‘Survivor’ Runner-Up Domenick – “If I Could Do It over Again, I’d Just Throw the Final Four Immunity”

“Survivor: Ghost Island” (CBS)

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Domenick Abbate: How’s it going, handsome?
Gordon Holmes: Oh, stop. Last night’s episode went so long that it went past my bedtime. Did I miss anything interesting?
Abbate: (Laughs) I’m not even sure anymore. You tell me.
Holmes: Here’s the thing, after Wendell won the fire-making challenge, I said, “We’ve got a strong argument for the best second-place player ever no matter who wins. And the Internet was like, “What about Parvati, “Boston” Rob, Ozzy?” And you know what? They didn’t tie. They didn’t come a half a vote away from winning.
Abbate: (Laughs)
Holmes: Now, you’ve probably had this in your brain since last summer.
Abbate: Eight months.
Holmes: What’d you come up with? Where is your head now?
Abbate: My head is fine. If anything, I was really tired because we partied Tuesday night. I didn’t get much sleep. But mentally I’m fine because I’m one of the few players to play the game and know that I immediately lost. Most people have to wait for the finale. For me, I knew in that moment…back then I was in shambles. Last night for me, I knew it was coming. It was still emotional to me. To see it play out and see the fan reaction…even just in the hotel now. People are like, “Oh man, that was yours.” It means a lot to get that feedback. I never realized that. I thought I played a good game, but to see everyone’s reaction? I can’t have the million, but at least I have that consolation prize of people giving me recognition of playing a great game.

Holmes: You did play a great game. But that fire-making challenge decision is a (expletive deleted). I’m watching it last night and I’m thinking, “Does it make sense for Domenick to just take Wendell to the end?” He proves that he’s not afraid of him and Wendell doesn’t get that bad ass moment in front of the jury.
Abbate: We never saw the fire-making challenge play out on television. So, we didn’t anticipate the repercussions of how it could play out. It’s a huge moment in the game now. If they keep the twist in, and I think they will, I’m a huge supporter of it. It’s a great way to separate the great players from the poor players. And now that people have seen it air and how it affected my game, future players have to think about it. If I could do it over again, I’d just throw the final four immunity challenge. I’ll sit on my butt and let Wendell send me to fire. Look at the two things that happened by me winning; Wendell got a notch on his belt by winning at fire. But also, the jury had a bad taste in their mouth because it looked like I was sending Angela out to her death. It was almost like, “Really? You’re putting Angela out to die against Wendell? Another one bites the dust to Dom.” At the same time, Wendell got this heroic moment.

Holmes: In “Millennials vs. Gen-X” big, aggressive moves were appreciated where it seems like this jury had a real problem with what happened between you, Sebastian, and Donathan.
Abbate: I knew going into final Tribal that I was going to have to address that situation. I know after the Sebastian Tribal that people were thinking, “This guy is a piece of garbage.” The problem is, there were two things I was trying to sell. The first was; can I turn Sebastian’s mind around? Can I get him to go for the original plan of voting Donathan out? That was never going to happen, but that’s what he had been told. I needed to make sure that nobody was going to ask Jeff to validate the relic. The way I needed to make those two things happen was to really aggressively sell the story. I knew I had to come off assertively and say, “What you’re doing isn’t going to work because I’m covered so don’t even think about it.” The problem with that is Wendell started breaking out his jewelry and it screwed me up. And I think what he was thinking was that Dom’s trying to put on Tribal Council theater again and he wanted to get in on the action. But now it turns into Dom and Wendell are teaming up on the weaker players. So, at Final Tribal I knew I had to calmly articulate the story. I knew in the moment that they hated me. I think I did a good job, but Sebastian…I couldn’t get through. And Kellyn thought I was a really terrible person…in life.
Holmes: (Laughs)
Abbate: (Laughs) I just couldn’t get through to her. But I did my best, I really tried to articulate my point. I think it worked on some people, but not her or Sebastian.

Holmes: Wendell said you thought you were going to win by a vote of 8-2. Is that accurate?
Abbate: At final Tribal?
Holmes: Yeah.
Abbate: I don’t know if I ever said that. But more realistically I thought that Laurel would get Donathan’s vote and the other nine…I’d be happy with 6-3. 8-2 is pretty steep, but I don’t remember saying that.

Holmes: When Jeff starts reading the votes, I’m thinking, “Oh…Jeff forgot how this works.” And then quickly it was, “Oh crap, it’s a tie.” And then, “Laurel has to decide.” And finally, “Wendell’s going to win.”
Abbate: All that is exactly how it went for me. That’s a moment that I’ll remember forever. We’re happy it’s over. We’re exhausted. We’ve put our blood, sweat, and tears into this game. He’s going to get the votes and he’ll read them in the states. High five, let’s go grab a beer. And he goes, “I guess I’ll just read the votes.” (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs)
Abbate: Wendell and I are like, this is going down. It’s fun and it’s exciting because it culminates the story of us, but it was literally two or three seconds later that my head just dropped. For me it was this huge roller coaster of emotions in just a minute or two. It sucks because most people don’t know their fate in the moment besides Richard Hatch in season one. So, I had this moment where I was one of the few finalist to know my fate. It was overwhelming. I cried for like an hour.

Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with the Noble One, Chris Noble.
Abbate: Competitive.
Holmes: Morgan?
Abbate: Ray of sunshine.
Holmes: Wendell?
Abbate: Cool and collected.
Holmes: Jenna?
Abbate: Hysterical.
Holmes: Sebastian?
Abbate: Chill.
Holmes: Libby?
Abbate: Sweetheart.
Holmes: Desiree?
Abbate: Surprising.
Holmes: Kellyn?
Abbate: Passionate.
Holmes: Chelsea?
Abbate: Warrior.
Holmes: Bradley?
Abbate: Brilliant.
Holmes: Michael?
Abbate: Impressive.
Holmes: James?
Abbate: Articulate.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Laurel.
Abbate: Warm-hearted.

Holmes: One of my favorite moments of the season was the loved ones visit with your wife Kristin. She might be in my top five favorite personalities this season.
Abbate: My wife a huge ball of energy. She runs the ship at home. She makes sure the kids get on the bus. She’s super independent. She’ll let me know when I ‘m getting out of line. She really is the perfect balance for me.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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