The merge arrived on Survivor Ghost Island, and for most of the episode, all of the contestants evaporated except two dudes: Domenick and Chris. “Somebody will be the eighth person voted out of this game,” Jeff Probst said at the immunity challenge, and the only two people who were shown were Domenick and Chris, making it clear that only one of them would survive in the game past the next Tribal Council.
After I wrote last week about my issues with this season’s storytelling, Inside Survivor’s Martin Holmes and I discussed that on Twitter. He argued that the season’s storyline was Dom vs. Chris, and pointed this out: “The biggest clue is the ‘previously on Survivor recaps,’ and their constant reminder of Dom v Chris. It’s this season’s biggest story.”
That was a clue I missed, as I typically fast-forward through the recaps. Because he pointed that out, I watched tonight’s recap, and 100 percent of it was about Domenick, as if no one else was around and nothing else has happened (oh Malolo, how quickly you are forgotten).
And though I’m still not convinced Dom vs. Chris was truly the narrative arc or focus of the first seven episodes themselves, it absolutely was the focus tonight. This was the most clear, concentrated episode this season, with nearly every single thing coming down to the conflict between the two guys—which started on day one, as Domenick recounted during Tribal.
These kinds of face-offs are lots of fun on Survivor, and this episode was no exception. While Survivor focusing on two alpha males and forgetting nearly everyone else is unfortunate, it clearly was organic to the experience, with the conflict dominating tribe life.
Several of the women even discussed what would happen if they just let the dudes strut around and together voted to get rid of Libby, who they thought of as a bigger threat. I would have loved to have seen that episode play out, too.
A nemesis gets a free idol as a parting gift
Domenick identified Chris as “my number-one nemesis,” and in a complete, totally random, crazy coincidence, his nemesis just happened to receive a free hidden immunity idol—I mean, clue—at the merge feast. The idol, however, was at Ghost Island, and Chris was asked: “Are you willing to risk getting caught to gain power in the game?” Chris was.
If we’re going to hand out idols, I like that they come with risk like this—and it was especially cool that it took place at night, where a super-windy, fire-lit Ghost Island looked incredible.
Chris received J.T.’s idol from Game Changers. But having been away from its supply of Viagra, J.T.’s idol had “lost some of its potency.” It was only good for one Tribal Council. But there were more twists! Chris had the chance “to extend the shelf life of this idol” by playing up to five 50/50 chance games. Each win would result in another week the idol could be played.
The end result: he lost his vote for the next Tribal, but received an idol that would be effective for two Tribal Councils.
And then Chris went to Tribal Council and didn’t play his idol and was voted out with it in his pocket. Domenick did play one of his 412 idols: the legacy advantage, giving himself immunity, which he didn’t need.
If there was any doubt about who was going to be voted out and become the first member the jury, this is how Wendell cast his vote for Chris: “Socially, you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said, and added, “Oh yeah, and finally, somebody had to say it, I’ll say it: Stop rapping. You’re trash. At rapping. You’re garbage at rapping. You have no bars. Put the mic down. Put the pen down bro. Use an eraser.”
That’s the Chris of the previous seven episodes: mocked more than anything else. Until this episode, what I recall of Chris was everyone being annoyed with his cockiness, except for humanizing moment he got on Ghost Island when he talked about his mom.
This episode, though, it was back to laughing at his cockiness. Chris taking every single member of the tribe except Domenick and Wendell with him to “get water”—i.e. talk strategy at the well—was high comedy, with the reluctant ducklings following their rapping, beautiful swan to humor him, apparently.
The episode drifted away from Dom and Chris for a moment to let Jenna saying that this left her, Libby, and Michael—three of the five remaining Malolos—”in more of a powerful position,” but I didn’t actually know who she was until the text on-screen identified her, so I’m not sure how powerful her position really is.
During the episode, Jeff Probst announced, “this is a showdown!” And it was, with an outcome that, for me, was very satisfying.
Now that it’s over, it did also point in several directions the game may go in. Will the Navitis go back to targeting Malolos? Will Dom be a threat or be forgotten? Will Wendell’s supporting role in tonight’s drama shift him into more of a heroic position than he already has? Will the women take over? I’m ready to find out.