Edgic is a weekly feature analyzing each player’s edit, mapping characters to their story-arc. Note that our focus is not solely to determine the winner, as is typical of other Edgic sites. For more information on how Edgic works and rating definitions read our Introduction to Edgic article.
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What Does This Episode Tell Us?
Welcome back Egicators for another season of deep dive edit analysis! Now, we’ve got two episodes and 20 castaways to talk about, so let’s not waste any time!
Firstly, I’ve never seen this many INV/UTR ratings in a premiere episode ever. At least not since I’ve been doing Edgic. It speaks to how unusual this edit was for a premiere episode (double episode), and a large reason for that is the Ghost Island twist. The show needed to introduce the twist AND describe the mechanics of how it worked. Two castaways visited Ghost Island over the two episodes and therefore a significant chunk of screen time was spent away from the two camps. On top of that, every time an advantage was discovered, the show included flashback clips from previous seasons, again, eating into yet more screen time. I honestly think Sierra Dawn-Thomas and Andrea Boehlke received more air-time than half the new players.
We didn’t even get the regular marooning/intro confessionals which often gives us a good indicator of the season’s important characters. In the past few seasons, between 6-10 people were introduced via confessionals or Probst during the marooning, usually telling us their occupation or approach to the game. The majority of these players made the merge give or take one or two. We didn’t get that this season, which makes things extra difficult Edgic wise.
Immediately upon arriving on the beach, the castaways were told the season theme and then shoved into an opening challenge. Kellyn was the only person to receive an intro confessional that wasn’t directly linked to the challenge. Brendan’s confessional came after he was picked as tribe leader. Interestingly, out of the four people picked to run the challenge – Michael, Laurel, Sebastian, Desiree – only Desiree received a confessional commenting on her inclusion.
What is my main take away from all of this? Survivor: Ghost Island could be a very unusual season to Edgic! Some of the obvious Edgic tells may not be applicable this season with so many new factors shaping the narrative. And with the editing team shaking things up since Millennials vs. Gen X, there is no telling what the show has up it sleeve this season. That means we need to pay extra close attention to the details.
Let’s kick things off with Bradley, one of the many castaways literally ghosted by the editing team in the premiere. Now, Bradley did speak maybe two sentences across these episodes, and therefore I should explain why I labelled him INV rather than UTR. I’m sure those that have followed my Edgic in past seasons know that I’m fairly ruthless when it comes to dishing out INV ratings. I try to look at the overall editorial intent and whether or not a casual audience member would remember the player in question. Would a casual remember Bradley after the first two episodes? Hell, even some superfans can’t remember Bradley.
The main way I’m determining INV or UTR this week is whether or not the castaway was introduced – whether it be in confessional, by Probst, or at camp. If you were namechecked, outside of a challenge, then I’m more willing to lean UTR. Bradley wasn’t introduced. As far as the show is concerned, he doesn’t even have a name. So even though he spoke one or two lines in group conversations, that is irrelevant, there was no focus there. Also, most of the time he was talking, the camera was focused on somebody else, so it wasn’t even clear who was saying what.
It’s never great to begin a season as INV, but at least Bradley isn’t alone. And with the odd premiere edit, it might not be as detrimental as usual. It certainly hurts his winner chances, as you’d expect the winner to be introduced by name within the first two episodes at some point, even if only in a minor scene. Modern seasons don’t tend to hide the winner in the premiere completely; these aren’t the Australian Outback days. But we also shouldn’t rule Bradley out of becoming an important character down the line. After all, his tribe didn’t attend tribal council, and he didn’t seem to be involved in any of the critical stories on Naviti, so his arc might not begin until say, a tribe swap.
Chelsea was even more invisible than Bradley. I don’t think she spoke a single sentence across the two episodes. Most of what I said for Bradley can be applied to Chelsea. Perhaps her story doesn’t begin until post-swap. Maybe her closest relationships and alliances are formed with players who weren’t on her original tribe, and therefore the edit didn’t feel it necessary to focus on her right now. That is the generous take. Otherwise, not a good start for the professional cheerleader. As I mentioned above, not to be introduced by name in the first two episodes is a big hit on potential winner chances.
I went back and forth on whether Angela should be INV or UTR for Episode 2. She was namechecked at the challenge because she sat out. Is that enough to scrape an UTR? Ultimately, I decided it wasn’t enough. I’m pretty strict when it comes to challenge content. Unless it’s excessive focus (like Donathan and James), then I try to avoid letting challenge content frame my ratings. It’s not editorial manipulation – a lot of that stuff has to be shown simply by the very nature of it being a challenge. Angela was the one that sat out and therefore that couldn’t be ignored. And yet, she was ignored for the rest of the episode, and the one before it, that’s what truly matters.
