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SURVIVOR 36 : Ghost-Busting The Island Edit and Trying To Work Out Our Winner Picks

March 15, 2018

FINALLY got around to rewatching the past two weeks of   and man, how great is it to have Survivor being actually, well, GREAT again?   Like, for all the talk about #ReversingTheCurse, one can only assume that J-Pro is referring to that of Game Changers and (whelp) #HeHeHu aka The Worst Survivor Season Since The OG Fiji (which was 21 seasons ago).


As a hardcore Survivor Fan since Day One, it’s so nice to have a season that is so much that it’s worth writing about again.  And doubly so because, two weeks in, there’s not an obvious clear winner like the last few seasons have given us.  Particularly, it’s great to be getting some semblance of a well-rounded edit and some really unexpected pure-character moments to boot.


Plus, the whole Ghost Island motif is actually PRETTY FREAKING COOL.  Like, it’s a shame that it’s not full of the REAL past Survivor mistakes like The Medallion Of Power, Fiji’s “Have/Have Not” Twist, the GODAWFUL CARAMOAN REUNION STAGE SET-UP, casting various members of The Hantz Family or last season’s ill-conceived and frankly embarrassing Final 4 Fire Making Ben Bailout, but it’s a good start.  And it’s a smart, well-thought out choice to breathe some new life into a format that was getting a little too stale to be staying on air.

The Survivor : Ghost Island Legacy Advantage, which has basically become DEATH NOTE at this point.


So, what are we doing here?  As opposed to the standard recap format, which so many other writers do better/funnier/more on timelier than we could ever dream(z) of delivering, we’re going to be putting on our Sherlock Holmes-esque sleuthing hat and investigating the season from an editing point of view.  To those of you who haven’t really followed before, it’s always been a passion of ours to really follow the show and break down the story based on the edit, and try and crack out the winner like we’re reading an old-fashioned Agatha Christie novel or something.  It’s the way we’ve approached Survivor ever since Heroes vs Villains, and using that we’ve picked Fabio, Sophie, Kim, Cochran, Tyson, Mike, Jeremy and Michele right from the very get go.   Now, to be very clear, this is a SPOILER-FREE ZONE (because what fun is a mystery novel if you cheat and jump straight to the last page, right?)  But also, it’s super important to note that edit prognostication is NOT an exact science.  For every rule that is pretty much set in stone, there is another new rule that gets invented each year as different types of players win, or different approaches to the editing them take effect.  Having some real, logical, human flexibility in this is what probably sets us apart from the EDGIC Community, which will lock itself in to people like Devon or, say, Dr Mick, even though it’s blatantly obvious to anyone with a brain that they’re not winning the season, no matter how many checkboxes they tick off.

For example, before Tony Vlachos, there had never, EVER been an edit like his that had won.  So you could eliminate him for a hundred different reasons but, when it came down to it, it was just because we’d never had a winner PLAY like Tony before.  Adam Klein from Millennials vs Glenn X is another great one – the edit absolutely CRUCIFIED him at the merge, and showed him making several game-ending errors with jurors that there was no way we could see him overcoming it.  So when he comes back with a 10-0-0 vote to win, we learned that when a player plays THAT GOOD of a game, the only only to portray them is to create doubt where there is none, and basically assassinate their chances ala Tony V in order to make the rest of the season an even remotely suspenseful one.   The CBS editors have created some fake suspense with winners before, but nothing like the hack job that they did to Adam (which we had to formally apologise to him in person for after shitting on his game and his winning chances for a majority of the season).




So, what are our Golden Editing Rules for WINNING SURVIVOR?  Now, each week we’re going to walk through a specific one, because otherwise this word count is going to have more 0’s than Stephanie’s inevitable cheque.  But, this week we are going to start with one of the most important, that has held true for 34 out of 35 seasons (and, even then..)

WINNERS EDIT RULE #1 – No Matter What, The Winner Will Be Clearly Established In The Premiere.

This right here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Survivor Edit 101 that will NEVER, EVER let you down.  You can get yourself as many New Rules as Dua Lipa allows, but season in and season out, this one always holds down the firmest.

In 35 seasons, the only Survivor Winner who hasn’t been solidly established in the premiere was Tina Wesson, and that was by design (as we elaborate on further down the line).

But basically, a winner will ALWAYS be shown in the first episode and get at least one really solid strategic confessional, and something establishing who they are as a human being.  The more forced it might seem, or the less likely the reason you can think of to be shown it, the more confident you can be in them being a season winner contender.  The latter is how we zeroed in on Michele Fitzgerald and had her as our LOCK Winner Pick right from the Kaoh Rong premiere and never deviated from her since.  No matter how INV the actuality of their gameplay might be, the premiere itself will always make sure you know their name and that their story is told right from the start.



01. STEPHANIE (Last Week – 1) 

Stephanie has by far what we could consider the best Winner’s Edit of the bunch so far.  The whole Malolo journey has really been shown primarily through her eyes and this week has been no different.    The fact that the entire Mad Malolo Idol Hunt ™ was shown through *her* eyes  via the lengthy confessional at the start of it is pure ‘Winners Edit 101’.  Like, Michael and Brendan may have been the ones to find it (and, based on the previews for next week, didn’t seem to have even *told* #Jephanie that they had it yet), but the edit gave Stephanie all the glory for both initiating the entire plan AND explaining just how crucial it was for ALL of them.  Coupled with the fact that she has been shown as the crucial vote in both of the previous tribal councils, and we’ve been having the tribe dynamics all explained to us via how it affects her, this pretty much wrapped up where we’d be laying all our money if this were ‘Survivor : Las Vegas’ and not just Ghost Island.


Survivor Ghost Island Stephanie Opening Winner Edit Shot


There are two other big things stand out in Stephanie’s edit that make her look like a lock to us.  The first is the shot above from the opening sequence of the premiere.  This was what was shown on screen as Probst started his standard “one castaway left to take home the million dollar prize” spiel and it really stood out to me as it’s EXACTLY the kind of clue the editors love to insert year after year after year.  I mean, granted – it cut from that to a shot of MORGAN & BRADLEY (although who can blame them because ❤ ❤ ❤ ), but still – coupled with her edit so far, this is an extraordinarily good sign she’s bringing home the win.

The other big thing that stands out to us is the previews for next week, which go out of their way to show Stephanie specifically in peril.  Now, firstly, her being booted is unlikely because showcasing it like that would be too obvious, even for CBS.  But this kind of thing is also a really big sign the editors want us both invested in HER story, and also to create the appearance of real peril.  No winner is ever shown to have a smooth road to the end (even if in reality they did).  This is like the exact point nine seasons ago when we locked in Tyson as the winner of Blood vs Water when the whole ‘Next Time on Survivor…’ from Episode Two was a really forced bit about how he might quit the game for Rachel, even though logically there was obviously no way that that was ever happening.

The only real downside for Stephanie so far is that the nature of the story so far has required the editors to HAVE to feature her, although her prominent showing this week in spite of winning the challenge negates that somewhat.  Also the fact that she has a lot more personal backstory than *just* being a super-duper fan, but time will tell if that gets expounded on over the coming weeks.  At this stage, she probably has a 75% chance of being the winner and a 25% chance of ending up as the plucky Wentworth-esque Fan (vs) Favourite of the season.  (SIDE NOTE – How great is it that we live in a world where ‘Wentworth-esque’ is now a widely-accepted Survivor describer and archetype.  Like, lets all take a second to just *revel* in that).


02. WENDELL (Last Week – 2)

Mister Wendell (Arrested Development Shout Out FTW) had a much more low key week this week, but this actually might be good for his chances long term.  Even though nothing really worked out his way this week, we still got enough time to explain his rationale behind all of his choices ™ and thus he felt most spared from being on the wrong side of the vote.  This coupled with the fact Old Naviti didn’t go to Tribal at all last week makes all the time the two hour premiere devoted to introducing him and his back story even more compelling in the realm of diving an editing Winner Pick.  To be perfectly honest, we could make almost as much of a case for his win as we do for Stephanie, but due to it being much more under the radar energy-wise so far, he also could end up being, like, a merge boot or something (although that seems unlikely).


