This showdown was pretty much everything it has been hyped up to be and more. I loved every second it! The episode was a strangely edited one, though, with literally all the focus on the Domenick/Chris storyline, but I guess the editors had to milk every last ounce of it they had. Admittedly, much else would have left me wanting to get back to the main event and its epic finale. There could have been no greater outcome than the one we got which solidified this as one of my favorite merge episodes of all-time.
THE NEXT PART OF THE GAME
The show’s quick recap of what happened last time (Bye Bye Naviti Diva) made it abundantly clear that this episode would be all about Domenick and Chris. The recap sung Domenick’s praises, crediting him for being in control of the game with two idols (one real, one fake) as well as the Legacy Advantage. Either Domenick was being set up for a major downfall, or he was about to rise to full power and it’d be off with Chris’s head.
What? Too aggressive? Kellyn’s the one who said after the merge feast they’d start “eating each other” and I’d assume they’d cut their foot before eating it, as any civilized group of cannibals would do. Anything else would be simply barbaric.
As is standard after any reward involving food, the new Lavita tribe fell into a food coma but not before Chris noticed something amiss with the new buff he grabbed during the feast – proceeding to wear it until finally realizing, “Hey, this feels weird!” Sigh… inside the buff was a note that boldly shushed Chris, something he should be used to being told more often.
The note also told Chris that something was waiting at tree mail for him, sending him off on a scavenger hunt. I hoped he was leaving a trail of breadcrumbs because the thought of Chris wandering off alone had me worried for his safety and well-being. Chris did, however, make it safely to tree mail where he found another note offering him a late-night boat ride to Ghost Island where he could claim a hidden immunity idol and potentially more.
The catch was that he’d have to sneak away without the rest of the tribe knowing. This sounded like a daunting task considering Chris was living in close proximity to now 12 other individuals, but I was sure he’d have at least a little help arranging the getaway. Production had been slipping something into the coffee to make everyone cry over the last several days – a few doses of ZzzQuil would be no problem at all.
There was still a good amount of daylight left before Chris could leave, and during this time Wendell came up with a rather diplomatic idea to try and bridge the gap between Chris and Domenick, even if for just one vote, before the two completely blew Naviti to bits a.k.a. “the nuclear option.”
Chris and Domenick never had a chance in hell at completely reconciling and being friends for the rest of the game, but Wendell had a wise idea in trying to make them sign a temporary peace treaty. Domenick at least attempted to bullshit Chris into thinking they could be allies, but Chris was too “suave-ay” to buy any of it or try to sell any bullshit back to him. Chris shot down pretty much any suggestion Wendell and Domenick had about voting someone else out which let them know he was going to be a big problem. I don’t believe anything Chris could have said would have gotten him a serious final three deal or the like with Dom and Wendell, but when approached with a proposition to work together, only an idiot would say, “No thanks.” That idiot, of course, was Chris.
Since this season loves featuring Game Changers “curses” I was really hoping that Chris would have a special guest waiting for him on the boat to Ghost Island. Debbie, remember, was cursed by her night on a boat with Cochran last year, so this would have been the perfect opportunity to bring her back to help Chris. She could have handed him a sealed envelope containing instructions for his next mission before proceeding to dive off the boat and swim mysteriously off into the distance. Alas, none of this happened, creating yet another missed Ghost Island opportunity.
I agreed with Pitman last week that Ghost Island “needs more spooky” and while Chris’s stay was short, this was the kind of tone I’d been longing for all season. It’s amazing what the nighttime setting and shit-tons of fire – plus Mark Burnett’s weather machine adding a howling wind – did to make the place a lot more ominous. For the first time, I truly felt like the island could have been haunted.
Chris was given a free hidden immunity idol courtesy of JT who left it behind before he was voted out of Game Changers, but as if this was a Ghost Island infomercial, wait, there was more! Chris had the option to play a legitimate game – at least more legitimate than the others – in order to extend the life of his idol beyond what was initially only one tribal council.
Chris pressed his luck not once, but twice, and in doing so he extended the longevity of the idol to two tribal councils but at the cost of losing the ability to vote at the very next one. The instructions Chris were given made the consequences clear – if not for them, Chris probably would have mistaken that “NO VOTE” parchment to mean he could skip the next tribal council entirely.
THE DOM-CHRIS WAR
After Chris’s successfully stealth-ay side-trip, he made it back to camp and his war with Domenick waged on, after Chris got his beauty rest, of course. I loved what the editors did here to showcase this story – still the only one being told even almost halfway into the episode – but it was evident that we were “supposed to” choose Domenick when it came to picking a side. The edit continued to bury Chris and his buffoonery so while Dom was made out to be above that, I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth banter that ensued.
Aside from Kellyn who was still set on munching on Malolo til they were just bones, everyone stood to benefit from the battle between Chris and Dom, especially the Malolos. With the episode being entirely devoted to this story, I honestly couldn’t imagine any other ending than one of the two leaving. This seven-week struggle had been fun, but the epic coming to blows needed some closure. The only satisfying ending here would have been a Chris or Dom departure.
It felt a bit like the famous Harry Potter prophecy, “Neither can live while the other survives” with one of them needing to die. I’m not sure who exactly that made Harry and Voldemort. Domenick could fit the Slytherin type like Voldemort – ambitious, cunning, and resourceful – but the Sorting Hat may have struggled with placing Chris into the right house.
IMMUNITY – BOOM BALANCE
This challenge was reportedly inspired by the Survivor sound crew who spends hours on end holding up boom mics which is exactly what the players looked like they were doing in the challenge. We learned that most would make terrible boom operators, but most of all Angela who raised her pole in the air like she just didn’t care, not even bothering to keep open her damn eyes to make sure her idol was balanced.
We’ve entered the merge with 13 which means we’re likely in for a long string of endurance challenges, and while this one was unique, the concept’s all the same. Stay still in one position longer than everyone else to win the coveted immunity necklace:
Except this season, the necklace is nothing really to be coveted – at least aesthetically. I was utterly unimpressed by the loose assembly of driftwood, some rope, and a couple of shells. If they were going with that “back to basics” vibe, why not at least make the necklace a throwback of some kind? Perhaps the toilet Tom wore around his neck in All-Stars?
For 15 years, this toilet seat…you know how the rest goes.
Kellyn provided us with some more great reactions when she outlasted Libby to win the season’s first individual immunity. While she’s all about going with her gut, apparently her upper body strength’s something worth talking about as well. “Beastmode Kellyn” – maybe so! So far, she’s at least outperformed any other person who’s called themselves “Beastmode” on Survivor.
CAUSING TOO MUCH CRAP
It didn’t really matter who won immunity so long as it wasn’t Domenick or Chris. Upon returning to camp, Mr. Suave-ay lined up his troops for a trip to the water well leaving only Domenick and Wendell behind at camp. “Gee, I wonder what they’re all talking about,” Dom and Wendell were left wondering.
Chris’s plan wasn’t actually the worst one ever as far as how he thought the vote should go. Domenick and Wendell were a tight pair with presumably at least one idol between them, so splitting the votes to guarantee one left seemed like a fool-proof plan.
The only thing working against Chris? He’s Chris. No one particularly liked him, and his constant lame rapping was absolutely aggravating. I wish Casting had held off on putting Lauren Rimmer on last season because I’d have loved to get the Rimmer rundown on Chris the rapper, that is, if she made it to a confessional before ripping out his vocal cords.
I gathered that the group felt threatened by Dom and Wendell too, but what they had working in their favor was that they weren’t Chris. While most everyone was picking sides, the OG Naviti girls threw out the idea of voting for Libby with whom, out of nowhere, Desiree seemed to have a big problem. This is the downside of the show focusing so heavily on just one particular storyline – when moments like this pop up, we’re left dazed and confused like Angela was in this moment:
While everything was building up to one of Domenick or Chris leaving, Wendell by proxy of Domenick and now Libby had all entered the mix. Chris, Domenick, and Wendell all had idols, and Michael too had one at his disposal, so with that in mind…all four of those targets could have still ended up safe (Libby being the least likely, of course, but theoretically she still had that potential if Michael was feeling generous again). However, Libby leaving would have been a lackluster ending to this episode – less of an exclamation point and more of a period, or set of ellipses…
The big question would be who the majority would vote for and who would feel secure enough to not misplay an idol or advantage, or in other words: who was confident and who was crazy.
PUT THE MIC DOWN, BRO
This was a unique tribal council in that everything was laid out between Domenick and Chris for all to see. They pretended nothing here for the sake of hiding their votes (or Chris’s lack of a vote) which was refreshing. This kind of fire is what I crave at tribal council, especially one so impactful as this that will set the tone for the rest of the merge. I was on the edge of my seat watching it all play out like I was on a Survivor high. Just take a look at Sebastian – this tribal was straight up dope!
