its commercials from several years ago where the big block of cheese had to sit in a “maturation room” until it was ready to be baked.
And how did they know the stick was mature enough to earn the high status of a hidden immunity idol? What constitutes an immature versus a mature piece of wood? Does it need to roast over some coals for a specific amount of time? Were they monitoring the stick’s maturity at regular intervals over those 10 years? Is there some type of professional with whom we could consult over these questions?
Oh boy. Uhh…sure! Let’s go with that!
All jokes aside – for now – this will probably be my favorite returning relic of the season (unless they bring Palau’s Immunity Willard back in the flesh). Imagine the look on someone’s face when they’re taken out of the game because of some random stick Ozzy decided to pick up off the beach 10 years ago. If we don’t get that moment, then this whole season is a farce and the show deserves to be cancelled.
REWARD – TENSION RISING
I liked this new challenge in Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, but I think I liked it more as an immunity challenge. There is a lot of back and forth with teams able to go from first to last in a split second, creating a lot of tension for the viewers and even more for the players. One slip of a Survivor’s hand and they can cost their tribe everything. The stakes would have been much higher with immunity on the line, so we were likely robbed of an even fierier exchange between Bradley and Donathan – Donathan’s eyes maybe turning a full shade of Jessica Lewis red.
Bradley’s lack of confidence in Donathan was all in his head as Naviti secured first place and steaks in this challenge with Yanuya coming in a respectable second and Malolo doing what they do best: suck. With the victory, Naviti was also able to send someone from either losing tribe to Ghost Island, and I groaned as it would likely be left up to a rock draw again, but surprisingly the Naviti tribe agreed to send Kellyn back to the island, wanting to keep the variable amount of players sent there at a minimum. Kellyn was less than pleased.
FEEL LIKE THROWING UP
Kellyn really won at facial expressions this week!
You know when I feel like throwing up? Every time Kellyn talks about her gut. She’s obsessed with it! I’d contemplate turning it into a drinking game, drinking every time she mentions the word, but I’d also rather not end up in the hospital and needing my own gut pumped.
Thankfully, Kellyn didn’t induce more nausea by deciding to skip out on the Ghost Island game for the second time in a row. It didn’t hurt that Production increased her odds of success from 50% to 66.67% by adding a third sealed container. I wonder if that was only thrown in there after Kellyn was picked to go to Ghost, fearing she’d make the season’s big twist a flop yet again – I’ll give Production the benefit of the doubt there, but surely someone on that team had to be thinking, “Nope. No game for us,” when Naviti made their selection at the challenge.
Kellyn won herself a piece of Survivor history in the form of the “steal a vote” from Game Changers, cursed by Michaela when she failed to snag the advantage during a challenge only to have it later used against her by Sarah, causing Michaela to be voted out in a 4-2-1 split. I suppose the “curse” here was missing an advantage and letting someone else pick it up instead. With that in mind, Kellyn may be the first to reverse her own curse this season, passing on the Ghost Island game a few episodes ago but going all in this week.
The vote doesn’t work exactly as it did in Game Changers, instead this time being just an extra vote rather than a steal-a-vote power. Maybe Kellyn can going into the merge pretending this is “Bradley’s vote” since the two would have inevitably voted together forever if he had made it back to his girl. I’m sure there’s a screenshot out there *cough*Jeff*cough* detailing this extra vote’s instructions, but I assume Kellyn is to cross out Michaela’s name and write another in its place? It’d be kind of a two-for-one throwback to Aubry’s vote for Julia Peter in that event. What would be the most perfect scenario is if Kellyn votes for Michael using this vote—that way, all she’ll have to do is cross out the second “a” to officially REVERSE THE CURSE.
NOT BE A TOTAL DICK
Sweet! We can repeatedly say “dick” on TV now! As long as it’s referring to someone being a dick and not to a person’s actual… d**k.
Bradley was in rare form this episode as we were teased with in last week’s preview, and I was all in for it. Bitching Bradley, Bratty Bradley, Bastard Bradley—whatever the nickname, this is what Bradley brings best to the show. Not only was he a dick to Donathan right before Donathan won the reward challenge for Naviti, but back at camp Bradley literally clapped when asking for his help (… at least he asked, I suppose?)
This wasn’t shocking behavior coming from Bradley, but this episode with all of the additional commentary from his tribemates did its best to completely bury him. How the tables had turned when Bradley the king of complaining had everyone complaining about him. If CBS is looking for pitches for their Fall 2018 lineup, I think I’ve got a sitcom: Everybody Hates Bradley.