After two episodes, we don’t know a thing about Angela. We barely know her name. Again, perhaps her story starts post-swap. But winner? As much as I hate to be so decisive this early, I’d say it’s near impossible.
Libby might be in an even worse position than the Naviti invisibles. Her tribe went to tribal council twice! And yet we didn’t get a single confessional from Libby – not even a short generic one. She was completely absent from the first episode, and only popped up in a couple of group conversations in the second. She eventually got namechecked by Probst in the second tribal council and answered one of his questions. That just about earned her an UTR – though even that feels very generous, all she said was that Jacob showed them an idol.
It’s easier to brush off invisible ratings on the winning tribe because there is less time dedicated to their story. Libby doesn’t have that excuse. So why didn’t the edit care to introduce her? Why didn’t the edit deem her thoughts on the strategy/vote important? It would suggest that she is a passive player/character – someone more likely to play a supporting role in another character’s story, rather than a lead character with her own narrative.
There is a lot of game left to play, so I don’t want to say Libby can’t become more significant later on, we’ve seen that recently with players like Andrea in Game Changers. But even with Andrea, she was on mostly winning tribes at the start of the season, so her lack of air-time felt more justifiable. I’m struggling to see the positives in such a lackluster start for Libby, especially as far as winner chances go.
Finally, we get to a player that actually received a confessional in the premiere! Desiree was another one on the outside looking in for the majority of the two hours, but she at least has a couple of positives to work with Edgic-wise. For one, Desiree got namechecked in the opening challenge when Chris selected her for the puzzle. Now, as I said, challenge content by itself shouldn’t be considered a crucial part of the edit, but the interesting thing here is that Desiree immediately received a confessional. “Oh god. Why did you choose me?” she said. “Maybe I’m bald with blonde hair and I look at a little creative, but puzzles are not my strong suit.” She said it in a slightly jovial manner, and it was almost like the edit was letting her defend herself (Naviti ultimately lost the challenge).
Other than that opening, and asking Wendell how he got into furniture building, Desiree was pretty much absent for the rest of the premiere. She nailed some baskets in the second immunity challenge, but again, that stuff has to be shown, so I don’t believe it’s enough to avoid the Episode 2 INV rating. But the fact Desiree received that little intro confessional and got to defend herself from the upcoming loss tells me that there is at least some attempt at care over her edit. She wasn’t entirely blanked. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn anything about her background or her strategic plans/alliances. That drops her winner chances down somewhat. But her outlook is the best so far out of those we’ve discussed.
Laurel had a somewhat subdued premiere edit, but there were just enough breadcrumbs that could lead to a more prominent story down the line. Like Desiree, Laurel was selected to participate in the opening challenge, but unlike Desiree, she didn’t receive a confessional. Malolo technically won the challenge due to Chris forfeiting for the Naviti tribe, so maybe the editors didn’t feel it necessary for us to hear from Laurel here – whereas they needed Desiree to defend herself for some reason. Still, Laurel got namechecked and then had a decent-sized camp scene with Donathan where the two introduced themselves to each other and talked about their lives. The scene was very much framed from Donathan’s perspective, but we still got to learn a little bit about Laurel, and at the very least we saw her social game in action.
The second episode was also minimal content-wise, but she did get a confessional. “So far, the strong and the beautiful have been running the show. They formed a little bit of a clique without me, and that worries me,” Laurel said. “But suddenly the people that are on the bottom have an opportunity to flip the vote on them. I’ve just gotta make sure it’s the right time.” It wasn’t massively in-depth, but it did tell us Laurel’s position in the game and showed us that she has game-awareness. Also, “making sure it’s the right time” could be set-up for a future plotline if Laurel eventually flips on the original Malolo majority. It’s not a lot, but in an episode where many players got zilch, there is stuff to work with here. What Laurel needs over the next couple of weeks is some proper personal content, hopefully via a confessional.
Jenna‘s edit started rather quiet but slowly picked up in the second episode of the night. It was kind of similar to Laurel’s, except we received just a little more insight in regards to Jenna’s game, and I think that just about pushed her into MOR for Episode 2. Her Episode 1 edit wasn’t anything special; she got one generic post-challenge confessional explaining that Jacob was their original target and now they have to work out who it will be instead. Still, the fact Jenna got this confessional, rather than say, Libby, who didn’t get a confessional in either episode, is a good sign going forward.
