Wednesday night on CBS, the winner of “Survivor: Ghost Island” was crowned during the three-hour season finale and reunion show. Heading into the episode six castaways remained in the hunt for the $1 million prize: Domenick Abbate, Wendell Holland, Laurel Johnson, Donathan Hurley, Sebastian Noel and Angela Perkins. Who won the final immunity challenge, who was sent to Ghost Island, what advantages were (or weren’t) played, and who did the jury vote for as the sole survivor of Season 36?
Below, check out our minute-by-minute “Survivor: Ghost Island” recap of the Season 36 finale, titled “It is Game Time Kids,” to find out what happened Wednesday, May 23. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaways and what you think of the newest addition to the “Survivor” winners list. Keep refreshing/reloading this live blog for the most recent updates.
7:59 p.m. – “Previously on ‘Survivor’!” During last week’s 13th episode Kellyn Bechtold was eliminated after initially tying in votes with Donathan, whose erratic behavior nearly cost him the game. The alliance between Domenick, Wendell and Laurel strengthened after she chose to side with them instead of with her longtime friend Donathan. Meanwhile, Sebastian and Angela continued floating. It’s time to find out who wins this thing. The season finale begins in 3 … 2 … 1 … !
8:02 p.m. – In the season recap to start off the episode, Sebastian is labeled the player with a heart that has a second vote left to play. Donathan is the player that adapted from a “fish out of water” to someone in a strong alliance, but with a game that centers around truth bombs that cause chaos (is he going to be the FTC villain?). Laurel is the player with strong bonds and unwavering loyalty and they’re still teasing us that she might betray Domenick and Wendell (I no longer think she will). Angela is the player “on the outside of nearly every vote” (and almost every episode!) that is now a swing vote the two sides need. Wendell is “laid back” with a “clever social game,” but also “protected” by his alliance with Domenick (does that mean he’s not a winner?). And Domenick is a the “brash” but “electric” player with the biggest obstacle, Wendell. Based on those reads, I’d say the editors are setting us up for a Domenick win. Let’s see how that pans out!
8:06 p.m. – The fallout of last week’s tribal council is that Domenick knows Donathan no longer wants to work with him, but Laurel is doing work to reel Donathan back in by pointing out that they weren’t working against him otherwise they would have voted him out. Sebastian is justifiably upset because he was under the impression that Donathan was the vote, but Domenick and Wendell didn’t follow through with that so he’s ready to make a big move against them.
8:08 p.m. – Wendell and Domenick both agree that now is the time to take out Sebastian before Donathan, but maybe the immunity challenge can prevent that? For tonight’s first (of many) challenges the final six will work through one of the biggest mazes in Survivor history. The first player to race through the maze and collect all their bags of puzzle pieces and solve the puzzle will get immunity and also win reward, a steak and potato dinner back at camp.
8:11 p.m. – Sebastian is the first to return to the start with his first bag while everyone else collects their first and Donathan still looks for his. Wendell makes up some ground on the second leg, beating Sebastian to the second bag first. On the third leg, Sebastian takes the lead back, but Wendell, Laurel and Angela are right behind him. Though Sebastian makes it to the puzzle station first, Wendell and Domenick both get off to a better start to their puzzles than him. Staying calm and collected, Wendell manages to assemble his puzzle first and wins immunity!
8:16 p.m. – As the winner, Wendell chooses Sebastian to join him for reward (returning the favor) and then Angela (surprisingly, but he says it’s to share the wealth). Laurel thinks it is a strategic move of him wanting to fuel them up, but we know she’s just posturing and doesn’t really believe that. But it could shake her up just enough to make a move against him and Domenick? Hmm. We’ll see!
8:21 p.m. – With immunity, Wendell is working Sebastian and Angela at the reward by throwing Donathan under the bus. Tonight is the last night Sebastian can use his extra vote though and he’s looking to make a big move with it. Back at camp, Laurel is still “upset” with Wendell for fueling Angela over her knowing that Laurel needs to beat Angela in the final five immunity challenge. Domenick supports Wendell, but is concerned that Laurel is being too emotional.
