'Survivor: Ghost Island' finale shocker -- Wendell Holland wins over Domenick Abbate with tie-breaking vote at final Tribal Council
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/24/2018
Survivor: Ghost Island had "the most dramatic finish inSurvivor history" on Wednesday night, according to longtime host Jeff Probst -- and boy was he right!
Wendell Holland, a 33-year-old furniture company owner from Philadelphia, PA, was crowned the $1 million winner of Survivor: Ghost Island by a single vote, defeating the runner-up, Domenick Abbate, a 38-year-old construction supervisor from Nesconset, NY, during the live portion of the finale broadcast on CBS from CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles, CA.
But the one vote that put Wendell over the edge was actually a tie-breaker vote cast by the season's third-place finisher, Laurel Johnson, a 29-year-old financial consultant who currently resides in Minneapolis, MN.
After the 10-person jury split their votes right down the middle between Domenick and Wendell -- which marked the first time this has ever happened in 36 seasons of Survivor -- Jeff explained the other member of the Final 3, Laurel, would become the eleventh member of the jury and cast the sole vote for the season's winner.
Laurel's vote for Wendell was no surprise since the pair had one of the strongest friendships in the game. During the finale, Wendell had also used a hidden Immunity Idol to save Laurel and bring her to the Final 4.
Laurel received zero jury votes, as she had been accused of riding Wendell and Domenick's coattails to the end of the game. Wendell and Domenick had been allies from the beginning, and they grew to be best friends on Survivor, an inseparable team.
In another Survivor first, Jeff only read one vote at the live reunion special. He shocked the Survivor: Ghost Island cast by reading the jury votes at the Final Tribal Council session since there was a tie.
When recalling the moment Laurel was asked to cast the deciding vote at Tribal, Wendell admitted after his victory was announced, "I was very confident, but I knew Domenick had a tremendous relationship with her also. But it did feel good knowing Laurel was the one casting that tie-breaking vote."
Laurel said on the reunion special it was "an impossible decision" for her to make because both Wendell and Domenick were "so deserving" and "made the same moves in a similar way." As a result, Laurel explained her vote came down to Wendell's social game and their personal relationship.
Domenick feels he ultimately lost the game because he chose not to take a big risk.
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Since he won the final Individual Immunity Challenge, Domenick got to decide whether Laurel or Angela should compete against Wendell in a fire-making challenge for a spot in the Final 3.
Domenick chose the safe route and had Angela -- a 42-year-old Army veteran -- make fire, but he seriously considered going up against Wendell himself in an ultimate showdown and battle for power.
"Every night since I've been home, I've said, 'Why didn't I just take him head to head in fire?' I was really confident in my ability to do it, but that's where I fell short," Domenick told Jeff at the reunion.
"I think I played with fear throughout the whole game and I never got too confident, and that's where I played well. But I think my inability to realize I was maybe being a little too overconfident at the end and not putting myself out there with [Wendell] is where I dropped the ball."
The Survivor broadcast began on Night 35 of the game following Kellyn Bechtold's vote-off. In addition to Domenick, Wendell, Laurel, and Angela, Donathan was also still in the game as well as Sebastian.
Sebastian had an extra-vote advantage in his pocket and was growing tired of working under Dom and Wendell, and Donathan had gone rogue on the last vote, suggesting no one should underestimate him.
On Day 36, Dom and Wendell discussed voting out Sebastian next because he was an honest and fair player while Donathan was "not a threat in any way," according to Dom.
Wendell told the cameras that while he and Dom wanted to get rid of each other, they each had an idol to play, which made the daunting task nearly impossible for one another.
It then became time for the castaways to compete in an Individual Immunity Challenge.
Each player was required to race through a giant maze, collecting bags of puzzle pieces along the way. Once all the bags were collected, they had to use the pieces inside to solve a puzzle.
The winner of the challenge would be guaranteed a 1 in 5 shot of getting to the end, while the next person voted out would become the eighth member of the jury.
In addition, the winner of the challenge would have a steak and potatoes dinner waiting back at camp.
Wendell ultimately won immunity, his first Individual Immunity win of the season. And Wendell got to choose one castaway to join him for the feast, but Jeff pointed out he would be rewarding and also fueling his competition.
With that being said, Wendell announced he needed to "repay a favor" and asked Sebastian to join him. Wendell then got to share the wealth again, and he selected Angela Perkins to eat.
Wendell suggested he chose Sebastian and Angela because they haven't eaten in a while, but Laurel pointed out it was obviously a strategic move. Laurel was livid Wendell opted to eat with her "two biggest enemies," and so she was no longer feeling good about her alliance.
