Survivor: Ghost Island Episode 5 Recap: Massive Wake-Up Call

Had tonight’s episode of Survivor: Ghost Island aired in the 80s, the previews might have referred to it as a “very special episode.” That’s because it was a deeply personal, more emotional chapter of the show that we don’t get all that often, especially thus far this season when it has relied quite strongly on strategic prowess. Those that have complained that they don’t know or care about any of these contestants got to know and care about a select few of them tonight, and depending on if you like that sort of thing, it made the otherwise predictable episode a bit more enjoyable.

But first, as I do at the beginning of every Recap, please heed the following: Remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s Episode 5 of Survivor: Ghost Island, so if you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add too that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap, and is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.


Survivor: Ghost Island Episode 5 Recap: Massive Wake-Up Call

It was almost more than I could take tonight…as many of you know, I’m also a film critic, and per the job I get to see movies ahead of their release for review…tonight, prior to watching Survivor, I was shown “Midnight Sun,” a film that I thought was just going to be some throw-away teeny-romance flick. It surprisingly packed quite the emotional gut-punch (check out my full review this Friday!), which seemed to pair perfectly with tonight’s episode of Survivor. Maybe it was because I watched the two back-to-back and my heart-strings just couldn’t handle all of the tugging, but I personally found tonight’s Survivor to be a bit tedious. Yes, I like getting to know the players a bit better, and the show does have to wring some sort of drama out of predictable stretches of the game. But man was it poured on a bit thick. I mean, we get it, being on Survivor is an absolute dream come true and many don’t realize the personal sacrifices that many of these people make to appear on the show, but I was sort of over it by the time the weepy music played Stephanie down the dark “walk of shame” that all but a special few Survivor contestants get to take at some point during their “Survivor experience.”

This takes nothing away from Stephanie, her sacrifices, or her journey. I was definitely left a bit more intrigued by Stephanie’s backstory (so much so that I plan to ask her tomorrow about some of it on the Podcast), and I also appreciated the moments of true emotion that we got from Michael, Chris and Donathan. But when someone yelling out, “Cinnamon rolls! Cinnamon rolls!” sticks out as my favorite moment of the night, it’s probably a mediocre-at-best episode.

Survivor: Ghost Island Episode 5 Recap: Massive Wake-Up Call

Stephanie leaving the game is really a shame, as I was super-impressed with her game-play out of the gate this season. From the pre-season interviews, she seemed a bit – shall we say – odd, and the sort of player that wouldn’t have much of a chance of actually winning. But I was dead wrong. After the premiere episode, I thought she had a real chance to win the game…I also applauded her decision to vote out Jacob. Hindsight is always 20/20, but Stephanie – a lot like Morgan a few weeks back – just seemed to be voted out not because of anything she did specifically. Her downfall was more about luck, or the lack thereof, and where she wound up in the game. Also, how sad is it to see that Ghost Island once again provided us with zero strategic drama? Yes Stephanie was deflated when she wasn’t given a chance to play a game at Ghost Island, and she wasn’t the only one. For those counting, Ghost Island – through 5 episodes – has only yielded one special advantage – The Legacy Advantage – from the very first person during the very first hour of the season…with three out of five trips giving us the dreaded “No Game” parchment. This twist has not exactly been what I think many had hoped it would.

To try to pull any strategic developments at all from tonight’s episode is sort of like trying to find a secret advantage in Stephanie‘s personal belongings bag: There just isn’t anything there. The purple tribe has congealed nicely despite the whole Chris/Dom feud (of which we sadly got zero of this week), and the events of last week’s Tribal Council has now spawned a new strategic rivalry between Bradley and Michael. Sure, Bradley has the upper-hand right now, but he has now smartly identified Michael as a huge threat in this game, and with another tribe shake-up due next week, this rivalry is one to watch moving forward as well.

Survivor: Ghost Island Episode 5 Recap: Massive Wake-Up Call

On a smaller scale, kudos I guess can be given to both Michael and Jenna for staying alive this week. Michael is clearly seen as a physical help to upcoming challenges (even though there won’t be any more for this tribe following the shake-up!) and it seemed that Jenna was just not viewed as that big a threat. They can say that, but it’s not for nothing that they showed her working her magic on Sebastian, by flirting with him and offering to braid hair, or whatever. It might have been a small gesture, but it might have made all the difference in her remaining in the game, and she may just get new life in the game having now survived just one more day.

Survivor: Ghost Island Episode 5 Recap: Massive Wake-Up Call

Episode Take-Away: Again, it was an emotion-packed episode where we got to see some real human moments. Chris opened up about his mom to Donathan, after Donathan had opened up about his mom and grandma to Laurel. Michael cried after considering his fate in the game, and Stephanie had some introspective moments both on Ghost Island and at Tribal Council. But in the end, this was a predictable episode, and instead of the producers trying to throw us a red herring like they have so many other times, they decided to lean in and get all empathetic. The result was fine, if you like that sort of thing or have been waiting for a “slower” moment or two on the show, but for me I’m just chalking this one up and looking forward to next week, where it looks to really be interesting. Now if only Ghost Island would be more a part of a show called “Survivor: Ghost Island”…

Strategic Move of the Week: None, see above.

Voted out this week: Stephanie Johnson

Won Immunity: Purple Tribe

Vote: No hidden Idols or advantages played. 7 – Stephanie (Bradley, Desi, Chelsea, Kellyn, Sebastian, Jenna, Michael), 1 – Desi (Stephanie)

Next Week’s Episode: The battle lines have been drawn, the targets have been made clear, but Probst “drops a bomb” on the contestants by telling them to drop their buffs. Is this the merge? If it is, it would be happening a bit early in the game. The preview didn’t explicitly say that it was, so it could very well just be another tribe shake-up. Either way, it’s coming at a much-needed point!

Quick Note! Remember to return right here to Reality Tea for my FilmSurvivor Podcast on Thursday, where you can listen to my full exit interview with Stephanie Johnson. I also encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews (like “Pacific Rim: Uprising” and “Midnight Sun” this week) as I am also the national film critic for and am a movie critic/TV personality in the Detroit area. As always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.


Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe