History has been made on Survivor: Ghost Island. For the first time ever, the final vote to crown the winner of Survivor ended in a tie. After 35 previous seasons, this outcome has never happened before. We’ve witnessed nail-biting votes, where a single jury vote was the determining factor in someone winning, but even when there were even number jury members, the vote still leaned to a particular person in the finals. The tie vote was the perfect culmination for a season like Survivor: Ghost Island, where two of the finalists were in such a balanced alliance. This was a thrilling end for an otherwise average-to-good season.
In Survivor, just like in every reality TV show, there is always that one moment in the season where the contestants have one final chance to shake up the game and/or eliminate the front-runners. This moment turned out to be the Final 6, which was the starting round of the finale. Don’t get me wrong, if a castaway had won immunity or successfully flipped someone strategically, the game could’ve been different. But within the structure of Survivor: Ghost Island’s finale (Final 3 with a fire-making challenge at Final 4), the players were already stuck.
Domenick and Wendell had hidden immunity idols, and they dominated the remainder of the individual immunity challenges since they were physical threats. The only chance the other players had to break up their duo was at Final 6. As a viewer/fan, it was frustrating to watch the outsiders ignore gameplay and refuse to make a big move. Why didn’t Laurel, Donathan, Sebastian and Angela work together?! They had the power in their hands. Angela siding with Dom/Wendell was out of desperation, but she knew they would never take her to the end – she made a terrible blunder. Laurel’s move, on the other hand, was indicative of her gameplayer (we’ll get to that later on). At least Sebastian and Donathan were willing to look at the opportunity before turning on each other since they were the only two options left.
Sebastian and Donathan had no chance of winning the game unless they reached the finals. Though, as mentioned above, it would’ve been a miracle if they had the strategic opportunities to make it there. Sebastian was a physical threat with a chill social game. People on the jury liked him well enough, but he didn’t have the strategic moves to back up his gameplay. Convincing the jury to vote for him would’ve been a tough battle; the same can be said about Donathan.
Donathan was a messy player. He had the social game to win the jury over, but he didn’t have the physical challenges or big moves on his resume to turn the tide. People liked him well enough, but liking someone can only take you so far. And we can’t forget about his tumultuous attitude against Domenick during the last few rounds he was left in Survivor: Ghost Island. People noticed how flippant he was with Dom and that it was affecting his game. If he had sat next to anyone with a more robust resume than him, he wouldn’t have been able to claim victory.
Ghost Island was once again underutilized; this disappointing theme was a trend that went right to the end. With only a few castaways left in the season, you would think that the biggest and most jaw-dropping curses/powers would be left to the end. (Nope!) All of the castaways essentially just got a trip to the island and Domenick got to choose an urn where the jury members would make their final votes. This entire segment was a waste of time. We could’ve had the players visit a Pottery Barn or Homesense to get the same effect of him choosing an urn. Plus, he would’ve found something cute to put in his living room. (Come on, why not reverse the curse of bad feng shui?)
Let’s take a moment to discuss the return of the Final 4 fire-building Tribal Council. Last season during Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, the infuriating twist helped Ben get to the end to win the season – had it not been for the twist, he would’ve been rightly voted off. The same thing happened yet again this season with Wendell winning the fire challenge (he was set to be voted off). After two back-to-back seasons with this twist included, I’m still sticking with this feedback: Get. Rid. Of. It.
First of all, the game now ends at Final 5, with the last strategic move being played at that Tribal Council. No last minute campaigning, no blindside votes, no shift in power – everything hinges on who can make a fire. You need to make your final big move and decision before Final 4 because afterwards it all depends on luck and fire skills. And Survivor barely does a Final 2 anymore, so that extra vote off is a moot point. The purpose of these final vote eliminations is to remove threats from the game and ensure you have the votes come the finals. Someone could easily slide their way into the finals, even if they had strategically played a game that should’ve caused their elimination.
Secondly, it’s not advantageous to win the final immunity challenge anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to win safety, but the punishment that comes with it is pissing someone off by sending them personally into a do-or-die competition. Angela was mad at Domenick because he forced her to compete against Wendell in the fire-making challenge (Wendell was the intended target); before that, her relationship with Dom was good. We saw Domenick debate whether to give up immunity and face Wendell himself because he knew that it would affect his jury management. And it did; he lost Angela’s vote after she got eliminated.
Thirdly, all of the anticipation got eliminated too early on. Luckily, there were strong options between Domenick and Wendell in Survivor: Ghost Island to keep the vote excitement going, but last season suffered with the obvious winner. What if there was only one frontrunner this season? The same outcome could’ve happened and we would have had to sit through a dull ride to the final vote.
When it came to the Final 3, Laurel had no shot to win Survivor: Ghost Island. Her quiet and subtle gameplay paled in comparison to the bold and resume-filled games of Domenick and Wendell. And, her inability to make any game move soured her relationships with the jury. Many of them were eliminated because she was unwilling to turn against the duo; she decided that sticking with her friendships was worth more than gambling for a million dollars. Jury members like Donathan, Sebastian, Desiree, Kellyn and Chelsea had reason not to vote for her – she failed at jury management and playing a winning game.
Domenick had the flashier moves and he pulled in more people to work together. Wendell, on the other hand, had the steadier game and built stronger relationships on a genuine level. Both worked together on every alliance, blindside, and strategic move, so it’s not surprising that the jury was so torn between them. Ultimately, it came down to who was in the jury to make those final votes. Wendell played a good overall game (i.e. physical, mental and social), and he was one of the best options from Survivor: Ghost Island to be crowned as the winner. You can’t be disappointed with him being revealed as the Sole Survivor.
What we can be disappointed with was that Survivor reunion. Did anyone else think it was terrible this year? In the past, we’ve witnessed players sharing their motivations, the reasons they made certain moves, and the updates once the season had filmed. Unfortunately, the reunion turned into a variety show where it’s split in-between the finale itself and random segments that Jeff throws in. The reunion needs to be fixed. The fire-making challenge needs to be removed. Survivor needs to fix itself because the recent changes have ruined the final episode, which was typically the best and most dramatic. Oh, I miss the good old days.