"I can't stand it anymore," Laurel noted. "The gloves are off now and I'm coming after them."
Wendell felt so good about the fact he was going to make the Top 4 since he had a hidden Immunity Idol to use. He felt horrible about the idea of blindsiding Sebastian that night, but he planned to butter him up a little bit to increase the possibility he might receive his jury vote.
While enjoying their meal, Sebastian, Angela and Wendell talked about sending Donathan home next. Sebastian knew, however, Wendell and Dom had more impressive Survivorresumes and he needed to make a big move with his advantage.
As for Laurel, she was feeling vulnerable since she didn't have an idol or immunity, so she couldn't believe Wendell was feeding her main competition for a spot in the Final 5. Laurel wasn't sure she could trust Dom and Wendell anymore.
Dom grew concerned Laurel was acting "super emotional" and just hoped Laurel wouldn't attempt to shake things up -- because she certainly could.
Afterward, Donathan, Angela and Sebastian discussed whether Dom really had one idol or two, like he said, and they guessed he only had one. Sebastian then threw out the idea of putting votes on Dom and taking a chance, and Donathan was totally onboard.
Sebastian then shared the news of his extra vote with Angela and Donathan, saying they had the power to "make an epic move." Angela was thrilled to no longer be in the dark.
While chatting on the beach later that day, Angela warned Dom that Sebastian had an extra vote and was gunning for him. Domenick was so happy Angela was "a loose cannon" and had "diarrhea of the mouth." Dom therefore asked Angela to vote for Sebastian, and she seemed content with the plan.
"I think I have Angela on my side, but with Donathan and Sebastian's extra vote, all Sebastian needs is one other person to come with him. And Laurel is pretty angry, and if she flips, I'm in trouble," Dom said in a confessional.
Donathan then told Laurel about Sebastian's extra vote, saying Dom might be going home as long as he didn't play an idol.
Laurel recognized her fate in the game depended on whether she could take out a big threat in the game, so she was fully prepared to make a big move and stand on her own two feet.
"I have a real idol and I have [David Wright]'s fake idol from Millennials vs. Gen X. And if I can save the real one for next time, that guarantees me a walk into Final 4. But it would be a huge gamble to take tonight, not playing it, so I'm rolling the dice either way," Dom explained to the cameras.
That night, the six castaways met Jeff for Tribal Council. Donathan acted like he was going home again, but then Dom announced he wasn't buying the act. Dom called him out for having a secret plan with Sebastian -- and Sebastian's extra vote -- to take himself out.
Both Sebastian and Donathan shook their heads no. Sebastian admitted he had an extra vote and was unsure how the cat got out of the bag. Dom then warned Sebastian he wasn't going anywhere that night so it was up to him whether he'd like to play ball with Donathan.
Dom then showed off both of his idols, claiming David's idol gained powers this season and was a real one.
Dom insisted he had never lied to Donathan before and so it didn't make sense for him to turn on their alliance. Wendell also didn't understand why Donathan was playing such an unpredictable game.
Wendell told Donathan he had another idol necklace he could've used on him had Donathan stayed true to their alliance, but Donathan acted disinterested, saying he didn't need their help to get any further and he wanted to play his own game.
With all that being said, Dom decided to play his idol early, and he handed it off to Jeff. Meanwhile, the jury members discussed among themselves how Dom's idol was not a real one; it was just unclear whether the castaways in the game thought the same thing.
Before votes were cast, Angela said she believed her original plan was "still in the works."
It then became time for Jeff to read the votes, and Dom announced his idol was fake and he was taking a million-dollar gamble on playing that fake idol. Once Dom made that declaration, Donathan smiled big and Dom took a deep breath.
Jeff then read the votes in the following order: Dom, Donathan, Sebastian, Sebastian, and Sebastian.
Sebastian appeared blindsided, but on his way out, he noted it was a pleasure playing the game with everyone and he had a blast.
"I am so freakin' stupid. Dom is such a good actor. I had such good numbers on my hands and he made me keep my extra vote. That extra vote is cursed! Whoever gets that next, I hope you can play it right. That was a million-dollar mistake. Good job, buddy," Sebastian said in his final words.
Angela, Laurel, Domenick and Wendell voted for Sebastian. Donathan voted for Dom, and Sebastian voted for Donathan.
The episode then flashed to Day 37, with the five remaining castaways arriving at the season's next Individual Immunity Challenge.
For the challenge, each player was instructed to swim to a platform, climb up, slide down it, and then make way through a series of obstacles while collecting bags of puzzle pieces. Once at the finish line, the castaways had to solve a four-piece pyramid puzzle.
The winner would automatically survive the next Tribal Council, while the next person voted out of the game would become the ninth member of the jury.
Wendell quietly built the pyramid that would earn him a spot in the Final 4, and Laurel was shown swearing in frustration. He had back-to-back wins when it counted the most.
Dom said Wendell had caught up to him, as they both had two Individual Immunity wins. Dom couldn't get rid of his pal and realized he no longer had an edge on him. Since Dom had an idol and was safe, however, he had to determine which players he wanted in the Final 4 with him.
In a plea to stay, Donathan promised Dom that he would take him to Final 3 if he had the option, but Dom noticed Donathan made such a huge promise without even thinking first -- which typically indicates a bluff.
The advantage of taking Donathan, however, was the fact he's weak in challenges, according to Dom, so Laurel became his "No. 1 threat."
Meanwhile, Laurel felt nervous and exposed, but Wendell assured her that they had her back. But Laurel was well aware she was the biggest challenge threat left and so it didn't make sense for her allies to keep her.
Laurel felt she was at the mercy of Dom and Wendell and that she was okay with the guys splitting votes in the Final 3, with her taking all the leftover scraps. Such logic didn't make Dom feel comfortable, and he was later shown telling Wendell that Laurel was "full of it."
Wendell therefore admitted to Dom he was okay with letting Laurel go if that's what Dom wanted to do.
This was Wendell's opportunity to "make a big move," he said, "and shift the jury in my favor... I will be here tomorrow, but whatever I do tonight could screw up my game going forward."
It then became time for the season's next Tribal Council, and everyone knew Dom had an idol.
Donathan acknowledged he was on the bottom with Laurel and it was up to the guys on what to do next. Donathan pointed out how Dom and Wendell would be taking a chance by bringing Laurel forward because she could beat them in the next challenge.
Dom confessed his mind was "not made up" yet. And then Wendell noted he could play his idol for someone else since he already had a necklace around his neck.
Wendell announced Survivorwas an individual game at this point and he wasn't going to share all of his moves and plans with Dom.
Before Jeff tallied the votes, Dom played his hidden Immunity Idol for himself, and then Wendell played his idol for Laurel, saying she was like a sister to him and he appreciated everything she had done for him in the game. Wendell rewarded Laurel for her loyalty and friendship.
When Jeff read the votes aloud, Donathan -- who had voted for Laurel -- discovered he had received three votes, and so he was eliminated from the game.
On his way out, Donathan gushed about how he had "the most wonderful experience" of his life.
"I had the most amazing time playing this game. I always underestimated myself, so to come out here and do as great as I did, it's worth more than a million dollars for me because the lessons I learned out here, I can apply to real life now. It's something I'll always remember for eternity," Donathan said in his final words.
(Jeff later revealed during the reunion special that Sia has given Donathan $10,000 to help him take care of his family because she had been touched by his story on the show).
Following Donathan's vote-off, the show flashed to Day 38 and the last Individual Immunity Challenge of Survivor: Ghost Island.
Jeff explained the four players were each required to balance on a wobbly beam while using a long pole to stack balls on stands. If at any point a stack dropped, that person must start over.
The winner would be guaranteed a spot at the final Tribal Council and be able to plead his or her case to the jury. The winner could also choose which castaway to take to the end, leaving the other two castaways to compete in a fire-making showdown.
Wendell was one ball away from winning the challenge, but his stack fell, allowing Dom to catch up and claim the immunity necklace.
Dom was emotional, but he knew big decisions were still ahead. Jeff also gave Dom another task, telling him to read a letter at his next opportunity. Wendell knew Dom wanted to get rid of him, so he thought his only chance to survive was to successfully make fire, which was something he felt confident in.
After the challenge, the Final 4 paid a visit to Ghost Island. Domenick told the cameras it was obvious he couldn't bring Wendell to the end because everyone respected him and knew he had played a great game.
Laurel, however, begged Dom to not make her build fire against Wendell. Laurel was not confident she could beat Wendell and she apparently hadn't practiced at all.
Dom was disappointed Laurel had kind of given up on herself in the game, so he had to rely on Angela and later helped to strengthen her fire-starting skills.
Dom then went off by himself to read his letter from Jeff, and he had to choose one of three voting urns from previousSurvivor seasons to take to the Final Tribal Council with him.
Each urn represented a different finalist who had picked the wrong person to take to the end and ultimately lost the $1 million, such as Woo Hwang taking Tony Vlachos.
Domenick was so afraid to make the wrong decision, that he considered giving Angela his immunity idol and competing in the fire-starting challenge himself against Wendell. Dom is a gambler, and he admitted he just might be crazy enough to do something like that.
If Dom won, he'd prove to the jury that he absolutely deserved the money and would probably go down as one of the best players to ever play the game -- but if he took that risk and lost, it'd be a million dollar mistake that would haunt him forever.
Moving on to the Final Tribal Council session of the season!
Jeff welcomed the following jury members to Tribal: Chris, Libby, Desiree, Jenna, Michael, Chelsea, Kellyn, Sebastian and Donathan.
Wendell confessed to Jeff that he never thought there was a chance Dom would take him to the Final 3. Dom then revealed he had brought the urn from Cagayan,Survivor's 28th season, representing Woo and Tony, because it reminded him of his relationship with Wendell.
Dom decided to take Laurel to Final 3 and let Angela make fire against Wendell. Laurel was thankful and excited her friend had kept his promise to her.
Wendell and Angela then faced off making fire, and Wendell quickly achieved a flame. The goal was to build fire high enough to burn through a rope suspended about a foot into the air, and Wendell won!
Michael was shown telling the jury the Final 3 deserved their places at the last Tribal Council session.
"I made it this far, so I'm proud of myself, but my goal was to win. So, while I believed in myself, it's very hard for me to accept that I failed. Obviously everybody comes out to win, but there's only one winner," Angela said in her final words.
On Day 39, Laurel, Dom and Wendell celebrated their success and journey on the show. Wendell called himself "a silent assassin" in the game who quietly took control and made decisions.
Laurel, an original Malolo, felt she was the underdog who had nothing to lose, and she insisted she did make moves and had to play from the bottom most of the time. Laurel also said she had deceived the boys multiple times and was going to fight hard to win.
Dom feared Wendell in the Final 3, but he believed he had the best gameplay overall. Dom just hoped his "edge wasn't too sharp" and that he wouldn't come across as arrogant or overbearing that night.
After enjoying their feast, the Final 3 headed to the Final Tribal Council, where the jury was able to ask questions and criticize/commend the remaining castaways. Wendell, Laurel and Dom had to explain why they outwitted, outplayed and outlasted everyone else.
Laurel insisted she didn't ride with Wendell and Dom to the end because she was a part of all their decisions. Laurel said she was responsible for the Des vote and wasn't as flashy as the men about her moves. Laurel added she was never afraid to make big moves; it's just those options never benefited her.
Michael announced Dom had played the best social game. Wendell argued, however, his conversations were super genuine while Dom is simply good at it because he's a "big talker" from New York.
Wendell told the jury he had protected Dom from Chris at the beginning of the game and was the mastermind in their alliance, but then Dom insisted there was no mastermind and all of his choices were his own from Day 1. Donathan also credited Dom with pulling Laurel and himself into his alliance -- not Wendell.
Libby and Chelsea also admitted Dom had pulled them into his alliance.
Wendell then said he was a lover in the game, and Michael acknowledged Wendell seemed to sit back while Dom did his dirty work and pissed people off. Wendell thanked Michael for realizing that wasn't the easiest thing to accomplish.
Sebastian got to speak next, and he called Dom out for having "an act." Sebastian and Kellyn bashed Dom for being very showy and cocky with his idols at the Tribal when Sebastian went home.
Dom promised the jury he's not an evil or malicious person, and he apologized for being aggressive and abrasive. But at the same time, Dom noted he thought the jury would have appreciated such a move, because at the end of the day, Sebastian was trying to vote him out.
Chris then unexpectedly told his game rival, Dom, that he had respect for him because he played his "ass off."
In a last-ditch effort for votes, Laurel announced that taking a shot at Wendell or Dom earlier and making that big move would have benefited everyone on the jury except herself. Laurel said her only route to the end was through Dom and Wendell and she had made the smart move in sticking with them.
Dom and Wendell were both proud of their games as well. Dom said he played with his heart and owned every single one of his moves, while Wendell said he had attempted to play a clean game while being a decent guy.
The jurors then cast their votes for the winner of Survivor: Ghost Island.
Chris and Michael were shown complimenting Dom on playing the best game, but then Kellyn was featured saying that while Dom was "the brawn" behind the operation, Wendell was "the brains" and "the strategist."
A shocking 5-5 tie from the jury -- which had everyone's jaws on the floor -- resulted in Laurel casting the deciding vote for "Sole Survivor" of Season 36, and she voted for Wendell.