'Survivor Ghost Island' Episode 12: Family Matters (RECAP)

Martin Holmes
Spoiler Alert Photo: CBS

[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from Episode 12 of Survivor: Ghost Island.]

In tonight's Survivor: Ghost Island, the remaining castaways feel the love at the family visit while their Survivor family is tearing apart, but the season still fails to deliver on the drama.

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: Naviti Family Is No More

I'll start with a positive because I have a lot to complain about concerning this episode and the season in general. The Naviti alliance have been steamrolling through this game for what feels like eons, and so it was a welcome relief to see them legitimately split apart this week, even if the end result was a dud.

Kellyn, who has been the primary flag bearer for the "Naviti strong" mantra, finally wisened up after she wasn't picked to attend the Loved One's reward. I can take or leave all the sappiness that comes with the family visit, but one thing it almost always guarantees is to shed light on the true relationships within the game. Kellyn certainly received some insight and was visibly angry with how the whole proceeding went down, especially when Jeff Probst introduced a twist that allowed one of the reward participants to forgo the family picnic in favor of an advantage at Ghost Island. Wendell, who was picked to attend by Sebastian, took the offer and passed up the chance to spend time with his dad, a decision which rubbed more salt in Kellyn's wounds.

"That could have been one of us," Kellyn said, upset that Wendell was chosen over one of the four girls and then turned down his love anyway. Her frustration continued back at camp, where it wasn't just the pot of rice that was boiling over. "He wrecked someone else's visit," she exclaimed. While Kellyn's decision to turn the tables on the boys seemed emotionally driven, at least initially, she did need to start thinking about taking out Wendell and Domenick sooner rather than later. Plus, at this stage, I'm fine with whatever it takes to snap her out of her cult-like Naviti mindset.

Watching the subsets of former Naviti alliance members mount their attacks against each other was a refreshing change of pace. On one side you had Kellyn, Chelsea and Angela aiming their targets at Wendell, who himself was plotting on the other side with Domenick and Sebastian to take out Chelsea. For once, the Malolos were out of the crosshairs, as Laurel and Donathan became what Kellyn referred to as "the hottest commodity at Lavita." All of this seemed like set-up to a potentially explosive Tribal Council. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

SNUFFED: Empty Promises

The main problem I have with this season is that it's a big, fat tease. Each week the episode appears to building to this huge shift where a power move will take out one of the front-runners and completely shake the foundations of the game. Then... nothing. And the thing is, the teasing isn't even natural. It's hard to buy into the hype when half the cast is severely underedited. Chelsea has had less screentime than the hermit crabs on the beach, and so as much as we'd like to believe in change, it was incredibly unlikely that a central character like Wendell would leave before her.

Photo: CBS

In her final words, Chelsea, who ended up being eliminated, said she was happy she "went out with a bang." She must have been smoking whatever Sebastian is on, because honestly, that Tribal Council result was a whimper at best. Less the "giant game of bumper cars" she described and more like a slow, patience-testing 20-mile traffic jam. I honestly feel like the bored kid in the backseat while Wendell and Domenick take turns in the driver's seat.

Don't get me wrong, Domenick and Wendell are playing a stellar game and are both compelling enough characters in their own right. But watching them get their way week-after-week is tiring. And why do they keep getting their way? Well, we have one person to thank for that...

SNUFFED: Laurel's Dilemma

The reason why the Naviti breakdown isn't as explosive as it could (and should) be is because the Naviti alliance was never the real dominant group. Ever since the first tribe swap, Domenick and Wendell have been working closely with original Malolo members Laurel and Donathan. That foursome have kept each other in the loop for a majority of this game without arousing suspicion. They're the reason Desiree's uprising was flattened before it even took off and why Michael was never able to pull the numbers together. And they were the ones responsible for Chelsea's boot tonight — or at least, Laurel was.

Laurel is in this awkward position where she trusts her allies but isn't sure if she could beat them in the end. She has protected Domenick and Wendell for weeks, and in turn, they have shared with her vital information, like the fact they have hidden immunity idols. Having that kind of trust in Survivor is not something which should be disregarded lightly, and so I do understand Laurel's predicament, but if you can't win over them when it matters, what is the point of that trust?

Photo: CBS

In tonight's episode, Laurel was again presented with an alternative option, join forces with Kellyn, Chelsea and Angela (plus Donathan), and blindside Wendell. Not only would she be taking out one of the biggest power-players, but removing an idol in the process. Donathan was all for the idea; he's been itching to make a #BigMove for weeks now and doesn't want to regret not taking the chance while they have it. Laurel, though, was still hesitant, worried that if Wendell played his idol, the blowback could be devastating for her game. She also wasn't confident she could trust the girls moving forward as much as the two boys.

At Tribal Council, Donathan and Laurel talked openly about how cracks were finally showing in the Naviti unit, and that seemed to rattle the rest of the tribe. I'm still not sure what the plan was here, given that they both stuck with the easy move and voted out Chelsea? Donathan, especially, was relentless in his attempt to make his tribemates feel paranoid. My only guess is that Laurel had told him beforehand that she was voting Chelsea and so Donathan was trying to stir up fear so that Wendell would play and waste his idol? Donathan is likely frustrated that Laurel keeps putting the kibosh on the #BigMove, and I feel him, it's frustrating for us viewers too.

While I can understand Laurel's reluctance to rock the boat, the time to take the hit is dwindling away. Only seven players are remaining which means there are just four more Tribal Councils to try and stop Domenick and Wendell from marching to the end. Laurel knows that both men have idols and Domenick just won the last two Immunity Challenges. She also said outright that she's unsure if she could beat them at Final Tribal Council. Is Laurel happy to play for third? In an episode where the castaways talked about how they're playing for their families back home, you'd like to think Laurel still has her eyes on the prize. But her continual refusal to topple the power duo certainly makes you think otherwise. As Donathan said, that might have been their one chance to change the game and now they will live to regret it.

Photo: CBS

Extra Flames

- Domenick's wife had the best line of the family visit when she gave her husband a massive hug and whispered in his ear, "I love you and hate you so much."

- Wendell's trip to Ghost Island earned him an immunity challenge advantage, the one Malcolm messed up at the final four of Survivor: Philippines where players had to balance a ball on wooden cylinder pieces. If Wendell dropped his ball, he was allowed a second chance. Just like with Malcolm, it didn't help. What did help though was the fact this was an advantage out in the open that everyone else got to see. It was risky for Wendell to volunteer for the power, as it could have drawn suspicion and increased the already gigantic target on his back.

- Did anyone else think Probst was crying during Angela's scene with her daughter? He was heard off-screen asking her about whether missing her daughter's life while serving in the military took its toll and his voice was definitely cracking. No close-up though, I guess Probst isn't allowed to cry on camera.

- "She's my twin. We're not twins. But she's just like me" - Sebastian quote of the week when talking about his sister.

Let us know your thoughts on the latest episode in the comments below. Did Laurel make the right move? What was Donathan's intention at Tribal Council? Can Domenick and Wendell be stopped?

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

AlertMe