Including that expression, there are so many iconic moments from this tribal council that will surely end up in a flashback during some future season. We had everything from Domenick declaring his vote for the entire tribe to hearing Wendell verbally annihilate Chris “The Noble One” and his rapping career and another one of my favorites: Chris’s Robb Zbacnik throwback with his totally-not-personal-at-all vote. Something stupid coming out of Chris’s mouth shouldn’t be shocking at this point, but if “nothing against [Dom and Wendell]” then, uh, what else was it, Chris?
Domenick of course played his Legacy Advantage because why not? He’d still have one idol left, and when he did this, I wrongly assumed that Chris would be wise enough to play his own. If I were Chris (lol at that thought) and the person I lead a charge to vote out just played an idol, no way do I sit pretty with mine in my pocket. I guess he felt confident that there’d be enough votes on Wendell, but damn, dude. Maybe we shouldn’t completely blame Chris – after all, his idol was cursed. And while Domenick came out on top, he didn’t technically reverse any curse himself by using the Legacy Advantage when he didn’t need to. Still, he got the much-deserved last laugh.
This guy. I don’t even know where to start or finish with Chris. Everything he did was total TV gold and this episode was the perfect sendoff for him, including the way he kept the curse going with JT’s idol. One could argue Chris reversed a little bit of the curse by at least bringing it to tribal council with him, which is one step further than JT made with it, but now Chris really needs the opportunity to reverse it one step further when he comes back to play. That’s a “when” and not an “if” right? As long as Chris says yes, I can’t imagine CBS saying no. Chris probably isn’t actually as much of a dumbass as he was portrayed, but my god, he plays a great one on the show. Plus, now that ABC has American Idol and NBC still has The Voice, CBS needs a way to produce America’s next big music superstar and I’m savv-ay enough to know that they’ve found that in Chris “The Noble One.”
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
For 10 years, these fish eyes have been living on Ghost Island…gross! Angela wanting to see the “battle of all battles…” umm…were her eyes shut during this entire episode, or just the challenge? I do have to admit that I think I love Angela for how blissfully unaware of everything she is. “Never stop never stopping,” or something else Chris would likely say to her. Unlike Angela, others are fully aware of the tribe dynamics and the threat that is Domenell (Wendick?). Normally I’d say they’re probably safe if they’re the “next time on…” targets, but last week we were teased with Dom vs. Chris and that played out as expected.
Domenick – Kudos to Dom for getting rid of the guy that he’s been trying to get rid of since Day 1 with this being the first opportunity for him to do so (short of throwing a challenge on post-swap Naviti). Where Domenick will go from here intrigues me greatly. I still think he can win, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my last hope at winning the TDT draft, but he needs to cool the F down after this one. With Chris out of the way, maybe he’ll think to relax and focus on his relationships with everyone else and not just his rival relationship with Chris. My worry is that Dom is by far this season’s biggest player and his aggressive actions may make him even more of a target without one as large as Chris to hide behind, but my prediction is that Domenick will either win or he’ll be the next eliminated. If that happens, then I am cursing Bradley’s name to oblivion for starting a Domino effect on my team.
Wendell – Domenick’s right-hand-man remains such but that’s not to say Wendell is a second-rate player. He made some great plays this week and has had to play peacemaker for some time now – unfortunately, there was just never going to be any truce between the two big troublemakers. Like Dom, I have two predictions for Wendell: he’ll either lose to Dom in the finals, or if Dom goes next, Wendell will go on to win it all. He got the merge breakout he needed and with so many out of focus this week, Wendell having a significant part to play indicates he’ll be that way for the rest of the season, win or lose.
Chris – If you haven’t watched Chris’s Ponderosa yet, do yourself a favor and witness the greatest music video ever produced. I know better than to embarrass myself by trying to rap, but Chris has yet to learn that and as a result, I think he may have finally won me over with his rhyming skillz. I’m not sure if Chris realizes how much of a caricature he is, but either way I’m here for it. Much like any scene he was in this season, Chris was the biggest star this week especially given his astronomical flame-out. I can’t think of a more perfect way for him to leave and for his story to end… for now. While Wendell’s voting confessional was legendary itself, I hope that Chris never drops that mic again. Vinaka!
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