8:24 p.m. – Donathan, Sebastian and Angela discuss the possibility of throwing votes at Domenick, hoping that he’s lying about having two idols (they believe he only has one). In that conversation, Sebastian tells Donathan that he has an extra vote and they don’t even need Laurel’s vote in order to make the move. Angela finally feels like she’s in the loop on a decision and has a bit of power. Is she going to tell Domenick?!
8:25 p.m. – And OMG. Angela immediately tells Domenick about Sebastian’s vote and that they’re planning on taking him out. And with that, it makes it nearly impossible for the plan to work. In order for it to work, Donathan and Sebastian now need Laurel to vote with them in order to have majority. I am, needless to say, screaming at how dumb of a move that was of Angela. I honestly don’t understand it ONE BIT.
8:28 p.m. – At the first tribal council of the night the theme is big moves and whether or not anyone will make one. After Donathan says he knows he’s going home tonight, Domenick calls him and Sebastian out for their extra vote plan. Domenick pulls out his two idols, one fake, and makes it “clear” that he’s not going home tonight, but he’s being pretty aggressive in his approach and it’s not a good look. Shaming Donathan and Sebastian in front of the jury for attempting to make a move is making Domenick look really bad in front of the jury, but it seems like he thinks it’s making him look good.
8:34 p.m. – Domenick decides to “play” his fake idol and curiously Jeff doesn’t call it a fake idol as soon as it’s played. So they go into the voting booth thinking that Domenick may have just used an idol and no votes against him will count. Let’s see how they voted, after Jeff finally says votes against Domenick will count: Domenick, Donathan, Sebastian, Sebastian, Sebastian. And that’s enough. On his way out, Sebastian says “see you soon brother” to Wendell. Hm.
8:38 p.m. – Wait. Sebastian didn’t even play his extra vote. I don’t understand that. How. Does. That. Make. Sense.
8:43 p.m. – And we’re headed straight into the next challenge for final five immunity. In this challenge they’re traverse a series of water and land obstacles that ends with another puzzle. First to finish is guaranteed a spot in the final four, in addition to or on top of both Wendell and Domenick who have idols left to use. Wendell takes an early lead, but Laurel is close behind while Angela struggles in the back of the pack. Wendell and Laurel are the first to get to the puzzle stage, but are still working on it as all three of the other players reach it as well. But again, remaining calm and quiet, Wendell wins immunity yet again!
8:52 p.m. – After Wendell’s win, Domenick becomes aware that Wendell has pulled up even with him in terms of wins and now has to determine what makes the most sense to him going into final four. To him, Angela is not a threat so Donathan seems like the obvious vote. The problem is that Donathan, Angela and Laurel all know that Domenick and Wendell both have idols to use at this council so in order to save their own butts they have to kiss up to both of them. Domenick doesn’t like the way Donathan responds to his line of questioning, but on the other hand Laurel is a bigger threat at challenges that either Donathan or Angela.
8:56 p.m. – Domenick and Wendell discuss their options and in that conversation, Wendell says he’s not opposed to any move and Domenick says that he wants the FTC to be about them to and so the third person must be a non-factor. Wendell however has the ability to give his immunity idol to one of the three vulnerable players and he’s weighing which one will posture him the best in front of the jury.
8:58 p.m. – At tribal council, Jeff seems surprised that the three non-immunity holders are equally on the block tonight. Donathan makes the case that he’s never won a challenge so taking him farther gives the guys a better chance to win the next challenge. Wendell openly discusses his hidden idol and the power he has to either use it for someone or to just save it. He also makes it clear that Wendell did not tell Domenick what he’s going to do and Laurel makes the case for herself that she’s saved them from elimination and hope he chooses to be loyal to her.
