S36 E14
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May 23, 2018 at 11:30 PM EDT

In the end, it all came down to Laurel. That’s right, Laurel Johnson — the woman who had her finger on the trigger ever since the merge but just couldn’t pull it; the woman who rode the two horses that could get her to the end even though it was impossible to defeat them; the woman who played the best third place game ever. Ladies and gentlemen, Laurel Johnson just cast the most important vote in Survivor history.

After 39 days, 17 other vote-offs, and 548 idols, fake idols, advantages, and cursed voting urns, everything came down to one vote. And why? Because Jeff Probst is a freakin’ psychic.

Seriously, how else to explain it? Just one year ago, Jeff Probst shocked fans during the Survivor: Game Changers finale when he revealed one of the show’s biggest secrets: what would happen in the event of a tie at the final Tribal Council. He announced that if there was a tie between two players, that the third player in the finals would then cast the deciding vote for the winner. But it had never happened before. Then, a week after Probst made that surprise announcement, the contestants of Ghost Island boarded a plane for Fiji to begin their adventure and turn this never-before-seen scenario into a reality.

In a fascinating split, the first five members of this jury (Chris, Libby, Desiree, Jenna, Michael) all voted for the Domfather, while the last five (Chelsea, Kellyn, Sea Bass, Donathan, Angela) voted for Wendell. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a division like that before. And so it all came down to Laurel. Or Yanny. Or whatever the hell her name is. The woman who had frustrated so many other players and viewers with her refusal to take out the ultimate power duo now had all the power in the world. The woman was mad with power! Power mad, I say!

In actuality, Laurel was pretty chill about the whole situation. Just kind of walked over and did her business. Can you imagine if Kellyn had been in that situation? Oh my God, that would have been incredible! Hell, fly Eliza Orlins or Hannah Shapiro out there and let them cast the final vote so they can hem and haw and contort their faces into all sorts of uncontortable positions while they milk it for as much camera time as humanly possible. Or maybe you could have let The Noble One rap out a few bars for the final vote because no matter what Wendell says, CHRIS NOBLE HAS BARS!!! Not bars for dogs like my man Eddie from Caramoan — how is that genius idea going, by the way? — but bars as in dropping some rhymes, because he’s right on time, like well-aged wine, or… uh, something else that rhymes with rhyme!

Whatever. Sorry I don’t have the dope flow down like my homie The Noble One. The point is, even if Laurel wanted to put a little sauce on it, we all knew what was going to happen. The vote was going to Wendell. Good for him. And had it been Dom, I would have said the same thing. That’s the most interesting element about this whole battle royale between Domenick and Wendell. There seemed to be no wrong answer. Sure, you may have preferred one a bit over the other. Maybe you appreciated Domenick’s aggressive style and go big or go home theatrics. Or maybe you leaned towards the stealth assassin known as Wendell because his more low key approach was less likely to rustle any feathers.

The point is, you may have preferred one or the other, but these two were a package deal all the way, so there was not a lot of separation in their games. And that made for a unique finale viewing experience. Instead of — as a viewer — being guided by a rooting interest, we could just sit back and enjoy the show. And what a show that final Tribal Council was. The new open conversation format that started a year ago with Game Changers paid HUGE dividends here.

Instead of stupid questions like “Tell me why you got rid of me?” or grandstanding in the guise of personal pleas for particular contestants, we got actual debate and discussion. Sometimes enlightening, other times contentious. Sometimes remorseful, other times confusing (like when Sea Bass ripped Dom for acting up a storm to convince him his fake idol was real while simultaneously admitting that the acting up got him to change his vote and call off the plan to take him out).

You had jurors scoffing at finalists. You had jurors calling out finalists for interrupting people. You had jurors openly debating amongst themselves as to who should get credit for what. You even had jurors polling each other to get to the bottom of certain claims made by the final 3. But even more intriguing than all of that, you had the unbreakable duo of Dom and Wendell going at each other — FINALLY!

Wendell painted himself as the mastermind. Dom openly refuted it with a blistering counterattack, pointing out how “There’s no mastermind. Let’s stop with the nonsense.” But then Wendell pivoted expertly and warned the jury against being seduced into voting for the big splashy player, in essence painting himself as a thinking person’s choice of style over substance. “It’s always the Dom show,” he said. That was an excellent counterargument, even if I’m still not sure about that “I really just tried to be a lover out here” comment. It can’t help but bring to mind the “I’m a lover not a fighter” line from the Michael Jackson–Paul McCartney duet “The Girl is Mine, “which is problematic for many reasons.

For one thing, the last visual I want to be imagining is whom Michael Jackson was loving. Let’s just leave that one right there. For another, that song is downright terrible and is locked in battle with “Whatzupwitu” from MJ and Eddie Murphy for worst Michael Jackson duet of all-time. Finally, now that Wendell has that God-awful Michael Jackson tune stuck in my head, I am reminded of all the other super awkward lyrics in it, like when Sir Paul McCartney sings “the doggone girl is mine.” Doggone?!? You know what: I’m just going to go ahead and say it, and I don’t care who gets mad at me for it: Paul McCartney has no bars!!! (Recap continues on next page)

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