Survivor Ghost Island: Wendell Holland is the winner of season 36


Playing an impeccable social game in order to take control early, Wendell Holland wins Survivor Ghost Island based on maintaining strong relationships.

Survivor has always been a game of social dynamics, first and foremost. Before the first Hidden Immunity Idol was ever played, it’s been primarily about making others feel comfortable enough to go with you to the end or to win safety for yourself once push comes to shove. Wendell’s social game was impeccable due to the fact that he was comfortable with everyone, helping him win Survivor Ghost Island.

Starting out, Wendell served as the camp provider as a means of getting people on his side. He found Domenick as a cool dude that he was willing to work with, turning him into his ride or die through to the finale. However, due to his social play, everyone was coming to him for strategic talks, including would-be rival Chris Noble trying to secure safety in the early Naviti camp life.

Wendell had worse game reads on players having advantages than Domenick, but he made up for it in approachability. He was much more agreeable than Chris Noble as a leader, helping both Laurel and Donathan approaching him in creating an alliance that helped take them all to the finale.

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That kind of heads-up play aided his tribal challenge acumen, as he led his tribes to Immunity in all but one challenge before the merge. From there, he was working both Naviti and Malolo players to get the heat off of him and Domenick at the merge, flipping it back on Chris and taking him out with an epic voting confessional about his rapping skills.

From there on, it became clear for Malolo that Wendell was a threat to take out, sending votes his way in the minority in three separate occasions. However, it was because everyone knew Domenick had an idol, as he kept his Immunity Necklace idol from Fans vs. Favorites secret from almost all the players.

He’s been targetted alongside Domenick in Survivor Ghost Island, yet he’s been influencing the votes and making people feel comfortable, including handing Laurel an Immunity win he had a stake in claiming. That helped mitigate any idea of her flipping on him, proving to be a great social and strategic player.

Wendell entered the finale knowing that Domenick’s idol (and one of his own) made it difficult for themselves to target each other, turning their efforts towards Sebastian over the troublesome Donathan. He really wanted to keep his idol until the Final Five, so he decided maybe he should call Jeff Probst over after solving his puzzle in the Final Six Immunity Challenge, securing his first (official) win of the season.

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In an odd decision, he opted to take the two players in the minority, Angela and Sebastian, to go with him on a steak dinner reward. It was probably the safest move to make knowing he’s making the Final Four guaranteed, but it sparked Laurel’s fury heading into the crucial end-game and kept his closest partner, Domenick, out of the picture.

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  • This caused a bit of chaos in camp, as the minority three powers tried to rally and take out his partner. He played into the chaos by trying to assuage Donathan, though his next big move was to secure safety once more in the second Immunity Challenge. Running through a boot camp maze and a four-piece pyramid puzzle, Wendell was clearly gassed as he let Jeff know he was a winner once more.

    Without a horse in a race at the Final Five vote, it became about how he used his Erik Reichenback idol in order to secure jury vote win equity. He used the opportunity to reiterate her partnership with Laurel way earlier in the game while pleading to the jury about his loyalty, showcasing just how well he’s playing the game without making flashy moves.

    He didn’t win the Final Immunity Challenge, losing to Domenick. He knew that anything short of victory meant that he probably had to make fire, and that’s exactly what he needed to do. While staring Domenick down, he pulled out a dominant fire-making performance, trouncing Angela and winning his way to the end.

    Knowing the strengths of his game and the right buttons to push, he entered the Final Tribal Council ready to go. He got a bit of pushback on his social game but explained how Domenick made himself to be the bigger target and how he played from behind the scenes. He also argued the efficiency of making his tribes feel comfortable, only heading to Tribal Council once before the merge.

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    In the end, we saw a historic result never seen in Survivor; a 5-5 tie. With Laurel having to face the crushing defeat of zero votes in the Final Tribal Council, she went to the voting booth to cast the deciding vote as the 11th member of the jury. She gave the final vote to Wendell Holland, making him the Sole Survivor and winner of the million-dollar prize.