Survivor: Ghost Island

Episode 14 Edgic

What did the finale tell us about the story of the season?

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.

You can read all our Edgic posts for last season here.

Color KeyNewColours

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
Wendell3Wendell CP3 INV MOR4 MOR3 UTR1 MORP3 CPP4 CP4 CP5 UTR1 MOR3 CPM4 CP3 CP4
Domenick2Domenick CPM5 CPM5 CPN4 CP5 UTR1 CP4 CP5 CPN5 MOR3 CP4 CP5 CP4 CP5 CP5
Laurel2Laurel UTR2 UTR2 UTR1 CPP3 UTR2 CP3 INV UTR2 CP4 CP4 MOR3 CP3 CP3 CP3
Sebastian2Sebastian MOR3 INV UTR2 MOR3 OTT3 OTT3 INV UTR1 UTR1 OTT2 UTR2 UTR1 MOR2 CP2
Michael2Michael CP3 MOR3 MOR3 CP5 CPP5 MOR4 CP4 MOR2 CP4 MOR4 CP3
James2James UTR2 MORN3 CP4 UTR1 UTR2 CPP5
Stephanie2Stephanie CP4 CP5 CP4 OTTP3 OTTP5
Brendan2Brendan MOR3 CP3 MOR3 MOR3
MorganMorgan UTRP1 MOR3 CP5
Jacob2Jacob OTTN5 OTTN5
Gonzalez2Gonzalez MORN3

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.

"It Is Game Time Kids" - Domenick Abbate, Laurel Johnson and Wendell Holland on the fourteenth episode of Survivor: Ghost Island, which is a two-hour season finale airing Wednesday, May 23 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: CBS

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.

"It Is Game Time Kids" - Wendell Holland and Domenick Abbate on the fourteenth episode of Survivor: Ghost Island, which is a two-hour season finale airing Wednesday, May 23 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment �©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: CBS

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.

"It Is Game Time Kids" - Laurel Johnson, Domenick Abbate and Wendell Holland at Tribal Council on the fourteenth episode of Survivor: Ghost Island, which is a two-hour season finale airing Wednesday, May 23 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: CBS

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!

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

10 responses to “Episode 14 Edgic”

  1. The ending was amazing and bumped the season up a few notches in my ranking, but it ultimately didn’t feel as fulfilling as it should have, solely because we barely got to know a lot of people that should have been relevant. It left for a very unsatisfying season where we watched two guys predictably steamroll everyone else. It could have been a strong character season, but in the end, Jacob and Morgan – who were tragically gone early – got more of a focus than the likes of Chelsea, Sea Bass, or Angela, three people who could have had memorable edits but were shelved in favor of predictability.

    This isn’t edit-related but the most poetic moment of the season was that Wendell won the game by doing the exact same thing Erik Reichenbach did at final 5 with the exact same necklace: He gave it to a girl. Only difference was that Wendell had two necklaces. It’s so ironic that the move they built up as so dumb (which it was) ended up doing the exact opposite thing it did before. Talk about the ultimate “reverse the curse!”

    The edit makes sense now and the poetic ending and thrilling tie vote reveal was the moment of the season. I just can’t think it makes up for the laziness elsewhere. There’s also that the twists screwed over the players that got that early development (or, in Morgan’s case, the role of martyr given how often she continued to get brought up – something we never see). It felt very uneven and ultimately made me wonder what could have been. This theme and cast should have clicked together so well but it didn’t and I chalk that up to the excessive amount of curveballs production insisted on throwing when they didn’t need to and the way the story was told. So many viewers got off the train midway because they were bored. The edit could have done so much more character stuff to keep them interested. Just look at Tocantins – that was a similar sort of Pagonging and it was made interesting because we had the likes of Tyson, JT, Fishbach, Sierra Reed, and, of course, the Dragon Slayer himself. Why did this season lack that personal touch?

  2. I loved Domenick..sorry he lost…but he will be back…i know the complaint was about editing..but almost everyone else was boring.they had confessionals and they were boring. In any other season Kellyn would have made it to the would Michael and my guess Sea Bass would have left earlier.

  3. Sorry but this was the worst edited season I have ever seen. It seems like they took everything that made the cast different and special for more showing game but there isn’t any more game happening then in earlier seasons

  4. agree completely

    watching the end with the draw. I see that the edition made sense desoues of everything.

    I liked the season mostly. It was boring after Chris and Desirie left but I liked the pre-merge chris rap’s episode of departure and the final tie .

  5. I won’t be doing this format every episode. It just made sense for the finale this season. There really wasn’t anything new to say in the individual write-ups for the Final 6. It would just be covering the same ground. So it made more sense to me to look at how the finale fit into the overall story arc. Plus I’ve always used Edgic to look at the story, rather than just winner.

  6. I hate how seasons are edited from the end to the beginning. It just causes the editing to be biased towards the people who make it far. If you make a move, you should get credit, regardless of how far you make it or if that’s the only move you make. The editing this season really was atrocious. You could guess from practically the second episode that Domenick and Wendell would go to the end together. They left so many people… unedited. Where was Chelsea? In interviews, everyone said she was playing hard, and she was actually very influential in many votes, yet somehow they managed to edit her out of everything, and give all the credit to Domenick and Wendell. Just goes to show you how manipulative editing can be. This season honestly became too boring to handle when Chris went home. After that, there was no hope Domenick, Wendell, or Laurel would get taken out.

  7. I keep reading posts that say the finale makes up for the poor editing. No, it doesn’t! This season was boring and predictable, right up until the very end. I actually enjoyed the Ponderosa videos more than the actual Survivor episodes.

  8. I agree with the finale being almost poetic as far as what the “Ghost Island” theme intended to be from the very beginning. Past decisions that come back and bite you, Laurel paid the biggest toll. It was rather cringeworthy cause I actually liked her. As much as I disliked this season, the finale did gave us a sense of closure.

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