Chelsea wins immunity.

By Dalton Ross
May 02, 2018 at 09:01 PM EDT
S36 E11
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C’mon in, guys! We’ll now welcome my can of Pabst Blue Ribbon returning from Ghost Island…also known as my refrigerator. First things first, Chelsea, I have to take it back, and when I say “it” I am referring to yet another can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Yes, I am now double fisting — which indeed is difficult considering I also need both hands to type, but never you worry about that.

Okay, a new Survivor recap is up for grabs. For today’s Survivor recap, you must scroll endlessly through repetitive nonsense, where you will come across four pages filled with half-baked strategic theories. Open your eyes up to those and then use those theories to solve a puzzle of obscure pop-culture references, unintentional typos, and intermittent obsessions over the color of host-related headgear. First person to finish wins immunity and a 1 in 10 shot of wanting to blow their own brains out.

Ah, but if it were only that simple. Because you know this show’s motto: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!!!! Wait, no, that’s another show’s motto. What I meant to say was…DROP YOUR BUFFS!!!! No, that’s not right either. We’ve already done that too many times this season. What I really meant was…look, I don’t have a snappy catchphrase that comes to mind right now, but suffice it to say that we’re throwing in yet another twist to shake things up! That’s because we will be splitting this recap up into two temporary recaps this week: the Purple Recap and the Orange Recap. And because orange is clearly the mightiest color in the Survivor universe, it gets to go last and see what happened in the Purple Recap before it makes its decision as to whether to embed any more terrible white-people-rapping videos.

Okay, immunity from doing any actual work or socializing with other human beings is on the line. Survivor fans ready…GO!

Look, I’m just going to tell you right now: the Purple Recap is going to most likely be a hell of a lot shorter than the Orange Recap. Because when Probst split the tribe up into two temporary tribes and told them they would each compete in immunity against each other and go to separate Tribal Councils to vote someone out, pretty much all the best gamers and biggest personalities ended up on Orange.

Purple was left with Donathan, two people whose storylines almost exclusively center around their challenge performances, someone best known for her self-proclaimed Resting Bitch Face, and Stoner McGee. All genuinely nice people, but not exactly a tribe chock full o’ powerhouses. To that point, Sea Bass’ biggest contribution to this episode was professing his desire for a fruity rice batch of papaya (while Wendell and Dom were over talking game, incidentally). You know what? That’s not fair. Sea Bass’ biggest contribution to this episode was actually the following:

The good news for all of the players after the division into two temporary tribes was that everybody now doubled their chance of winning immunity to 20 percent. The bad news was they doubled their chance of being voted out to 20 percent as well. The challenge itself had the players pulling down on a bar that clamped a ball between a set of jaws. If you released the pressure from the bar, the ball would drop and you were out. The Purple folks actually equated themselves pretty well in this one. Three of the first four folks out were Orange (although we’ll get more into that in the Orange Recap).

Eventually it came down to Chelsea vs. Angela. After 15 minutes, Chelsea had two slips, moving her ball to the edge of elimination, while Angela — not unlike Ashford & Simpson — looked solid as a rock. Yet out of nowhere, Angela’s ball rolled all the way out on her first slip. For Chelsea, it was her second straight immunity challenge win — although two people from Purple lasted longer, so do we give her the credit for a full win? Is this an asterisk situation? Is it now one-and-a-half immunity wins in a row for her?

The problem with Chelsea winning immunity, however, is that it left a humungous “What If?” unanswered. What if Chelsea had not been safe? She was out of the loop last week on the Desiree vote so does that mean the vote would not have gone down tribal lines (with three Naviti and two Malolo)? We’ll never know, but with her safe, that’s the way things looked to shake out.

However, Donathan had an ace up his sleeve — which is to say an idol down his pants. (I actually don’t know where Donathan hides his idol, but that has proven to be a pretty popular hiding spot over the years. Some people go front of the pants. Some go back. At some point when I have way too much time on my hands I will do a statistical analysis of front vs. back pants idol hiding and how that also breaks down along gender lines.)

And Donathan’s idol was the topic of conversation during my favorite scene of the episode between Donathan and — in a crossover episode of epic proportions — Michael from the Purple Recap. It went a little something like this:

MICHEAL: “Would you let me borrow it just for like the next hour to show one of them…” DONATHAN: “No.”
MICHAEL: “…so they think I have one?”
MICHAEL: “You wouldn’t?”
MICHAEL: “Why not?”
DONATHAN: “Because I don’t want it to link back to me and my plans blow up.”

