'Survivor Ghost Island' Episode 11: A Double Whammy (RECAP)

Martin Holmes
Spoiler Alert

Photo: CBS

[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from Episode 11 of Survivor: Ghost Island.]

A surprise double Tribal Council twist sends two castaways packing in tonight's Survivor: Ghost Island, but it's still not enough to shake up the game and save the dwindling Malolos.

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.

FIRE: Fixing the double

The first thing I'll say about tonight's episode is that I appreciated the effort to switch up the double elimination. Usually, at this stage of the season, CBS jams two episodes into one, meaning that across 42-minutes we have to digest two separate Immunity Challenges, two different Tribal Councils and days worth of scheming. It results in a rushed and often confusing episode that also shortchanges the two players eliminated.

Tonight took a step towards fixing that problem with a twist which saw the remaining ten players randomly split into two temporary tribes of five. That meant that two Individual Immunity Challenges would be taking place at the same time and that both tribes would attend separate Tribal Councils that same night. Also, to up the stakes of the challenge, the last person standing out of both tribes would determine which temporary grouping would go to Tribal last.

This twist immediately eliminates having to shove two episodes into one later in the season. It also solves the problem of getting the numbers down by removing two players, except now it's happening in a way that gives us a better understanding of the strategy and dynamics heading into each Tribal.

It also created this really fascinating pre-voting situation back at camp. The two groups split off and discussed their strategies heading into their specific Tribal, but you also had players crossing tribal lines, looking for help or trying to influence the other tribe's vote. Michael, for example, reached out to Donathan, hoping he would let him borrow his idol so that he could use it to fool his tribemates. It reminded me of the One World twist, which despite coming from a much-maligned season, did have potential as a concept and one which Survivor should seriously consider reusing in the future, perhaps with returning players given the in-built relationships.

Ultimately, the end result was two relatively predictable Tribals, but that was more due to the unfortunate way the numbers fell, with three Navitis and two Malolos on each tribe. The producers shouldn't feel deterred from using this twist again just because the players this season are afraid to rock the boat (or the vote).

There are, of course, other ways they could implement the double elimination. We've seen in the past two back-to-back Tribals with an Immunity Challenge taking place in between. That is always an option, though not quite as interesting as tonight's twist which created a fresh dynamic at camp. And there is always the old school option of forcing both tribes to go to Tribal in the pre-merge phase of the game — like the classic Tyson/James elimination in Heroes vs. Villains. I understand Survivor no longer likes doing the double that early in case players end up getting medically evacuated later in the season and leaves them low on numbers.

Or how about doing a Tribal where the two highest vote-getters are eliminated? It would force the majority to really think carefully about where to place their votes and give more room for the underdogs to maneuver. And if you really wanted to increase the chaos, give every player two votes each for that particular Tribal.

Photo: CBS

SNUFFED: The Pagonging continues

As I mentioned, despite the twist creating some exciting scenarios before the vote, it still ended with the elimination of Jenna and Michael, two original Malolos. This season just cannot be saved from its questionable gameplay and mind-numbing predictability.

Speaking of questionable gameplay, Jenna's approach to saving herself was odd, to say the least. She wound up on a tribe with her former Malolo mate Donathan, and three ex-Navitis, Angela, Sebastian and Chelsea, who had won Immunity for the second time in a row. Other than Donathan, this was a tribe of underedited duds and goofs. Most certainly the B-tribe. Jenna, surprisingly, was one of the more fleshed-out characters in this group, and her biggest contribution to the season was crying about the plight of Resting B**ch Face.

Jenna was the clear target for the Naviti trio, but they wanted her to feel safe and so told her that they were voting for Donathan. Jenna, knowing that Donathan had an idol, wanted to make him feel secure enough that he didn't play it. Fair enough. That makes sense. So she had a little cry to Donathan and told him she knew she was going home and that she loved him, blah, blah, blah.