Brendan and Stephanie would play Bradley’s parents that wished they’d never brought him into the world, Domenick and Chelsea would play the siblings jealous of all the negative attention Bradley received from mom and dad, attempting to be even worse children just so that someone would notice them. Libby would play the hot girl next door that Bradley had a crush on but who didn’t know he existed, and Donathan would be the new kid at school from Eastern Kentucky, like a twangy Urkel and the bane of Bradley’s existence, uttering his signature line, “Did ah do thaaat?” with an innocent smile as Bradley’s head exploded.
The biggest running gag each week would be what new idea Stephanie comes up with to poison her son – one day she’d pack his lunch with a bottle of bleach instead of water, only to later learn Bradley threw it the trash and bought something from the cafeteria instead; she’d switch out his toothpaste with real paste and Chelsea would then glue her mouth shut so she’d be unable to speak; and Donathan would accidentally end up as the victim of most of Steph’s other ploys providing for quality comedy the whole family could enjoy! This is gold, Leslie, gold!
As the rest of Bradley’s tribe enjoyed their (raw? WTF, Libby) steak on the beach, as far away from Bradley as possible, they all agreed that should they go to tribal council, the vote was a no-brainer. Everyone was sick of Bradley and his bubbling bitchiness. Even Domenick, who was happy to be back with Bradley initially, could no longer stand the guy. The circumstances were looking less than ideal for Bradley, but this would be way too early in a season to lose someone we love to hate as much as him, right?
BIRTHDAY GIFT FOR WENDELL
Before getting to Wendell’s big win, I should address my favorite Chris-ism of the week. Chris was obviously excited after winning some more food and what more had to say about it was, “especially when you’re one of the bigger guys, like me, who have to eat” as if to say… women or smaller guys than Chris don’t “have to” eat—they can simply choose when and when not to? I made the comparison between Chris and Debbie last week, but one thing they evidently don’t have in common is their science background. All people need to eat, Chris, not just bigger guys named Chris.
After Wendell had the tribe wishing a happy birthday to his girlfriend Nicole—which I guess was meant to make us feel emotional and crap (…meh)—most everyone fell into a food coma and took a nap, but not Wendell. He seized the opportunity to look for an idol, and boy did he come up big, and I mean BIG.
Erik giving up his immunity necklace to Natalie may be one of the most iconic moments from the show that both old school and newer school fans recognize (the old schoolers will remember Jenna Morasca being the first to give up her necklace to her B.F.F. Heidi and surviving the vote, but that move didn’t hit her in the face with hysterical embarrassment, so it’s less talked about). Erik’s moment is definitely one of the biggest “curses” in Survivor history so of course was one of the biggest ones hyped going into this season. Micronesia alumni Erik, Eliza, Ozzy, and Jason were actually all major players this episode, featured more than some of the players in the game themselves.
While Erik’s necklace is tied to the word “immunity” I’m more than a little disappointed by the lack of originality with this relic’s power even if it, I’m sure, spent those same 10 years “maturing” on Ghost Island with the f***ing stick. Figuring the necklace would be used somehow, I thought it may be in such a way where its possessor would choose to give the necklace to someone else at a tribal council of their choosing, making that person immune from the vote. This would have been a great “Hey, I gave the immunity necklace to someone else and survived! Curse reversed!” moment for the show, but unfortunately, it was just another standard immunity idol. The only difference was that this one couldn’t be hidden as well—sorry to say, Wendell, but you wouldn’t be fooling anyone with that shoved down your pants. Well… maybe Sebastian.
“This might be the most losing tribe in Survivor history” – it might be, but it’s not. Malolo, let us know when your tribe is so bad that the producers just scrap the merge entirely and let your last remaining member put on the other tribe’s buff. Then we’ll talk.
I definitely give this dwindling tribe credit, though, for trying new ways to REVERSE THE CURSE and while I’m sure they’d have burned every inch of those flags, the crew at camp probably told them to leave the big one with the logo on it alone for the eBay auction. “But you can burn the little one!” and so they did. And they were damn proud of it.
IMMUNITY – CURSE REVERSED
Malolo’s ritual resulted in a win, or at least not a loss, sending Naviti to tribal council and in the process, we were able to witness some Olympic-level diving off of those platforms:
Well, from Michael at least. Without him, I’m not even sure if Malolo would have made it to that last platform before Yanuya and Naviti finished the challenge. Good thing the girls didn’t keep James around last week because no amount of witchcraft could have cast out the bad juju that is James in a water challenge.
NICE TO MEET YA, SEE YA
Speaking of drowning, how about that Bradley’s reputation? Domenick tried taking responsibility for the loss, and as Libby attempted to lift his spirts, Bradley butted in and accused Dom of having a little too much coffee which then affected his performance. This was probably crafty editing more than anything, but I laughed at how that exchange played out on TV, making Bradley look as though he was cutting Libby off to let Domenick take the fall for those challenge results.
