For the landmark 36th season of “Survivor,” the name of the game is fear. In the season premiere of CBS’s granddaddy of all reality TV shows, 20 brand new castaways were divided into two separate tribes, Malolo and Naviti. The “Survivor: Ghost Island” players were then instructed by host Jeff Probst that they’d soon be haunted by the mistakes made by former players. How did it all play out, and which two castaways were eliminated in the two-hour premiere?
Below, check out our minute-by-minute “Survivor: Ghost Island” recap of Season 36, Episode 1, titled “Can You Reverse the Curse?” to find out what happened Wednesday, February 28. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaway, who annoys you the most, and who you think can go the distance to join the “Survivor” winners list. Keep refreshing/reloading this page as we’ll be updating live.
7:59 p.m. – “Previously on ‘Survivor’!” During last season’s finale Probst teased “Ghost Island” by announcing, “For the first time ever, a new group of players will have the chance to reverse the curse of some of the worst decisions in ‘Survivor’ history. An entire season centered around the bad decisions of past players, using the actual haunted advantages and idols that did them in. Will these new players learn from the mistakes of others? Or will the past come back to haunt again?” The premiere of “Survivor: Ghost Island” is just seconds away! Let’s get to it.
8:01 p.m. – To double down on the concept of “bad decisions,” Jeff kicks off the season with an immediate challenge that tests their decision making! Already divided into tribes, the orange tribe (Malolo) chooses Brendan Shapiro and the purple tribe (Naviti) chooses Chris Noble. The two guys have to decide someone else from their tribe to “run” and someone to “handle the puzzle” in the challenge–Brendan chooses Michael Yerger to run and Laurel Johnson to puzzle; Chris chooses Sebastian Noel to run and Desiree Afuye for the puzzle.
8:07 p.m. – The stakes for the reward challenge couldn’t be hire because this season the tribes will be starting with the least amount of rice ever and the prize for winning is tools, including fishing gear, that will help them get off to a strong start once they reach their camps. The tribe decision-makers also have the option of forfeiting the challenge during the puzzle phase if they feel their puzzle maker isn’t getting the job done and in return will keep their fishing gear as opposed to risking losing it.
8:09 p.m. – After a strong start in the running portion, Michael of Malolo gases out in the last leg and Sebastian of Naviti finishes first. The puzzle, as always, is the great equalizer and both Laurel and Desiree make quick work of it at the beginning, but according to Chris the other tribe was doing better and so he decided to forfeit in the last second in order to keep the fishing gear and giving Malolo the win!
8:11 p.m. – Once they arrive at their camps, introductions start and right away Michael builds a false narrative for himself, telling the Malolo tribe that he’s 23 years old when he’s actually 18. His thought is that if he admitted to being so young that he would lose credibility and no one would listen to him. Elsewhere, Donathan Hurley plants seeds of an early alliance with Laurel knowing that he’ll be a vulnerable target at the first tribal and needs people on his side to prevent a premature exit.
8:14 p.m. – On Naviti, Kellyn Bechtold gets a noteworthy moment with the camera where she talks about making a huge change in her life where she began to live her life for herself and is also a superfan (this is the kind of narrative that editors build for eventual winners). Domenick Abbate gets a similar narrative as Kellyn, but he’s also registering as more of a potential villainous character (think Tony Vlachos) so we should keep our eyes on him, too! Sebastian and Chris went looking for coconuts together and bonded over being from Florida which leads to them discussing who they might be up for eliminating first–their choice? Domenick.
8:22 p.m. – Off to a good start at Malolo, Jacob Derwin loses his shoes in the tide, prompting him to tell the camera that he’s already worried of being his tribe’s first boot. With that in mind he goes off on his own to look for an idol, much to the chagrin of his tribe who notice it and together vow to keep him on the outs.
8:25 p.m. – At Naviti, Wendell Holland builds a good rapport with the tribe by showing them how to provide food (crabs) for the tribe. Personally, his first personal connection is with Domenick so once Sebastian throws Domenick’s name out to Wendell as a first boot option, Wendell immediately goes to Domenick to tell him. Domenick thinks it’s Chris that is spear-heading the move against Domenick, positioning those two guys as adversaries with the first immunity challenge still on the horizon.
