Two New Victims to Ghost Island
Come on in, guys! Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to uncharted waters. This is the first of what hopefully will be many installments in a weekly column about the greatest show on television: Survivor. Yes, it is still airing. Season 36, to be exact! And with the all-clear given to expand The Punished Backlog to cover more than just gaming, there is nothing I’d rather write about. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
This season of Survivor is called Ghost Island, an eerie name for an equally eerie place. Ghost Island is a physical manifestation of the mistakes of Survivors past, littered with relics of old seasons, reminding every inhabitant that “one bad decision can haunt you forever.” By the end of Wednesday night’s two-hour premiere, two players walked into the haunted grounds of Ghost Island, and two players met their unfortunate demise. Did one bad decision doom them? Let’s find out. (FYI: Spoilers? Duh? But also this season plays heavily on events from past seasons so if you haven’t watched them all… strap in.)
In a refreshing change of pace from previous seasons, the marooning doesn’t involve a mad scramble for a plethora of items to make camp life easier. Instead, we find our castaways immediately faced with a challenge for a reward. It’s really much ado about nothing in the grand scheme of things (thus far), but it does present us with a Domenick vs. Chris showdown on the Naviti tribe that will only continue as the episode rolls on. On Naviti, Chris bonds with Sebastian over being from Florida, and discuss targeting Dom. But when Sebastian tells Wendell, Wendell’s not thrilled. See, he likes Dom. So Wendell displays the subtlety that matches a skill at playing Survivor by simply saying, “Well I like Dom. Let’s just think about it.” He then shares to Dom that Sebastian and likely Chris are plotting against him. Sets us up nicely for two opposing sides, but that’s really all we’ll see from Naviti this episode.
Malolo tribe is full of characters, but none are more omnipresent in this episode than Jacob. Oh Jacob, my sweet summer child. From losing your shoes to the tide, to immediately looking for a hidden immunity idol, to literally pouring the tribe’s rice into your dirty sock to search for a clue. Perhaps no better feat did Jacob accomplish, though, than to be sent to Ghost Island. In a sneaky display of intuition, Jacob talked his tribe up after losing the first immunity challenge, calling them the ‘greatest tribe in Survivor ever,’ and Naviti (given the power to send one player to Ghost Island where they would stay during Tribal Council) gladly sent him on his merry way. All part of the plan of course; ol’ Jacob knows what he’s doing and he is eager to share that with everyone. And thus, we saw Ghost Island for the first time through the eyes of the best possible narrator.
Ghost Island is a sight to behold. For a superfan like Jacob, it’s almost surreal. Along the way, he gets to play a game. Luckily for him Jigsaw isn’t around, and the consequences aren’t quite life or death. He just has to wager his next vote at Tribal for a chance at an advantage. And because Jacob is fun, he plays the game. Wouldn’t you know, he wins! What ho! Fortune favors the bo– wait a second. His advantage is the Legacy Advantage famously held by Sierra Dawn Thomas in Survivor: Game Changers (S34), the one she revealed to eventual winner Sarah Lacina, and the one she willed to Sarah after being blindsided… you guessed it, by Sarah. Survivor nerds everywhere take a second to geek out at a real past item coming back into this season, but Jacob reveals that he has to will this to someone on the other tribe. So his advantage… is giving away an advantage. Well, better luck next time old sport! (He does will the advantage to Morgan of Naviti tribe. Kudos to her for looking like a respectable human being and getting that advantage!)
Over at Malolo tribe, Gonzalez wants Donathan out because he’s weak. Ok, that makes sense. Gotta keep the tribe strong so you don’t come back to Tri– wait why is Stephanie saying Gonzalez? Is this because Gonzalez’s first name is Stephanie? Is this some Stephanie on Stephanie crime? For whatever reason, Stephanie decides that the first tribal is a great time to target a strong player, and Gonzalez ends up on the wrong side of an 8-1 vote. She did make quite a ruckus walking around and talking to people at Tribal which… is a choice. Gonna guess it didn’t help her case though.
Good news to all fans of Jacob, he’s back from Ghost Island and boy does he have a plan. He’s crafted a fake idol to push the target off of him. Great idea, but it works for about all of five seconds before Brendan asks where his idol paper is. You know, the one saying ‘congratulations this is a hidden immunity blah blah blah’ (that’s verbatim). Jacob says he left it back at camp and Brendan does not buy that at all, later saying that Jacob was such a Survivor nerd he would never forget that paper, which is both true and funny! So our neurotic hero Jacob is thriving, clearly.
Over at Naviti beach, Domenick has decided to run around the jungle in the dead of night looking for an idol because it’s Survivor and that’s just bound to happen at some point. Lo and behold, he finds one! Take that Jacob! It turns out to be the idol Andrea Boehlke (sidenote: I happen to love her) had and did not play when she was voted out in Survivor: Caramoan (S26). But apparently fake idol fever has hit both beaches because Domenick decides to create a fake idol to show Chris. You know, his target. Oh and this is directly after he told Chris he didn’t have an idol. Very interesting strategy, and though Chris bought the fake idol (because Domenick had the paper; proof of purchase… er find I suppose) he felt something was up. Very astute.
Now at the challenge, a funny thing happened on the way to immunity. Naviti won but our impeccable host Jeff Probst was more focused on Malolo, and the fact that a) James couldn’t dive down 5 feet to release a lever and b) that Donathan didn’t want to do it, but then did it and was praised for it. A very peculiar sequence of events while Naviti was literally winning the challenge. This likely factored into Naviti’s decision to send Donathan to Ghost Island (where he did not get to participate in any spooky games).
Back at camp, Jacob’s scrambling. He needs a plan or he’s gone (-zalez? Ok too soon I get it). He is definitely gonna get the boot, and the idol shenanigans has only encouraged a split vote onto James (who owned his mistakes like a champion, I might add). So, he decides to target resident boy (18 year-old) who passes for a man (pretending to be 23), Michael. How to rally up the numbers? Well, why not turn to the mastermind behind vote #1: Stephanie. Jacob has a lovely conversation with her about the vote, and also everything that happened at Ghost Island. Way to go, superfan. Now Stephanie knows that Jacob’s idol is fake, and that Morgan has the Legacy Advantage. You have performed well Jacob, but the lady no longer requires your service. Sure enough, a 5-2-1 Jacob-James split vote (with Jacob voting Michael) sends one of the most entertaining 19th placers of all-time home. Alas, poor Jacob, we hardly knew ye. But boy did you make your 6 days on Survivor worthwhile.
And with that, Survivor: Ghost Island is off to the races! 18 people remain, and with a shocking (heavy sarcasm) tribe swap coming up next episode, things are bound to remain as interesting as ever. The game is totally up for grabs, although Domenick and Stephanie were definitely the stars of the premiere (that survived the votes, of course. I’ll never forget you, Jacob). Until next week, may the Survivor Gods smile down upon you.