Back in Season 3 of Community (which, at its peak, was one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen), in the episode “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the characters experienced multiple timelines, one of which ended HORRIBLY. In that timeline, everything went wrong: a main character died, another lost an arm, and a troll doll was set ablaze. It truly was The Darkest Timeline.
I couldn’t help but think about Evil Troy and Evil Abed after watching Wednesday’s episode. With Brendan’s departure -- and the dynamics on both Naviti and Malolo -- have we entered Ghost Island’s very own The Darkest Timeline? Let’s take a look.
1) The Darkest Timeline: Naviti 2.0
… over on Naviti 2.0, James, Libby, Donathan, and Laurel team up with Chris and Angela, split their votes, flush Dom’s idol, and send Wendell home?
And why wouldn’t they? Chris and Angela are easily disposable pawns while Dom and Wendell are dangerous players (for different reasons, of course: the former is an unpredictable idol and advantage magnet, and the latter has a potent social game). Why not use the model and the mom to eliminate threats before the swap and/or the merge?
The counter-argument here is that we’ve seen Laurel articulating her desire to work with Dom and Wendell. But there’s just one (massive) problem with that prospective alliance: Laurel and Donathan aren’t going to flip for a 4-4 tie, and there’s no compelling reason for any of the other four to join them. James and Libby won’t see the point (it doesn’t help them), and Chris and Angela would rather live in a Rupert Shelter than work with WenDom.
So in The Darkest Timeline, the next two boots from Naviti 2.0 are Wendell and Domenick.
2) The Darkest Timeline: Malolo 2.0
Meanwhile, over on Lord Bradley’s Beach of Endless Dirt, we’re set up for a Pagonging. Michael -- the possessor of Tribal poise and chiseled chin -- has just told the world, “Don’t mistake me for a mactor,” and at least viewers at home see Stephanie as a savvy strategist. Only Jenna -- whom I plan to call Taffy from now on, given how much Sebastian seems to like her -- appears to be non-threatening.
To be sure, production will do their best to avoid the Pagonging; I fully expect the original Malolos to get an idol and/or an advantage this week. But a 5-3 voting deficit is a hard thing to overcome. Even if the Malolo Three can block a vote at their next Tribal, they’d still need to flip someone (isn’t happening), or guess right with an idol play (more likely).
The next two people likely to leave Malolo 2.0, then? Stephanie and Michael.
To speak like Seb, that would be a MaloloUhOhOhNoThisBlows.
3) The Darkest Timeline: Post Merge
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the next three boots are Stephanie, Michael, and Wendell. That would leave us with:
What if the Pagonging continued, and the Malolo threats -- James, Libby, and Laurel -- were all taken out? And along the way, Chris gets revenge on Dom… and then Bradley’s smug story comes to an end… and Kellyn is targeted as a threat… and Donathan is taken out because you can’t let his story sit at Final Tribal… and we’re left with these endgamers:
MY EYES! THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING!
Let’s get the heck out of The Darkest Timeline, okay?
4) Prime(time) Timeline
The edit doesn’t really support The Darkest Timeline, so what’s really going on here?
** There’s no way that Wendell and Dom are being edited like this only to leave now… so something saves them.
** I mean, the producers could be building up characters only to cut them down, one by one, but have they ever edited a season that way? More importantly, would they? The casuals might riot.
** The only thing I can see saving both Wendell and Dom right now is the swap (which looks like it will happen at 15).
** Which means Naviti 2.0 can’t go to Tribal this week (I suppose they could, but if we were in for a crazy Tribal Council, it would have been teased in “Next Time On”).
** Although, now that I think about it, it would be REALLY hard to tease a crazy pre-merge Tribal without completely giving away who hangs out with Jeff after the fourth commercial break. But there would have to be SOME hint, right?
** One thing seems inevitable, given what we’ve seen: Laurel is going to team up with Dom and Wendell after the swap and into the merge (that’s why we got so much Naviti 2.0 coverage last episode).
And then, over on Orange...
** Malolo 2.0 is going to Pagong Malolo 1.0 unless Michael/Stephanie/Jenna get an idol and play it correctly (and wouldn’t that have been teased, too?).
** And yet, again, it’s extraordinarily difficult to tease a move like that, not only because we can’t see Tribal, but also because it might involve a trip to Ghost Island, and they’re not going to spoil who heads out there.
** They could, however, give us a glimpse of a chaotic idol hunt if an idol is found back at camp.
** Anyway, if one of the Malolo Trio DO find an idol and guess correctly, an original Naviti goes home. If they don’t, purple can take their pick.
5) Prediction (It Looks Like I’ve Written Myself Into a Corner)
Normally, I wait until the end of the column to make my boot prediction… but flow demands that I do it here. So be it. Who am I to deny where the story tells me to go?
The five Naviti on Malolo 2.0 have three potential targets… let’s walk through the possibilities:
Jenna: She’s not perceived as a threat, and the way that Sebastian talks about her in the teaser suggests that he’s bumping her down the boot order (rather than considering flipping over to Malolo).
Michael: I wonder if anyone on Naviti is paranoid enough to invoke the “If he found one idol, he’s likely to find another” rule? While he makes for a tempting target, they might want to keep him around in case they’re stuck together until the merge. It’s one thing to cut a single challenge beast. It’s another thing to cut ALL of them.
Stephanie: She’s strategic and she’s less objectively useful. There’s a reason why Michael wanted to protect her with his idol. In a game where perception is reality, Stephanie is seen as comparatively unthreatening, but still potentially dangerous. Players like that are targets, particularly with the merge only three boots away.
If the Pagonging proceeds, then, I’d put my money on Stephanie going home.
But I wonder if they have something else in store for us...
6) Prediction Part II Brought to You By “The Section for Cynics”
Losing another original Malolo is bad for business… which means that production will bend over backwards to make sure they have a fighting chance if and when Malolo 2.0 goes to Tribal Council again.
What might that look like? An idol over on Ghost Island if a Malolo draws the right rock, for starters. Alternately, they could get a vote steal and force a 4-4 tie, which would make things interesting.
Or we could get a payoff to the Stephanie/Jenna idol search of last week, and one of them finds it this time around. Let’s go with that… and assume that Stephanie gets it, since she’s been painted as the more strategic of the two.
And how about this: Jenna ends up using her budding romance with Sebastian (revealed in “Next Time On”) to find out that she’s safe, which means that Stephanie will have a 50/50 shot at guessing correctly… and she does.
As for her target… I mean, it has to be Bradley, right? Let’s look at why:
** The original Malolos want to wipe the smug look off his face and get him back for his dismissive approach to Survivor social politics.
** He proclaimed that leaders never win… and was promptly exposed as the leader of the five Naviti.
** Bradley’s edit has been so arch, so over-the-top, so relentlessly negative, that there’s really no coming back from it. Can you imagine this same edit going on all the way to the finale? Or watching him see the error of his ways and make amends after the merge? I certainly can’t. His story pretty much has to culminate with the underdogs usurping him by way of a blindside. And the perfect time for that edit to end is this week, before another swap.
7) The Swap: Putting Lipstick on a Pigonging
If Bradley leaves this week, what happens next?
A swap, that’s what! Into three tribes of five! Because that would be kind of perfect!
Time for me to admit, once again, that I’m a moron: I really should have seen, pre-season, just how perfect a swap into three tribes would be.
Five players is IDEAL for idols and advantages: With tribes that could be split 3-2 across the board, all it takes is one vote stealer/block to throw everything into chaos. And with potential flippers like Chris and Angela in the mix, the original Malolos will have an opportunity to mount a comeback. The shape of the game, then, becomes a remarkably effective anti-Pagonging measure. All hail production for thinking this through (and I say that without even a shred of sarcasm)! It’s so good, in fact, that they could, I dunno, maybe trust the game and the players and not bother with controlling the swap buff distribution. Yeah, who am I kidding?
Anyway, I suspect that, given what we’ve been shown, none of this is going to matter. Dom has an idol. Laurel is ready to flip. And players like Kellyn and Wendell have solid foundations for endgame edits.
Frankly, everything -- and by that, I mean the alliances, the gameplay, and the edit -- points to more original Malolos going home.
