Well Survivor fans, there is truly nothing like a twist that is both bad in premise and luck forces it to work out in the most boring possible way. Editing did its best to make this unprecedented half-tribe-double-tribal twist engaging, and I do admit even with the somewhat inevitable results, the build-up to the main event of the second tribal did put me even more on the edge of my seat, but I really hope this is a one-off twist. Of course, as we know from Jeff assuring us last season that the absolute garbage nonsense twist of firemaking at the final four of HHH will make a return, I am not hopeful that these stupid game mechanic changes will be any fewer or far between in the future. The randomly-divided tribes of five out of the ten worked out so that each has three original Naviti and two original Malolo. This is, of course, the only combination in which we can guarantee that the status quo is maintained, and this twist will not result in any sort of major shake up. While we can bemoan this for making for a more boring episode than any other combination would have, I think in the long run this is the best possible outcome for when we look back on this season long-term. It would have been completely unfair for, say, a Domenick or Wendell, one of whom is obviously going to win the game (it’s true, this episode has finally forced me to give up hope of a Kellyn win), to be bounced out here due to an unlucky swap. Survivor is a numbers game, as in a game of all the numbers remaining in the game, not a game of a random combination of numbers left in the game. The mark of a bad twist is a twist that completely eliminates strategic thinking by making it impossible for players to plan for, and while in this case the twist is comparable to, say, a tribe swap, where the best players should be able to rebound, it would have severely undermined the legacy of whoever did end up winning if one of the winner candidates was ejected due to a completely unlucky and out of their control swap.
Speaking of our winners candidates, this episode is once again all about Domenick. I will reiterate that I don’t actually dislike Dom. I just want him to leave because, through no fault of his own, he gets all the screen time, and he just isn’t interesting enough to warrant it! In his defense, no one is interesting enough to be the undisputed protagonist of a show that is supposed to be telling the stories of a whole group of people, but least of all an alpha male flushed with advantages coming off the heels of an advantage-flushed alpha male unfairly winning last season. I’m just sick of him and would like him to leave to open the door for some other perspectives, let’s say, of women, but I’m sure that’s not going to happen. We start with him expressing his gratitude to Laurel for saving his ass, and then move onto a scene of he and Wendell talking about how they’ll never go after each other, neither of whom really means it in the long run, though for the time being they know that they have to keep each other in the game otherwise the remaining of the two automatically becomes the biggest threat. Next on Survivor: Domenick Island, Domenick goes and looks for idols and finds David’s fake idol that he gave to Jay in Millennials vs. Gen X. For some reason we have to watch the entire clip of this scene, perhaps to remind us that once upon a time casting did a good job of picking people who were interesting enough to actually include everyone in the edit, all for the “advantage” to just be a hollow fake idol that doesn’t do anything and can just be used as a fake idol. This advantage is so lame it was actually offered to Debbie when she got to go on the Cochran boat reward in Game Changers, and she turned it down in favor of an extra vote which never works, this episode included.
At the immunity challenge, the tribes are drawn and all of the interesting people are on one tribe and all of the invisible people + Donathan are on the other. Because he is our little star, Domenick becomes the first man to win immunity, and Chelsea continues her silent dominance by winning it on her tribe and not getting a confessional about it. Because Domenick lasted longer, competing against his good friend Wendell, they get the advantage of going to tribal second and getting to see who was voted out from the other temporary tribe. Because we haven’t yet learned enough about Domenick, he waxes poetic during the challenge about how big a fan of the show he is, and how many brothers and sisters he has. Wow, what an everyman, truly who among us cannot identify with the experience of being Domenick, the hardworking white American male that serves as the Survivor template for the universally rootable character?
Because they are on different temporary tribes, Michael attempts to get Donathan to give him his idol for a little while just to show to the other tribe. Donathan, because he is my friend and ally, does not give it to him, ostensibly out of fear that it will blow up in his face, but in my heart I know it’s because he is looking out for me personally and I am so painfully bored of Michael and really needed him to go home this episode for my sanity. Unfortunately, Kellyn, who always trusts her gut, has a dumbass gut and when Michael goes ahead and tells her anyway that he has an idol she doesn’t even ask to see it. This is the second week in a row Kellyn has blindly trusted someone without good reason, except unlike last week when she at least caught on in time to change her vote, this week she follows through and almost gets Laurel voted out instead of Michael who she has been targeting forever. Granted, it’s probably better for her game for Laurel to go out here due to the Laurel/Donathan/Wendell/Domenick alliance being stronger than the original Naviti, but Kellyn doesn’t know that, and we can only evaluate strategic decisions based on the information that the players have. I love Kellyn deeply as a character, but boy has it been hard to watch her entire game crumble in her hands the last two weeks. The only credit I will give her is that we saw a glimpse of her getting frustrated with Dom last week for not listening to her, and this decision to trust Michael may have been borne of resentment for feeling walked over and not believed by Dom yet again. That’s not an excuse for bad gameplay, but I can certainly see frustration regarding being silenced by a man manifesting itself in poor decision making. I think most women done things that weren’t the smartest just to feel like we’re rebelling against overbearing men, and imagine how satisfying it would have been for Kellyn if she were correct about Michael! Either way, I would say the odds of Kellyn going home next week since she just proved she’s entirely too paranoid and irrational, and almost completely blew up Wendell and Domenick’s alliance because of it, are at about 80%.
Here’s the main thing I don’t understand about how this tribal went: Donathan told Laurel that Michael asked to borrow his idol, which verifies that Michael himself does not have an idol. I have to imagine that the reason Domenick is so sure that he doesn’t is because Laurel told him this information. The show wants to portray Domenick as just extremely perceptive because he’s Our Hero, but this is almost certainly why he’s so sure. So the question is, did Domenick not tell Kellyn about Michael asking Donathan for the idol because it would betray how close he is with Donathan/Laurel, or did he tell her and she still refuses to believe it because she is skeptical of Donathan/Laurel? I imagine it’s the former because we would have seen it if it was the latter, since the show has not been hesitant to make Kellyn look dumb and stubborn these past couple of episodes, but it seems like just telling her would have saved him a lot of headache and stopped Laurel from going home. After all, if Michael had been smart (which, I maintain, he is not), he would have voted for Laurel and Laurel would have gone home here. Therefore, Dom and Laurel are somewhat at fault for not using all of the information at their disposal to convince Kellyn that Michael was idol-less. Obviously, most of the blame falls on Kellyn for not verifying and for some reason believing Michael, who was making the most obvious, desperate play possible, since when you are at the bottom really your only choice is to feign an idol, but I’m willing to put a little bit of it on Dom and Laurel for lacking the necessary powers of persuasion here. Obviously, it’s completely Michael’s fault that he went home here, since he, by an absolute miracle of poor judgment by Kellyn, was given an unfathomable opportunity to stay, and blew it. Basically, the only person who didn’t clearly mess up in some way here is Wendell, and that’s only because he basically did not appear involved according to the show.
You might be surprised to learn that another tribal council also happened in this episode. The only drama came from the fact that Jenna came off completely terribly, and Donathan briefly considered giving her his idol anyway. While the tribe is all voting for Jenna, they tell her they are voting for Donathan, which she for some reason takes at completely face value, perhaps because her future boyfriend and co-owner of a shared instagram account Sebastian told it to her, and she wanted to believe that ugly little rat face on that rocking bod, but she should know that they are obviously telling Donathan the same thing. Donathan correctly identifies that they are in fact voting for Jenna, so he tells her he might use the idol. Jenna is extremely mean in confessional about Donathan, calling him stupid for wanting to use the idol on her when he so clearly is going out, which makes her look like both a mean girl and a moron, which isn’t really fun TV. Female villains are the best, but they have to be competent in order to be a villain, otherwise they’re just a rude idiot. That sounds like a personal attack, but in reality I’m sure Jenna is lovely and has a lot to offer, but unfortunately because we had to hear Domenick give 8,000 confessionals about the other dudes in this game, we didn’t get to hear anything from her all season, so our only impression is this extremely bad look on the way out. Donathan does use the idol on himself, which is technically a waste, but unlike Jenna, he knew that what the Navitis were telling him only had a 50% chance of being true, and it’s much better to burn an idol than to go out with it in your pocket. It only made sense here for him to be sure of his security, and I am very excited to watch him throughout the rest of the season until he is probably cut somewhere in the finale, ultimately breaking my heart, because he is in fact the best.
We’re getting down to the wire, with only three more invisible people remaining!
Stay tuned to see which one of them will inevitably lose to Domenick or Wendell in the final two, and which will be idol-ed or otherwise twist-ed out in the coming weeks!