It was in the second hour though where we got a better grasp on Jenna’s standing within the tribe. She had a scene with Stephanie were they discussed the vote, and we learned that the two are closely aligned. “Stephanie wants to work with Jacob and start voting out the big players, and I was shocked at first,” she explained. “However, Stephanie and I have been close since Day 1, so I definitely want to stay loyal to her, so whatever she wants to do, I’ll go along with it.” It painted Jenna as second in command and Stephanie as the leader, but at least it put Jenna on solid footing, and we got to hear where her head was at in the game. She was also the person at tribal council that talked about how alliances are now starting to take shape.
Jenna certainly didn’t get the biggest edit of the premiere, but there is potential here. Like with Laurel, we need to see more personal content from her in the coming weeks.
Gonzalez joins the Survivor first boot club, but at least she can find comfort in the fact she wasn’t given the Katrina Radke treatment. We at least got to know a little bit about Gonzalez before she left, and we saw her fighting for her life. She introduced herself to the audience by telling us she grew up in Puerto Rico, and said that people often underestimate her as a “girly-girl,” but that “they haven’t seen anything yet.” Unfortunately, things stayed that away. We didn’t fully see what Gonzales had to offer. After that positive start – with her winner-like confessional – things quickly fell apart.
Does she deserve negative tone? I keep going back and forth. It wasn’t excessive, but there did feel like editorial intent to give Gonzalez some N-tone on her way out the door. Donathan, who was portrayed in a very positive light, gave her N-tone for shutting him down during the challenge. And the way she referred to Jacob as “special” felt unwarranted. Add in her tribal council scrambling, and her “Sad” comment upon exit, and I think there is just enough to validate the N-tone. I believe MORN works here. She got to put forward her strategy before the vote, which was mostly ‘target the weakest person’. Nothing complex, but straightforward MOR.
Firstly, it feels very surreal to be writing about Jacob in Edgic. Secondly, oh Jacob. The edit was not kind to our former Inside Survivor blogger during his brief stay in the game. Back-to-back OTTNs are meant for the Abi-Marias and Debbie Wanners of the world. Not Jacob Derwin! Now, let’s make one thing clear, these OTTNs weren’t the kind that showed the player to be a horrible person. These OTTNs were very much in the vein of a Stephen Fischbach in Cambodia or even Tony Vlachos last year in Game Changers. The over-the-top negativity came from blunderous moves and becoming public enemy number one rather than any personal nastiness.
I don’t think we need to go into full detail here. The ratings are pretty self-explanatory for anyone that watched the episode. Jacob received by far the most confessionals and screen time, hence the 5-visibility ratings. His OTT-ness came from his idol searching, pouring rice in the sock, mouthing off at the challenge, the “best tribe ever” talk, his fake idol ploy, and getting blinded by Stephanie into giving up all his info. Yes, he got to explain himself along the way, but I don’t think it was enough to counter the OTT elements of his edit, nor the negative SPV (second-person visibility) from the rest of his tribemates. The edit also didn’t shy away from making Jacob look wrong – claiming he has great powers of deception, only to be immediately undermined, saying that Naviti would send him back to Ghost Island, only to be quickly proved incorrect.
You have to look at what a casual fan is going to remember about Jacob, and it will be the paranoid, idol crazy superfan that poured rice into his dirty sock and made himself a target. That is, perhaps sadly, OTTN, but a highly memorable OTTN.
James had an intriguing edit across these first two episodes. In a way, the majority of his content tied into his blunderous challenge performance in Episode 2. He wasn’t especially visible in the first episode, but the one confessional he did have touched upon not wanting to stand-out early on. He was talking specifically about Jacob and his idol searching, but his last sentence could just have easily been applied to himself. “You don’t want to be the one to stand out for any reason in the early stage game,” he said. Well, that’s precisely what happened to James in the next episode.
This is what I mean when I talk about excessive challenge focus. Probst and the edit harped on the moment where James couldn’t swim down to release the buoys. I believe Probst referred to it as a disaster. James himself called it “pathetic” and took all the heat back at camp. It was definitely N-toned, despite James taking responsibility. Later, Brendan said, “James is muscled-up, but I don’t know what he brings.” That further contributed to the N-tone, and it also played into James’ fears about standing out in the early game. James received a confessional related to his challenge screw-up, and there was a nice bit of personal info mixed in. “My parents taught me back in Korea to give everything your best effort, but instead, I cost us the win today, that’s a fact,” he said. It gave us a small insight into James’ character and background.