9:01 p.m. – The final five vote and we see Donathan vote for Laurel and Laurel vote for Donathan. After Jeff tallies the votes, Domenick plays his idol for himself and Wendell decides to play his idol for Laurel with a big speech about being loyal to her and treating her like she’s his sister. That means there will be no active votes for Laurel, Domenick or Wendell: Laurel (doesn’t count), Donathan, Donathan, Donathan. So everyone voted for Donathan anyway and Wendell supposedly earns some credit with the jury for posturing as a loyal player. Hm.
9:12 p.m. – For the final four immunity challenge, the players have to balance on a wobbly beam to stack balls/stands six high without it dropping. The winner gets to the FTC and Jeff also tells them that they’ll choose one other person to join them and force the other two to compete in a fire-making challenge. Wendell gets off to a quick start, stacking three balls quicker than anyone else. After stacking three balls, Domenick’s stand falls and he has to start over, just before Wendell places his fifth ball in his stack. At that point, Laurel’s stack drops and Angela’s fourth ball goes up and as he approaches with him final ball Wendell’s stack…. falls!
9:16 p.m. – That puts Angela in the lead, but then her stack falls and Domenick takes the lead with his fourth ball on his stack. Wendell begins moving more quickly and places his fourth ball and fifth stand on the stack as Domenick approaches with his sixth and final ball. But it’s too little too late because Domenick successfully places his final ball and wins!
9:19 p.m. – To be clear, as the winner Domenick gets to choose which one player joins him in the FTC. The final four will head to ghost island where the other three can plead their case to be that player, but Wendell knows that Domenick will send him to make fire and so it becomes a do or die situation for him to make it to the end. Domenick also receives a secret parchment from Jeff that he’s told to read later in private.
9:24 p.m. – Wendell is not happy to be back at ghost island, but he feels confident in his fire-making abilities and tells Domenick he knows that he’ll choose one of the women to go with him. Domenick’s plan is to decide whether Angela or Laurel is more likely to beat Wendell at making fire, but Laurel pleads to him that she cannot make fire and won’t beat Wendell.
9:27 p.m. – Angela on the other hand privately feels confident in her ability to build fire, but she tells Domenick that there is no way Angela can win jury votes, but Laurel can. That being said, regardless of the two women, Wendell is the one that he needs to not be sitting next to and so he tells her that he needs her to take him out so that they can sit in front of the jury together. Angela takes the news like a champ (Laurel didn’t in my opinion) and starts practicing.
9:29 p.m. – At this point, Domenick heads off to read his secret note. He’s given the chance to choose a “cursed” urn from season past: Australia’s where Colby wrongly took Tina with him to the finale, Cagayan’s where Woo wrongly took Tony with him, and Game Changers where Brad wrongly took Sarah with him. This decision is Domenick’s chance to reverse the curse. But at this point he considers the option of giving Angela his immunity necklace and pit himself against Wendell in the fire-making challenge so he can take him out himself. Aside from that his decision about the urn is to go with the Cagayan one.
9:37 p.m. – At the tribal council, Domenick reiterates that his decision must be correct otherwise it could haunt him forever. Laurel proudly states in front of the jury that she told Domenick she can’t beat Wendell and that he has to make Angela be the one to make fire, but Angela is more a fighter than Laurel and says that Laurel is better in front of the jury and so he shouldn’t risk sending her to FTC. Domenick and Wendell fall on the same page about having to split their alliance at this point and that either one of them would make the other make fire.
9:40 p.m. – After all is said and done, Domenick decides to take Laurel with him to final three and make Angela battle Wendell in the fire-making challenge. Prior to the challenge, Wendell makes it clear that he does not want to sit at the orange fire station, but Angela says it doesn’t bother her and so after she gets the purple station she, after Jeff eggs it on, volunteers to switch with Wendell just to make him feel better. Uh… why, Angela, why?!
9:43 p.m. – Very quickly, Wendell manages to get a flame, but it goes out just as quick. Angela also gets a flame, but it goes out just as Wendell gets another one. Angela is still chipping away at her flint as his flame gets taller and he successfully builds something that is going to last. Almost inevitably, and probably because of the orange curse that Angela let him avoid, Wendell’s fire burns through his rope and he earns his spot in the final three!