8:31 p.m. – With that, we’re set for the first immunity challenge of the season! It’s a race across a net bridge and a test of strength pulling large puzzle pieces across a sled bridge. Then, the tribes will build the block puzzle and the first to finish is the winners! In addition, the losing tribe will have to send one member to the still mysterious ghost island.
8:33 p.m. – Naviti gets an early lead, reaching the pull-sled first, but it’s a small lead as it doesn’t take long for Malolo to catch up. Even with a hiccup in their efforts (they dropped some pieces), Malolo keeps pace with Naviti, but on the second run of the sled seem to have lost a lot of energy. Naviti finishes the second run first and begins their puzzle first.
8:36 p.m. – Running right through the puzzle with ease, Naviti finishes the puzzle first, earning immunity and a flint for fire! They also get the choice of which member of Malolo will be sent to ghost island, keeping them safe from tribal council and immune from the vote. Their decision is easy, they choose Jacob, the only player mouthing off after the challenge. Jacob takes the decision as if he planned it and says he’s excited to head to ghost island to find out what it’s all about. The decision doesn’t sit as well with his tribemates who were likely going to vote him out first and now must find someone else to eliminate.
8:44 p.m. – As the first player to reach ghost island, Jacob sees a row of urns and is asked to break one. The clue inside his urn says “follow the fire,” leading him to another note that gives him the chance to win a secret advantage by risking his vote at the next tribal if he loses. Already feeling like he’s on the outs, he decides to risk it and chooses correctly, winning an advantage! His prize is the “Legacy Advantage” from Game Changers, a tool that can be used as immunity at final 13 or final 6, but because Sierra Dawn Thomas used it incorrectly, in order to restore its power Jacob has to will it to someone on the opposing tribe. His choice is Morgan Ricke, hoping that she’ll be willing to work with him in the future.
8:48 p.m. – Back at the Malolo camp, it looks like Donathan and Stephanie Gonzalez are the two on the chopping block–Donathan is seen as the weakest player whereas Stephanie is the one Donathan is targeting and trying to build a case against. For the other tribemates it comes down to a decision between strength (Stephanie) and trust (Donathan).
8:55 p.m. – At tribal council, the first conversation revolves around speculation about Jacob’s time at ghost island. That quickly turns to how the tribe doesn’t feel like he fits in, prompting Laurel to stress that the tribe needs to stay strong as long as possible. That makes Donathan nervous, knowing he’s the least physically strong. Stephanie Johnson points out that people can be strong without physical strength, instead proving their worth to the tribe as loyal and trustworthy.
8:59 p.m. – Before getting to the vote, Stephanie Gonzalez gets up to whisper with some of the guys to ask them who they’re voting for. This puts some of the women off, thinking that perhaps they’re on the outs, but eventually word gets around to everyone except Donathan.
9:01 p.m. The votes are in and there’s no hidden immunity idol to be played yet: Donathan, Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie. That seals her fate, Stephanie Gonzalez is the first elimination. Looks like her last minute attempt to control the vote didn’t work!
9:02 p.m. – At the Naviti camp, Domenick, feeling paranoid, spent the night hunting for a hidden idol. And it didn’t take long–he found one… without a clue… in the dark! His idol is Andrea Boehlke‘s, one that gave her the title of the first female to be voted out with an idol in her pocket during Caramoan. The next morning, Morgan received the Legacy Advantage, bequeathed to her by Jacob.
9:05 p.m. – Facing his trip back to his camp, Jacob formulates a plan to not tell them about the Legacy Advantage and instead tell them he got an idol. To do that, he creates a fake necklace out of beads and shells. Seems dangerous to me, knowing that all of the advantages this season are going to be relics of past seasons, but maybe it’ll fool some people for a couple votes? LOL!
9:12 p.m. – Returning to camp, Jacob gathers the tribe around to tell them about ghost island, telling them mostly the truth, but including the lie of his fake idol. The tribe, of course, pretends that they’re buying his story, but once he’s gone they begin discussing that it’s probably fake because he didn’t have the note that usually goes along with it.