Right now, I see James’ edit in a similar place to Jenna’s, despite them being on opposite sides of tribal lines. We have a decent sense of where both of them are at in the game. Jenna is tight with Stephanie and currently playing a passive game within the majority. James looks to be paired with Laurel and on the bottom, despite also voting with the majority, for now. He also had a cool answer for Probst at tribal council regarding Jacob’s trip to Ghost Island. He used the phrase “information imbalance,” which tied in nicely to one of the big themes of the episode. After two episodes, I would describe James as a mid-tier character, and his current story is whether he can shake the target off his back or if it will lead to an early demise.
Morgan‘s edit is in that awkward position where it’s hard to tell whether her screen time is merely advantage-related or part of a larger story-arc. She was barely present in Episode 1, but she did get namechecked by Probst at the opening challenge. She tried to hide so as not to get picked for the puzzle and Probst called her out. It didn’t feel negative though, she was laughing, and it came off humorous. Jacob later added to this slight P-tone when he said Morgan’s “got spunk; she’s got energy.” It wasn’t excessive, but I did feel like the edit painted a picture of Morgan as a likable and positive person – every time she was on screen she was smiling or laughing.
In the second hour was when she received the Legacy Advantage, and her two confessionals basically related directly to that. She explained her tribe’s thinking behind sending people to Ghost Island – send the weak so that the strong are voted off – and then revealed the advantage. Most of this scene was Morgan reading out the rules and explaining what happened to Sierra in Game Changers. Nothing to read into edit-wise. The one bit that stood out was when she said she has a big mouth and needs a staple gun to keep her lips sealed. That could be set-up for Morgan telling somebody about the advantage later and it coming back to haunt her. Or it could simply have been foreshadowing the scene later in the episode where Jacob’s big mouth reveals the advantage to Stephanie. Morgan may ultimately be screwed not because of her own big mouth, but somebody else’s.
As I said, it’s difficult to say right now how vital Morgan is to the overall narrative. Receiving the Legacy Advantage meant she had to be shown regardless. We didn’t learn any personal info about her or her background. Nor do we know her strategy or alliances within the Naviti tribe. The next couple of episodes will tell us a lot more about where Morgan is heading. If we start to hear more about her life and/or her relationships in the game, then that will be an indicator that she is an important character and her story is not only tied to the Legacy.
On paper, Kellyn‘s premiere edit might not seem like anything special. A MOR2 followed by an INV doesn’t exactly set the world alight. But in terms of the actual content she received in the first episode, I think things look excellent for Kellyn. As I mentioned in the intro, she was the only player to receive a confessional at the marooning that wasn’t linked to the opening challenge. It was Kellyn who got to comment on the Ghost Island theme before anybody else.
“My probably biggest fear out here is making bad decisions because we’ve seen it so many times throughout Survivor, it can be such a split moment decision that can take you out of the game,” she said. There are 20 players on this season. You know production would have asked each of them about the theme and every one of them would have had something to say. So you have to ask yourself, why Kellyn? It would suggest she is an important character. Perhaps she is the biggest representative of this season’s themes? That argument is backed up further by her second confessional. At camp, the Naviti tribe introduced themselves to each other, and we heard from four people: Sebastian, Wendell, Chris, and Kellyn. In that scene, once again, Kellyn was the only one who received a confessional.
“Before Survivor, I was living my life like I should, doing what I thought I should do, and I made the decision to say ‘that’s not the life I want,'” she said. “So I got divorced, I finished grad school, and I’ve really been able to start living my life for me, and I’m a huge fan of Survivor, and I made it, and it’s gonna be an insane journey.” There was tons of personal content here, and it tied perfectly into the theme of bad decisions and reversing those bad decisions. It stood out even more because Naviti didn’t attend tribal council nor was Kellyn directly involved in that tribe’s main stories (Chris vs. Dom/Morgan’s Legacy Advantage). There was no real urgency to show Kellyn in the early going, and so she could have been left on the cutting room floor along with Angela, Chelsea, and Bradley. The fact we not only heard from her but got all this theme-related personal content is huge.