Photo: CBS

Donathan then suggested he could save Jenna with his idol and blindside Sebastian. How did Jenna repay this offer of kindness? She called him an "idiot" behind his back and said she'd be happy for him to waste his idol on her as he leaves. You have one of your only remaining allies telling you he'd be willing to use his idol on you and you STILL want to vote him out? I'm not sure what game Jenna was playing or if she was even playing at all, but her decision-making here was baffling.

At Tribal, Jenna continued to play the "I'm going home" act, and it was so blatantly obvious that she thought she was safe that I'm not surprised Donathan decided to play his idol on himself. If I was him, I'd also have suspected that Jenna was trying to pull a fast one, which she was, it's just that she didn't realize the Navitis were also pulling one over on her. Goodbye Jenna, at least her RBF is the perfect look for a Survivor jury member.

FIRE: Michael's final effort

The second Malolo victim of the night at least put up a commendable fight to save himself. That's been Michael's MO this entire season. He's the perpetual underdog that never gives up.

Just like Jenna and Donathan, Michael and Laurel found themselves outnumbered 2-to-3 against Domenick, Wendell and Kellyn. The A-tribe, made up of all the camera hogs. Things looked especially bleak for Michael who has been a massive target for weeks and lacked the connections that Laurel has with Domenick and Wendell. Michael's only move was to concoct a convincing lie, and so he told Kellyn that he had an idol and was playing it regardless. Even though the 18-year-old had no physical proof, his resume of idol finding was enough to spook Kellyn.

Kellyn's paranoia quickly spread around camp and for the second week in a row her gut was steering her in the wrong direction. Domenick was not convinced at all that Michael had an idol — probably because he knows he and Wendell already have two of the damn things. But Domenick's words weren't enough to calm Kellyn, and so she considered using her Extra Vote advantage to throw two votes on Laurel just in case Michael did pull out an idol at Tribal.

Photo: CBS

To his credit, Michael played the rest of the afternoon almost perfectly. He didn't scramble or throw anyone under the bus. He acted cool and confident, further building up the suspicion that he did indeed have an idol. Even Laurel started to worry and approached Wendell about potentially voting for Kellyn, which he seemed open to. This is what I mean about the twist creating some compelling camp action; it just failed to amount to anything at Tribal itself.

Michael's gambit almost paid off. Kellyn did use her power to throw two votes at Laurel. And in turn, Laurel voted for Kellyn. It was only Domenick and Wendell that stuck to the original plan and voted for Michael, forcing a 2-2 tie between the two Malolos. In the end, Michael cost himself by putting his vote on Wendell instead of Laurel. Had he voted for Laurel she would have been eliminated with three votes against her, though he wasn't to know about Kellyn's Extra Vote advantage.

Now we're left with just two original Malolos, Donathan and Laurel, and six original Naviti, Domenick, Wendell, Kellyn, Angela, Sebastian and Chelsea. Given that the Dom-Wendell-Donathan-Laurel alliance has received significant focus throughout the season, I would expect this group to start knocking out some of the old Naviti members next week... surely?

Extra Flames

- Domenick found David Wright's fake idol from Millennials vs. Gen-X, and unlike previous relics on this season, this particular artifact has not gained power. It's still just a phony idol which Domenick can use to fool another player if he so chooses. Hmm. Okay. It seems rather pointless, even more so because Domenick already has his own fake idol.

- Sticking with Domenick, he won Immunity on his tribe after a close battle with his alliance partner Wendell. I enjoyed the friendly back-and-forth banter between these two at the challenge. Earlier in the episode, both men promised to stick together until the end, but privately Domenick told us he'd cut Wendell if need be. That's the real battle we need to see to give this season some oomph!

- Chelsea hasn't had a single confessional since the merge. And she's won two Immunity Challenges. Did she make fun of Probst's dress sense or something?

- "I think we should do another fruity rice batch" - Sebastian quote of the week.

Let us know your thoughts on the latest episode in the comments below. Did you like the two Tribal Councils twist? How could the twist be improved upon in future seasons? Could Michael have thought of another way to save himself?

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

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