I love the zero hesitation on Donathan’s part. No need to pause for the cause or hem and haw or awkwardly pretend that he would think about it. Now, yes, he could have been a bit nicer about it and explained that he had to have it with him in case he felt like he was in danger at the last minute and maybe apologized once or twice and thrown up a fake frowny face or something to show how sorry he was for screwing over his former Malolo mate, but to see Donathan be so ruthless is kinda legit. I liked him a lot when we spoke before the game, but I also had him pegged as very naïve and someone that might get taken advantage of early in the game. I could not have been more wrong. Donathan is not there just to get out of Kentucky for the first time in his entire life and meet people from different places and different races (“James is so exotic!”). He’s there to win. And I like it. (Recap continues on next page)

This was a rare moment of clarity in what later became very confusing. As far as I can tell, it went down something like this: Sea Bass said that Jenna was going home. Jenna then threw Donathan under the bus and asked Naviti to vote him out. Sea Bass was then all “Huh? What? Did you say something? Vote Donathan? Totally motally! How low go Malolo go go, don’t you know know?” Then Jenna convinced Donathan the vote was on her so he would not use his idol on himself, thereby sending her home if Naviti split their votes. Then Donathan had a momentary lapse of Malolo pride as images of Jeffrey Probst whispering “BIG MOVEZZZZZZZZZ!” danced in his head, so he told Jenna to vote for Sea Bass and that he would use his idol on Jenna. Than Jenna called Donathan an idiot and talked about how she was going to vote his ass out and then pretend to act surprised when he got sent to the jury. (Whether she said this with Resting Bitch Face on not remains up for debate.) Then Donathan said what he would do at Tribal Council “depends on what my gut tells me tonight,” which seemed to be a sure sign that he was headed for the jury because nobody’s gut has been right all season long — and that is not a reference to the frequent bathroom trips that accompany every reward challenge feast. (#SevereGastrointestinalDistress)

So off we went to Tribal Council to start a big back and forth discussion about the merits of trust and loyalty vs…Wait, what’s that? The vote is already in? THEY HAVEN’T EVEN SAT DOWN YET! HOW COULD THEY ALREADY HAVE VOTED? But I swear it seems like that’s what happened. Less than a minute in and Jenna was already proclaiming, “It is pretty obvious that I am the one going home tonight. So I’m ready to vote.”

Which may be the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. Because if you are sure that you are the target, you do everything possible and within your power to move that target off you. You work every angle and every insecurity you can until your torch has been snuffed. The last thing you do is ask to get right to the vote. I guess this was her version of faking people out, but if I am anyone but Jenna in that situation my Spidey sense is tingling in a major way after hearing that. As a side note, I’d like to apologize for using the word “tingling.” For thing, it’s way to close to “tinkling” and tinkling is a gross word. For another, I’m guessing that when the majority of people think of tingling, their first thoughts do not go to Spider-Man. Not only does tingling sound too much like tinkling, but tingling tends to be associated with things that go tinkle. The point it, I should have just stayed away form the word entirely, but what can I say? I, like, most of America, have been mesmerized by Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker and simply got carried away.

What were we talking about again? Right! Jenna! Anyway, this was a pretty terrible bluff on her part and I can’t help but wonder if it possibly then led to Donathan later changing his mind and using his Kaoh Rong idol on himself. Had Jenna not acted so anxious to get to the voting, might Donathan have still given it to her and saved her? He didn’t, and she was voted out.

As for Jonathan with a D, he made the right call in not giving it to Jenna (or he surely would have been eliminated on the revote) but the wrong one in using it at all since it just got burned unnecessarily. I’m not going to blame him for that. Something was fishy, he could sense it, and was correct in sensing it, so he played it. Better to be safe than sorry. Just ask The Noble One.

Speaking of sorry, Jenna didn’t even get to gather her thoughts, guess how much weight she had lost, and go act shocked while looking at a mirror before scarfing down a giant burger filled with pizza and French fries at Ponderosa. Instead, she had to go immediately sit on the jury for the Orange Tribal Council to follow. That’s straight up brutal. Instead of getting any time to collect and compose herself after a double blindside (not getting the idol, getting voted out) she didn’t see coming, she had to go sit with the other losers and watch folks still playing the game she was in five minutes ago!

And, to make matters even worse, she didn’t even get her final words. No “Wow, that was a total blindside. Did not see that coming. They got me.” No “Obviously it wasn’t the way I wanted it to end, but this has been the adventure of a lifetime and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” No “First of all, I didn’t deserve to be voted out. I didn’t! I’m gonna make sure those freakin’ evil stepsisters of mine are not going to win the million dollars Not gonna happen!” Just silence… which I suppose is basically in keeping with the edit Jenna got this entire season. Man, Survivor is so cruel, which is probably why I love it.

Okay, that’s going to about do it for the Purple Recap, but stay tuned for part 2 with our Orange Recap as we recount everything else that went down on the island this week with the other five contestants.

The episode began with Wendell proclaiming “Thank God for Lauren,” and expressing his undying gratitude for letting them know about Desiree’s plan to get rid of them. But what was so absolutely fantastic about this scene was not Wendell’s appreciation, but rather the look on Kellyn’s face as all of this was taking place. I have no idea if they serve Keystone Light in Fiji — in fact, I have no idea if Keystone Light even still exists — but Kellyn was rocking some serious bitter beer face in this scene.

Remember, Kellyn was the one who refused to believe Laurel’s assertion that Desiree and Chelsea were coming after her. Let’s hope her intuition is better this week! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call ironic foreshadowing. Speaking of foreshadowing, right after Laurel told us how she now had locked in protection from Wendell, Dom, and Kellyn, we hear from Kellyn that she’s still not sure she wants to work with the woman who just saved her in the game. Hmmm… (Recap continues on next page)

Moving on, here’s a question: Why are idols and advantages the past few seasons only found by men? That was a point made by one of my astute Twitter followers after I mentioned how women had won 10 straight immunity challenges dating back to last season. And she was right — while women have been destroying men in the challenges, the vast majority of idols and advantages are found by men. I’ve heard a few theories as to this. Some former players have opined that the chores around camp often divide up under traditional gender lines (with women taking care of the shelter and kitchen while men act as hunters/collectors, which gives them more time to search). Others have noted that men appear to be more aggressive in searching them out, often because they are (often incorrectly) deemed the biggest targets and need the protection. And yet others have suggested it is rigged for men to find them. (It’s not.)

In any event, here we went again as Dom went searching and Dom ended up finding — in this case a coconut with an emblem on it. In a very clever move by producers, inside they placed David’s fake idol that he hid in an emblem marked coconut in Millennials vs. Gen X. Unfortunately for Dom, the magical, mystical powers of Ghost Island had not turned Dave’s artistic masterpiece into the real deal. It was still phony baloney. But at least it was Dom’s phony baloney to do with as he saw fit.

However, here’s another question: Unless your nickname is Sea Bass, would anyone really believe it was a real idol without the note? That’s the issue with fake idols now is that all anyone has to do is ask to see the note, and unless you want to pull a Dom and make a fake idol using the note from your real one — and was that really worth all the trouble? — then you’re kind of out of luck at this point. (Now go watch Angela or someone totally fall for this in two weeks.)

Let’s go to the immunity challenge. Now the rules for this one were…you know what? Just go back and read the description from the Purple Recap. It’s the exact same thing. Although it played out a bit differently here. Kellyn, Michael, and Laurel all dropped early, setting up a Dom vs. Wendell showdown — complete with more trash talk than Oscar the Grouch. Seriously, this was one of the biggest brodown throwdowns I have ever seen. Just bros being bros. A little good-natured competition complete with it’s own brocabulary soundtrack.

After Chelsea dropped for Purple, it meant that Orange would go to the second of the two Tribal Councils. Not that I think that really mattered all that much, but someone had to go first and someone had to go last, so there you go. After some more friendly smack talk, it was Wendell that finally dropped out, handing the immunity necklace to his bromance partner. While I’m not suggesting one of them should have purposefully dropped out earlier — because you never know what is going to happen and should always go for the absolute protection of immunity — the fact that they both held on for over half an hour and were also so clearly cementing themselves as a seemingly unbreakable duo shows that they probably would have been better served had that epic duel been considerably less epic.

Since he did not win, Michael had the good sense to realize he was currently in a mound of manure roughly equivalent to the one that filled Biff Tannen’s car in Back to the Future. So he asked to “borrow” Donathan’s idol “just for, like, the next hour,” promising that he absolutely, positively would not use it. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

But as humorous as that was, good on Michael for trying. Why not, right? After all, that’s not half as ridiculous as telling someone you have an idol, not showing it to them, and them still believing you have it. I mean, that would never work!………Sorry, what’s that? Kellyn fell for it, you say? Nope, no chance. She’s too savvy. She may have been fooled by Desiree and Chelsea — who are not exactly Kim Spradlin and Parvati Shallow when it comes to deception skills — but there is no way in hell she would be fooled two weeks in a row. No way. Couldn’t happen.

It happened.

I was yelling at Kellyn “ASK TO SEE IT!” Domenick was telling Kellyn “Ask to see it.” Even Michael himself was likely saying, “You know, you should probably ask to see it.” Because why in the name of Tata the Bushman would you ever believe him otherwise? There’s no reason. No reason at all. The only possible explanation I can come up with is that Kellyn refused to believe the rumors last week and almost went home because of it, so it’s as if she now has switched to the opposite extreme, making like a Def Leppard album and gone all paranoia. Which led to Kellyn insisting to Dom and Wendell that Michael had the idol and saying she wanted to vote for Laurel instead because of it.

I don’t know what’s going on with Kellyn here. She was DYING to get rid of Michael last week, flat-out demanding it to Domenick even though all the evidence pointed to her being the target. And yet now she was way too easily scared off the plan by a pretty lame and undercooked ruse. Kellyn’s other fatal flaw is that she clearly has no idea just how close Wendell and Laurel are, because she otherwise would not have told him about the intention to get rid of her — which Wendell promptly reported back to Laurel. I have a new strategy for Kellyn: Whatever Kellyn’s gut is telling her for the rest of the season, she should do the opposite. (Recap continues on next page)

So where would the votes fall? Hopefully on nobody because I was really not ready for any of these five to leave. They have each brought something different to this season and I appreciate them all. Even the little things like the way Kellyn started getting all giggly about how handsome Michael was at Tribal Council, for instance. Like, why would anyone do that? (And how much did it freak her out when she found out later he was barely legal?) Kellyn’s goofiness is endearing — at least it is to me. Maybe I’m just a weirdo.

So after Domenick and Wendell sang their ABCs, it was time for the vote — six of them, to be exact. That’s because Kellyn used her extra vote advantage. There have been some instances the past two seasons where people have lost votes but the contestants could not do the math on the spot to figure out that the number of votes and voters did not match up, but here you could see the confusion on faces (at least on the jury) after Probst read five of them and said “One vote left.” And the vote was on Laurel (Kellyn’s second on her), creating a tie with Michael and causing a revote. So much like Donathan’s wasted idol, Kellyn wasted her extra vote (although the strategy for using his was a lot more sound than for hers).

Michael then went home unanimously on the revote, ending his super scrappy game in which he always seemed to be hanging on by a thread after the first tribe swap. Michael was an impressive player. He didn’t look 18 and he didn’t act 18 either. He wasn’t just good at finding idols, he was also good at using leverage or perceived leverage. He never sat back, and because he was so likeable, he was a huge threat to win should he have made it to the end. The only real demerit I can put on him is that you would have thought an athletic-looking 18-year-old would have performed better in challenges, and he was pretty much a non-factor in that regard. But again, you could easily make the case that Michael was the most impressive teenager to ever appear on the show. (Which is probably why everyone hugged him instead of Jenna on the way out.)

But before we finish up, I suppose I should tell you what I thought of the whole twist of splitting up the tribes and having two Tribal Councils. The one thing you have to keep in mind while assessing is that at some point there had to be a double elimination. There were simply too many people, which is what happens when you start off with 20 players and nobody gets medically evacuated. So if you’re going to have to double down on getting rid of people, what’s the best way to do it?

Another option would have been to go Big Brother (or Survivor finale) style and do a speed round where you cram two weeks worth of action into a single hour without splitting everyone up. And yes, randomly splitting people up is adding even more luck into a situation that usually piles such uncontrolled twists and turns into the pre-merge portion of the season while letting the post-merge game play out with less interference. It could have made me wince had someone played a perfect game this late in the game only to be undone by a random reordering that left them down in numbers, but I’m generally okay with it.

That’s because the players (and viewers) know at this point that anything can happen at any time to undo all the work you have done. The name of this game for a long time has been adaptability, and there are multiple points throughout the course of a season where players have to deal with things completely outside of their control, whether it is a bad tribe swap, someone happening to pick up the right napkin which has an idol hidden underneath, or having to sleep directly next to the guy who can’t stop busting out rhymes about his hero Dwyane Wade. In all those cases, you just have to adapt on the fly and manage as best you can. Fair? Survivor stopped being fair a long time ago. So deal with it, hope for the best, while simultaneously planning for the worst. So yeah, I’m good with the weird post-merge temporary tribe division. I thought it served its purpose of giving us a new wrinkle while disposing of two players in a time-manageable fashion.

Speaking of time-manageable, we’re hitting the 4,000 word mark so it’s probably time for me to snuff my own torch (which sounds WAY more dirty than I intended) and get the hell out of here, but not you. At least not yet. That’s because we have our exclusive deleted scene as well as other video goodies you should check out. Plus, you’ll want to read our weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. And for even more fun, go back and cast your fan vote for every Survivor final Tribal Council winner ever. (We’ll reveal the results soon.) And we have your exit interviews with for Michael and Jenna right here as well. Plus, for all your Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. Did you like the temporary tribe division? Sorry to see Michael and/or Jenna go? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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