Jeff Pitman's Survivor 36: Ghost Island recaps

Orange crushed


This week, Survivor cranked up the boot machine to doubletime, and found a way to shed itself of two people in two days. Both, of course, were originally from Malolo, the cursed orange tribe. This was, in Jeff Probst's words, a "new idea," even though it was the same twist that infamously dispatched Michelle Yi. But that, one of the most-cited "screwed by the twist" examples, happened way back in Fiji, which, as you might guess, was also filmed in Fiji (as is this season). There's no way they could possibly remember that sort of thing.


(Okay, technically, it was a combination of the once-used, Michelle Yi-ousting, "random tribes in a post-merge immunity challenge, and the loser goes to Tribal" twist, combined with the frequently used "both tribes attend Tribal so we can boot two people" twist. So it's two old things, that when combined are new. In the same sense that pulling up on a bar to stop a ball from dropping is totally different from pushing up on a bar to stop a ball from dropping.)


Unlike the Michelle Yi boot, though, which has historically (if you remember it, of course) been viewed as one of the most unfair twists ever, this iteration seemed less so. The twin Tribals probably produced the same results as two consecutive Tribals would have, had the full Lavita tribe attended both, so no blood, no foul, apparently. More concretely, this twist held two significant upgrades over the original, Fiji version:


  • Here, the two teams were able to go back to camp and strategize/scramble amongst themselves. In Fiji, Michelle's team had to go directly to Tribal, with no communication allowed. The updated version is significantly more fair. Jenna had the chance to ask Donathan to play his idol for her. Laurel had the opportunity to consult with Domenick and Wendell. Michael had time to concoct a plausible-sounding (to Kellyn, at least) idol-finding story. Donathan had time to tell Sebastian and Chelsea that things were great, and he wasn't worried at all.


  • Rather than being the very first post-merge vote (as in Fiji) this twist occurred after three people had already departed the merge tribe for the jury. In theory, tribal lines had been erased, the individual game was well underway, and everyone present had ample opportunity (nine days) to build relationships and side-alliances with every other person playing. It wasn't a case of "surprise, you're going directly to Tribal, and the random draw that determined how many people from your original tribe joined you is the sole determinant of whether you stay or leave." (Theoretically, of course, because Naviti Strong, yay.)


So while the outcome of the episode wasn't ideal (Michael joined the jury, while almost the entire purple team is still "playing"), the twist also was relatively fair. And two Tribals was accomplished without some hokey IC-vote-"Surprise, we're now doing a trivia challenge right here at Tribal" thing.


So we don't need to call him Michael Yi. Or Michael Y I (the first). Because that would be silly.


Split Tribals and the power of immunity

Split Tribals and the power of immunity


While reality ended up having other ideas, the 3-2 Naviti-Malolo split on both random teams actually presented the underdog Malolos with a golden opportunity. They could have turned the game on its head, if only one of them had won immunity. They had a 2-in-5 chance!


Here's what could have happened: Had any Malolo won immunity (say, Michael, for example), that meant the other was the automatic vote target. At which point, Donathan's idol becomes super-powerful, and could change the game dramatically. If Michael is immune and Laurel (Donathan's closest ally) plays an idol, one of Domenick, Wendell, or Kellyn would now be a juror.


True, had Jenna won immunity and Donathan played his idol for himself, then we'd probably be looking at Sebastian the Juror, and not much would have changed. Sure. But consider also how advantageous the other random draw scenarios actually were: If the split was 3-2 (Malolo-Naviti) on one team, the Malolos would have a majority there, and a presumably easy vote, and in the corresponding 1-4 other team, the four Navitis are again screwed if the lone Malolo wins immunity or plays an idol. Not to mention the even more extreme split: Two Navitis probably become jurors if the teams are 4-1 Malolo-Naviti on one, and 0-5 (all Navitis) on the other.


So there's a lot of potential remaining in this twist going forward. It didn't work out in the minority group's favor this time, but in an age where idols are everywhere, temporarily small "tribes" and multiple immunities present a huge number of variables and multiple chances to make a game-changing Big Move.


So, naturally, Probst has already pooh-poohed using it again anytime soon.


A chilled vision of things to come

A chilled vision of things to come


The scrambling on that purple team was something to behold. Above is a 30-minute-long video capturing that activity.


That's not to say it was poor gameplay. Booting Jenna was the correct move for the three of them, probably, especially after Jenna told Sebastian that Donathan had an idol (according to her exit interviews). Jenna was the only viable boot option. So it's lucky they were willing to just fast-forward through their own Tribal Council. Nothing to see here, move along.


But what if the shot above is our Final Three? Sebastian would be fun, and Angela would be present and accounted for. So, despite the editor's preferences, would Chelsea, who is currently way out in front of everyone else score-wise, with a 9.04 SurvAv (Dom is next at 6.48), and a 1.37 SurvSc (Laurel is next at 1.09). How did Chelsea get so far in front? She has two individual IC wins, she's voted someone out 6 times (tied for the lead with Kellyn and Laurel) in 7 trips to Tribal, and nobody has cast a vote against her. When we've seen her (with just three confessionals in 11 episodes, it's been scarce), she's been discussing the boot target. So, in theory, she has a case to make to the jury.


Except that she most likely won't. The show is edited to showcase the finalists, so we know that there's virtually no chance that these three are our Final Three. It's still really weird that there's this much mismatch between actual in-game performance and screentime on the actual show. One of the lasting mysteries of this season will likely be: Why did the show ignore Chelsea so much?


And a corollary: If you're going to take away slots from contestants in their 30s and 40s, and replace them with 20-somethings, what's the point, if you're not even going to show them when the show airs?


Numb with numbers: Present and future

Numbers future


Historically low challenge finishes: Jenna and Donathan were probably unwise choices on whom to pin your hopes of a Malolo pulling off an immunity win. That's because, through the minimum four individual challenge appearances, they are #3 and #4 for Lowest Mean % Finish in a single season. (Jenna is now done, so her spot is secured; Donathan's could still rise... or fall further.) Jenna had actually been making a serious run at the all-time record, with a last-place (of 13), a tied-for-last (of 12), and a second-to-last (of 11) set of finishes in her first three tries, for a 15.6% total. But then she went and blew up her spot by outlasting Donathan and Sebastian here, for 3rd/5. Oh, what could have been.


So many votes, so little time: At the twin Tribal Councils, everyone who was an eligible vote target (i.e. not immune) except Angela had their name written down. That was seven total vote recipients, the same number that received votes at that most chaotic of Tribal Councils, the Borneo merge vote where Gretchen voted out, 4-1-1-1-1-1-1. Because this episode's total was split across two Tribals, it falls short of the record books. But it was still a little fun and weird.


Idol update - this season's bulging total: Before this season started, we pointed out that the number of idols found per season has steadily been ramping up. With seven idols now found (not counting Dom's fake idol find, but counting the Legacy Advantage), this season now has the second-most ever, behind just Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers' nine. Since there are still eight people left, there's still time for another idol to be found, especially since Donathan just played his. Should Domenick or Wendell play any of theirs in the next two episodes, chances are they'll be rehidden. So don't give up hope, we may still reach double digits.


Idol update - individual totals, present: With Michael now out of the game, he'll have no chance to add to his idols found totals (2, one short of the single-season record) or his votes voided by idols total (7, five short of the single-season record). Both of his marks from this season rank in the Top 10, though, and should he desire to play again, there's no question he'll be asked back. So the career marks are firmly in jeopardy.


Idol update - individual totals, future: There's another player who's within striking distance of the idols found (or played, at least) total, and that's Domenick. So far, like Tony Vlachos in Cagayan, he's voided zero votes with sole idol play at the merge. Also like Tony, he's been running the game since then, and hasn't really needed to play his other idol.


Jeff Pitman's recapsJeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, you can do so on twitter: @truedorktimes


Other Ghost Island Episode 11 recaps and analysis

  • Gordon Holmes at "Real Idols, Fake Idols and Pretend Idols"
  • Dalton Ross at "The Finish Line Is In Sight" (recap)
  • Dalton Ross & Jeff Probst at (Q&A)
  • Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter: "Jeff Probst Explains the Latest 'Do or Die' Twist"
  • Andy Dehnart at Reality Blurred: "Survivor shakes up the double-elimination episode, and a player makes history"
  • Stephen Fishbach at "Paranoia Runs Amok - 'It Makes Sense to be Paranoid'"
  • Martin Holmes at "A Double Whammy (Recap)"


Exit interviews - Michael Yerger (9th place)

  • Dalton Ross at (5/3/18): "Michael Yerger says Kellyn never asked to see his idol"
  • Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter (5/3/18): "Michael and Jenna on the 'Discouraging' Malolo Curse"
  • Gordon Holmes at (5/3/18): "Michael - '(Kellyn) Never Once Asked Me to See the Idol'"
  • Mike Bloom at (5/3/18): "Michael Yerger Discusses His Eighteen Lives in the Game"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP (5/3/18): "Double Exit Interview - 5/03/18"


Exit interviews - Jenna Bowman (10th place)

  • Dalton Ross at (5/3/18): "Jenna Bowman on the fake idol we never saw"
  • Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter (5/3/18): "Michael and Jenna on the 'Discouraging' Malolo Curse"
  • Gordon Holmes at (5/3/18): "Jenna - 'Once I Got Voted Out by (Sebastian) I Was Pretty Salty'"
  • Mike Bloom at (5/3/18): "Jenna Bowman on Facial Expressions and Facing the Vote"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP (5/3/18): "Double Exit Interview - 5/03/18"



  • Rob Cesternino & David Wright at RHAP: "Ghost Island Episode 11 Recap"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP: "Tyson Apostol Recaps Episode 11 of Survivor: Ghost Island"
  • Andy & John at The Purple Rock Podcast: "Episode 11: The Finish Line Is In Sight"
  • Dom Harvey & Colin Stone at The Dom & Colin Podcast: " -- Episode 11 Recap/Analysis"