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.
|Name||EP 1||EP 2||EP 3||EP 4||EP 5||EP 6||EP 7||EP 8||EP 9||EP 10||EP 11||EP 12||EP 13||EP 14|
What was the story of Ghost Island?
I’m going to approach this final Edgic post a little different than usual. Rather than do write-ups for the each of the final six, I’m going to look at what the finale episode told us about the story of the season as a whole.
There has been a lot of complaints from fans this season about the show’s lopsided editing. There was a significant lack of character development as many of the cast members fell into an edit blackhole. Instead, the focus revolved around a small handful of players, and even within that small group, only a couple had consistent long-term story arcs. All of those criticisms are valid, but the finale episode did enlighten us to why the producers may have chosen to edit the season in this way.
As we all know by now, the season ended with a tied vote between Domenick and Wendell. Their close ally Laurel then had to break that tie, ultimately choosing Wendell as the Sole Survivor. It very much seems like the producers worked backwards from this ending and decided that Ghost Island would be the story of Domenick and Wendell. And to a lesser degree, Laurel, though she had far less personal content than the two guys. It was the story of how these two players overcame their early screw-up and dominated the game until the very end while also maintaining a sense of friendly competition between them. That competition lasted until the very final moments and culminated in a historic tied vote at Final Tribal Council.
It’s almost like the producers knew they had this dynamite ending so felt like everything else was unimportant. As long as the viewers knew about Domenick and Wendell – and Laurel’s connection to them – then that is all that mattered. Unfortunately, that meant the journey to the destination was mundane and predictable. And outside of that narrative, there was very little for the audience to grasp on to.
To emphasize just how predictable the editing of the season was, I want to bring up something I said in Wendell’s write-up from the very first episode:
“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.”
I rarely make bold statements like that in terms of the winner edit, especially THAT early in the season because I always feel like the intention of the edit is to keep multiple winner options open going into the finale. But right from the start, the edit to this season felt different. As I said back then, while most of the action in those first two episodes took place at Malolo, it was the Naviti players who received the better introductions. Domenick, Wendell, Kellyn, Chris, and to a much lesser degree, Sebastian, were all given the spotlight to talk about themselves and the game within the first 20-25 minutes of the episode. Compared to Malolo where only Donathan and Michael received this honor.
As the season progressed, it became clear that Michael was the scrappy underdog edit, not one often associated with a winner. That only left Donathan as a viable Malolo contender and then his edit began to fall apart significantly at the merge. Meanwhile, those Naviti names, bar Sebastian, continued to receive focus. Most of the screentime was on Domenick, but he was always tied to Wendell, which kept him in the picture too. Malolo didn’t have individual stories, their narrative was tied into an overarching “Malolo/Orange curse” thing.
The leading narrative of the pre-merge beside the Malolo curse story was the battle between Domenick and Chris. These two alphas mentioned each other in practically every confessional. The feud culminated in the merge episode where Domenick came out on top. In an important moment, the edit gave Wendell credit for both trying to calm the two men’s egos and then later for swaying Libby, Jenna and Sebastian into voting out Chris.
Once Chris was gone the season truly became the Dom and Wendell show. The episodes all fell into a familiar pattern with Laurel and Donathan in the middle trying to decide whether they should flip on Domenick and Wendell or not. It’s no surprise that the two relationships set up in the premiere (Dom & Wendell on Naviti / Donathan & Laurel on Malolo) became the key relationships of the season. Nobody else had fleshed out relationships. Kellyn was a big character, but we barely knew anything about her in-game relationships. Michael was a big waver of the Malolo flag, but we never saw his personal bonds. It was just Dom/Wendell and Laurel/Donathan and when those pairs came together at the first swap, the rest was history.
Heading into the finale episode it was obvious Domenick or Wendell were winning. Laurel’s inaction and lack of personal content ruled her out. Donathan’s inconsistent post-merge edit pretty much killed his chances too – though he went out fighting and as one of the few characters that will be remembered from this season. He received a ton of personal content throughout the season, the majority of which leaned positive, and was the last bastion of that Malolo fighting spirit come the end. A CPP rating overall seems like the right choice for Sia’s favorite player.
Angela and Sebastian were out of the running weeks ago. And while Sebastian managed his first CP rating in the finale due to his admittedly well-thought-out plan to blindside Domenick, it was too little too late. When he wasn’t UTR or INV he was portrayed as an OTT goof. Angela, meanwhile, fulfilled her role of sticking to her Naviti family by blowing up Sebastian’s plan and falling back into the hands of Domenick. She showed similar courtesy to Wendell at the Fire-Making challenge by agreeing to swap seats (the Orange Curse arc reaching its conclusion) to make him feel more comfortable.
The one positive I will say is that the edit kept it up in the air between Domenick and Wendell – which was obviously intentional given the tie. The edit told us that both of these guys had the potential to win. Yes, Domenick received more screen-time and a lot more confessionals – especially in this finale, he had 17! He never received a “this is why Domenick lost” type edit. He had very little negative tone post-merge and the negativity he did get early on mostly came from Chris, who ended up complimenting him at Final Tribal Council. He was portrayed as a smart, capable player that could have won under just slightly different circumstances.
Wendell, on the other hand, had some flaws in his edit, a handful of wrong-calls and misjudgments throughout the season. But again, the edit told us those things didn’t matter. The story here was that Wendell was with Domenick every step of the way – he was the one shown approaching Dom for an alliance back in the premiere. Just like Domenick, he found idols, he won challenges, and he made moves. There were also those odd little moments like Sebastian’s shell and the girlfriend birthday scene. Wendell and Domenick were the two biggest threats and each of them recognized that fact hence trying to take each other out in the finale. It just wasn’t possible due to the Fire-Making twist. The edit didn’t tell us that Wendell was better at the game than Domenick. It showed that both men were worthy of winning. What Wendell did have though, was Laurel.
When you look at Laurel’s story overall, despite her offering a lot of complex thoughts when it came to her strategy and decision-making post-merge, her narrative only really existed in relation to Domenick and Wendell. Her decision at the swap to abandon the Chris alliance was because she didn’t want Wendell or Domenick to go home – and she stuck to that decision the entire season despite having many opportunities to flip. It was the same story in the finale episode. Laurel had made close bonds with both guys and saw her best chance of making FTC was to ride with them until the end.
The weird thing is we didn’t see Laurel and Wendell talk to each other until post-merge. Even though they spent time together on two swapped tribes. We knew they were aligned via confessionals, but the edit didn’t bother showing us their relationship until later in the game. Suddenly at the merge, they were having conversations about trusting each other 1000% and how they promised to go to the end together. I think we were missing a piece of the story where Laurel and Wendell bonded on a personal level. When Wendell used his idol on Laurel he described her as a sister, and while it was clear they were close on a game level, the edit never truly showed us that personal connection. But it was still more than they showed us between Laurel and Domenick and so when it came time for the tie-breaker, it was obvious Laurel would pick Wendell – though maybe the edit intended this moment to be more up in the air than it was in reality.
Ghost Island was the story of one of the game’s most dominant duos of all time and their closest ally who avoided having to make a decision all season only to end up with having to make the toughest decision of all at the end. And in a season built around the idea of past decisions, there is something rather poetic about the ending, even if it doesn’t make up for the lack of effort elsewhere in the season’s edit.
That’s it for another season of Edgic! Until next time!