Best Episode Rankings – No. 79 – “It Is Game Time Kids”

The 100 Best Episodes countdown continues.

Photo: CBS

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: “It Is Game Time Kids” (Episode 14)
Original Air Date: May 23, 2018

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“In the first time in 36 seasons, we have a tie,” exclaims Jeff Probst to the castaways as he reads the tenth and final jury vote aloud (at Tribal Council itself nonetheless) during the Ghost Island finale. “It Is Game Time Kids” (and Ghost Island as a whole for that matter) will always be remembered for this history-making tie vote at the Final Tribal Council between Ghost Island‘s most relic-revelling players in Wendell Holland and Domenick Abbate.

Wendell and Dom virtually dominated Ghost Island from beginning to end, splitting almost all desirable accolades throughout the game. It was only fitting then to end the season with the pair in an epic Final Tribal showdown, with their close ally Laurel Johnson sitting between them. But despite the duo’s overall dominance and the obviousness of the edit, it wasn’t a straight-forward shot for Dom and Wendell to the Final 3, with the pair having to make shrewd moves and win timely Immunity challenges along the way, particularly in the finale.

“JEFF PROBST!” yells an exuberant Wendell as he’s on the cusp of seizing his first individual win of the season at the Final 6 Immunity challenge—a categorically different display of said exuberance and Probst-calling compared to the Final 7 Immunity he lost due to his sheepishness. With this emphatic Immunity win, Wendell all-but-guarantees himself a Final 4 spot as he STILL holds that cursed Erik Reichenbach Immunity necklace that he can play as an idol at the Final 5 should he not win Immunity.

Meanwhile, a potential rebellion is mounting at camp as the trio of Angela Perkins, Donathan Hurley, and Sebastian Noel plot a way to take out Dom using Sebastian’s extra vote advantage. However, this plan is scuppered when a wishy-washy Angela spills the beans to Dom about the proposed blindside and Sebastian’s advantage. With Wendell now immune, Dom knows that he’s in a vulnerable position should Sebastian use his extra vote as intended, and so he uses the fear of his two hidden immunity idols to regain control. To most players left in the game, it is believed that Dom possesses two idols, to which Dom would say that is technically true; however, one of them is a fake.

At Tribal Council, Dom publicly lambasts former-ally Donathan about the latter’s plan to join forces with Sebastian and his extra vote. In a bold act of defiance, Dom “plays” his fake idol before a single vote is cast (he later admits that this was a bluff pre-vote reading), in a daring attempt to offset the threat of votes coming his way by those gone rogue. Paralleling their season-long stylings, Wendell takes a more relaxed yet still critical approach towards Donathan, engaging in a passive-aggressive ending-each-statement-with-Bro-exchange with him before the vote. All this vitriol towards their former ally is all for naught, as the vote ultimately sees Sebastian (who never uses the extra vote) ousted.

As per his Final 6 Immunity challenge efforts, Wendell is again awarded immunity at the Final 5. Both Wendell and Dom are now on a clear and earned path to the Final 4, courtesy of their challenge win and hidden immunity idol, respectively. The pair finally grow tired of Donathan’s antics and waste no time ridding him at the next Tribal Council in a 4-1 vote, but not before Dom plays an idol for himself. On the contrary, Wendell plays his extra Erik idol for his close friend Laurel, ensuring her safety (and loyalty, which will come to pay off dividends in the end).

Dom ends up winning the final Immunity challenge, earning the necklace and a trip to Ghost Island, where he will have to make a huge decision. This HUGE decision is picking a voting urn from a previous season (what is Fijian for “swing and a miss”?). This is easily the weakest part of the episode and acts only as a derailment from the actual intriguing decision that Dom faces—who to bring with him to the Final 3. “One bad decision can haunt you forever,” Dom reads aloud from Ghost Island signage. These words, in a way, will ring true for Dom as he weighs up his options, knowing full well that Wendell will be one of the two fire-making participants, leaving him to decide between Laurel and Angela.

In a tantalising tease during confessional, Dom toys with the idea of pitting himself up against Wendell in fire-making, as he believes that he has the best chance of unseating his buddy, and thus seemingly securing himself the season crown at the Final Tribal. Sadly, Dom doesn’t pull the trigger/light the flame, as he opts to take the risk-averse path towards the Final 3 by calling on Angela to try and best Wendell. A superstitious Wendell insists on sitting in the purple chair for the fire-making challenge, as the colour orange plagued all who donned it this season. Wendell and his superstitions are justified, as he calmly and coolly makes fire while hardly taking his eye off of Dom as he stares down his ally-turned foe.

The Final Tribal is back-and-forth between Dom and Wendell, with Laurel sadly being viewed as a third wheel. Dom appears to have the early lead, but things begin to shift as Wendell explains his social game, painting Dom to be the bad cop to his good cop. After the closing statements, we get to the vote. And then, in a call-back to Borneo, enter Probst. “Alright, I’m going to read the votes,” proclaims Probst to the shock-ridden castaways. One by one, the votes are read, alternating between Dom and Wendell to the tenth and final vote. The players are left jaw-dropped, as Survivor sees its first-ever tie in the FTC. In an unprecedented move, Probst instructs Laurel that SHE will cast the deciding vote.

“This vote I’ll save,” says Probst, as he whisks the urn away, forcing the deadlocked duo to await their fate at the live reunion. Fast-forward to the live show, where Probst and the urn enter the fray to reward the season’s winner in what is the most uncertain finish in the series’ history. “The winner of Survivor: Ghost Island… Wendell,” a stone-faced Probst reads out to the crowd, as the blazer-matching pair of Wendell and Dom hug it out upon Wendell winning.

The Final 4 fire-making puts off many fans of the show; however, this finale proves that, in particular cases, it CAN muster enthralling results in providing the season’s strongest competitors in the Final Tribal. For without fire-making, there would be no history-making final, nor number 79 on this list.

Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 78. You can check out the previous entries here.


Written by

Toby King

Toby's a London-based and Canadian-born writer who's been raised on television and cinema. He's an avid sport fan despite never supporting a winning team, along with being an avid film fan despite his favourite film being Hook.


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