Oh, we’ll have a lot of intrigue… a lot of misdirection… a lot of “don’t count us out” confessionals… anything and everything to convince us that this ISN’T a Pagonging… but in the end (and given the edit), the original Navitis will assert themselves and take out a couple of dangerous Malolos.
Which ones, you ask? To get our heads around that, we first need to take a look at...
8) … the Post-Merge Game
Looking into my crystal ball (which I’m sure many of you think is lodged in my colon, since the general consensus among SuperFans is that I have my head shoved up my a** and pull most of my theories out of there), I see an Original Naviti war brewing.
On one side: Dom, Wendell, and Kellyn.
On the other side (per Morgan’s exit interviews): Chris, Angela, Sebastian, Desiree, and Chelsea.
In the middle: Five of the seven remaining Malolos.
If I’m Dom, Wendell, or Kellyn, and I have a chance to take out an Original Malolo who might work with the other side, and get it done before the merge, that’s what I need to do. It looks like Laurel, and maybe Donathan, might work with them. So that leaves James, Libby, Stephanie, Michael and Jenna.
Any of them would do as targets, really, but which of them have been outed as dangerous? Which ones might disrupt your plans after the merge? And which of them might be more inclined to work with Chris and Angela, having spent time with them on Naviti 2.0?
With those questions in mind, two names jump to the top of the list: James and Libby.
I’ll pencil them in for 15 and 14th place.
9) And Now I Iterate Like an Idiot
Let’s say, for aqua poops and giggles, that all of that happens. How then will the post-merge game shake out? Which side do the Malolos join?
The Endgame Edit Alliance (EEA): Dom, Wendell, and Kellyn.
The Annoying Alpha and the Invisibles (AA&I): Chris, Angela, Sebastian, Desiree, and Chelsea.
In the middle: Laurel, Donathan, Stephanie, Michael, Jenna
We’ve been led to believe that Laurel and Donathan are going to side with the Endgame Edit Alliance… which pulls the numbers even at 5-5. Sweet!
But then -- OH NO! -- Taffy and Seabass are going to showmance it up, which puts AA&I back up 6-5.
… which means that Stephanie and Michael are going to control the future of the game.
They don’t want to work with Kellyn, though -- the Bradley stench is strong with this one -- so they’ll join Chris and…
NO NO NO NO NO
THAT IS ANOTHER VERSION OF THE DARKEST TIMELINE
THIS CANNOT HAPPEN
So what in the name of Earl Spradlin will derail The Noble One’s victory train?
THE LEGACY ADVANTAGE WILL SAVE US
Dom plays it at 13, Chris goes home, the AA&I shatters, and suddenly, blissfully, gratefully, the narrative can unfold as intended (with a lot of idols and advantages thrown in there to keep everyone on their toes).
Time to switch gears and speed things up…
10) Last Week’s Tribal
The move by Michael and the Malolos has been dissected to death this week, but there were three factors in play that I haven’t seen get much airtime:
** Before the swap, the original Naviti tribe was split down the middle; Sebastian, Desiree, and Chelsea were all aligned with Chris and Angela. To them, Bradley getting idoled out—while not idea— is not a huge loss. For all of the talk of Bradley (and perhaps Kellyn) leading a block of unwavering Navitis, there wasn’t a lot of loyalty involved here. They’re an alliance of convenience, united to make it to the merge.
** If you flip, there’s a chance Michael shoehorns the idol back into his boxers. And suddenly, at the next Malolo 2.0 Tribal, you have to deal with a tight group of four with an idol. That group is going to do whatever is in their best interest, even if that involves betraying the player who backstabbed Bradley, so why even create that possibility?
** With Ghost Island sometimes keeping players away from Tribal Council, you really need a two vote buffer to feel even vaguely safe. Being up 5-3 gives the Original Navitis some breathing room. No one wants to be one advantage from a rock draw.
11) “My gameplan is to keep us together because it would be so epic to just go and knock out the Malolo tribe one by one.”
Do you remember who said that? And when?
If you guessed that Bradley sneered it last Wednesday, you’d be wrong.
It was Kellyn, immediately after the swap.