So where is Kellyn’s story going? Well, that’s the thing, despite the personal content, she doesn’t currently have a game-related narrative. We don’t know where her head is at regarding strategy or alliances. It may be that those things don’t kickstart for her until after the swap. It could also mean Kellyn is the journey edit of the season. The person that best represents the themes. She literally used the word “journey” in her second confessional. Also, there could be some ominous foreshadowing in her first confessional when it comes to her fears of making a bad decision that sends her out of the game. Either way, Kellyn is looking very good right now, so much so that her second episode INV can’t even harm her outlook.
Sebastian was one of the few characters on the underedited Naviti tribe that we got a good grasp on in the premiere, despite his second episode INV rating. He had the benefit of being picked to the run the opening challenge, which meant he got namechecked by Probst off the bat, but unlike Desiree, who also ran that challenge for Naviti, Sebastian was also featured back at camp. He was one of the four people we saw introduce himself, telling everyone that he’s a fisherman from Florida, which received a positive reaction. He even got a nickname, “Sea Bass,” courtesy of Domenick, and whether he likes the name or not, this was the edit making sure we know who Sebastian is and what he’s about.
We also saw a little strategy talk from Sebastian. His relationship with Chris received early focus, as the pair bonded over growing up in Florida. They shook hands on the promise to get each other to the merge and agreed that Domenick should be the first target. “It’s like best friends in a candy shop,” was the odd analogy Sebastian gave to describe his newfound friendship. There is a kind of goofiness to Sebastian’s edit here in the early going. The way Domenick was poking fun at his abs, how the tribe laughed about him and Chris going off into the jungle together (“nothing to worry about”), and his comical confessional. It might suggest that Sebastian isn’t going to be the game’s greatest strategist – he already came under fire when Wendell revealed to Domenick that Sebastian threw out his name. But as a character, he was well-established in the premiere, we know some personal info, and he is a part of the Chris vs. Domenick feud. All of that suggests longevity.
Chris was probably the most visible person on Naviti besides Domenick. His brewing rivalry with the Long Island construction worker was the main story taking place on that tribe. We immediately got a sense of Chris’ character at the opening challenge. He stepped up as the leader and told Probst, “I guess they saw some good qualities in me,” to which his tribe laughed and rolled their eyes. That is the main reason for the N-tone. I could understand if you wanted to say toneless, but it did feel like the edit was poking fun at Chris for being big-headed.
As previously mentioned, Chris was one of the four people on Naviti that got to introduce himself back at camp. He told us that he currently lives in New York but grew up in the Florida Keys – that set-up his storyline and friendship with fellow Floridian Sebastian, which received focus in the first episode. We also got to hear where his head was at regarding the game. He wants to target Domenick. “There are red flags with Domenick, at the challenge when Jeff asked people did I make the right decision, there was only one person that came out and said ‘No, he didn’t,'” he said. “But it got me already playing the game; I gotta get rid of this guy because he’s gunning for me.” This storyline continued in the second episode when Domenick tried to patch things up with Chris and showed him the fake idol. Chris was shown to have a good read in this situation. “Something about it is just off,” he said.”I don’t trust him, and if my instinct tells me something’s off, I have to go with it. I will not get voted out of this game going against my instinct.” A big theme for Chris was about following his instinct, that’s what he did when he forfeited the challenge, and it’s how he described his approach to the game.
So where is Chris going? There are some mixed signals in his early edit. At first, it seemed like he lacked self-awareness, with the way he reacted in the opening challenge. But in the second episode, he demonstrated smart game-awareness. The Chris vs. Domenick feud was basically the only proper story set-up on Naviti, which implies it is significant – logic would dictate that Chris will be part of Domenick’s exit or vice versa. Whether it’s a short-term story or a long-term story remains to be seen. Perhaps Chris delivers on his promise to get Domenick out as soon as possible, or maybe he will end up getting voted out for not following his instinct.
Domenick was all over this episode, probably the second most featured character after Jacob. Everything points to him being a big part of the season. It was that classic Tony style edit, a player who is very divisive, brash personality, big-time game-player with personal content on top. It was similar to the way Joe Mena started last season. Right off the bat, we got a good sense of Domenick’s personality when he questioned Chris’ challenge decision. “I’m a truth teller, Jeff,” he said. As we’d quickly find out, that was just the start of Domenick’s lies.
He wasn’t one of the four that introduced himself in the Naviti group chat, but soon after that, he got his own scene, talking about his background and past bad decisions. He told the group that he lost weight due to making “better decisions” in life. “Bad decisions – I liked to party, drink a lot with the boys, gamble a little bit, y’know? But those days are over.” Just like with Kellyn, it instantly stood out because not only was it personal content, but it tied so beautifully into the season’s theme. He described turning his life around for the sake of his wife and kids. He also mentioned, “bringing home the bacon” for his family. Long-time Edgicators will know, mentions of family and winning the money never hurt.
