‘Survivor Ghost Island’ Episode 6: Stepping Up (RECAP)

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from Episode 6 of Survivor: Ghost Island.]

Another swap shakes up the game but it’s not enough to reverse the bad fortune of the original Malolo tribe, as the sixth castaway is sent packing in Survivor: Ghost Island.

As always in Survivor, fire represents your life, and so it does here in our recaps. Each week we’ll be breaking down the episodes into moments and moves worthy of fire, and moments/moves that should be snuffed out. Also, make sure to read to the end of the recap for a special Survivor Brain Buster Trivia question!

SNUFFED: The Malolo Curse

“This is Survivor: Ghost Island. It’s all about reversing curses, not creating new ones,” Michael said in tonight’s episode as the Malolo tribe lost their fifth Immunity Challenge of the season. The young real estate agent is dead on; the Survivor Gods must have put a hex on those orange buffs. No matter the configuration, the Malolo tribe seems destined for failure, especially the OG Malolos who wound up outnumbered 3-to-2 on each of the three new tribes.

Another tribe switch seemed inevitable; it’s part of Survivor‘s lust for #BigMoves, and a swap from two tribes to three is an attempt to prevent Pagongings and help induce a more dynamic style of gameplay. But this season isn’t playing ball. Malolo keep losing and their original tribe members continue to fall. Frustrating to watch? Certainly. But credit where credit is due to the OG Navitis holding strong.

SNUFFED: Unable to Adapt

Jeff Probst described the swap as a turning point in the game where the strong players shine and the weak players fade. James was ready to step up, declaring that the first phase of the game was over and it was now a race to the merge. The 24-year-old business analyst pulled off a shrewd move back in the third episode (the only time the Naviti tribe attended Tribal Council) which gave the ex-Malolos the majority. His methodical thinking combined with Naviti’s winning streak made a deep run seem likely. But the cruelty of the swap removed James from the majority and put him on the outside along with perpetual underdog Michael and three OG Navitis in Angela, Desiree, and Kellyn.

Unlike the previous Malolo tribe, which saw an unbreakable five stonewalling the minority, this new formation looked to at least have a couple of cracks to exploit. Desiree and Kellyn were hoping to pull in their old Naviti mate Angela and move forward purple strong, but having been burned by Naviti in the past, Angela was a big question mark. While Desiree and Kellyn worried about whether they could trust Angela, James was concerned about Michael, someone who had previously voted for him. But with limited options, James and Michael apparently needed each other and so looked to flip Angela over to their side. James compared the situation to moving from Korea to America at a young age—having to adapt to a new life, a new language, and new friends. Even though the swap dealt him a bad hand, he was hoping to prove how strong of a player he was by making it work.

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

James wasn’t the only player ready to take the spotlight on Malolo, Desiree was also out to prove herself, taking on the daunting task of caller in the blindfold Immunity Challenge. When Desiree choked, costing Malolo the win after a huge lead, she took full responsibility for the loss. It seemed like the perfect excuse for James to push the “keep challenge strength” agenda, and that’s exactly what he did, pointing to the merge as the next goal for each member of the tribe. But the case has been made throughout this season that social strength is just as important as physical strength, if not more so, and long-term relationships are the deciding factor here.

Though upset about her challenge failure, Desiree wasn’t prepared to give up, and she laid out her case for why they should get rid of James. The crux of her argument hinged on the wildcard factor, saying that nobody really knows James and that could be dangerous moving forward. Heading into Tribal Council, Angela appeared to be the decision-maker between Desiree and James, however, when the votes came in, it was 4-1 against James, with even Michael voting out his former OG Malolo. It just goes to show that social strength does trump physical strength so far this season, as Desiree and Kellyn clearly have a better grasp of the relationships, so much so that they’ve even bought Michael’s loyalty, at least for the moment.

James put up a valiant effort, but I believe that sometimes his machine-like approach to the game hinders his relationships. When it comes to somebody like Angela—despite what she told Probst about playing with her head—it’s clear that her heart is guiding her game. In an emotional confessional, she talked about feeling a sense of loneliness in her life after leaving the military, going through a divorce (seemingly a side-theme of the season), and seeing her daughter off to college. Her frequent references to family throughout the season make it obvious she is looking for her place to fit in, and I’m not sure James’ strategy-focused gameplay could compete with Kellyn and Desiree’s more heartfelt touch.

FLAME: The Ridiculousness of Chris Noble

The spirits were much higher on the new Yanuya tribe which is made up of Laurel, Jenna, Sebastian, Wendell, and last but not least, the one and only, Chris Noble. Despite having to start from the scratch, the group had a positive outlook on their chances moving forward and were appreciative of the fresh start. I mean, how can you be in a bad mood when Chris Noble is around? And we must call him by his full name because that’s the kind of respect he demands. Chris Noble is honestly casting gold—and if you don’t believe me, just ask him. “You know when you’re a big athletic guy and charismatic as I am, I won’t lie to you, it’s exhausting,” Chris Noble informed us mere mortals who would never understand what it’s like to walk a day in his undoubtedly expensive shoes.

