Jeff said at tribal council that “this may be the fewest questions I’ve ever asked” and when it comes to reflecting on this episode, I feel about the same. This may be the fewest thoughts I’ve ever had after a show. Despite a big twist, I found this episode to be pretty uneventful. An idol and an extra vote were flushed but that only slightly delayed the inevitable outcome of the evening. By the end, I felt like Jenna and was just ready for it to all be over. Getting to the finale could be brutal if the next two weeks are like this one.
STILL NAVITI STRONG
Naviti voted out another one of its own in Desiree, but somehow Kellyn believed that the game was still all about “Naviti strong.” Immediately after the vote, Domenick went up to hug Laurel, right in front of Kellyn, and thanked her for saving their collective asses. My unanswered question from last week remains to be why Kellyn isn’t more alarmed by Laurel’s close connection to Domenick and Wendell. At least from what we’ve seen, Kellyn hasn’t questioned that at all and if I were Kellyn, I’d have liked to know why Laurel leaked Desiree’s plan to Naviti in the first place, as thankful as I would have been that she did.
After voting out Desiree, and seemingly leaving Chelsea and possibly Angela out of the vote (who the hell knows how they reacted to it since we never hear their thoughts about anything) what is Kellyn’s endgame? At this point, even Helen Keller knows Kellyn is sticking with Naviti, so we can rule out the Malolos in her master plan, but if she no longer trusts Chelsea and Angela, is she planning to go to the end with some combination of Sebastian, Domenick, and Wendell?
Sebastian I can understand because, well, duh. He essentially will make the final three a final two, but I’m not sure what Kellyn thinks her case will be against Dom or Wendell. Unless she plans on making a move against them with Chelsea and Angela, which we haven’t been given any evidence of yet, then Kellyn’s playing a losing game. I have to give her the benefit of the doubt and guess that we’re just not hearing about her future plans because they maybe never pan out due to certain circumstances, but her continued talk of “Naviti strong” is not only killing her chances of winning—it’s really killing the entire show.
A REAL FAKE IDOL
With Ghost Island out of play this week, the Survivor gods needed to plant something at Lavita’s camp instead. Why that plant needed to be a fake idol, who knows, but I guess it was better than adding another real idol into the game with just 10 days left when there were already 3 in play. This wasn’t the first originally fake idol we’ve seen this season since Michael already found the f***ing stick, but while this idol looked a little more legitimate, it ironically held less authentic power.
Domenick funnily enough mentioned that the grove in which he stumbled upon this fake idol was just like the one Jay found David’s fake idol in during Millennials vs. Gen X. This shouldn’t have been that surprising, of course, because that exact grove was probably just the next island over.
Whoever finds this fake idol that Domenick (re-)hid will immediately put their Survivor fandom to the test as someone who watched season 33 will recognize this idol as David’s fake, and if it’s not accompanied with a note, they’ll have even more reason to be suspicious. The only person left who’s dumb enough to probably play this thing I would guess is Sebastian, but that’s only if he doesn’t try to smoke it first.
IMMUNITY – A SURVIVOR BITCH-SLAP
Okay, so we haven’t had a legitimate double boot episode like this (two tribal councils on one night of the game) since Nicaragua. I used to love when both tribes went to tribal council because it meant drama at both camps, and for whatever reason, it seemed like the show was done with that “twist” but here we were, 15 seasons later, seeing it come back which leaves me hopeful to see it back pre-merge in the near future because I was not a huge fan of seeing it post-merge.
The last time this “temporary tribes” business happened was also in Fiji and we lost a great character on the show, Michelle Yi. I’m not in love with this twist post-merge because it’s too random and practically begs for someone to get swap-fucked out of the game. However, it’s different than a tribe swap because there’s absolutely no incentive to keep someone around for the sake of the tribe and instead it’s merely the larger alliance picking off someone from the smaller one. I can’t say either of this week’s boots were especially “robbed” since their days were already narrowly numbered, but I still hated the breakdown of the tribes.
On the orange tribe, we had Michael, Domenick, Wendell, Laurel, and Kellyn—the five players left who are driving the show. On the purple tribe, we had… the ones who aren’t (Donathan catches a small break, but I’d still put him below the five on orange). With both tribes going to tribal council, there was basically no outcome I could root for on the orange tribe, and no outcome I could give one shit about on the purple tribe.
The best thing to come out of this challenge was probably Chelsea winning immunity just to further piss off Probst. I assume this twist was implemented to give the minority (Malolo) a chance to take out someone from the majority, preferably to Production someone who wasn’t making BIG MOVEZ (Chelsea). When Chelsea won the first immunity, I smiled for maybe the only time this episode as I imagined Probst’s rage.
Once the purple tribe’s outcome was settled, the challenge became a showdown between Domenick and Wendell. Take notes—I expect to see this same showdown on Day 39 as these two duke it out for the million. Domenick wanted this win bad, and Wendell either gave it to him or just played it off like he did to save some face (and energy). I don’t expect Wendell will let Dom walk all over him in the finals, but if it is indeed another showdown between the two, I’d bet on the same outcome as this challenge.
Completely outnumbered on his temporary tribe, Michael had to get creative when it came to saving himself at the looming tribal council. He asked Donathan if he could borrow his idol to use as a bluff to which Donathan gave one of the firmest “no” responses ever. Did that remind anyone else of anything?
I thought this was actually a smart idea on Michael’s part. Michael wasn’t asking to take the idol with him to tribal council, but just to show Domenick, Wendell, Kellyn, and Laurel so they’d place their votes on one another rather than him. Given that Donathan played his idol on himself anyway, in retrospect, what was the big deal? Frankly, Donathan could have taken a lot more credit for helping with Michael’s bluff and playing the idol for himself rather than only the latter, and this play could have shifted the vote from Michael to Kellyn who is a bigger adversary for Donathan.
That said, this could have also been an instance where more went on than we saw. Maybe Donathan, being in cahoots with Domenick and Wendell, actually agreed with Michael leaving and didn’t want to risk them voting out Kellyn or, even worse, Laurel instead. Still, watching Michael scare the shit out of everyone would have made this episode much more entertaining.
Michael did manage to get a reaction out of Kellyn, although I don’t know if that’s something to brag about—it doesn’t seem to take much to make her gut feel uneasy. Once Michael told her he had an idol, Kellyn rushed to Domenick and Wendell with a Plan B to vote for Laurel. During the live show, this had me ever-so-slightly optimistic that we wouldn’t just see a unanimous Michael vote, but looking back, wouldn’t Donathan have told the gang that Michael didn’t have an idol? If I was Donathan and worried about my #1 ally being in danger, I’d have made sure Dom and Wendell knew it was safe to vote for Michael and to not even consider voting for Laurel.
This whole segment seems confusing now because if the Dom/ Wendell/ Laurel/ Donathan was as tight as they seem, then there really would have been no reason for them to cast any stray votes at tribal council and they’d have known Michael was a safe, easy boot. Why, then, was Laurel so worried about getting votes? Or was that nervous look on her face just from worrying that her hair smelled like dead weasel?
Kellyn also had her extra vote to play, and she had no solid reason aside from Domenick’s reassurance to believe that Michael didn’t have an idol, so she said she was going to use her extra vote and cast two on Laurel. This actually would have put Laurel in a bind if Michael voted for her as well, and if the other three had split between Michael and Kellyn, we could have had a real hot mess on our hands, but that was too much to ask for I guess.
LOW MAN BOWMAN
Oh yeah, there was still another “tribe” we needed to hear from—at first, I thought the show may just skip over them entirely. I mean, you know the footage is bad when Sebastian is edited as the strategic narrator of his alliance. I’m glad it was only one episode this season where a major game decision was in the hands of these three energetic entertainers:
There was nothing really to this vote except for Donathan considering to play his idol on Jenna but at a 3-2 numbers disadvantage, did anyone buy that he’d actually do that? Yeah, I was hoping he would, especially after Jenna said she would vote for Donathan because what an epic fail that would have been (also keeping the curse of the Tai/Scot idol alive), but realistically, Jenna was the low (wo)man on the totem pole and pending Donathan making a dumbass of himself, she didn’t look like she’d be moving on up.
The only thing worth mentioning about this tribal council was Sebastian getting to say the word “blunt.” Otherwise, this was just sad and stupid to watch. Jenna didn’t even call Sebastian out for basically dumping her for no apparent reason, and he didn’t make any acknowledgement of their relationship either. Jenna being just ready to vote probably was for the best here. Not even Jeff gave a shit about trying to draw more out of these zombies—by their expressions, they’d have all fallen asleep had the conversation dragged out much longer.
After the votes were cast, when Donathan stood up to play his idol, I thought the only thing that could save this from being the most forgettable tribal council of all time would have been him saving Jenna and in turn getting voted out himself (a new curse to reverse!), but Donathan’s not a dummy and didn’t play his idol on Jenna. Not doing so was the correct call, but he shouldn’t have been so happy and snappy about negating that one measly vote, as it turns out he could have kept the idol and would have been fine, but how fitting that a waste of an idol came in the middle of such a waste of a tribal council.
Jenna’s only story this season was being someone’s side chick. First, she was Stephanie’s go-to girl on Malolo and after the swap, Jenna wrapped her long arms around Sebastian. I find it strange that this showmance is one that was strong enough to evolve into real-life romance yet we barely heard any mention of it beyond that initial hair-sniffing scene. Sebastian even cast his vote for Jenna without a blink of an eye (what we saw was merely an involuntary twitch). Apparently, Jenna’s journey on Survivor was just one the show didn’t think we needed to see. If I lasted almost 30 days on Survivor and only had Sebastian as my boyfriend to show for it, I wouldn’t be too particularly high on my edit.
ALL EYES ON MICHAEL
This second tribal council wasn’t too thrilling either, but at least this vote had a little more mystery to it. Again, logically we could have predicted that Domenick, Wendell, and Laurel all knew per Donathan that Michael didn’t have an idol, but with Kellyn, who looked visibly distraught, and her extra vote, there were certainly more variables at this vote than the last.
Especially when Domenick turned to whisper in Wendell’s ear, something seemed shaky. Those looked like more than just sweet nothings, so I’m not sure what that was about. Did their votes change or did Dom just want to stir the pot since he had immunity secured around his neck? Everyone must be aware that it’s the Dom and Wendell show or else I feel Laurel and Kellyn would have reacted more to that and Michael would have done more than sat there and looked pretty, though everyone agreed he’s very good at looking pretty. (Laurel, you are too, even if it wasn’t publicly acknowledged at this tribal). Maybe Michael would stay, but my gut was saying he wouldn’t.
I have to reiterate something that was brought up weeks ago pertaining to Kellyn’s sorely missed opportunity with this vote. Given that her extra vote already read “Michaela” it would have been too perfect for her to simply cross out the last “a” and make the vote for Michael, but no, she had to vote for Laurel—probably the wiser vote, so I’ll give her that—but could she at least have not written upside down on the parchment? I wished I was Helen Keller when I saw her doing that—seeing her deface a Survivor relic like that hurt.
I mean that’s just… gagorific. Further disappointed by the evening, the first tally resulted in a re-vote between Michael and Laurel which was more anticlimactic than if the first vote had been the deciding one for Michael. At this point, his death became a slow, painful one, but at least he died a hero rather than living on to become a villain. We definitely didn’t need two Ben wins back-to-back.
I’m never on board with the significantly younger players in the cast who think they’re hot shit, but pre-game I found Michael unexpectedly tolerable (maybe the youths of America still have hope after all) and watching him play and fight his way through this game took him from tolerable to downright rootable. For someone who will probably go down as the fan favorite of the season, he was refreshingly humble and down to earth as opposed to the likes of Ozzy and Joe whose egos could barely be contained on one island (probably why they weren’t both cast for Game Changers). Michael is a 100% lock to come back for the next returnee season unless it’s all-winners, and even then he wouldn’t be entirely out of the running given that Candice was a hero and Phillip was a favorite. Probst could easily come up with a “Winners in the Game vs. Winners in Our Hearts” theme. At least this is a Jeff man-crush that I’d actually like to see back again.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
Should we take bets now on whether Chelsea gets to see her loved one? I can see Production forgetting to call her family, failing to remember she was still in the game. Being realistic, the rest of the episode is going to suck with it likely being an Angela or Chelsea “shock” Naviti boot, so this family visit better be fucking phenomenal. After last week’s Martin Sheen name drop, I’m really crossing my fingers that Sebastian’s loved one will be Willie Nelson, but I’m sure I’ll be satisfied with any form of Noel family reunion. I’m sure it’ll be lit!
Kellyn – While the votes didn’t end up demanding she play her second vote, I’m proud she did so. She’s the only one besides Michael at that tribal council that had serious reason to worry, so I’m glad to see she had the guts to make the move she made. Kellyn’s been playing an active game, which can’t be said for several that are left, but unfortunately, I still think she’s playing a losing one unless she tries to round up the “goats” again and take out Dom and Wendell ASAP. I do feel bad for Kellyn because if this season plays out like I think it does for her, there are so many moments she must be looking back on with regret, and I’m sure she cringes every time she hears herself say “Naviti strong” if she ends up Naviti wronged.
Domenick – Owned that challenge and owned that tribal council by sticking to his guns and also his (once again) perfect read on the game in not believing Michael had an idol. This is still Domenick’s to lose and I’m in love with all that he’s brought to this season. Is he a little overexposed? Yes. But he’s playing the absolute hell out of this game and if the other players are continuing to let him get further in the game, he deserves to have this be the Domenick show.
Chelsea – Fuck you, Jeff. If there’s one person that should win after Domenick, it’s Chelsea, obviously. Two back-to-back immunity wins, the truest defender of “Naviti strong” since the Chris vote, and all around fierce participator in every aspect of Survivor, Chelsea doesn’t get the credit from the show she deserves. Her edit makes it clear she’s not winning, but I could see her getting a random breakout episode next week and, sort of like Kelly Wiglesworth in Second Chance, be called out as a dangerous player – so dangerous that she finishes next week SITTING… on the jury.
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