Over the coming months, Inside Survivor is undertaking its biggest list ranking yet, as we count down the 100 best episodes of Survivor ever. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.
Season: Ghost Island
Episode: “Fear Keeps You Sharp” (Episode 8)
Originally Aired: April 11, 2018
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Best merge-boot ever? It’s up there. Best pre-merge rivalry ever? Again, it’s up there. Best voting confessional ever? A top ten for sure. The merge episode of Survivor: Ghost Island acts as the perfect culmination for a memorable pre-merge feud and blazes the trail to the end for the advantage-laden pairing of Domenick Abbate and Wendell Holland.
Throughout the pre-merge, the rivalry between Dom and his counterpart, model / part-time rapper Chris Noble, had been as transparent as the ghosts from seasons’ past inhabiting the island. A newer feud in the Survivor universe, yes, but one that is very familiar for this show: two alpha males who cannot co-exist together. From the moment Chris forfeited the season’s opening challenge, he and Dom had been butting heads. Any time the pair would try to bury the hatchet, it would only end in more tension and distrust, not helped by Dom telling lies about his idol.
In this episode, the tribes gather for the merge feast, during which Chris finds a note in his new buff. This note instructs Chris that a potentially game-changing advantage is his for the taking at Ghost Island should he be daring enough to sneak away from camp in the middle of the night. Of course, Chris wastes no time telling us that he lives for these moments and is willing to make the big move, as we cut to him comparing himself to LeBron James in a freestyle rap for his new tribemates.
Before Chris takes his midnight voyage, there’s an attempt to settle an old beef. The old Naviti tribe has the numbers to pick off the former Malolos, but that could all be ruined if Dom and Chris don’t put their personal differences aside. So, acting as the diplomat, Wendell tries to get Dom and Chris on the same page, at least for this first merge vote, identifying that the three of them are the biggest threats on the board. Dom is willing to accept the truce, telling his foe, “Let’s kill each other later.” However, Chris all-but says, “Thanks, but no thanks” to the pitch, relaying to us that he is “too suave to buy it” and goes on his merry way.
As night falls, Chris, as suave as ever, sneaks out of camp and makes his way to Ghost Island, where he’s presented with James “JT” Thomas’ wasted idol from Game Changers. The idol is only good for the next Tribal; however, Chris has a chance to extend the idol’s life via a glamorised game of Heads or Tails. The Noble One takes the gamble, risking his vote at the next Tribal. It looks like the right decision initially, as Chris extends the idol’s power for another Tribal. However, his luck quickly runs out, ending the game and losing his ability to vote at the upcoming Tribal.
Despite this misfortune, Chris is still confident that he’s in control of the game. He takes the entire tribe (sans Dom and Wendell) to get water, where he pitches splitting the votes between the aforementioned pair. Meanwhile, Wendell and Dom are back at the beach, orchestrating their counterstrike, with Wendell telling his ally that he too has an idol. The duo’s trusty companion Donathan Hurley then returns from water-gate and warns them of Chris’ plan to split the votes. At the same time, Desiree Afuye contemplates flipping the vote onto Libby Vincek.
But no matter what other plans get mentioned, it’s clear that this is all about Dom versus Chris. The entire episode is constructed around their rivalry. There’s even a brilliantly edited back-and-forth sequence where Dom and Chris diss each other. This island isn’t big enough for the both of them. One of them is going home tonight. And as the tribe heads to Tribal Council, both Chris and Dom, in confessional, once again weigh up their options, both having idols or advantages in their arsenal. The battle is finally about to go down.
Dom and Chris trade barbs outwardly at Tribal, with Dom donning his hack of a fake idol and Chris rolling his eyes. As the Dom and Chris show is about to come to an end, Wendell, the eventual winner, truly enters the spotlight with an all-time great voting confessional where he requests that Chris “stop rapping.” Before Jeff Probst reads the votes, Dom ceases his staredown with Chris to play the Legacy Advantage.
Now, Chris KNOWS that Dom voted for him, he KNOWS Dom just played an idol, and he KNOWS that his own idol is only good for this Tribal or the next. And yet, he doesn’t use it?! Only Chris himself knows why he didn’t play his idol, but, with blinding confidence, Chris is voted out, receiving all but two votes from the tribe. Chris shakes Dom’s hand and congratulates him on a “good game” before making his exit. And like that, the Dom and Chris rivalry comes to a dramatic close in one of the best merge episodes in Survivor history.
Check back on Monday when we reveal which episode placed at number 62. You can check out the previous entries here.