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Survivor shakes up the double-elimination episode, and a player makes history

Survivor shakes up the double-elimination episode, and a player makes history
Jeff Probst reveals Survivor Ghost Island's episode 11 twist: two tribes, two immunity necklaces, two Tribal Councils. (Image by CBS Entertainment)

While the end result of Survivor Ghost Island episode 11 was probably the same that it would have been after two regular episodes—two often-targeted Malolos joining the jury—the path to getting there was far more entertaining than two regular episodes might have been.

In 20-contestant seasons, Survivor has too many contestants for its 14 episodes, so if there isn’t a medical evacuation, there has to be a double-elimination episode to keep the game on track. And instead of doing two episodes in one, which requires two immunity challenges, producers split the tribe into two temporary tribes, and had them each go to Tribal Council.

I really like breaking up a merged tribe into two. It has the potential to shake up the individual, post-merge game—though it also has the potential to become a Big Brother-ish tool for producers to screw with the game. And the game becomes less interesting if it loses its integrity.

But the new temporary tribes were selected by random draw, and that created two five-person tribes with two Malolos each, so on with the Pagonging—though a highly entertaining version of Pagonging, thanks to this new format.

Chelsea makes Survivor history

Besides offering immunity to one player from each new tribe, there was a built-in reward at the immunity challenge: the tribe that lasted the longest got to go to Tribal Council second, to see who’d been voted out previously.

Domenick and Chelsea each won immunity. That makes two back-to-back individual immunity challenges for Chelsea, and zero confessionals. She started the game with no confessionals in the premiere, and has had virtually no airtime despite dominating in these two individual immunity challenges.

Dom Harvey, of the Dom & Colin Survivor podcast, summarized her achievement on Twitter, “After she didn’t get a confessional, it’s official: through ten episodes, Chelsea is statistically the most invisible contestant in the history of #Survivor.”

Why she’s being ignored might be one of this season’s biggest mysteries. Perhaps she’ll suddenly come into focus during the episode that she’s voted out, or maybe she makes it to the end but is ignored there, too? We’re getting too close to the end of the season for there still to be a completely invisible cast member. (Purple Kelly didn’t even last this long.)

Not being ignored this season is Michael, who will be back on a future season—which I think everyone assumed would be the case, but for the record, Probst says so, too.

Michael wasn’t going to win unless he blanketed himself in immunity, because he’s seen as a major threat. And he finally exited this episode, though not before pulling one last stunt.

First he tried to borrow Donathan’s idol NO NOPE NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, a suggestion Donathan refused even before Michael got the thought out. So instead, Michael just lied to Kellyn about having an idol, which sent her into a paranoid tailspin, and eventually led her to play her extra vote advantage.

This was fascinating to watch. While that was pretty much a wasted use, it did give us a tie vote—an easy tie vote to resolve, considering everyone wanted to vote out Michael anyway.

Having all of these advantages floating around did make the split-tribe politicking more interesting, because at least opened the potential of them being used to create an unexpected outcome.

Speaking of advantages, Domenick found another idol: the fake idol in a coconut that fooled Jay back during the Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X finale. But Dom learned that “this tainted idol has not matured into a real idol,” which meant he was basically given the tools to craft a lie.

I really like the idea of presenting an opportunity for a player to be “clever enough to pull it off,” as the note attached to this actually fake idol said. But besides the fact that returning advantages are now a middle school cafeteria full of different maturity levels and conflicting stories, I wonder how that inconsistency affects the integrity of the game.

Games need to have consistent rules, and here the production has decided some fake idols are real and some fake idols aren’t, but hasn’t told everyone this, so not everyone is playing with the same set of rules.

It’s one thing to know there are real idols and fake idols at play, but not know who has them; it’s another to not be aware of what is allowed  and what is not. Having all of these different kinds of idols seems like playing a card game where some of the Aces are high cards and others are low cards, but no one knows that except the dealer and the person holding a certain Ace card. Apologies; that metaphor was more labored than Octomom.

A rapid Tribal Council purges another Malolo

The editing separated the strategizing into two separate segments, helping me to keep track of who was in each of the two new temporary tribes.

On her temporary tribe, Jenna was the target, which was not a surprise. What was a surprise is that Donathan decided he would use his idol on her, for some reason that isn’t quite clear. If the three Naviti voted for Jenna, and then the idol wiped out her votes, Jenna and Donathan could have gotten rid of a Naviti.

Jenna was thrilled by Donathan’s kindness and this possibility of turning the tables: “He’s an idiot, and I’m willing to vote him out,” she said.

That first Tribal Council was abbreviated—and “may be the fewest questions I’ve ever asked at a Tribal Council,” Probst said when the tribe was Jenna told him she was ready to get voted out. Was she expecting to be saved by Donathan’s idol? Or had he changed his mind beforehand and told her?

Either way, the Naviti advantage meant that it was “hopeless,” as Donathan said.

Donathan played his idol, but for himself, and unnecessarily, since the only vote against him was from Jenna. Watching Jenna to go from having her torch snuffed directly to the jury—literally, she just turned around and walked over and sat down—was a fun twist to this format.

That did mean she had no time to shake the bitterness, no time to take a shower, and no time to even record an exit interview. That’s quite the cap, or lack of one, for her rough edit.

Jenna didn’t even get any hugs from her fellow players, which she pointed out when Michael’s tribe all hugged him after voting him out. That may just be because his eyes smolder more than the Tribal Council fire and all of the world’s volcanos combined.

Two Malolo remain, Laurel and Donathan, and three episodes remain, including the finale.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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