‘Survivor: Ghost Island’ Premiere Recap with Special Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits


“Survivor: Ghost Island” (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: XFINITY.com is the place to be for all of your bug-eatin’, back-stabbin’, “Survivor” coverage. During the season we’ll have insightful weekly Power Rankings with Roark Luskin, exit interviews, and full episode recaps. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

ANOTHER QUICK NOTE: I was in Fiji for the filming of the first half of this episode. Keep your eyes peeled for all kinds of behind-the-scenes tidbits.

39 Days, 20 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog

Alright, let’s take a closer look at the brand-spankin’ new tribes…

The Naviti Tribe (wearing purple)
Angela, 42 – Army Veteran
Bradley, 26 – Law Student
Chelsea, 24 – EMT/Professional Cheerleader
Chris, 27 – Male Model
Desiree, 21 – Student
Domenick, 38 – Construction Supervisor
Kellyn, 31 – Career Counselor
Morgan, 29 – Marine Animal Trainer
Sebastian, 22 – Fishing Guide
Wendell, 33 – Furniture Company Owner

The Malolo Tribe (wearing orange)
Brendan, 41 – Physical Education Teacher
Donathan, 26 – Caretaker
Gonzalez, 26 – Graphic Sales
Jacob, 22 – Music Teacher
James, 24 – Business Analyst
Jenna, 23 – Advertising Account Executive
Laurel, 29 – Financial Consultant
Libby, 24 – Social Media Strategist
Michael, 18 – Real Estate Agent
Stephanie, 34 – Yoga Instructor

The Marooning

J-Pro brings the 20 new victims to a beach on two boats. Jeff announces the Ghost Island twist, but doesn’t explain very much about it. This immediately leads into…

The Opening Challenge

• Both tribes must choose someone to “represent their tribe.” Malolo chooses Brendan and Chris basically volunteers for Naviti. (Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Both tribes assumed the person they picked was going to run the challenge.)
• The tribe representative had to choose someone to run the obstacle course part of the challenge. Brendan chose Michael while Chris picked Sebastian.
• Then, they had to choose someone to do the puzzle. Brendan went with Laurel while Chris drafted a somewhat reluctant Desiree.

The Challenge: One person from each tribe will run through an obstacle course three times. They’ll have to dig up a key each time. When all of the keys have been retrieved, the other member will unlock a slide puzzle. The first tribe to complete the puzzle wins a shelter-building kit. The losing tribe will forfeit their fishing kit.

The Twist: When the puzzle starts, Probst will pull the pin on a bottle of sand. Sand will slowly flow out of the upturned bottle. During that time, the tribe captains (Chris and Brendan) can choose to submit. If they submit, they get to keep their fishing gear. But, the opposing tribe will receive eggs and flint.

The Result: Chris pulled the lever on Desiree’s puzzle to submit for his tribe. Malolo wins reward.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: That was absolutely the right call by Chris. From my vantage point Laurel was way ahead.

During the post-challenge discussion, Domenick says he would have made a different decision than Chris.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Michael was in terrible shape after this challenge. Medical was almost called in.

At Malolo Beach

Donathan immediately makes good on his pre-game hope of making an African American friend. Laurel gets to fill that role.

Michael also keeps up with his pre-game decision to lie about his age. He tells everyone that he’s 23 when he’s really 18. Oof…I hope Probst doesn’t out him during some kind of alcohol reward.

In other news, Jacob put his shoes on the beach and the tide took them away. Wow. Now he’s like “Survivor” John McClane.

Jacob goes “exploring” and everybody absolutely notices what he’s up to.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I was actually with Jacob at this moment watching him hunt. He said something along the lines of, “I can’t believe I have to do this on day two.”

Later, when the tribe goes yam hunting, Jacob decides to search the rice jar for clues. How does he do this you ask? He pours the rice into his disgusting sock. Sure enough, Jacob remains clueless.


Quick Aside: Can you imagine being Libby, surrounded by your friends and family, watching this at home? Everybody now knows that you ate Jacob’s sock rice.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I heard through the grapevine that Jacob actually told someone in his tribe about this grossness. I’m sure they weren’t pleased.

At Naviti Beach

Domenick quickly dubs Sebastian “Sea Bass.” Somewhere Fabio is psyched that someone has finally taken his mantle of “Worst ‘Survivor’ Nickname.”

Later, Chris and Sebastian quickly bond over their Floridian roots and decide to target Domenick. Careful who you give odd nicknames to, buddy.

Sebastian refers to this new alliance as “Best Friends in a Candy Shop.” Meh…it’s still better than every “Big Brother” alliance name ever.

From there, Sebastian approaches Wendell with the idea of voting out Domenick. However, Wendell has already partnered up with Domenick.