9:46 p.m. – So that’s that! Our final three to plead their case for the million dollar prize is Domenick, Wendell and Laurel! Who will the jury choose? Will Laurel’s strategy that the two guys split votes and she some how gets the most work? Hm..
9:52 p.m. – Going into FTC, Wendell sees himself as the silent assassin that quietly made the decisions that put everyone on the jury. Laurel sees herself as an underdog that was loyal, but had to overcome more odds to get to the end. Domenick sees himself as the most deserving because of his game play and is banking on the jury honoring that, knowing that he needs to watch his tone if he doesn’t want to turn them against him.
10:00 p.m. – At FTC, it’s another open forum where the jury speaks candidly back and forth with the finalists. Kellyn starts it off by asking them what their plan was in coming in. Laurel says she planned to be an athletic player but because of Malolo’s losses she had to change to be a social player unexpectedly and Michael backs her up a little, but then says she rode Domenick and Wendell’s coattails to get to the end. He makes a really good point that putting someone else in front of her isn’t something she should be bragging about. I agree!
10:04 p.m. – Desiree tells Wendell that he can say all he wants about making personal connections, but a conversation about rap isn’t going to get her vote. He says that he was the mastermind in the alliance, but Domenick chuckles at it and doesn’t really let him speak. Domenick actually makes a strong case that he was in control of the alliance and Kellyn gets everyone that worked with them to say who brought them in and most of them admit it was Domenick.
10:09 p.m. – Michael asks the guys to speak about idol play and Wendell doubles down on his move to save Laurel with his, but Michael says the loyalty card isn’t going to work on him. Domenick talks about the theatrics of the final six tribal council and Sebastian calls the entire thing ridiculous and makes it clear that the entire jury hated how Domenick and Wendell made that council look like a huge attack against everyone else in the game in order to serve their own purposes.
10:13 p.m. – Laurel reiterates her belief that her loyalty to Domenick and Wendell was out of self-protection and that it makes her deserving of her spot in the final. Domenick closes by basically apologizing for his abrasive behavior, but stresses that he isn’t that way in real life and that it just comes off that way. Wendell plays the well-rounded card and says he played as clean as possible and played with his heart.
10:19 p.m. – We see some of the votes cast: Michael for Domenick, Sebastian for Wendell, Chris for Domenick, Kellyn for Wendell. Looks like Laurel probably got…. none?
10:21 p.m. – Unlike in most seasons, Jeff decides to read the votes immediately: Domenick, Wendell, Domenick, Wendell, Domenick, Wendell, Domenick, Wendell, Domenick, Wendell. A TIE.
10:23 p.m. – And finally we get an answer to what happens in the case of a tie. The rule is that the finalist not included in the tie becomes the final jury member and must cast the final vote. That means in the end it all comes down to who Laurel thinks should win.
10:26 p.m. – So this is history in the making, our first finale with a tie! Jeff reads Laurel’s vote: Wendell! It all came down to him saving Laurel with his idol, didn’t it? And Domenick didn’t reverse the curse of the urns! Wow.
Here are the answers to Gold Derby’s contest questions for the “Survivor” Season 36 Finale:
Who will win ‘Survivor’? Wendell Holland
Who will place 2nd? Domenick Abbate
Who will place 3rd? Laurel Jordan
Who will place 4th? Angela Perkins
Who will place 5th? Donathan Hurley
Who will place 6th? Sebastian Noel
Listen to our exit interview podcasts with all of this season’s “Survivor” castoffs: Stephanie Gonzalez, Jacob Derwin, Morgan Ricke, Brendan Shapiro, Stephanie Johnson, James Lim, Bradley Kleihege, Chris Noble, Libby Vincek, Desiree Afuye, Jenna Bowman, Michael Yerger, Chelsea Townsend and Kellyn Bechtold.