In the closest finish in ‘Survivor’ history, Domenick was named runner-up of ‘Ghost Island’ on the season 36 finale. Now, he’s telling all on the HUGE risk he wish he took, why he NEVER expected a tie vote, and so much more!
Wendell Holland Jr. was named the winner of Survivor, but it wasn’t without a HARD-fought battle to the end against his closest ally and friend in the game, Domenick Abbate. When the last vote came down to a tie between the two, it was up to third place finisher, Laurel Johnson, to cast one final vote for the winner, and she went with Wendell. Admittedly, a tie is something Domenick never saw coming when he was making decisions earlier in the game. “I’d say Wendell and I were both pretty confident that Laurel would at least receive a vote from Donathan [Hurley],” Dom tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “We thought she would at least get one, so that wouldn’t have allowed a tie.” Ultimately, Donathan voted for Wendell, which brought the vote to 5-5.
There was one game twist the cast members did know was coming though: The final four fire-making challenge — whoever won immunity at the final four got to pick one person to bring to the final three, leaving the other two to fight for that spot in a race to build fire the fastest. Dom was victorious at the challenge, and grappled hard over what his best chance would be to keep Wendell (his biggest competition) out of the final three. “We didn’t realize it was less about actual fire-making and more of this situational moment where if you send someone in, it could give that person a hero moment,” Dom explains. “So by me sending Wendell in, I’m really trying to get him out, but if that doesn’t work and he wins, it’s just another notch on his belt for his resume. So I think it ended up hurting me to win the final four.”
He even contemplated giving away his necklace and trying to take Wendell out himself! In the end, he decided that was too big of a risk, and put Angela Perkins to the test instead. Obviously, Wendell won. Now, looking back nearly a year later, that decision still haunts Dom. “I know it sounds far-fetched because it’s such a huge risk, but Survivor is about huge risks,” he says. “You want to win a million dollars, you gotta lay it on the line. That’s what this needs to be about moving forward — you can’t be playing it safe. You want to win the million? You gotta earn the million. I think that’s what I should’ve done. I should’ve kept my foot on the gas pedal and made that move. If I could go back, if there’s anything that keeps me up at night, that’s it.”
Why do you think Wendell was able to form a closer relationship with Laurel and Donathan within your alliance of four? The reason behind these elements are hard to understand because they’re invisible sometimes. if you’re talking about the whole jury, I had a much better relationship with Michael than Wendell did with Michael. It’s not anything he said or I said, it’s just one of those unspoken elements where you become more relatable to someone. You don’t know why, you just are. I’m not saying that Donathan and Wendell were more relatable than me, but whatever it may have been, he just felt like he connected to Wendell more. Laurel and I had a really good friendship out there, but it was really obvious that I was like her best friend and Wendell was like her brother.
I knew it was a tough vote for her and she was really emotional about it, and it was what it was. I knew it was tough for her. It saddens me that it was tough for her, but at the same time, it also means something to me — it wasn’t just like she voted for Wendell and said, ‘See ya later, Dom!’ It shows me there was love there.
It’s a new element a future player needs to take into consideration — in the event of a tie, the third person needs to be more on your side. There are so many complex layers! This will separate a good player from a great player.
On his relationship with nemesis Chris Noble: Believe it or not, Chris really respected me. We had a real rivalry out there that was real, but he had a lot of time out of the game to reflected on how he was doing out there, and just seeing him show me that respect [by voting for me] as one of those things that meant a lot to me. It showed me that this guy can set aside what we had and say..he played a great game. It was really him and Michael that were ambassadors for me at final tribal. The two of them stepped up and said: Dom played this game better than the other two, and you guys need to show me why you played a better game. They didn’t outright say it like that, but they were fighting for me. It meant a lot to me that these two guys that I had a huge part in cutting from the game were able to turn around and respect my game.
Did any of the jury votes for or against you surprise you? I was surprised about Chris — I didn’t think he’d give me any love. Chelsea…I thought I was going to have Chelsea. We did a lot of work together early in the game, but I think she was really hurt when I had to cut her loose. But I really hoped I had changed her mind. I was really thinking I could change Sebastian, too — I knew he was bitter with me but I thought if I had the opportunity to explain what I was trying to do, he would’ve seen it my way. I was surprised to see him really angry at me.