9:15 p.m. – Now with a real idol, Domenick feels more comfortable being open at camp. He finds an opportunity to build a bridge with Chris, telling him that he gets a good vibe from him and that he’d prefer they work together. Chris straight up asks him if he found an idol, but Domenick denies it. Doesn’t look like these guys will be lasting long as buddies. In order to earn trust with Chris, Domenick also builds a fake idol, including his own clue!, and shows the fake one to Chris. Domenick’s plan is that eventually he’ll give Chris the fake idol to play on himself! I love this plan, but Chris isn’t necessarily buying it.
9:22 p.m. – And now for the second immunity challenge of the night! For this one they’re in the water, a race through a series of obstacles to release a set of bouys that the remaining tribe members will shoot into a basket. First one to finish, wins immunity and sends someone from the opposing tribe to ghost island. It’s also for reward–comfort at camp (pillows, blankets, etc.). With one extra member, Angela Perkins is chosen to sit out for Naviti.
9:24 p.m. – Naviti release the first set of bouys first, but Malolo is close behind. On the second round, Donathan and James Lim struggle in the water, unable to dive deep enough to release the buoys. That gives Chris the opportunity to catch up and get Naviti to the point of shooting baskets. As Wendell begins sinking baskets, Donathan refuses to attempt to dive despite his entire tribe begging him to at least try. After some time, he makes an attempt at it and releases the buoys on his first try!
9:27 p.m. – Donathan’s buoys were only their second set and by the time they get their third set released and begin shooting, Desiree sinks Naviti’s 8th ball and wins immunity and reward! Their choice from Malolo to head to ghost island is Donathan! Looks like their strategy is to send the people most vulnerable of being the other tribe’s vote? Smart, but now Jacob could be at risk.
9:35 p.m. – On ghost island, Donathan’s clue says “nope. not today. no game for you.” meaning he doesn’t get to attempt to win an advantage. So instead of a challenge, Donathan’s time on ghost island is about his personal story of overcoming his fears and wrestling with his feelings of insecurity back at camp.
9:37 p.m. – Speaking of camp, James immediately accepts blame for the loss at the challenge and admits to choking on the swimming. The tribe still has their eyes on Jacob as the intended target though, with James as their plan B to split the votes in case Jacob’s idol is a real idol.
9:39 p.m. – Earlier, Stephanie mentioned that she might be able to use Jacob to her advantage. They bond over their desire to play the game hard and turn their sights on Michael as the best choice to eliminate now. They see Michael as a threat in the event that he is swapped to a different tribe at some point. To solidify his alliance with Stephanie, Jacob confesses that his idol is fake and that he actually won the Legacy and gave it to Morgan on the other tribe.
9:43 p.m. – Stephanie approaches Jenna Bowman to potentially vote out Michael and later Jacob goes to James and Laurel with the same plan. Seeing the other players in secret conversations, Michael, Brendan and Libby Vincek get worried, but there’s not much they can do aside from their plan to vote out Jacob. This vote will come down to the easy vote (Jacob) and the power move (Michael).
9:49 p.m. – Back for their second straight tribal council, Jeff kicks it right off by asking James what happened, applauding Donathan for his “heroics” in the process. Next the conversation turns to Jacob’s time at ghost island and Jeff makes sure to suggest that Jacob could be lying about what he learned there.
9:54 p.m. – It’s time to vote and Jacob does not play his fake idol: Michael, James, Jacob, James, Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. Wow! I was really thinking it was going to be Michael! Looks like they’ve decided to stick with physical strength this time.
9:56 p.m. – What a premiere! Advantages and fake idols everywhere! Let’s hope Malolo doesn’t continue losing, I’d love to see how strategy plays out on the Naviti side next week!
Here are the answers to Gold Derby’s contest questions for “Survivor” Season 36, Episode 1:
Who will be eliminated? Stephanie Gonzalez, Jacob Derwin
Who will win Reward? Malolo, Naviti
Who will win Immunity? Naviti, Naviti
Will a hidden idol be played? No
Will anybody quit or be medevaced? No
Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs on CBS. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.