Welcome back on the trail everybody! This week’s episode was another exciting offering that addressed an eternal Survivor conundrum: if you’re on the bottom, when’s the right time to make a move? It was a classic she-said/she-said showdown, with frantic accusations and gut-checks galore.
Without further ado, let’s hit the road!
Fork: Holding Steady, but for How Much Longer?
Last week’s big decision centered on Laurel and Donathan’s call to stick with Domenick and Wendell and vote out Libby, and this week they were presented with a similar choice. Desiree threw out a plan in the hopes of getting Dom, Wendell and Kellyn all out of the game, and again the two of them turned it down. Or, I should say, Laurel turned it down, as Donathan admitted to giving the plan some thought. Laurel, on the other hand, seemed to shut it down pretty immediately, which brings up the question of whether she will ever flip at all. The show seems to be positioning her story as her waiting for the right to time to pull the trigger on Domenick and Wendell, but is she running out of time to fire the shot?
Luckily for her, the result of the vote could not have worked out any better. Desiree blowing up her own game and getting the boot still leaves the game pretty open for Laurel, keeping Wendell and Dom in the game while also keeping fellow OG Malolo members Michael and Jenna. Kellyn’s side of the Naviti divide taking the blow pushes her closer to the place that Desiree wanted to be this episode, the spot where she can cobble together an alliance of her own making to take out the big threats. So far, any plan to upset the status quo has started elsewhere and come to Laurel seeking her help, not affording her a great opportunity to shape her future going forward. By taking out somebody she wasn’t all that close with, it puts Laurel in the position where she can be the person recruiting people for her big move, including only those she knows she can absolutely trust.
But Laurel better move fast. If she doesn’t act within the next two or three rounds, she may not have enough numbers to coral in order to take out Dom or Wendell. I’ve praised her so far for holding steady on her Wendenick alliance, but the clock is ticking, and if she doesn’t take one of them out soon she could be joining Desiree on the jury.
Also, I wanted to quickly praise how both Laurel handled the onslaught of Desiree’s erratic accusations. Once Des was exposed for double-crossing, she proceeded to drag Laurel’s name through the mud as much possible, and through it all she managed to remain calm yet stern, adamantly sticking to her version of the truth. This was especially true at Tribal Council; as Desiree was animatedly telling her version of the story, Laurel rebutted with a very firm retelling of her own. Add in a couple of assists from her good buddy Donathan, and she emerged as the steadier, more reassuring player of the two. Hopefully she can use that resolve to her advantage when she eventually does make her big move.
Fork: Gut Problems
Hoo boy, this was a rough week for Kellyn. So far, her “Naviti Strong” game plan has worked well for her, but this was the first time that her fixation on the original tribal lines bit back at her. To give Kellyn credit, Desiree’s plan to snuff her out ultimately failed because she had strong enough allies in other places that insulated her well enough to fend off any potential strike. Yet, her adamant denial that one of her (perceived) closest allies would never turn against her could have ended disastrously for her if she wasn’t so well-connected. Throughout the season so far, Kellyn has constantly credited her gut as her guiding force in the game, believing that following her most basic instincts could lead to no wrong. Simply put, this week, her gut failed her, and yet, the even bigger problem was, despite all of the evidence presented to her that Desiree was turning against her, she didn’t want to believe it.
Arguably, the main trait any successful Survivor player should have is flexibility, and in that conversation with Domenick right before Tribal Council, she was anything but. Impatiently pushing her agenda, not accepting any outcome other than Michael being the target, Kellyn was not adapting her plan to the new information that was presented to her. Instead sticking to the gut that had proven to be not as infallible as she once thought and potentially endangering her game in the process.
Eventually, she did concede to Domenick’s side and voted out Desiree, but not without some difficulty. All throughout Tribal Council, Kellyn had this strange mix of annoyance and disappointment displayed across her face, still in disbelief that she was forced to knock out somebody she thought she could trust. With Michael still in the game as a juicy target, Kellyn may be able to get away with beating the “Naviti Strong” drum for a bit longer, but this week should be a wake-up call that, sometimes in Survivor, following your gut can lead to some putrid play.
I failed to mention this last week, but god bless the editors for what they are doing with Sebastian. I will never get tired of references to him being high all the time.
Donathan had a big moment this week with finding the idol, which did a good job of showing off the different sides of him. In his confessional retelling, he’s as adorable as ever, but in the moment he is a serious gamer, traversing this high-wire act of getting this idol. So job well done to him. Plus, “nuh-uh honey” may be my new favorite comeback.
Domenick went full-on gangster in this episode. First, there was referring to his alliance as the “Family.” Then, my favorite moment of the entire episode is the tremendous shot of him during his heated talk with Kellyn, absorbing all of the information and sipping coffee in his track jacket, looking like the ultimate mob boss. Just splendid.
End of the Line: Desiree Afuye
What did Desiree do wrong? Her big gambit this week started from a good place; she recognized she was on the bottom and was motivated to do something about it. Suffice to say, her execution left a lot to be desired, and her torch was snuffed because of it. But she should be commended for trying to change her fate in the first place.
Also, from her perspective, I totally get why she felt now would be a great time to shake things up. Now that things have settled down after the excitement of the merge and people have felt each other out for a bit, this was a good opportunity for Desiree to redraw the battle lines in the way she wanted them to be, forming a new coalition that would put her on top. However, whenever somebody wants to shake the game up, they have to make sure that their new group is air-tight. If their prospective new alliance has any leaks, things could go downhill real fast. Unfortunately for Desiree, that’s the problem she ran into, as Laurel wasn’t vibing on the same wavelength as her. To Des’ credit, she only included Laurel and the rest of the OG Malolos because she thought she put in enough work to gain their trust, she just had the wrong read.
Even when she misread the room, Desiree could have had a chance at recovering her game if she managed the fallout with a little more chill. Her commitment to the hard pivot, denying nefarious activity to take out a Naviti, was quite impressive. Sometimes, the best path is to just keep spinning a lie until nobody knows fact from fiction. As Des found here, she was just, as Dom dubbed her, a tad too erratic. Ping-ponging from group to group, dive-bombing into conversations to clear her name seemed to arouse more suspicion than comfort those around her. During her conversations, if she had spoken in a more even-handed, reassuring tone rather than an accusatory one, she could have drawn people back in and salvaged her image as a desirable ally moving forward.
The biggest head-scratcher of all her decisions in this episode was the choice to target Kellyn first. Sure, she might have been the best name to throw to Laurel and Donathan to try to get them on her side, but Des would have been much better served to keep Kellyn around as a meatshield as long as she could. Furthermore, she still had the complete trust of Kellyn at that point, which could have proved to be useful in the short-term. Use her to organize a coup against Dom and Wendell over the next two rounds, looping in all of the OG Naviti women and Sebastian first and forcing her to go along with you. Alas, she felt the need to set her crosshairs on Kellyn, setting off the domino chain that would lead to her demise. Before this episode, Desiree didn’t have a huge role in the season, but now her exit will stand out as one of Survivor: Ghost Island’s most memorable moments and a cautionary tale for future players looking to make the next big move.
That’s it for this week, see you guys out on the trail next week!