Truly, if I could change one thing this season, it would be that all the bad luck—number/swap-wise—that’s befallen Malolo would’ve happened to Naviti instead. There were just so many more interesting Malolo, I think, than Naviti. Oh well. I know that’s a tall order.
Team Ghost Finally Loses One
If you’d told me the first person Team Ghost would have lost would place 10th... well, no way in hell would I have believed you. Still, Jenna, however you did it, you got 10th, and had you not drawn the unluckiest of swaps yet again, you almost certainly would’ve gotten to the single digits. You were a villager—a casualty waiting to happen. At least you got a boyfriend (who voted for you) out of it. Don’t fight too much!
Much Respect, Homie
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Michael—in all of your tragic heroic glory—I severely underestimated you. As someone who’s been applying to play since I’ve been 18, I have to say you set a pretty amazing standard for male teens playing (for ladies, see Julia in Kaoh Rong). While I think your choice to vote for Wendell this Tribal was a poor one when, had you voted for Laurel as you probably should’ve assumed Kellyn was going to, you’d still be in the game, I can’t hold it against you. You never played a perfect game, but you played a damn good one given how constantly down and out you should’ve been. I cannot wait to see your second chance. Come on. Everyone knows he’s getting one.
Twists of Fate
Luck Determining This Season
This season, in my opinion, has really started to crawl since the merge hit. Yes, Des tried to start her uprising, and while I still appreciate the effort, she merely delayed a mini-Pagonging of the non-Laurel-and-Donathan Malolo. I’d assume, in an attempt to save at least one of Michael or Jenna (likely the former), production introduced this weeks Fiji-esque twist. Honestly, I thought it was a lovely idea, especially a few votes into the merge. Once dynamics have been established, these temporary, mini tribes have a lot more to work with socially than people who are merging for the first time (again, looking at Fiji). However, of course, like every other swap-esque event before this season, the Malolos got boned. I figured Seb might be willing to jump ship with his lover and Donathan, but, of course #NavitiStrong.
If there are curses in this season, Malolo must be the most horrid culmination of them all. In fact, this has to be the most ill-fated tribe since Palau’s Ulong—and that’s saying a lot. Unlike Palau, however, in which there were characters aplenty at Koror who could more than carry losing all the great contestants Ulong had to offer prior to the “Merge,” Ghost Island, at this point, has left us with, frankly, 2.5 interesting people: Dom, Wendell, and kinda Kellyn (although her paranoia is really starting to wear on me). And so, at the final 8, I’d say the boot list for the rest of the season seems sadly predetermined (generally speaking) given how the edits have broken down. I have to figure Kellyn goes out in the next two boots, leaving either Seb or Chelsea to get axed with her before the finale (I’m thinking Seb). In the finale, either Chelsea or Seb gets sixth (Chelsea), and fifth and four place are made up of Donathan and Angela in either order depending on if Angela can win another immunity challenge. This, of course, leaves Laurel getting third while Dom and Wendell battle it out in what should make for a good FTC. No matter how good of a FTC showdown we might get, and I’m really hoping this will be one for the ages, the path to getting there seems fallow and boring at best.
This, dearest readers, is the unfortunate part of a great show: luck, no matter how much production might try and manipulate things to help those on the bottom and therefore make a less predictable show through twists and swaps, is a driving force every season to at least some extent. In a perfect world, I’m sure production would have wanted this week’s mini-tribes to have all four Malolo plus one Naviti against a tribe of all Naviti. Assuming Laurel, Donathan, Michael, and Jenna can beat out the Naviti for immunity (which, given how they all performed in the challenge seems unlikely), and they didn’t fuck up the incredible advantage they’d been handed, we’d be sitting at a final eight with four Malolo versus four Naviti while Donathan and Laurel get to make a very difficult choice. That, if nothing else, creates a little drama! *Sigh* Of course, that’s not what happened, and the cruel twists of fate haunting Malolo continued as they found themselves the minority yet again.
