'Survivor Ghost Island' Episode 7: Bad Juju (RECAP)

Martin Holmes
Spoiler Alert

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from Episode 7 of Survivor: Ghost Island.]

As the pre-merge comes to a close, Ghost Island finally starts to deliver advantages, the Malolo tribe manages to reverse the curse, and a villain receives his comeuppance in the latest episode of 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!

'Survivor: Ghost Island' Castaways and Tribes Revealed (PHOTOS)

'Survivor: Ghost Island' Castaways and Tribes Revealed (PHOTOS)

Get to know the 20 members of the Malolo and Naviti tribes.

FIRE: The Return of the F**king Stick & Other Relics

After spending a large chunk of last week's recap calling out Ghost Island for being all talk and no action, it stands to reason that the very next episode would immediately begin shoveling those words back into my mouth. In a regular season, three advantages found within 20-minutes of airtime would have resulted in one or possibly both of my shoes being thrown at the TV. But this is Ghost Island, a season in which the entire premise is constructed around Survivor relics, and so I'm okay with it, especially when the advantages come with such a delightful blast of nostalgia.

The fun began when Michael discovered Ozzy's "f**king stick," the most iconic piece of wood in television history. Or at least a close second to the trademark 2x4 plank that WWE legend Hacksaw Jim Duggan used to brandish. This crudely carved bit of tree branch birthed one of the most memorable Survivor moments ever when an impressionable Jason Siska was fooled into thinking it was a genuine Hidden Immunity Idol. His belief was eventually shattered by the immortal words of Eliza Orlins - "That's not the idol. It's a f**king stick."

However, the Survivor: Micronesia relic is now more than just a f**king stick. "For 10 years this stick has been living on Ghost Island, slowly gaining power," Michael read from the note which accompanied the charred timber. "And as of this moment, it has fully matured into a real Hidden Immunity Idol." A similar situation happened later in the episode when Wendell found Erik's misused Immunity Necklace, another fabled Micronesia memento, which has also "fully matured" into a real idol. These mystical backstories the producers have given the Survivor artifacts are goofy as hell, but I'm willing to go with it. Maybe next week Dr. Sean's Superpole 2000 will have matured into a fully-functional Hawaiian sling. Or perhaps Dan Lembo's giant chair has transformed into a three-piece sofa set. Maybe even the Medallion of Power is now finally useful?!

FIRE: Kellyn's Choice

The third advantage of the episode found its way into Kellyn's hands during her second trip to Ghost Island. Her previous stay at the spooky retreat saw her turn down the chance to play for an advantage, wisely choosing not to risk her vote when her alliance had a 5-4 numbers advantage. That decision proved worthwhile. This time around Kellyn decided to "risk it for the biscuit," which again, seemed like the right choice, especially with the increased odds of two out of the three bamboos containing an advantage. The Survivor Gods were looking favorably over Kellyn as she was rewarded with the "steal a vote" advantage from Survivor: Game Changers, now reborn as an extra vote. It's not quite as exciting as the Micronesia relics, due to both the recency (and awfulness) of the season and the fact that extra votes have yet to live up to their potential as a game-changing mechanism.

Kellyn receives fire though for her decision. She is a player that has frequently spoken about trusting her gut and the timing of making a move. As she explained here, she can taste the merge approaching, and the unpredictability a merge brings is precisely why having an advantage could prove crucial. One extra vote could make all the difference at a chaotic merge vote when everyone is scrambling for numbers. Kellyn said she is ready to shed her sweet girl image and become the type of player that is tough enough to win this game. I believe she's going to make a good go of it.

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

FIRE: Malolo Flag Burning

In an episode that zeroed in on the theme of reversing curses, it made sense that the battered and beaten Malolo tribe would figure heavily in that particular story. The orange tribe has been on a soul-crushing losing streak, which continued in this episode when they lost out on a Reward of steak and chicken kabobs. In their frustration, Desiree, Michael, and Angela decided to burn their tribe banner, in the hope it would rid them of "bad juju." Amazingly, it worked! Malolo won the next Immunity Challenge... well, they came second, but in a three-tribe format, all you need to do is not finish last. We'll count that as a win for the Fire Gods!

SNUFFED: Bratty Bradley

It's funny that in an episode full of advantages and idols that the vote-off came down to such a Survivor fundamental—human behavior. The entire pre-merge has been dominated by this original Naviti versus original Malolo narrative, and Bradley was one of the leading flag-bearers for "purple power." But his position within the majority continued to inflate his ego episode after episode. "I think I'm playing an A+ game," he boasted just last week. On paper, looking strictly at the results, it was hard to argue with him. Bradley had been able to keep his alliance intact while surviving multiple Tribal Councils. But the game is about more than numbers scribbled in the sand or the color of the buff around your neck. It's about people, and more importantly, how you treat those people.

“For me, the hardest test out here is to not be a total dick," Bradley said, showing at least some self-awareness. “Because historically in my personal life, that’s been what derails it all.” The young law student seemed to recognize his biggest flaw but was unable to pick up on when it was manifesting itself within the game. He believed the tribe was "one big happy family." It was this dickish behavior which derailed his Survivor journey, only one vote removed from the merge. He barked orders at Donathan during the challenge and then clapped his hands at him to get him to hurry up back at camp. He bossed around Domenick and made snide remarks about the challenge loss. He criticized Chelsea's steak preparation skills. All of these little things become magnified tenfold in an environment like Survivor where you are living with these people 24/7 in close proximity. It's a stressful game, and the last thing you want is something bitching and whining in your ear.

Bradley became so unbearable to live with that his own Naviti allies, Domenick and Chelsea, wound up siding with Donathan and Libby to vote him out. Despite Bradley's villainous persona (which he clearly cherished) pointing to an eventual downfall, it was somewhat surprising to see him booted by his fellow Navitis this close to the merge. Domenick described the vote as a huge dilemma and even Chelsea, a woman of few words, worried about the repercussions they would face if they eliminated one of their own. Those are legitimate worries with a merge approaching, and yet they still chose to boot Bradley, which tells you how terrible his social game must have been.

FIRE: End of Chapter One

While the advantages might have taken up a significant amount of screentime, this episode delivered an appropriate ending to the sometimes thrilling and sometimes frustrating pre-merge chapter of Survivor: Ghost Island. Michael's idol find and Malolo's comeback victory brought a feel-good end to the "cursed tribe" storyline, and the elimination of Bradley was the perfect way to set-up what should be a dynamic post-merge game full of shifting allegiances and aggressive gameplay.

Before I go, here is the Survivor Brain Buster Trivia question of the week: We saw the return of Ozzy's "f**king stick" in this episode, but which former Survivor player made the first-ever fake idol?

Post your answers in the comments below, and let us know your thoughts on the latest episode. Did you get a kick out of the advantage nostalgia? Did Kellyn make the right decision at Ghost Island? Will eliminating Bradley come back to haunt the old Naviti members?

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

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