Bradley later declared Libby as his target for basically being too hot to be trusted (how Brandon Hantz of him) and during his conversation about it with Domenick and Donathan, Bradley was clearly on thin ice while there was a major fire burning in Donathan’s eyes. Donathan nodded and smiled at Bradley, but in more of a “I’m going to kill you” kind of way.
That’s definitely one of the most forced smiles I’ve ever witnessed. Donathan definitely wanted Bradley out and given Bradley’s target, Libby likely did too, so the vote was left up to Domenick and Chelsea. Making a move against Bradley would hurt their Naviti numbers, but Domenick knew he had Laurel and Donathan which I’m sure made him more open to the idea. I was surprised to see Chelsea as involved in the strategy with Domenick as she was, but given her lack of any major content this season, I was more confused about why she was so quick to abandon Bradley. I guess of anyone at that Naviti beach, she had spent the longest amount of time with Bradley, so maybe she more than anyone was eager to nix the nuisance.
I was actually spoiled this week thanks to CBS leaking a press photo of the torch snuff a day in advance, and while I managed to avoid it initially, it was a reply to one of Bradley’s own tweets that cursed me, so I knew going into this vote that Bradley was getting the boot. Had I not known, I would have totally thought Libby was getting lynched. While Bradley was the center of all this episode’s attention, Domenick calling out Libby last week as Parvati 2.0 seemed like the subtle set-up for her boot this week. The last time it seemed “obvious” Bradley was going, he stayed, so I’d have thought this was just another red herring and that Bradley was being edited more as an endgame goat than an early game blindsidee.
AWARE OF YOUR BEHAVIOR
The big reveal before Bradley’s blindside was that Bradley, an aspiring lawyer, likes to argue! That took me aback about as much as the time I found out there were fish in the ocean! Even though Bradley knew he liked to argue, he didn’t think that his conversational curiosity was causing any tension at camp. The expressions at tribal council, however, presented this law student with a much different case.
Libby looking at Bradley wondering when he started smoking Sea Bass’s seaweed. It ended up Donathan’s face that best captured the feelings of the tribe when Bradley’s torch was snuffed, likely singing “ding dong, the douche is dead” in his head.
Bradley’s story seems cut short, and yet it is still one of the best this season. Something I felt last season lacked was a real villain to root against. Joe kind of had his moments of stirring up trouble and the show tried to make Chrissy a malicious mom, but there was no one I loved to hate like Bradley. I don’t actually even “hate” Bradley, but the reason I’m a fan is the reason others may not be: he miserably failed at that test to not be a total dick. Being a big fan of the show, Bradley’s strategic mind was solid, but should he get a second chance, he’ll need to save some of that smack talk for confessionals. I’m not saying that committing verbal manslaughter isn’t fun, but it’s more fun when you don’t get caught.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
FINALLY. Finally, we are going to get this Chris vs. Domenick story wrapped the hell up! Or are we? I don’t even know anymore. Domenick has his legacy advantage to potentially play at this first merge vote, but Chris is the type who could win a few immunities, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this gets dragged out for two or three more weeks. Domenick’s definitely going to win the fight, but as far as when that final blow comes, the jury’s still out.
Domenick – Voting out Bradley opens the door for a lot of possibilities and for as erratic as he may behave at times, Domenick may actually be the one with the most of them at his fingertips. He can make up a story about Bradley trying to betray him to still feign loyalty to the “Naviti strong,” and now having saved Donathan and Libby, he’s likely earned more of their trust. Plus, he’s got Laurel in his pocket. The only people that are going into this merge with beef against Domenick are Chris and Angela, and if everyone else is forced to choose a side, I see the vast majority siding with Dom, so I’m still going all in with him as my winner pick. Team Ryan/Team Arrogant from the TDT draft finally took its first hit losing Bradley, and Chris and Dom have this whole “neither can live while the other survives” shit happening, so I’m left to essentially pick one of them. Domenick, don’t let me down.
Bradley – This is a major loss in terms of character to the season, and most of all I’ll miss having Bradley to be the butt of all my jokes. If Chris leaves next, then Sebastian will be my last chance at some laughs. Bradley may not be an A+ player, but he was A+ casting, and I’m not even sure the producers realized they’d get as much out of him as they did. I’m sure many claim to want to play as a villain and, yeah, nope, Bradley was definitely that. Like I said, he was that “love to hate” character the show’s been lacking for a few years. Game Changers Sandra may have been the last real “villain” we had, but you can’t really associate the words “hate” and “Sandra.” So, thank you Bradley for being the bastard, dick, and nasty son of a bitch you are. Should you ever get to play again, I hope you burn every last one of those self-help books people might suggest to you. None of that “Kumbaya Bradley” crap on Second Chance II.
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