03. DONATHAN (Last Week – 4)

HOW DO YOU SOLVE AN EDIT-PROBLEM LIKE DONATHAN?   Seriously, contestants like Donathan pose the biggest problem to solving the Survivor Editing Riddle each season because there’s just no real precedent for editing brand new personality types – and thank FUDGE for that.  Like, one of the things we should be the most grateful for as Survivor Fans is when we get a brand new personality archetype thrown our way, because it’s a big part of what makes the show both so fun and so consistently entertaining year after year.  That being said, all the things that make Donathan so refreshing and just, well, a huge delight to watch are all the reasons why it’s a total crapshoot trying to prognosticate where he will place, and doubly so when you’re trying to clock a Winner Edit.  Because the reality is, we have no real idea what a Donathan Winner’s Edit would even look like – the same way a player like Tony had an edit that made no sense at the time, because there is no real precedent.  He doesn’t have some of the things that we would normally expect from a Winner’s Edit past, but that could very well just be because he ends up playing a game different to one we have seen win, which is exciting to watch.  What we can tell so far is clearly he is someone we are meant to like (nay LOVE) and it’s pretty apparent he’s in for the long haul.  His Ghost Island sojourn in Episode Two also had him talking about making fire, which will be a thing to keep an eye on as the episodes go by given that we know the WOAT S35 HHH Fire-Making Fan Favourite Bailout Challenge is still in full effect.  But there has also been enough strategic awareness and depth to his scenes so far that we could indeed be seeing a winning journey right here, only time will tell!


SIDE NOTE – Am I the only person who literally has to keep pronouncing his name as “Do Nathan” in my head in order to remember how to spell it correctly?  Because, like, it’s fine but (a) growing up as a gay southern boy he must have got SO MANY jokes about doing various guys named Nathan and (b) all I can think of whenever I write is name is idly think about what Nathan’s I can think of that *I’d* like to do and, well let me tell you – IT IS VERY DISTRACTING. #DoNathan


04. DOMENICK (Last Week – 5)

Domenick has had a hyper-present edit the past two weeks, but unlike Stephanie, Wendell and Donathan, his could really go either way at the moment.  HRH Tony Vlachos is obviously the go-to comparison for The Dom (& Colin Podcast),  but there’s something a little toneless and OTT chaotic about his edit so far that makes us think there could still be a chance he goes in the next few weeks (and it’s not just because he just got willed Game-Changing Fan Favourite Sierra Dawn Thomas’s apparently cursed Legacy Advantage).  Granted, he could definitely still win – the premiere in particular did such a marvellous job of setting him up as a fully rounded human being (as opposed to just a Tony Toons 2.0 character), but we’re going to wait and see another week or two before we bump him up into Tier One with those other three.  The fact all of his content so far DEMANDS to be shown because it’s so situational is a big reason for this editing asterisk (*).   Will Domenick DOM-EN-ATE?  We will just have to wait and see (but not long enough to apologise for that joke, which we already deeply regret, FWIW).  All that being said, we really hope he stays because (a) he’s fun and (b) forget Brendan – if we have to have a Survivor Dad this season, our pants are set on Dom.


05. MICHAEL (Last Week – 6)

Here is where things get tricky.  Not so much as with how Michael is edited per se, but more in the fact that we’re still not entirely confident he’s of legal enough age that we can write about him without getting arrested by the Feds.  Like, can we all take a minute to appreciate his confessional look where he is sitting spread eagle showing us his Hidden Immunity Idol?  Because that was a LOOK.


(apologies for whoever on reddit I stole that picture from last week, because now I can’t find it to give them credit, and it’s A++)

But, uncomfortable jailbait jokes aside, Michael’s edit is still chugging along nicely.  Like, as locked as we are into Stephanie being the winner (SUCK ON THAT LAGROSSA), anyone up until him and the person below are all people we could viably still see as winners at this stage, which is refreshing in modern day Survivor editing TBH (considering we had Chrissy, Ben and Ryan locked in as the only three from the first episode we watched last season).

Other than that, we don’t really have a ton to say about him that’s not potentially incriminating <insert Michael Skupin joke here> – but he’s receiving a nice amount of prominence (particularly in the premiere), and he did get a great confessional post-idol (WIG) that did a lot to make sure he wasn’t forgotten even if Stephanie got the lion’s share of the credit.  Plus, apparently he was REALLY struggling physically in the first few challenges, and we didn’t get shown that AT ALL, which is an excellent sign for a future winner.


06. KELLYN (Last Week – 3)

ISN’T KELLYN AWESOME?  We are absolutely LOVING Kellyn, but she’s also the first person to really take a nosedive edit-wise since the premiere.  Like, she had SUCH a good first episode that we could have made a case for her to be up there alongside Stephanie, but this weeks episode was NOT good for her winning chances, even if her longevity might still be okay.

Firstly, lets start with the good – her personal content in the premiere was A+.  We established who she was as a person, and not just as a player (which we haven’t even done with Stephanie yet TBH), and really got a massively prominent amount of confessional time to make sure she stands out to us, right off the top of the episode.  This is rare for older women (well, relatively speaking) at the best of times, but doubly so for ones coming from a tribe that didn’t go to Tribal Council AT ALL in the two hour season starter.  The editors want to make sure we remember Kellyn, which bodes incredibly well for how long she’ll be sticking around for.

What is concerning, however, is how tonally bad her entire Episode 3 was.  Now, it may not be BAD in the catastrophic sense yet, but it’s certainly not a career-defining Michael Jackson album either (which is probably for the best, given that she’s currently nestled under the other Michael here).  We’re hesitant to say she came off as villainous this week, but it was definitely somewhere between negative and outright inept with the way that they showed her talking to the old Malolo’s (side note – it is getting very hard to use the word ‘OLD’ seriously in any context of this dang season of Survivor Kindergarten).  While she wasn’t wrong in the content of what she was saying – and strategically may well be doing the right things to build relationships and solidify trust long-term, it was portrayed to us at home as almost condescending (which is hilarious given that condescension doesn’t seem to be a character trait that is even in Kellyn’s wheelhouse).  There are timelines where this could even be setting her up to be the first boot from Nu-Malolo now they have an idol, as latter day seasons have increasing had a precedent of setting up one or two pre-merge boots with strong premiere episodes (Max Dawson and Lindsay from Worlds Apart immediately spring to mind).  And while we don’t think it’s *quite* that worst case scenario for Kellyn just yet, it’s definitely possible.  Most likely, we’re looking at say a losing FTC Finalist at this stage, but it could go either way.


07. CHRIS (Last Week – 10)

Now Chris OF ALL PEOPLE had the edit that surprised us most this week.  Last week he was being perfectly set up as potential douchebag eye candy cannon fodder (in that order), but his Ghost Island stay over had a surprising amount of complexity that we are totally here for (aka the kind that Survivor used to afford to ALL of it’s non-Zoe inhabitants).  Like, can anyone think of another non-long term contestant in recent memory to get the kind of emotional arc that Chris has had in just these past two weeks?  It’s kind of fascinating – and bodes incredibly well for his post-merge chances. Heck, if it keeps up, this kind of thing could almost bump him up into the top tier with the other six players above.  We will have to wait and see if he makes it past the next vote or two first, but keep an eye out, cuz this Mactor In Training could have legs yet.


08. LIBBY (Last Week – 15)

Lets get this out of the way – Libby can’t win.  Like, Libby wasn’t even in the TWO HOUR PREMIERE, so from an editing standpoint, she’s Winner Winner Chicken … TOAST, right?  RIGHT?  But fuck me gently with a chainsaw was Episode 3 the The Week Of Libby.  That was a GREAT episode – really complex, lots of nuance, and all without ever once relying on an over-abundance of cleavage shots.

All that being said, if Libby were to win, she would be flying in the face of every single winner’s edit we have had on Survivor since Season Two.  And even then, Tina Wesson White-Out approach was in itself a hidden editing clue because all fifteen other contestants got confessionals in the Australian Outback premiere EXCEPT the eventual winner.  So, more than likely, we are seeing the emergence of an important player (and almost definite returnee, according to J-Pro), but not our winner.  Which is a shame, because Libby is fucking COOL.


09. JENNA (Last Week – 12)

Jenna is an interesting one to watch for me – definitely the contestant who has a lot more screen time than you likely remember, and a lot more confessionals to boot.  Every season there is one or two contestants that sneak up on you because their naturally lo-fi energy means that their confessionals wash over you a little (WE’RE LOOKING AT YOU SARAH LACINA) and you don’t realise a main character has been staring you in the face the entire time.  So Jenna is very much a bubble contestant still.  Even after watching each week twice, we can’t really remember anything she said, but she is definitely there and had some strong strategic confessionals, so her placement is very much TBD.  (also, even though we are aggressively homosexual here, it deserves to be pointed out that Jenna has an A++ ass.  Like, all those shots of her scrambling up a hill in a bikini searching for the idol?  DAMN.)


10. SEBASTIAN (Last Week – 11)

So, Sebastian was THERE, I guess.  This is the point where literally none of these people have a shot at winning, but they’re definitely getting all the mileage out of this ‘Ozzy With An Actual Personality’ that they found scrounging around the CBS backlot, so we may as well get used to him for a while.  Could go either way TBH – he’s getting shown, which could be good for his longevity, but as we said at the start, they could just be squeezing this human laffy taffy for every last bit of banana flavour while they can.  Sebastian is comic relief basically (as well as being a musical cartoon crab), so enjoy it however long it lasts.


11. JAMES (Last Week – 14)

Now, we thought James was dead in the water last week (GEDDIT?  GEDDIT?  DEAD IN THE WATER?  GEEZ, TOUGH CROWD..) but he bounced back nicely this week being shown to control the Nu-Naviti votes.  He also had a nice deleted scene where we got to see that the entire Vote Morgan strategy was based on correct logic but incorrect assumptions (i.e. that the old Naviti members were lying to them and it was all just an elaborate ruse to vote for Ange Perkins), but combined with his valiantly noble ‘Fall On The Sword’ approach at the Episode 2 TC, this could be good for him.  Still, he had such a nondescript premiere that we don’t see him sticking around much longer, but it’s possible at least.


12. BRENDAN (Last Week – 8)

It sucks, because someone who has been applying for as long as Brendan has (he almost made it on Marquesas and has been trying ever since) is the kind of guy we like to see on Survivor doing well.  If not winning, at least getting to get shown on TV and get a decent storyline.  But, so far, Brendan feels very much like the supporting character in everyone else’s story – namely Stephanie and Michaels.  While he is definitely up in all the action, none of it is from his perspective, so while he could very well find himself in the Final 4 or 5, he just doesn’t seem to be the person who is taking home that formerly oversized giant novelty cheque from CBS, which is a shame for his game.


13. LAUREL (Last Week – 9)

UGH.  Here’s another one that we REALLY want to see do well, but just isn’t getting the edit to support it.  Despite her lovely scene with Donathan in the premiere, and getting featured in a lot of the nu-Naviti negotiations last week, we haven’t really heard that much from Laurel herself – which is terrible news for viewers everywhere, because she’s pretty great.  Hopefully this doesn’t mean she’s getting bounced in the next few weeks for some unforeseeable reason, but it’s definitely not looking good for Laurel.


14. ANGELA (Last Week – 18)

Now, this where we’ve really entered the ‘No Chance In Hell’ of winning portion of the piece, although Ange Perkins at least has a really solid amount of screen time which could go in many different directions this week.  TBH, we don’t really know what to make of how they portrayed her in Episode 3.  First she was shown to be strategically out of the loop, then she was shown to have a completely 180 perception of where she socially stood with every single other person on her beach, which became really interesting when the votes shook out in her favour despite her cluelessness to this.  Where it goes from here all depends on whether you read her scenes to be oblivious or endearing?  We’re kind of stumped – we still think she’s most likely the next boot, but she also could hang in there for a while, Michelle Dougan-style.


SIDE NOTE – is anyone else secretly hoping she sticks around purely because, every time she shows up on screen, she looks SO MUCH LIKE LAURA DERN IN ‘ENLIGHTENED’?  Like, it’s UNCANNY.  If you haven’t watched ‘ENLIGHTENED’ then you need to watch it, STAT.  Because it is a GODDAMNED JOY.  #NeverStopJellicoeing


15. DESIREE (Last Week – 13)

Sadly, we didn’t hear at all from Desiree this week, which is another bummer because she has one of the most interesting stories of any of the contestants on this season (or, heck, ANY season).  Obviously we are also going to get a handful of Purple Edit contestants in a modern day Survivor, but Desiree has SO MUCH BACKSTORY (as well as oodles and oodles of personality and game awareness) that it is incredibly odd CBS wouldn’t feature her.  At all.  Almost makes one wonder if she either quits, gets medevac-ed or idol-ed out at some stage, because it just seems like such a waste to ignore her like this.



On the PLUS SIDE, every time Queen D *does* pop up on screen, we can’t help but get the AMAZING  (with a capital AMAZE) track DESIREE by Blood Orange stuck in our heads.  Which is great in itself, but doubly so because Freetown Sounds was legit the single best album to come out in 2016 and if you haven’t yet heard it YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO IT STAT.


16. BRADLEY (Last Week – 16)

So, you could have fooled us last week, when we would have lumped him in the same INV-Queen category as Chelsea, Libby and Ange Perkins, but Bradley finally popped up this week to show us he was on Survivor.  And, by popped up, we mostly mean OUR PANTS, because Bradley has one of the finest butts we have ever seen on Survivor (which is high praise this season, given we already have Jenna, Wendell, Michael and Chris – like, it’s basically SURVIVOR : BUTT ISLAND at this point).


But(t) yeah – basically giving us some long overdue eye candy and butt-jiggle in the Reward/Immunity Challenge, all we got was a couple of shots of Bradley complaining, or conspiring with Kellyn to vote off the old Malolo’s (FROM THEIR OWN SHITTY BEACH).  It’s incredibly OTT Negative at this point, which couple with the fact he’s supposed to be delightful in real life, doesn’t bode well for us being meant to care about him at all (unless, like me, you ALSO have very homosexual eyeballs).

Anyway, since Kellyn is probably safe for the long run, he could very easily be the next boot or two, which is a real shame for fans of fine ass EVERYWHERE.


17. CHELSEA (Last Week – 17)

Here is a cute pic of me every time someone asks if there is a Chelsea on this season :-


Sorry folks – that’s literally all I got for ya..




18. MORGAN/MORGONE (Last Week – 7)

Truth be told, Morgan is probably the one that we’re most disappointed to see go last week.  Not just because we went out on a limb and pegged her as potentially placing quite high on account of being the follow up shot to Stephanie’s Swimming J-Pro “to win the Million Dollar Prize” bit from the premiere, but just because she was such a dang hoot to watch.  Really liked Morgan – A LOT – and kinda hoping we get a ‘Second Chance 2 : Electric Boogaloo’-type season because she seemed like she had a lot of game in her to go with all that personality (and that Christa Hastie reincarnate type stoner drawl that gave us Pearl Islands-style goosebumps every time she spoke on screen).  As far as rating her so highly last week, no real shame, as the first few weeks boots will normally get more screen time early on nowadays, while the a few of the (Jim) early INV players are increasingly tending to pop up later down the line when they become relevant.



19. JACOB (Last Week – N/A)

Jacob is another one we’re really disappointed to lose, mostly because we had such high hopes for him preseason (and not just because he looked like a little Seth Rogen-style Stoner Jnr).  His interviews with the press were all fantastic – really funny, incredibly observant, and such a genuine, clear passion for the game.  Hopefully getting to make #SurvivorHistory as the first ever visitor to Ghost Island helps ease the pain somewhat.  I mean – how can you hate a man who tries to recreate the infamous Red Hot Chilli Peppers Rolling Stone Tube Sock cover with a container of rice, right?



Now here is someone we picked as the first boot right off the bat.  Not just with her first confessional, although that was literally a giveaway too, and not just because of the severe Carolina Eastwood vibes she gives off in every single photo.  But because she committed the cardinal Survivor sin of “SITTING RIGHT UNDER THE CEILING FAN IN PRE-SEASON PONDEROSA”.  Like, the second we clocked a few castaways mentioning that in all the pre-season press, we knew she was done for.  There is someone every year who unintentionally acts like a selfish, un-self aware brat while they are all cooped up in the resort waiting for the game to start, and this year it was The Other Steph.  Top Tip to all future castaways – the game starts WAY before Day One, and if you act like a dick, ADIOS.

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