All of the above had a positive slant, but Domenick also received negative SPV from Chris and Sebastian. “Kind of crazy,” Sebastian called him. Later, Chris said something was “off” about Domenick, which undermined Dom’s fake idol ploy. On the flip side, Wendell described Domenick as “friendly” and someone he wanted to work with in the game. By all accounts, it looked like Domenick was gelling with his tribe members, except for Chris and Sebastian. In the second episode, he found an idol and said it would allow him to take more risks because that’s the kind of game he wants to play.
Right now, there are a lot of positives to Domenick’s edit. We know more about him than anyone else in the game. We know his current profession, his past exploits, that he has a wife and kids, and even little personal touches like his weight loss story. On top of that, we know his approach to the game, he explains his moves, and his feud with Chris is Naviti’s only real story right now. Taking all that into account, you would expect Domenick to be around a while and be a major force in the season. The only slight worry I have is the fact Chris didn’t trust the fake idol plan, and the edit made sure to show us that. That could be a sign Domenick’s risky gameplay ultimately backfires.
Brendan had a decent premiere edit. He was introduced via the opening challenge, where he got to tell us that he’s a teacher/coach. That was his only confessional in the first hour, and other than telling us his job, it was rather generic. But this early leader tag thrown onto Brendan played quite nicely in comparison to Chris on Naviti. Chris jumped at the chance to take charge and even referred to himself as a leader in a later confessional. But based on his tribe’s reactions, it didn’t seem like anyone viewed him as the one calling the shots. Brendan, however, did seem to be leading his tribe, but in a somewhat cool and easy going manner.
Across both episodes, we saw Brendan leading strategy talks at Malolo camp. He was the one that gathered the group when Jacob went idol hunting. He described the camp’s “kumbaya” attitude and how Jacob was the one ruining that. After the immunity challenge loss, it was Brendan who asked people what their thoughts were regarding the vote. In the second hour, Brendan was the first to call out Jacob’s idol as fake, and again, we saw him gather his group in the water and discuss their options. Post-challenge, Brendan suggested splitting the vote between Jacob and James and also started to worry about Stephanie double-crossing him. Now, that didn’t happen, but his suspicions weren’t too off-base, as Stephanie did tell us she was considering working with Jacob.
Things look pretty solid for Brendan edit-wise. He is in a leadership position on his tribe without being portrayed as overbearing and has some good reads. Nothing that made me think he is any immediate danger. But with Stephanie talking about taking out the strong guys, and Laurel mentioning waiting for the right moment to flip, those are perhaps signs of how the game will eventually turn away from Brendan.
Wendell had a fantastic first episode. He wasn’t in-your-face like a Domenick or a Jacob, but when he appeared, he made it count. It was exactly what you’d want from a first episode edit in that it told us about his life, his job, his approach to the game and gave us a little bit of him in action. Also, just like Kellyn and Domenick, Wendell’s content tied directly into the season’s theme of reversing past decisions. It’s early days, but if I were forced to say which tribe contained the winner, I’d pick Naviti, because despite being underedited, the players they did focus on were introduced perfectly. Not to mention that after Malolo’s first tribal council we went straight to Naviti, rather than get the fall-out at the Malolo camp.
As I said earlier, Wendell was one of the four who introduced himself at camp. He told the group that he makes furniture for a living. We later got a scene that expanded on that. Wendell made a trap to catch crabs, and Desiree asked him about how he got into furniture design. He talked about doing work for his grandpa. In his first confessional, Wendell spoke about changing his path in life and choosing to follow his passion. “I went to UPenn Law, top ten law school, but I wasn’t where I wanted to be, so I followed my passion, I took off the suit, and now I’m a freelance furniture designer,” he said. “So, I am more than I appear.” It was very similar to Kellyn’s confessional about not being happy with her previous life and changing things up.
He then talked about vibing with Domenick and told us why he wanted to work with him. When Sebastian suggested Dom as a first boot option, Wendell took that info to Domenick. “I think I can show him my loyalty and it’s going to reciprocate in the long run,” he said. It’s good when a player mentions the “long run” and looks ahead. It sets up future storylines which often means that player will be around a while. Of course, sometimes this stuff can be ironic foreshadowing, and perhaps Wendell misplaces his trust in the self-professed “truth teller.” But there is nothing in this early edit to make us question Wendell’s decision making.