CUT TO: Wendell and Bradley telling Domenick that Sebastian is targeting him. Domenick quickly connects the dots and figures out that Chris is behind it.

Immunity Challenge Time: The two tribes will run through a net bridge, then lift members of their tribe up to retrieve two bags of rope. They’ll use the ropes to pull a sled filled with puzzle pieces. The first tribe to complete the puzzle will win immunity. The winning tribe will also decide who from the losing tribe will be sent to Ghost Island.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: This challenge suuuuuuuucks. My hands were ripped up for weeks.

Result: Naviti was able to capitalize on a few Malolo mistakes to claim the win.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Kellyn got a lot of credit from her tribe for managing the puzzle.

When it was all said and done, Jacob wasn’t concerned because Malolo is still “One of the best tribes of all time.” Probst took a little exception to this comment considering they’re 0-1 in challenges. However, Jacob stuck to his guns.

Naturally Naviti chooses Jacob to go to Ghost Island because it’s clear that he’s annoying his tribe. Jacob immediately celebrates by telling everyone that Naviti fell into his trap. I think this is the fastest someone has ever annoyed an entire cast.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: No joke, it was clear that both tribes were ready to strangle Jacob.

Jacob on Ghost Island

So, Ghost Island is basically the coolest “Survivor” museum ever. There Jacob finds every snuffer ever, old immunity idols, and more. They certainly picked the perfect person to go there because he geeks right out.

Jacob is given the opportunity to play a game. He’ll have to bet his vote at the next Tribal for a chance to earn an advantage. He chooses to play and wins Sierra’s legacy advantage from “Game Changers. (The game was literally a 50/50 game of chance.)

He has to send the advantage to one person on the other tribe. He chooses Morgan because he’s confident she’ll be there after the merge.

Then, he decides to fashion himself a fake idol to buy himself some time using pieces from a tree mail. He actually makes a pretty decent facsimile.

Post-Challenge Politicking

Donathan is trying to paint a target on Gonzalez’s back because she was talking some trash during the challenge puzzle. Meanwhile, she’s targeting Donathan because he doesn’t have the physicality to help during challenges.

Stephanie is also interested in keeping Donathan around because she thinks she can control him. Michael wants to keep the tribe strong, but Stephanie defends him with the hilarious point, “if we need a little person to shove into something.”

Tribal Time

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: It took Donathan forever to light his torch.

Everyone seems to agree that Jacob would have been an easy vote. However, now they’re torn as to who to vote for. Gonzalez and Donathan are clearly the two names being bounced around.

Behind-the Scenes Tidbits:
• Brendan tried to make Donathan feel at ease, even saying, “You’re alright.”
• Jenna thought her name was in play too.
• There was a long discussion about who the “We” is as far as alliances.
• Gonzalez claims that she took a five-minute walk before Tribal and when she came back, nobody would look her in the eye.

Before they can vote, Gonzalez kicks off a round of Live Tribal™. The whispering happened in this order…

• Gonzalez whispers to Brendan and Michael
• Michael whispers to Jenna and Laurel
• Gonzalez whispers to Stephanie and Libby
• Brendan whispers to James
• Steph and Libby whisper
• Nobody whispers to Donathan

Voting Time: Donathan votes for Gonzalez, Gonzalez votes for Donathan, and the rest of the votes are super secret.

Probst tallies and returns. We’ve got one vote for Donathan, four votes for Gonzalez, and the first person voted out of “Survivor: Ghost Island” is…Gonzalez.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Here are the votes…

• Gonzalez votes for Donathan, saying they have to keep the tribe strong.
• Donathan votes for Gonzalez, saying he’s tired of his voice not being heard.
• Libby votes for Gonzalez, saying “I guess you’re not part of the ‘we’.”
• James votes for Gonzalez, saying “It’s not you, it’s the game.”
• Steph votes for Gonzalez, saying there’s only room for one Steph. Also, Steph forgot to remove the pen cap when voting.
• Brendan votes for Gonzalez, saying he’s trying to keep order in the tribe.
• Jenna votes for Gonzalez, saying this is what she gets for trying to plot against her.
• Michael votes for Gonzalez, simply saying he’s sorry to see her go.
• Laurel votes for Gonzalez, saying she’s playing too hard, too fast.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: As Gonzalez was leaving she said, “One lion, seven sheep. Sad.” I’m pretty sure she was referring to Brendan as the lion.

At Naviti Beach

Paranoia is getting the best of Domenick. He goes for a late-night stroll and manages to find himself the idol Andrea Boehlke took home from “Fans vs. Favorites.” Wow. That’s some Tony-level business.