The First Tribal
When I saw Jenna, Sea Bass, Angela, Chelsea, and Donathan sitting there together, I had to think, at least this isn’t going to be the final five, because, wow. That’d be bad. Anyway.
Again, Probst and all of production must have figured, statistically, there had to at least be one mini-tribe with a Malolo majority. Instead, almost perfectly so, we got tribes separated by their respective chances to win. On one hand, we have the competent players plus Laurel (who I’m increasingly doubting is overly good at this game), and on the other, we have five people who basically have little to no shot to win the game unless they manage to all get to the end together. Not only did this make the first Tribal seem rather droll (aside from wondering if Donathan was going to make a good move or not), it made the first Tribal seem basically pointless: which one of these stand-in players do we not have to watch anymore (not that most of them had gotten any real screen time to begin with).
As far as Donathan’s idol play went… I was confused. Putting aside him selfishly not allowing Michael to even flash the idol to bluff the chance he’d use it, did he really think he’d be the target? I guess it’s hard to say given how many interactions are edited out, but from what we saw as viewers (the Survivor “canon,” if you will), Donathan should’ve known Jenna was overwhelmingly the target and sided with her to take out Sebastian. Of course, given as Jenna wrote Donathan’s name down anyway, Donthan misplaying his idol actually turned out to be a good thing, because he likely would have gone home on the revote.
The Second Tribal
Passivity and Misplays
Firstly, let me just say, I didn’t have a lot of hope going into this Tribal for Michael. Yes, it would’ve been fair to argue he looked to have a Jay-like edit insofar as he’d be a fan-favorite-loser in the finale, but what meager luck he had was bound to run out under the Malolo curse’s horrible influence. Anyhoo, onto Laurel and Kellyn!
Allow me to say, although Laurel was smart to vote for Kellyn in order to potentially save herself if Michael did have an idol, this was one of the first solid pieces of quantifiable (kinda) gameplay I’ve seen from her. I’ve been giving her the benefit of the doubt for some time now, but given as Michael’s exit interview stated she, Michael, and Kellyn had talked about blindsiding Wendell—something I wish editing had shown to better illustrate why Michael seemed to needlessly throw a vote towards Wendell when voting for Laurel would have saved him—I can’t help but view this as yet another missed opportunity by Laurel to do something. Sorry to vent, but I’m frustrated with her because she’s clearly an intelligent person who’s opting to do basically nothing aside from hide behind better players. She’s Hannah Shapiro 2.0, and she’s going to prove it when she gets no votes in the end (unless Donathan is in a charitable mood).
As for Kellyn… woof. All of those moments of her at Ghost Island where it was highlighted that one bad move can haunt you forever, well, this one is going to haunt her. Not only did she not reverse a curse that didn’t need to be reversed, she wasted another opportunity to take out Wendell. Why oh why would you, Kellyn, not look to preemptively strike against one of the two biggest threats in the game? Kellyn, like Laurel, is obviously a smart individual, but getting rid of a threat and gaining a long-term ally in Michael seems like a win-win. I understand voting for Laurel in order to save yourself in the event of an idol play, but I still view this move as overly passive given where they’re at in the game. Make some moves! Someone! For how wonderful this season was pre-Merge, I’m just getting so tired of it so quickly, and that really saddens me.
Kellyn. Laurel. You both misplayed this week by not grasping an opportunity at your fingertips, likely one of the last solid ones you’ll have, and while it may haunt viewers for the rest of the season, it’s something y’all will have to think about for a while to come.
Okay, folks. No closing thought this week. I honestly don’t have many more thoughts about anything this week given how cut and dry the final stretch of this season looks like it’s going. So, let’s just get to my boot pick and we can get y’all out of here quicker than usual! Kellyn, Sea Bass, or Chelsea… I have to feel Chelsea’s safe given as we haven’t heard a single word from her in ages despite being good at challenges and having her closest ally go home two weeks ago. If Kellyn wins immunity, however, I think Sebastian’s time’s up, but unless the challenge involves a puzzle, I think Chelsea can win three straight. So, Kellyn’s time is finally up. Sorry, bud.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki