Jeff Pitman's Survivor 36: Ghost Island recaps

Outhugged, outpuzzled, outnumbered


As the long, dreary, "epic" demise of original Malolo continues to redefine Malolo lows, Survivor tried to shake things up with a completely random swap, but it ended up creating three tribes where the Malolos were outnumbered, instead of only one. Not only that, but it kicked the feet out from under James, who had cleverly engineered a play to guarantee safety for himself and his three ex-Malolo allies after the last swap, only to be placed now in an unwinnable situation. James was personally responsible for the only original Naviti thus far leaving the game. His reward? Swapped and gone.


Sometimes there's nothing an outnumbered player can do. James found that out this week. He did everything right, seemingly. He played the social game as well as he could: after (tangentially) saving Angela from being blindsided by her original Naviti tribemates, he tried to build on that bond moving forward. But alas, Angela felt more comfortable going back to the family that had previously "slit [her] throat" than in sticking with her new friends. And that was that. Maybe it was more complicated, maybe she and Desiree and Kellyn were better connected than they appeared, maybe she and James didn't really have as close a friendship as James thought. Either way, Angela chose to go back to the people for whom she had previously been willing to draw rocks... and whose infighting had resulted in her receiving three votes.


This is the basic Survivor game, the one that provides the backbone for all the idol- and advantage-based shenanigans. Sometimes, players have to convince people to switch their loyalty toward people acting in their best interest, and away, perhaps, from people acting against that interest. The problem is, sometimes heart trumps head, or gut, or whatever, and the person being swayed doesn't see it the same way. Sometimes loyalty casts a shadow of distrust over logic. Sometimes it works, as when the Rotu core four's power structure was toppled in Marquesas. Sometimes it doesn't, as in Redemption Island, or South Pacific, or One World. And, apparently, Ghost Island.


Short of inventing a time machine to go back and convincing Probst et al. to put him on Naviti originally, there's very little James could really have done to be seen by Angela as more of a "family" member than Kellyn. Fate is kind of a bastard.


Washing away the purple edit in a shower of tears

Libby hugs crying Chelsea


In this episode, Ghost Island failed to draw a buff at the swap, and was sent away to, well... Ghost Island, for the remainder of the episode. Which, obviously, raised an edit-related dilemma: if someone had been hoping to seize some camera time with a touching, heartfelt Ghost Island confessional, what on earth were they supposed to do now? This week, apparently, the contestants were forced to wash away the stains of purple editing with in-camp tears.


Witness poor Chelsea, ignored for the first three episodes, and now stuck on a tribe with scenery-chewing Domenick, master complaint maker Bradley, and fan favorite Donathan? Not to mention now literally wearing a purple buff again? No wonder she started crying. Good move by the similarly under-edited Libby: sweeping in to give Chelsea a hug at least got her on-screen for a split second. If only she'd teared up, maybe she could have talked, too. Oh well, better luck next week!


But Chelsea wasn't the only one. Over on Malolo, both Angela and Desiree faced the same problem, having to share their beach and screentime with central character Kellyn, and the two remants of outnumbered, doomed Malolo. Both shed tears, both received confessionals. Success!


So for all you naysayers complaining about the crying content ratio this season, keep in mind that if tears weren't a Hantz-like magnet for Survivor camera operators and editors alike, you might otherwise never have met a good chunk of this cast.


The Noble one stands tall... for now

The enormous Yanuyas


This week, we learned that not only is Chris a model/ pitcher/ freestyle rapper, but he's also played some beach volleyball. Is there anything he can't do? Apart from attend Tribal Council, that is. And with his new tribe of fellow giants, signs look pretty good that he won't have to any time soon.


You see, Chris now has 17 days of Survivor under his belt, without ever once stepping foot in Tribal Council. This puts him in some rare company: The entire original Tandang tribe in Philippines first attended Tribal on Day 19, as did Joe Anglim and Keith Nale in Cambodia. Nick and Michele in Kaoh Rong didn't get there until Day 22. If Chris can avoid Tribal again next episode (most likely the last before the merge), he'll be at 19 or 20 days without visiting Probst's office. Add two or three more days after the merge... and Chris could be up to 22 or 23 days played, Tribal-free.


But what if—and we're saying this out of an abundance of caution, not out of any wish to have the flame-throwing, rhyme-flowing MC disappear from our screens just yet—what if Chris gets voted out at his first Tribal? Presumably after the merge at 13, when Domenick plays his Legacy Advantage? Chris has a chance to unseat the great Nick Maiorano for the coveted title of most days played before being voted out at the player's first Tribal Council attended. Here's the leaderboard for that stat. Will Chris join this list? Or can he escape that first vote, and cruise to some other fate? We shall see.


Latest first Tribal Council boots
Rank Contestant Season Day Post- swap? Post- merge?
1 Nick Maiorano Kaoh Rong 22 Yes Yes
2-t RC Saint-Amour Philippines 19 Yes Yes
2-t Jessica Johnston Heroes v Healers v Hustlers 19 Yes Yes
4-t Richard Hatch All-Stars 15 Yes-ish* No
4-t Monica Padilla Cambodia 15 Yes No
6-t Cliff Robinson Cagayan 14 Yes No
6-t Anna Khait Kaoh Rong 14 Yes No
6-t Roark Luskin Heroes v Healers v Hustlers 14 Yes No
9 (Sarah) Dawson Philippines 13 Yes-ish* No
10-t Rob Cesternino All-Stars 12 No No
10-t Willard Smith Palau 12 No No

Notes: *Hatch and Dawson were each voted out in (initially) three-tribe seasons after one of the tribes had been dissolved, which is sort of like a swap.


Shorter takes

The horror of it all!


  • Ugh, the squalor! Bradley's triumphant return to the luxurious Naviti camp was easily the highlight of the episode. He did not disappoint, by immediately launching into an extended harangue on the dismal conditions he endured at Malolo. If Bradley makes it to the merge (after which the merge tribe will presumably move to Naviti or Yanuya), and Bradley gets sent to Ghost Island, please, please, *please* send him to abandoned Malolo beach instead, just for the lulz.


  • No three-peat. By staying at Naviti beach, Domenick missed out on the chance at finding a third idol (counting the Legacy Advantage) before the merge. There should be one currently hidden at both Yanuya and Malolo camps. He was so close!


  • Sometimes a swap is just a swap. Unlike the previous swap, this one used a single tray of buffs, so there was no controlling for gender balance or original tribes on the new tribes. Thus, this swap was completely random. There was a 9-6 Naviti margin over Malolo, and eight men vs. seven women. So the most likely outcome was 3-2 Naviti edge on each tribe, and evenly split (as possible) male-female tribes (3-2, 3-2, 2-3). Fate was indeed the homie in providing the Navitis their ideal results, even if that turned out to be the least interesting one possible.


  • Always be throwing? Michael and James were remarkably trusting in allowing Desiree to be the caller/puzzle solver in the IC. After having seen Chelsea repeatedly stumble and lose the boogie board, costing Malolo a huge amount of valuable time in the last IC, it's a little suspicious that (her close ally) Desiree managed to blow what looked like a massive lead in this one. It might have raised some eyebrows if, well, Michael and James been able to watch what was going on. Oh well, surely it wasn't intentional.




This is short this week, because he flurry of Survivor NZ: Thailand news was too distracting and time-consuming. But at least there's a vidcap gallery to moderately amuse you.


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


Ep.6 - The legend of Sebastian?
Survivor: Ghost Island — Episode 6 vidcap gallery

Other Ghost Island Episode 6 recaps and analysis


Exit interviews - James Lim

  • Gordon Holmes at (3/29/18): "James - '[Kellyn] Stonewalled My Move, and Yet I Can't Bring Myself to Hate Her'"
  • Dalton Ross at (3/29/18): "James Lim explains that 'death glare'"
  • Mike Bloom at (3/29/18): "James Lim Takes a Deep Dive into His Game"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP (3/29/18): "Latest Exit Interview - 3/29/18"