And what happened when Malolo 2.0 went to Tribal? They stuck together. Kellyn’s gameplan won the day (and probably involved a lot of social and strategic groundwork on her part).
Kellyn also played Ghost Island perfectly. Not only did she preserve the Naviti 5-4 voting edge, but she also avoided doing serious damage to her individual game. If you play the GI game and lose, your tribe likely finds out, and suddenly you’re the pariah that put everyone’s games at risk. Even if you win the GI game, anyone who finds out that you gambled your vote -- when it was 5-4! -- will believe you to be a self-interested player who cannot be trusted. Kellyn likely knew all of this, and while she put on a good show for the cameras, as soon as she saw the rules of the game, her first thought had to be, “F*** that.”
TL;DR: Kellyn is good at Survivor.
12) Issues With Empathy
I realize that the edit is selective, but several of these players are displaying a catastrophic lack of empathy:
** Angela: When she was bringing Chris up to speed on what happened at the previous Tribal, she said that Dom and Wendell tried to, “slit my throat.” While this is an understandable focus on her own game, Angela needed to realize who she was talking to, and stroke Chris’ ego while reaffirming their alliance. Keeping in mind the power of the plural pronoun, what she needed to say in that moment was that WenDom was attempting to “slit OUR throats.”
** Chris: His response to Angela’s update was even more telling. He saw Dom and Wendell’s move as a way for them to “take power from me.” Even if that’s true—and it is, because everyone appears to agree that Angela is a pawn—he revealed, in that moment, that he views the entire game through the prism of the self. If he possesses any empathy at all, we haven’t seen it (nor are we likely to).
** Bradley: When you’re shocked to find out how the opposing alliance perceives you, you’re broadcasting an absence of empathy. If you’re going to be great—or even good—at Survivor, you have to be able to see how others see you, to feel how others feel about you. You also need to connect with the other castaways on a human level, you need to understand what they’re experiencing, and you need to engage with them with compassion when you hold their fates in your hands. Instead, Bradley talks about babysitting during Tribal Council. This kid doesn’t just burn bridges, he pours gasoline on them and dances in the ashes.
13) The Little Things
** Something that production must love about Ghost Island: the logistics of the game effectively discourages players in a dominant alliance from risking their votes (because it could put a narrow voting margin in jeopardy), while heavily incentivizing those in minority alliances to play. Given that production wants idols and advantages in the hands of those who will use them to upend the game, this is brilliant design.
** It goes without saying, but say it I will: Always ask to read the idol note. I mean, Kellyn, you’re at Tribal for TWO HOURS. If nothing else, it’s reading material! (I’m with Dalton Ross: Let’s eliminate the notes and see what happens.)
** Does Probst ever ask a PA to disinfect an idol before he accepts it from a player? I mean, Michael had James’ idol shoved DEEP down into his boxers. (We won’t even talk about Kim Spradlin’s crotch idol.)
** I wonder if Dom is going to assume, thanks to the Legacy Advantage, that the merge is at 13, and plan his post-swap approach based on that intel.
** Were I out there, I would fight like hell to win PB&J. Pretty much the perfect reward food.
** Steve Martin had an old comedy routine where he talked about what to do if someone tried to mug you: pee all over yourself. No way they take your wallet at that point, right? Anyway, that got me to thinking: What if, when you’re pulling the life preserver during the reward challenge, you spewed partially-digested rice everywhere (from exertion, of course); don’t you think people would pull away when you chummed the water? Giving you an easy path to victory? Probably not smart in a reward challenge… save it for immunity. (I’m kidding! Mostly.)
** I’m very much out on my winner pick. Chelsea finally emerged from obscurity last week, but it was hardly an auspicious beginning. Sure, she contributed to the plan to vote out a Malolo male, but the charisma I noted during the pre-season was conspicuously absent. She feels very much like a early- to mid-merge invisi-boot.
** I always feel bad when a third tribe is created and they have to build a new shelter two weeks into the game. Let’s hope that production “apologizes” by planting a powerful -- and perhaps iconic -- idol at their campsite. And that someone I like finds it.
Andy Baker is a long-time, but definitely not long-winded, Survivor blogger.
Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius