The past is coming back to haunt us on Survivor: Ghost Island! After 35 seasons of voting out castaways and crowning winners, the game has ventured into the past to fix some mistakes. Prepare yourselves for a history lesson, new Survivor fans; you’re going to learn a lot. And after nearly 18 years on the air, a little refresher on past seasons might be a good idea.
During the finale of Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, back when the concept for Survivor: Ghost Island was revealed, I was initially on the fence about the idea. The series was tackling a theme about fixing mistakes, but it featured new players who had never played the game being forced to learn from the past. In theory, the idea was interesting, but it had the potential to go off the rails and be a dud. Plus, if we only focused on the teaser, there wasn’t much information given about what would happen or the mysterious “Ghost Island” being teased. Now, after watching the two-hour premiere, Survivor: Ghost Island has my full support.
Firstly, the prop elements brought to the island were the perfect design touches. Production went out of their way to bring back all the torch snuffs from previous seasons, the hidden immunity idols that weren’t used, and the actual items of power that destroyed games. As a Survivor superfan, this premiere brought back all those nostalgic feelings for moments that happened years prior. The players had the same reaction when they discovered it; Jacob looked so excited to find the legacy twist with Sierra’s and Sarah’s names on it! Could you imagine being him in that moment? That would’ve been incredible to hold this iconic Survivor moment.
When it came to Ghost Island itself, the design suited the motif perfectly. We got all the creepy memories, warnings, and twists we need for a Survivor theme. The fact that it was the spiritual successor to Exile Island was a moot point. Look, Exile Island was not the greatest twist, but the secluded location did have its uses and when executed precisely, it worked. Having Exile Island return makes sense overall for the theme. These castaways need to learn from the mistakes of those who went to the island in the past and had it ruin their game; we already saw one castaway’s game destroyed because of it. Let’s keep an eye on these breaking urns because we’ll no doubt see the return of many twists and history lessons.
The challenges in the first hour spoke a lot about the castaways. Did anyone else notice that both tribes mimicked the personalities of the players chosen for the reward challenge? We got the buff, tall male leaders, the second strongest men on the tribe for racing, and the brainy-looking women for puzzles. They basically copied each other out of the gate, and Chris made a mistake for pulling the lever. His tribe was so close to finishing the puzzle that he basically gave it away. But, at least that bad luck didn’t stick with his tribe for the rest; Malolo just couldn’t keep it together and work as a team.
Jacob was lucky he got sent to Ghost Island, since we can all agree he would’ve been the first to go. In hindsight, Gonzalez’s elimination as the first castaway wasn’t surprising. She was playing too hard, and from the short clips we saw of her, she wasn’t connecting with her fellow castaways. Plus, the majority of clips we did see showed her sneering or throwing attitude. The early days of Survivor, especially the tribe phases, consists of two reasons why someone is kept around. One, can they win team immunity challenges, and two, are they trustworthy/do you like working with them? Gonzalez didn’t seem like she fit the latter.
Let’s take a moment though to thank her for what she contributed during the first Tribal Council. Gonzalez started the chain of private conversations that erupted into a full blindside. The moment she got up from her chair to when she sat down with her smug expression was shocking. She made the worst decision in her tactics for throwing Donathan under the bus, and it only cemented her vote off. No doubt potential Survivor players will look to this first boot elimination as how to not play the game in the first week.
During the second hour of the night, Donathan did a good job overcoming his own limitations. He had the power in him to compete in the immunity challenge, regardless of his fear. By diving in, he showed that he’s willing to help his tribe. Even though he has no shot to win Survivor: Ghost Island, he won on a personal level. James needs to learn subtlety and keeping his mouth shut. Sure, he messed up during the immunity challenge and couldn’t dive in deeper. However, by constantly reminding his tribe, he made the target grow on his back. He needed to acknowledge the moment, accept it, and then move on to play the game. He’s lucky everyone was still focused on Jacob.
Jacob, on the other hand, made one of the most idiotic decisions in Survivor history. In fact, this is an uppercase lesson: HE DID NOT NEED TO LIE AND MAKE A FAKE HIDDEN IMMUNITY IDOL! How could that move possibly help him?! He created a bigger target, he didn’t have the letter to back it up, and no one trusted him at that point. Jacob could’ve simply walked into camp, told them about the island (with no lies) and then said he didn’t win anything there. That’s all. Done. Period. The hidden immunity idol, which didn’t look like an idol, only furthered the reasoning to get him out.
To top it off, he told his tribe about finding an idol. Why would he do that? His reveal was intended for people to know about it and his tribe spotted the truth. It made no sense for him to do this, and the same went for Domenick when he found the real hidden immunity idol.
Jacob being voted out was inevitable. He made too many mistakes, his looking for the idol at his camp was too outright, and he couldn’t connect with his tribe. We can give him some credit for almost convincing Stephanie to work with him, but ultimately this will never come to be. He brought the legacy advantage into the game, and that will be his only mark.
The two-hour premiere of Survivor: Ghost Island started with flames and the ghosts of moves past. We were treated to the perfect amount of drama to hook us for a season of blindsides and bad strategic alliances. If Gonzalez’s and Jacob’s eliminations are any indication this season, the players are not taking things lightly and waiting it out; they’re willing to play hard.