Wendell disappeared in Episode 2, apart from his challenge performance, which I don’t count towards visibility. But after such a strong intro, I don’t hold the second episode INV against his edit. It certainly feels like Wendell is one to watch and the edit wanted us to know that right from the off.
Michael had a really good premiere edit. Similar to Wendell, we got to know a lot about him, his background, his strategy, his allies, and plenty of camp life scenes. He got introduced at the marooning because he was selected to run the challenge, and even though he struggled through the course, he didn’t receive any negativity for falling behind (he later described it as “humbling”). In the first Malolo scene, when Jacob said let’s introduce each other, we only heard from Michael. He told his tribe (and thereby the audience) his name, where he’s from (LA), and his job (real estate). He also said that he’s 23-years-old, but told us in confessional that he’s actually 18 and went on to explain his reason for lying. “I’m not gonna tell anyone my age on the show, strictly because I feel it kills credibility right off the bat.” On top of that, he mentioned how Survivor has been his dream and that he totally feels like he can win. A very strong intro.
If you look at who is remaining on the Malolo tribe after the first two episodes, only Michael and Donathan properly introduced themselves to the audience, and Brendan to a slightly lesser degree, though his intro was tied to the challenge. We know very little personal info about Laurel, Jenna, Libby, Stephanie, and James. It’s another reason why I think the winner is most likely on Naviti – though, again, it’s very early, and a swap could change a lot of this up.
Back to Michael, he was shown to be part of the strategy discussions throughout both episodes. He was part of the majority alliance and was seen offering his suggestions. In the second episode, he suggested making Jacob feel comfortable so that he wouldn’t play his idol if it turned out to be real. He also got a confessional about the split vote plan and how they had to be careful with how they did it. All of that is solid. The one thing that worries me for Michael is the confessional he had at the end of the first hour. It was about his approach going into the Gonzalez vs. Donathan vote, and there was some strong CP content here that could be applied to his broader outlook on the game. But did he go against his own strategy?
“For me, I’m basing my vote off of strength, that’s to me the most intelligent thing to do at a first vote because we all wanna win, we wanna get the next challenges under our belt, we wanna make it that much further and not have to worry about all of this so early,” he said. “And I think that Gonzalez is somebody we can easily do later down the line.” Obviously, Michael and the rest of the tribe decided to vote out Gonzalez at the first vote and keep the weaker Donathan. Does that undermine Michael? Possibly. What’s even more worrying is that he ends that confessional by saying, “With this being Ghost Island, I feel like it’s a double-whammy, if you make a bad decision, I think that will haunt me for life.” Now, that could just have been a nice little confessional to play into the overriding theme of the season, or it could specifically relate to Michael, and perhaps keeping around Donathan will come back to haunt him later.
Stephanie had by far the most strategic content out of anyone in the premiere. In fact, almost all of her content was strategy-based, we got very little personal info, other than the knowledge that she’s a superfan. Nothing about her life back home, her occupation, her background. She didn’t have a “turning my life around” style story like Kellyn, Domenick, and Wendell. Actually, Stephanie didn’t appear in the episode until after Malolo’s first challenge loss, which is when the strategizing started. So while the strategy stuff looks great, that lack of personal introduction does give me pause, and I think regular Edgic readers will know why.
In the recent seasons, it has become a trend for an early CP-rated, mid-to-high vis strategic player to become the shock pre-merge blindside boot. We’ve seen it with Anna in Kaoh Rong, Malcolm in Game Changers, Ali last season. You can even consider Michaela in Millennials vs. Gen X under this bracket – though she also received lots of personal content. That is the alarm bell ringing in my head right now – I don’t want to fall into this same trap again! It wouldn’t surprise though if the editors know this has become a trend and will try to pull a swerve this season.
Let’s look at Stephanie’s actual content and see if we can uncover any clues of where her story might be heading. As I said, she didn’t appear in the episode until after the first immunity challenge. We saw her talking to the women on the tribe and asking for the pros and cons of Donathan and Gonzalez. It placed her in a position of power. “The first vote sets the tone for the entire game,” she said in confessional. “ is somebody I can nurture,” she continued. “To me, getting rid of Gonzalez is about getting rid of a strategic threat, she’s got her own agenda, and she’s way too strong.” The edit made it look like Stephanie was the primary person pushing for Gonzalez to go. This continued when she vouched for Donathan as a harder worker when talking with Michael and Libby. Michael ended that conversation by saying he thinks it should be Donathan, to keep the tribe strong, but ultimately Gonzalez went home, which means Stephanie got her way.
