'Survivor Ghost Island' Episode 8: The Showdown (RECAP)

Martin Holmes

[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from Episode 8 of Survivor: Ghost Island.]

The merge arrives with the promise of a fresh start for the 13 remaining castaways, but Chris and Domenick are unable to put aside their differences, leading to an epic showdown 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!

FIRE: Battle for the Ages

If there has been one consistent throughout this season, it's that Chris and Domenick do not like each other. They are the Joan Crawford and Bette Davis of Survivor; a rivalry so intense that Ryan Murphy should use it as inspiration for the next season of Feud. After so much screen time dedicated to the pair, the culmination of their conflict needed a satisfying payoff and boy did they deliver big time in this episode.

The merge can often be a time of mad scrambling and ever-changing alliances. As old tribal allegiances dissolve and the individual game comes into focus, each player is looking for a place to fit in. That usually means a lot of confusion, huddled whispers, and multiple boot options. But not in this episode. The battle between Chris and Domenick was out in the open for all to see. There was no hiding it, especially after Wendell's failed peace summit between the two foes. Chris was too "suave" to fall for Domenick's offer, and Domenick was sick and tired of Chris' arrogance and entitlement. "These two could blow up the world," Wendell said, and that's precisely what they did — all the others had to do was pick a side and enjoy the fireworks.

You could argue that such a focus on two characters is a disservice to the other 11 castaways, but I'm not sure what else the producers could have done here. It's obvious that Chris versus Domenick was the dominant narrative. The other players couldn't help but be sucked into the feud. That was evident based on the reactions we saw in this very episode. Dom versus Chris was the hot topic around camp. Jenna and Libby weighed their options regarding which side to join. Donathan played spy, passing back information to Domenick about Chris' plan to split the vote between him and Wendell. And, fresh off her impressive Immunity Challenge win, Kellyn corralled the four original Naviti women to discuss an alternative option — using the proposed split vote to aim their votes at an original Malolo, specifically Libby, who Desiree and Angela did end up voting for later. This wasn't a rivalry manufactured by editing; it was very real.

Through all the back-and-forth bickering, failed peace summits, corny Chris Noble raps, and the fight to gain troops, the showdown delivered because the war had a winner. Chris, at his very first Tribal Council of the season, had his torch snuffed, literally moments after he dipped it into the fire to light it up. If the Chris versus Domenick saga didn't come to a close here, it ran the risk of overstaying its welcome and overwhelming the other personalities still in the game. Instead, the feud ended with a bang, in a hilariously open Tribal Council where Chris and Domenick laid all their cards out on the table and they were even able to part ways with a pat on the back.

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

SNUFFED: The Legend of Chris Noble

Why did the tribe decide to eliminate Chris over Domenick? It comes back to this idea of social strength which has been a consistent theme throughout the season. The game of Survivor is not just about talking to people; it's about HOW you talk to people. For all of Chris' physical strength used to win challenges, he lacked the social strength required to win over the people. "I feel like he's talking AT me, rather than WITH me," Angela said back in the third episode. Like Bradley last week, Chris lacked self-awareness, he talked down to people, and it rubbed them the wrong way. He needed to build strong individual relationships, rather than dragging ten people down to the well and telling them how to vote. If people don't feel like they're in a two-way conversation, it's difficult for them to work with you as an ally.

While I believe it was the right time for the rivalry to end, Chris Noble's presence will be missed on the season. Whether he was spitting terrible raps ("Life is supposed to be rich, don’t make it cheaper/Like LeBron in the finals, I won’t take a breather”), comparing himself to all-star athletes ("I would love to compare myself to Dwayne Wade. I started at the bottom and now I’m here"), or mispronouncing words ("benefishrury"), Chris Noble was one of a kind.

FIRE: Secret Trip to Ghost Island

I haven't even mentioned yet that Chris went home with a hidden immunity idol in his pocket. While dealing with stomach cramps after the merge feast, Chris found a secret note stitched to the inside of his randomly selected merge buff. The note informed the male model that there was an idol waiting at Ghost Island, but to obtain it he had to sneak away from camp in the middle of the night and hop aboard a boat which would take him to the spooky resort. I loved this twist. Not only did it provide some extra stakes, but it was an exciting way of incorporating Ghost Island rather than the usual "send someone from the losing tribe" mechanic. Also, Ghost Island looked beautifully ominous lit up at night.

As for the idol Chris found, it was J.T.'s from Game Changers, the one which he left back at camp the night he was blindsided. I feel like there has already been too many advantages from Game Changers — I mean, can something from just two seasons ago really be considered a relic? What would have been better is if this was J.T.'s idol from Heroes vs. Villains, the one he wrapped up in a handwritten note and passed off to Russell Hantz, only to be voted out with it at the merge Tribal Council. The twist could have been that Chris had to hand the idol off to someone else.

Instead, the twist was that the idol was only good for the next Tribal — unless Chris risked his next vote. He could choose to play the game five times and each time he won he'd extend the idol's life by one Tribal. Of course, Chris decided to risk it, succeeding in his first attempt, then losing his vote in his second. But still, an idol that can be used at one of the next two Tribals is better than no idol at all. "J.T. definitely got a little cocky. I don’t want to be that guy that gets sent home that had an idol and didn’t use it. So I definitely plan on reversing the curse," Chris said. Oops. The Survivor gods do enjoy irony.

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

Extra Flames

- Wendell may have taken the crown for the best voting confessional ever. It was just 30-seconds of him ripping into Chris Noble's rapping ability or lack thereof. "Stop rapping. You're trash... at rapping. You're garbage at rapping. You can't rap. You have no bars. Put the mic down, bro. Put the pen down — use an eraser."

- Domenick used the Legacy Advantage at Tribal Council, and while it turned out that he didn't need it, I don't blame him for using it. He clearly had heat on him, and with a real idol still sitting in his pocket, why not play it safe and use the Legacy at one of its two designated times of usage?

- There was a brilliant bit of editing where Domenick was talking about Chris' ego and the footage kept cutting back and forth between Dom's narration and Chris' ridiculous boasting. You can tell the editors had a hell of a lot of fun with Chris Noble.

Before I go, here is the Survivor Brain Buster Trivia question of the week: We saw Chris eliminated with an idol in his pocket this episode, but who was the first player in Survivor history to be voted out with an idol in their possession? And for a bonus, how many players overall have been eliminated while holding idols?

Post your answers in the comments below, and let us know your thoughts on the latest episode. Did you enjoy the Chris vs. Dom showdown? Did the tribe make the right decision booting Chris instead of Dom? Is Chris' rapping really that bad?

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

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