Welcome back on the trail everybody! This week, a big move that looked to shake up the power structure of the game almost came together but was ultimately shot down by Tribal Council’s end. Plus, tears were flowing, balls were dropping and cracks were forming.
Without further ado, let’s hit the road and find out what decisions were made this week!
Fork: Picking the Right Path
This week, all of the action centered on Laurel and Donathan, the last two OG Malolos who found themselves in the most pivotal swing position in the game thus far. For the last couple of weeks, any time the prospect of pulling the trigger on a Domenick or Wendell blindside came up, Donathan has seemed a little more eager, while Laurel a little more hesitant. That push-and-pull was never clearer than this episode when this big Wendell blindside was coming together by the hands of Kellyn/Angela/Chelsea.
Donathan and Laurel could not have reacted more differently when pitched on the plan by the three ladies, with Donathan focused on their every word, ready and willing to jump on board, while Laurel seemed distant and nonplussed, showing no interest in their plan whatsoever. When it came down to make a decision, Laurel’s reservations held firm, and Donathan joined her in keeping Wendell safe, and while taking him out does seem like an extremely enticing option at this point of the game, the duo ultimately made the right call in not snuffing his torch.
I know what everybody must be screaming as they read this – “But he’s the biggest threat!” “He has an idol!” These are all valid concerns, but the reasoning behind not executing the hit on Wendell has less to do with keeping Wendell and more with ensuring somebody she isn’t as close with goes out. Laurel could not have vocalized this dilemma more perfectly as the tribe headed to Tribal Council, boiling down the choice between a group of people she trusts but can’t beat and a group she can beat but can’t trust. From Laurel’s position, if she sides with the latter group, then Kellyn/Angela/Chelsea become the largest, tightest group in the game. That trio could easily grab Sebastian to be their fourth and then could coast all the way to the Final Four, picking off Laurel, Donathan and Domenick along the way.
By eliminating one of Kellyn’s crew, Laurel pushes herself and Donathan into the fulcrum position where they can put together a voting bloc of their own in order to take out Domenick and Wendell. It’s definitely a high-wire act for the duo at this point in the game, where one wrong misstep could lead to them tumbling to their doom, which attempting this hit on Wendell at this point might have done. By voting out Chelsea, Laurel and Donathan can keep their trust with the Dom/Wendell duo alive, therefore lowering their guard down just enough, so that they can execute the hit on one of those guys with a group they feel comfortable with.
Ideally, the best case scenario at this spot would be to vote out Chelsea and flush out Wendell’s idol, and as Tribal Council was unfolding, I for sure thought they were going to pull it off. Donathan’s words at Tribal, talking about cracks in the majority and different sides coming to him seeking his vote, did a pretty good job of injecting some doubt and uncertainty into the mix, making all of these OG Navitis squirm about which way the vote was going to go. Domenick even said he was shaken up! Admittedly, it’s a weird spot to be in, voting with an ally but wanting them to play an idol, but that’s the fine line that Donathan appeared to be threading.
Conversely, I don’t think it would be too wise for Donathan and Laurel to actually vote for Wendell to force him to flush his idol. That move could set him and Domenick on the warpath before the next vote, pushing them to go up to Kellyn and her group and completely sell Donathan and Laurel out, putting them in more danger than they might have been. So Donathan and Laurel made the best move available for them, but alas, without Wendell using his idol, setting up what’s sure to be a tricky and exciting vote next week.
Fork: To Hold or Not to Hold?
A lot of props are going to Wendell this week, first sacrificing his family visit so he can lay his hands on whatever advantage was awaiting on Ghost Island. The family visit is always the reward that the Survivors want the most, so good on Wendell for having his head in the game and being willing to give up spending time with his Pops. Secondly, and more importantly, major kudos go to Wendell for reading the room well enough not to play his idol at Tribal Council. Donathan was threatening to swing the ax in his direction, but Wendell did not blink, showing some impressive cajones in the face of potential execution. This is a large part of why both he and Domenick have been able to stay in control for so long; their reads on the other players have been on point for most of the game.
Ever since that Morgan vote, when they were on the wrong side of the numbers, those two have been in lock-step with each other and have done a great job building the relationships they have needed to fend off any potential countermoves. Wendell didn’t need to play the idol because he’s got his hooks deep into Laurel and knew that she wouldn’t turn on him. Now it’s just a matter of running out the clock, making sure that they are well insulated enough, through allies and idols, to run all the way to the Final Four, which is probably why it was a good call to eliminate Chelsea this week.
While Kellyn may be the more strategic threat, Chelsea is a proven challenge threat, and every challenge she competes in is one more chance to snatch that immunity necklace away from the Wendenick duo. Right now, they have the easiest path to the end of the game, but this episode showed that the other players are well aware of that with each passing vote. For Survivor’s hot new bromance, it’s a matter of fending off enough attacks until the point they need to launch one at each other, which would make one great final act of the season.
The family visit is always one of my favorite moments of the season because I’m a big softie who loves people who love their families. Obviously, the star loved one this season was Donathan’s Aunt Patty, who came out dressed in her Sunday best to see her nephew. The best reunion goes to Domenick and his wife Kristen, who probably would have killed Dom had he taken the trip to Ghost Island that Wendell took. Just another example of how Domenick and Wendell have become bros for life.
Another week, another strategic fall from Kellyn. At this point, I, unfortunately, don’t have a whole lot of confidence in my winner pick, but what I am loving from her is over-the-top facial reactions. Between extreme jubilation upon seeing her brother to severe annoyance upon not receiving her family visit, her emotions are permanently etched on her face, which isn’t a good prospect her game but a great one for those of us at home.
Not only was the challenge advantage offered up at Ghost Island not a good one, but what purpose does it serve other than to highlight how Malcolm choked away Survivor: Philippines? I, for one, will not stand for any more Malcolm-shaming anymore!
End of the Line: Chelsea Townsend
What did Chelsea do wrong? Well, it should be said, Chelsea did a lot right before her torch was snuffed by episode’s end. Throughout the season, she had solid enough relationships to keep herself in the majority, knew where the vote was going most of the time, and low-key directed the strategy at several vital points, like the Brendan vote and the Libby vote. Above all else, she managed to keep a low profile until the point she started winning challenges. That’s when she started to ping on people’s radar, making her a prime target during this round when OG Naviti was ready to turn on each other. Simply put, when it came time to vote, her side had fewer allies than her opposition, and her game ended because of it.
To further add to the sting of defeat, the big showdown that she had built up in her head against Wendell didn’t exactly play out the way she imagined on the show. Chelsea’s edit was much maligned throughout the season, becoming one of the most invisible in the history of the show. Every season has main characters and supporting characters and sometimes those supporting characters are barely featured, it’s the way they show has been made since the beginning, and this year Chelsea was one of those supporting characters.
Yes, her edit was egregiously small, but her role in the story was ultimately unremarkable at best, and her absence in the story probably suggests that she wasn’t great in the confessionals. In my opinion, the most important quality a Survivor contestant has to have is the ability to tell the story in the confessional, and when somebody isn’t that great at it like Chelsea, they tend to get buried in the edit. Yeah, it sucks, but at least Chelsea got to play Survivor and experience what the world’s greatest game has to offer, so she can at least take solace that she’s one of a small handful of people who got to have the adventure of a lifetime.