While the new tribe bonded and got to know each other better, Chris Noble loomed like an all-seeing, all-knowing deity, dropping casual boasts into the conversation whenever he saw fit. Laurel is an accomplished college volleyball player? Pfft! Chris Noble single-handedly won a beach volleyball tournament in Chicago, probably in the middle of a snowstorm. That’s not all: Chris Noble is also a top of the range model; mirrors shatter in his presence because they know they will never reflect such beauty ever again. He doesn’t want everyone to know he’s a model though in case they misjudge him as “self-absorbed” or “dumb” and that wouldn’t be “beneficiary” for him in a tribe setting. Gold!

For some reason, and I can’t for the life of me think why, but the rest of the tribe didn’t seem so gung-ho about Chris Noble’s remarkable life accomplishments. Apparently it’s not just exhausting being Chris Noble but having to live with him too.

FLAME: Domenick Lets His Hair Down

Domenick has been trying to escape Chris Noble since Day 1 and finally got a reprieve when he was swapped onto New Naviti along with Donathan, Libby, Bradley, and Chelsea. It’s sometimes easy to miss during the loudness of the Domenick versus Chris battle, but the 38-year-old construction supervisor is actually playing a really solid social game. I mean, just look at how happy Bradley and Chelsea were to be back in his presence, though that might mainly have been for the coffee and comfort.

While Bradley continued to bask in his arrogance, clearly playing up to the villain role (unlike Chris Noble who is simply in his natural state), Domenick set to work on rebuilding old bonds and painting new targets. He has his sights on Libby, which is more than can be said for the cameras. Domenick described Libby as “the devil in an angel’s body” and warned Bradley that she is “no good.” It’s difficult to say whether this is just gameplay or if Domenick truly believes this because as viewers we have seen very little of Libby. At one point he referred to her as “Parvati 2.0” and that’s when things started to get a little far-fetched. She hasn’t torn anyone’s heart out and stomped on it just yet. But in terms of self-preservation, I can understand Domenick painting a target on someone like Libby.

PARTIALLY SNUFFED: Ghost Island Goes on Spring Break

Tonight we learned that this season’s spooky twist, Ghost Island, is taking a sabbatical, and I’m conflicted. After the increase in idols and advantages in recent years, my fear going into this season was that Ghost Island would be the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of Survivor twists. An overindulgence of tricks and treats sure to leave you sick to your stomach. I was expecting an avalanche of advantages to consume the game from start to finish. To my surprise, Ghost Island has barely produced a light drizzle in terms of advantages (its delivered a torrential downpour in tears). Across five episodes only two advantages were offered and just one of those actually acquired (the Legacy Advantage back in Episode 1). Now, the Survivor graveyard has temporarily closed its gates, further reducing its impact on the season.

Part of me is delighted that Ghost Island is so ineffective as a “game-changer.” Rather than being used as deus ex machina central, the ghoulish getaway has instead conjured moments of introspection and character depth that we may have otherwise missed. For that alone, I can appreciate Ghost Island as a concept. But there’s another part of me that wonders… what is the point? You see, before Ghost Island, there was Exile Island, where castaways would spend the night alone and perhaps have a chance to discover an idol or at least a clue to an idol. Currently, Ghost Island isn’t much different from Exile, and at least Exile felt more consistent as a concept. And that brings me to my biggest problem with Ghost Island: the lack of consistency.

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

There are always teething problems when trying out a new idea, and so I can forgive the show to a certain extent, but there are some fatal flaws in the concept. Initially, those sent to Ghost Island bypassed Tribal Council, essentially providing them with Immunity. After three votes, that stopped, and the Ghost Island inhabitant had to return before the following Immunity Challenge. Unfair? Perhaps. But at least when this happened to Kellyn in Episode 4, she received a chance at an advantage. That’s more than can be said for Stephanie last week, who got royally screwed by the inconsistency of Ghost Island. Stephanie didn’t get to skip Tribal Council nor was she offered an opportunity to gain an advantage. Therefore all she received was a 24-hour banishment from her tribe where she lost out on vital strategizing and time to search for a potentially game-saving idol. Then just to rub it in further, the day after she’s voted out the tribes swap again and Ghost Island disappears!

This is why I’m so conflicted. I appreciate that Ghost Island isn’t spitting out advantage after advantage, but if its primary purpose is to provide emotional character depth, then why not just bring Exile Island back? At least that format has consistent rules. Right now, Ghost Island is like a poltergeist that hasn’t yet harnessed its powers and so just wails in the background now and then to remind you it’s still there.

Extra Flames

– Wendell handing Sebastian his favorite (and apparently smelly) shell from the original Naviti beach was a stroke of genius. In a game of #BigMoves and #Blindsides, it’s those little human moments that go a long way.

– The Blindfold challenge always seems like an excuse to laugh at people hurting themselves, and a couple of people took big hits here, I’m looking at you Libby and Chelsea!

– Michael voting out James was a little surprising to me at first, but it makes sense when you remember he promised to show the Naviti alliance loyalty last week. It might even be enough to save him over Angela should Malolo lose the next Immunity Challenge.

Before I go, here is the Survivor Brain Buster Trivia question of the week: Which was the first season to include three separate tribes?

Post your answers in the comments below, and let us know your thoughts on the latest episode. Is Ghost Island working as a concept? Could James have found another way to survive? Will the original Naviti continue to steamroll the game?

Survivor: Ghost Island, Wednesdays, 8/7c, CBS