Ahoy, Pool Players! It’s time to unlace your figure skates, take your skis back up to the attic and put away your curling… irons? That’s right, folks, the Olympics are over so before you pawn your Freestyle Bronze on eBay dust off the ol’ set for a whole new season of Survivor! That’s right, it’s a whole new cast combined with thirty-five seasons worth of old twists! Hey, remember all those twists and idols that went nowhere and did nothing? Well they’re all back in the form of GHOST ISLAND, the super-spoopy subtitle for this season. Jeff Probst promises that the “ghost of the past” will come back to haunt the “graveyard of bad decisions” and he’s not describing what my snack nest looks like at 2:00 AM! Ghost Island! I’ve got the shivers just thinking about it! Luckily we’ve got TWENTY new losers to keep track of, well, technically nineteen losers and one who will end up the sole Survivor. There’s a whole mess of show between now and then, so let’s get to it!
For the first time in what feels like a CENTURY the Survivors are separated into two tribes of ten and… that’s it. It’s not Heroes versus Hustlers versus Hairstylists. Nor is it Brains versus Brawn versus Beauticians versus Beasts. Thank goodness it’s not White Collar versus Blue Collar versus No Collar versus That Dog Has No Collar versus Seriously You Should Consider Registering Your Dog (or at least buying them a collar). Nope, just twenty randos, randomly sorted into the Malolo and Naviti tribes. What do Malolo and Naviti mean? It’s not important! What is important is that each tribe will quickly have to elect a leader. Malolo chooses Brendan and then Chris basically volunteers for Naviti. These leaders have to select two people to run one challenge, one physical person and one puzzle person. Brendan chooses Michael and Laurel, and Chris chooses Sebastian and Desiree. The rules of this challenge are convoluted, because this is the thirty-sixth season of this show and they darn well expect you to be able to keep up. Basically they all get rice and fishing gear, but the winners will also get shelter-making material and flint while the losers will lose their fishing gear unless they forfeit and then they’ll get the gear but the winners will also get a plate of eggs. Jeff Probst starts explaining all these rules and I feel like I’m about to pick the wrong door on Let’s Make a Deal. The challenge itself is actually pretty simple, but it tires out both Michael and Sebastian, who both look exhausted running through the sand. It’s not much better for Laurel and Desiree, neither of whom are good at the puzzle. Naviti Chris decides to forfeit to save the fishing gear. So Malolo wins and Naviti loses, but, really we’re all winners here. Jeff Probst asks Naviti if anyone thinks Chris made the wrong decision and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW Domenick raises his hand. “I like to speak my mind!” says Dom, and don’t worry, we’ll be hearing a lot from that mind tonight!
Hel-lo-lo, Malolo! Michael tells everyone that he’s 23, but he’s actually 18, and that’s probably the most interesting thing about him. Stephanie “Gonzales” Gonzales tells everyone she’s from Puerto Rico, and that’s probably the most interesting thing about her. Donathan is from a town in “Western Kentucky” where it sounds like they’re still waiting for the roads to be paved with real road. Over at Naviti we learn that Kellyn hit reset on her life by getting divorced and skipping town which means she’s either ready for a fresh start or she’s a secret grifter! Dom reveals that he’s a construction supervisor while he’s, uh, bossily supervising the construction of their shelter. Sebastian and Chris quickly bond over their shared love of… Florida’s geography? “We’re like best friends in a candy shop!” one of them says, mixing about seven different bon mots. Meanwhile, back at Malolo, Jacob has lost his shoes to the sea. No, really. The waves came and took his sneakers away. I wish I had something more witty to say about this, but I assure you there will be PLENTY of time to dunk on Jacob in the VERY near future. After announcing that his soles have departed, Jacob slips away from the rest of his tribe to hunt for an idol. Everyone sees him do it, and they all talk about what a bad idea that is. Back at the camp, Jacob concocts a scheme to get everyone to leave so he can search for an idol clue in the rice container… by pouring the rice out into his sock. Look, I don’t want to make any judgements about Jacob, so I’ll just say that I bet his socks smell terrific. When the old rice in the sock is all for nought, Jacob says “That was stupid” a phrase that should play on a constant loop in the space between his ears. Over at the Naviti tribe we learn that Wendell went to Harvard but now makes custom furniture. You could say he really wanted to chaise his dreams. I bet he won’t take this one lying down!
It’s challenge time! In this Immunity Challenge the Survivors need to transport six heavy puzzle pieces and then put together a cube puzzle. The first tribe to finish gets Immunity and also the chance to send someone on the losing tribe to Ghost Island. That person will not go to Tribal Council, so they’ll be immune, but they’ll also be separated from their tribe. Also, Ghost Island. Spoopy! Hey, do you like watching people struggle to pull really heavy objects? Then you’re going to love this challenge, which looks especially exhausting. Naviti maintains a good lead and figures out the puzzle quickly, recovering from their first loss and sending Malolo to Tribal Council. After the challenge, Jacob says that he’s not worried since Malolo is one of the best tribes of all time. OF ALL TIME. Yes, folks, they’re better than DANGRAYNE. Unsurprisingly, Naviti decides to send Jacob to Ghost Island, probably to give him immunity and also probably to give the rest of Malolo a break.
Ghost Island time! We’ve heard so much about it and it’s finally here! Turns out Ghost Island is quite the production, with a spooky staircase leading to a spooky shelter leading to a spooky game of chance. Jacob first needs to smash an urn, and then learns he has the opportunity to get an advantage. Jacob can either choose to try for the advantage and get it, or lose his vote at the next Tribal Council if he doesn’t get it. Since it’s a fifty-fifty chance, Jacob does the sensible thing and takes it which gives him.. wait for it… the famed LEGACY ADVANTAGE from SURVIVOR: GAME CHANGERS. Really starting the show with a showstopper on that one, guys! Come on, you remember the Legacy Advantage! We’re reminded in spooky flashback that Sierra found it on the first day, it never went anywhere, and then she told Sara about it and Sara voted her out. Now it belongs to Jacob but he can’t actually use it, he has to RESTORE THE POWER by giving it to someone on the other tribe. He decides to give it to Morgan, which was a shocker to me since I don’t remember there being a Morgan this season. So all the hype and mystery surrounding Ghost Island and… that’s where it leads. Spoopy!
Back at camp, Gonzales announces that she had the right strategy for the puzzle, but nobody would listen. Donathan tells us that he had the right strategy, but Gonzales told him to shut it. Donathan starts to campaign to vote Gonzales out, and tries to convince Steph that she should go. Steph and some of the other tribe-mates debate the merits of Donathan and Gonzales, and Steph reasons that they’re both pretty bad in challenges, but at least Gonzales can get stuck in small spaces. I don’t know, either! It’s time for our first-ever Tribal Council where once again fire represents your life and also the lives of all the ghoooooooosts! This is a pretty standard first episode tribal, where the merits of strength versus puzzles are debated. Apparently there haven’t been that many actual alliances formed, but that doesn’t stop Gonzales from hopping up and whispering to everyone to vote Donathan out. Donathan, to his extreme credit, doesn’t get involved with this, and when it’s finally time to vote your girl Gonzales is unceremoniously given the boot. Take your whispering somewhere else! The only spirits allowed to whisper on this season are the actual spirits! Adios to Gonzales, who at least had the decency to call herself Gonzales so we didn’t have to keep writing down “Stephanie G” and “Stephanie J.” Only one Stephanie remains!
It’s bad news for fans of Mark Harmon and good news for fans of Survivor since there’s not one but TWO hours of show this week. See you next week, NCIS! It’s time for us to join the Naviti tribe in the middle of the night where Dom is creepily watching his tribe sleep. Somehow that’s the scariest thing that’s happened so far this season! Dom says that he can’t sleep and he’s got the shakes, so he decides to look for the idol under the cover of night. This basically involves waving a machete at some trees and right when you’re ready to call him crazy for even trying he ACTUALLY finds an idol hidden inside a tree. The next day he discovers that it’s Andrea’s idol from Survivor: Fans Versus Favorites that she found but did not play, resulting in her getting voted out. Surely you remember that one! All the hits! It’s up to Dom to reverse the curse, and he happily pockets the idol. Speaking of reversing curses, Morgan discovers the legacy advantage in her bag, and that’s about all there is to say about that! Back on Ghost Island, Jacob decides to make a fake idol so he can show his tribe and tell them it’s a real idol. It’s not exactly a lie, since he’s going to tell them about the perilous path and the upsetting urns, but it’s also totally a lie because he didn’t find an idol and made the darn thing out of some string and a shell.