This theme of Stephanie being able to persuade people carried into the second hour. She was the one that got all of the info out of Jacob. “I’m willing to use him to get myself further in the game,” she said. Later in the episode, Stephanie used her charm to get Jacob to spill the real details about his idol and trip to Ghost Island. Jacob described her as “not only beautiful but really good at this game,” before telling her about how he gifted the Legacy Advantage to Morgan. All of this paints Stephanie as a really good player. But there are two things in her next confessional that stood out to me, one positive, and one negative. I’ll start with the positive, which was her talking about Morgan’s advantage. “That’s something I can use to my advantage later on this game,” she said. It sets up a potential story for Stephanie with Morgan and therefore gives her a future narrative. That said, with a swap coming next week, this story could come into play sooner than expected. Now the negative…
“Now I’m really struggling with this Jacob vote, he trusts me, and those are the kind of people you wanna keep around,” she said. But she voted Jacob out. It reminded me of Ali last season, who despite voting in the majority and keeping her options open, always seemed to vote out potential allies. There’s no question that Stephanie got her way in this vote. Jenna said that she would go along with whatever Stephanie wanted, and given that Jacob went home, you have to believe that’s what Stephanie wanted to happen. But that line about keeping people that trust you around still hangs ominously in the air. Stephanie’s edit is definitely intriguing, and next week will hopefully give us a clearer idea whether she is going to be a long-term strategic force in the season, or if she is heading for that shock CP early boot like many before her.
Donathan was the third major character of the premiere, behind Jacob and Domenick, or maybe even tied with Domenick. Whereas Stephanie was almost all strategic, Donathan was practically all personal/character related content – though he did talk a little game too. We learned that he’s from Kentucky, that he’s never traveled outside of the U.S. until now, that he’s gay and currently single. While people like Domenick, Kellyn, and Wendell talked about how they already made changes in their lives, for Donathan, Survivor IS his chance to change his life. As he described in his first confessional, and his conversation with Laurel, he hasn’t had the opportunity for an experience like this before, to meet such a diverse group of people. His story is very much the fish-out-of-water who is looking to broaden his horizons. All of this was shaped in a very positive light.
“My main goal out here, besides winning the game, is to know people that I would never know before,” he said. As always, mentioning winning is good (something he did twice this episode), but Donathan also gave himself potential for a journey edit. Meeting new people and growing as a person could easily be Donathan’s arc for the season. But has that story peaked too soon? The second hour was seriously OTT for Donathan in regards to his growth. Donathan received a hero’s edit for swimming down to release the buoys in the second immunity challenge. It felt similar to the scene in Game Changers where Cirie crossed the balance beam. The thing is, in reality, Donathan sat on the sidelines for ten minutes, something which obviously hurt his tribe. But the edit glossed over that. Instead, he was praised, by both Probst and his tribe, as if he’d won them the challenge, even though Malolo lost. That is editorial manipulation at its finest.
It continued at Ghost Island; there was heroic music as Donathan built his fire and cooked his rice. He didn’t start the fire from scratch, we saw him use the flame from the tiki torch, but again, the edit quickly brushed over this and presented this moment as part of Donathan’s great growth. And that is why I wonder if this is all too much too soon. Are the editors just trying to milk Donathan for all he’s worth right now because he isn’t long for this game? He’s a compelling character, so it would make sense why the editors would choose to give him such focus. That said, there are little moments sprinkled throughout these first two episodes that make me wonder if he’s more than just a short growth edit.
Donathan isn’t oblivious to the strategic side of the game. He showed awareness in one of his first confessionals: “I need to have people I can trust because look at me, I’m not the most built or maybe the most brainy. And if you’re too weak early in this game, that’s definitely something that they’re just wanting to get right out of here.” He correctly called that being weak will make him an early target and so he needed to develop trust. As he survived the first vote, that would suggest he accomplished building at least some semblance of trust. Stephanie for one described him as someone she could trust and nurture. But Donathan isn’t some lost puppy. He even said at one point, “People are very underestimating me when it comes to what I think in my mind, and I’m used to that. But I have my own thoughts and my own plans.” The inclusion of lines like that makes me think Donathan could have longevity.
Either way, whether Donathan is set for an early exit or a deep run, I think this two episode edit suggest he will be one of the most memorable characters on Survivor: Ghost Island.