Morgan finds the legacy advantage that Jacob sent her way. She freaks out and tells us she’s worried because she has a big mouth and might slip up and tell someone. Oh no! That’s some Cole-level business.

Later on, Domenick tries to make peace with Chris. Chris immediately asks if Domenick has found an idol, which Domenick denies. This sparks an idea, as Domenick decides to make his own fake idol and pair it with the letter from the real idol. He shows it to Chris and tells him he’ll be willing to play it for him. Chris doesn’t seem to buy it completely and he certainly doesn’t like that Domenick lied to him in the first place.

At Malolo Beach

Jacob returns and immediately asks everyone to gather around to hear his tale. He proceeds to tell everyone about Ghost Island and his idol. Everyone.

Brendan smartly asks about the letter that tends to accompany immunity idols. Jacob claims that he left it behind. Nope…nobody’s going to buy this.

Sure enough, Brendan tells his alliance that there’s no way a “Survivor” hardcore fan isn’t going to hoard all of the memorabilia he can.

Immunity Challenge: Two players from each tribe will swim across an obstacle course, then release a set of buoys. Then a second team of two players will do the same thing. From there, a fifth team member will retrieve all of the marked buoys. Finally, two members will shoot the buoys into a basket. The first tribe to hit eight shots will win immunity and comfort items.

Result: Naviti won immunity easily after James and Donathan had a meltdown. Donathan swam to the platform while James was absolutely incapable or releasing the buoys. After much hesitation, Donathan finally went back and helped. It was sold as an inspiring moment, but the fiasco absolutely cost Malolo the challenge.

Naviti chooses to send Donathan to Ghost Island. Jacob is not pleased.

Donathan at Ghost Island

Not much to report here as Ghost Island did not offer Donathan a game.

Post-Challenge Politicking

James immediately owns up to choking during the challenge. He swears that he’ll redeem himself if he’s given another chance.

The popular opinion still seems to be to target Jacob. They decide to split the votes in case his Ghost Island story is real. Stephanie offers to get on his side to learn more about the “idol.”

Stephanie turns on the charm and Jacob doesn’t just spill the beans, he chucks them across the island. He tells her that he gave the legacy advantage to Morgan. He even tells Steph that…his…idol…is…fake.

Oh Jacob…

Stephanie seems to be entertaining the idea of working with him, because he clearly trusts her. A potential alliance of Stephanie, Jacob, Laurel, James, and Jenna is batted around. And…they seem to be targeting Michael for no rational reason.

Tribal Time

James again owns up to blowing the challenge, but nobody seems to hold it against him. Jacob stands by his belief that he’s part of the greatest tribe ever. Jenna believes a lot more thought has been put into alliances this time around. As they go to vote, Brendan tells Michael that he thinks they’re being set up.

Voting Time: Jacob votes for Michael and the rest of the votes are lost to the magic of editing.

Probst tallies and returns. He asks if anyone wants to play an idol and…nobody does. We’ve got one vote for Michael, one vote for James, one vote for Jacob, one vote for James, three votes for Jacob, and the second person voted out of “Survivor: Ghost Island” is…Jacob.

Verdict: I’m digging the Ghost Island twist, it’s like a charismatic Exile Island. Plus it’s an opportunity to reach out to former Survivors and remind them of their most public failures.

Anywho, I’m ready to see Naviti visit Tribal.

  • Stephanie – She’s got several alliance options and a ton of information. I think she played everything perfectly.
  • Wendell – He’s got all the tools to build a strong alliance. (That’s some carpenter humor for you.)
  •  Morgan – It seems weird to give you a high grade for simply opening your bag. But, it looks like you’re in pretty good shape.
  • Desiree – You had a rough run with the puzzle, but your jumpshot was solid.
  • Brendan – He’s running the show at Malolo for better or worse. But he does not seem confident in his alliance at all.
  • Domenick – Good on you for finding an idol and starting an alliance with Wendell. But, messing with Chris might cause problems. If you want him gone, just vote him out.
  • Sea-Bass-Tian – Don’t be the first to throw names out early in the game. You’re lucky it deflected to Chris.
  • Chris – I think you made the right call during the opening challenge. But, I’d bet Naviti is more likely to be on Wendell and Domenick’s side than yours.
  • Michael – What is it about you that made you an attractive name to throw out? You’d better start making friends and influencing people.
  • Donathan – You came out of that challenge fiasco looking better than James. But you need to find someone that has your back.
  • James – A bad first showing from a strong dude. Walk it off, you’ll have more chances.
  • Chelsea, Angela, Bradley, Laurel, Libby, Jenna, Kellyn – I can’t give you full credit if you don’t show your work.

Any Questions?
Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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