Malolo is enjoying some sea slugs when Jacob slimes back from Ghost Island, fake idol in pants. He says that it was super scary at Ghost Island, but that he managed to find a hidden idol. He shows them the idol, which is INSANE, and says that he didn’t want to do it, but he wanted to be upfront with everyone. On a season that is literally about the dumb mistakes of Survivors past, this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen on this show. Nobody on Malolo believes him, and they immediately request receipts, asking to see the paperwork that came with the idol. Jacob says he must have lost it, which would be an unbelievable story, except that this is a man who just yesterday lost his own shoes to the sea. Anything is possible! Speaking of bad idol play, Dom decides to try and make good with Chris, and says that he wants to work with him. Chris asks Dom if he found the idol, and Dom says he did not. This is a lie, and Dom spooks himself, so he decides to make a fake idol to show Chris. Yes, Dom decides to make a fake idol after lying about finding the real idol. Luckily Dom still has the paperwork but Chris senses that something is off, and he’s not wrong!
Immunity time! In this Immunity Challenge the Survivors need to swim to a big slide, dive down and unlock some balls, and then toss those balls into a hoop. I feel like we’ve seen this exact challenge about twenty different times on this show, so if I just said “swim balls slide” you’d probably get the right idea. It’s pretty close at the jump, but then Naviti pulls into a huge lead when James is, uh, unable to dive down to retrieve the balls. Like, he just can’t do it. The rest of the tribe encourages Donathan to try it, and he says no, and then Jeff Probst SENSING A MOMENT runs over there and basically yells at Donathan until he gets in the water. Donathan dives down and gets it, of course, and thank goodness we’ve got another hero narrative this season. It’s all for nothing, though, since Wendell and Desiree successfully sink buckets and Naviti wins again. After a brief conference they decide to send Donathan to Ghost Island, probably because they just found out his name.
Ghost Island! Donathan walks up the spooky steps and smashes the upsetting urn but he gets nothing in return, with only a “try again later” message. So there’s nothing special for Donathan but at least he got to have a moment, and says that he’s becoming a real “mountain man.” Back at Malolo, James admits that he done goofed, and says that he’s to blame for losing the challenge. No, Sue’s to Blane! Everyone accepts his apology since it’s no secret they want Jacob gone instead. Steph decides to get buddy buddy with Jacob, basically talking strategy by fake flirting with him to try and put him at ease. Jacob floats the idea of getting out one of the stronger guys, like Michael, and then reveals to Steph that his idol was fake, he actually gave away the Legacy Advantage, and it’s all a sham and a lie, a lie and a sham. Steph can’t believe it, but of course she can believe it, and she admits that underneath it all, Jacob does make a good point. She takes this idea to Laurel, who says that it might be time to upset the “Strong and the Beautiful.” You know The Strong and the Beautiful, it comes on CBS in the afternoon, right before the “Young and the Fidgety” and “As the Globe Rotates” and “Shining Beacon.” They really try to make a scene of this at Tribal Council, with James once again taking the blame (“No, Sue’s to Blane!”) and Jacob lying about Ghost Island. Nobody believes him, though, because nobody ever believed him, and Jacob is pretty much unanimously given the boot, fake idol in tow. Goodbye to Jacob, a poor Survivor player who looked like what would have happened if Bob Ross had partied too hard in his youth. Pick up a pair of new shoes on your way out!
We’re almost on our way out of this recap, but first make sure to click on over to the Leaderboards to see where you stand. The Pool Princess has started referring to herself as the “Ghost-ess with the Most-ess” but she promises to stop long enough to send out the next Pool challenges. Next time on Survivor: it’s a tribe swap! Already! I barely even know what an ANGELA is yet! Also more shenanigans at Ghost Island, where some really spooky stuff has been happening, Scoob! Time to gas up the Mystery Machine and we’ll see you next week!