To obliterate an old saying and to paraphrase a former President and Survivor contestant Jairus “JD” Robinson on tonight’s episode: Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice…look, you can’t fool me twice.”
JD definitely played the fool at this week’s Tribal Council, after emerging super-villain Shan got him to once again part ways with his extra vote advantage before heading to Tribal Council. But despite JD’s blunder (it wouldn’t have affected the outcome any ways even if he did have it with him), after all of the backlash that this season has received on social media thus far, Episode 4 felt like the strongest episode of the season yet. Much of the negative criticism regarding Survivor 41 has been that it has been too focused on complicated twists and advantages, and not enough on the player interactions…I’ve also heard word of folks who feel this is a weak cast. Episode 4 barely mentioned advantages, and we got to see a lot of interaction among players. In fact, even though they once again avoided Tribal Council (despite their best efforts), we got to see a lot of the Blue Tribe tonight, and there is personality dripping from this lesser-known clan.
It’s always sort of a bummer when one tribe wins all the time on Survivor, mostly because we never get to truly see the winning tribe dynamics. We still don’t know exactly where loyalties lie, but I felt like we got great insight on all six of the Blue members. First there is Heather, the 52-year-old stay-at-home mom who up until tonight had barely been seen or heard from. Let’s face it, she sucked it up at the Rewards Challenge, but just as we saw with Tiffany earlier this season and multiple times throughout the history of Survivor, her failure was turned into a positive. She never gave up, and all of the others – including even those not on her tribe – rallied around her and lifter her up. Some may find this a bit on the cheesy side of things, but personal perseverance has and always will be an integral part of the show’s make-up. It was nice to learn that Heather is a fighter, and that nobody had a negative thing to say about her.
Then there’s Erika, who like Heather, had been given the “Purple” edit thus far and has barely been heard from. It turns out that she’s got game, or at least she wants to be a gamer. We see her mention Sydney as a possible target, and that’s when we get a dose of personality and insight into both Sydney and Deshawn. We’ve seen enough of Deshawn thus far to make us think he may go far (for those that pay attention to things like “winner’s edits” and whatnot), but his loyalties clearly lie with Sydney when he throws Erika under the bus. Erika sees Sydney as overly-emotional and sometimes irrational, and the edit sure tried to sell these points. But it was Sydney’s comments about how she’s pretty, and how the others “hate me cuz they ain’t me” that barely – just barely – evoked memories of a former iconic player, Parvati Shallow, who was able to woo more than a few boys on the island and who was as savvy as they come when it came to strategy.
Not to leave out the other Blue members, Danny and Naseer, who both also got some screen time this week. Danny is interesting because he seems very game-savvy and he’s clearly the best athlete out there, being an ex-NFL player. He’s working closely with Deshawn and even is willing to throw the Immunity Challenge in order to presumably vote-out Erika and finally thin out their herd. Naseer – poor Naseer – seems to be a real wild card this season as far as his impact on the game goes: One week he’s the tribe’s target, the next he’s considered indispensable around camp. He was a raging beast at this week’s Immunity Challenge, single-handedly and unknowingly thwarting Deshawn and Danny’s efforts to throw the comp. He does seem to win people over, and he’s clearly a tough competitor…he’s an interesting figure to watch because if he makes it to a merge, he will very likely not be the first person on many of the other player’s radars.
Of course, that’s what is still missing from the Blue Tribe: A real sense of pecking order. It seems that Erika and Naseer are on the bottom, but who is really calling the shots at the top? Is it Sydney, who Deshawn seems to go out of his way to protect? Danny seems thus far to answer to Deshawn, and if Deshawn is answering to Sydney, we may very well be on the brink of a Parvati 2.0. That’s a big, big stretch at this point to even mention Parvati in the same breath as Sydney, but the groundwork is starting to appear.
The tribe that was mostly shoved in the back this week was the Yellow Tribe…when a spawn of baby sea turtles occupies most of your air-time, you know that there isn’t much drama going on at camp. That four – Xander, Liana, Evvie and Tiffany – could be a strong core group should they make it to merge…especially if Xander ever is able to activate that Idol of his.
Even though my focus was on the Blue Tribe, it was Green that ended up back at Tribal Council for the third time this season. Shan and Ricard are clearly a deadly duo, and Shan – like I mentioned earlier – is easily becoming this season’s break-out star (or break-out villain if you prefer). Her “I don’t want to be a villain but I do want to be an assassin,” line, while slyly grinning all the while, is pure Survivor villainy. Her sinister little song already sets her apart and it’s been a lot of fun to see her work thus far. She ate JD up and spit him up, getting him to inexplicably hand over his extra vote for a second straight week. This time though, she done did him dirty, not only blindsiding her “little brother” but keeping his extra vote advantage for her own. Genie is by no means in good shape in the game and will definitely be cut next should they return for a fourth Tribal, but the trouble that Shan and Ricard will face long-term is that they are going to be way down in numbers when they make the merge, and will likely be high on the priority list of others to have their torches snuffed. That’s why Shan hanging on to that extra vote is quite crucial and could be a game-saver for her. We shall see. But conversely, Genie’s stock I think rises the further she goes in the game, as she’s the type of non-threatening player that won’t create too much buzz.
The moral of the story in all of this is that I think this cast has tremendous potential! I’ll never qualify a season as a “bust” or as “great” after just four episodes, but I think this was the first episode this season where I think some momentum can be obtained. We didn’t have any flashbacks, Probst never addressed the camera…we had a Reward and an Immunity Challenge without the introduction of any new twists (confusing or not). Players played the game hard, there were some tears and some laughs, and in the end a player was blindsided by a devious duo who also took his advantage on the way out. And the preview for next week seemed to highlight a lot of potential drama to come.
So don’t be so hard on Survivor…this show has been so good for so long that I think it’s earned the right to explore some format changes along the way. As always, not everything works. But it’s still leaps and bounds better than any other reality TV competition show out there.
Episode Take-Away. A good, solid ep and for me the most effective of this season. Shan and Ricard are emerging all-star villains, and this episode revealed a lot of personalities on the one tribe (Blue) that we had yet to really see. We’re already down to just 13 players left in the game, which means that a merge and jury have to be on the horizon either next week or the week after, so things are going to ramp up quickly. Remember too that the game was shortened from 39 days to just 26, so along the way they will need to compensate with some twisty double-Tribals to get the numbers down to a manageable level before Finale in December. For the first time this season, I felt in good hands with Probst and the producers like they actually know what they’re doing and that this season really might deliver, if we can just give it a chance. It’s easy to hate on Survivor now in its 21st year on the air, and it may never be as good as it once was. But hang in there. They have a tremendous track record of success.
Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. For those that followed this column the past few seasons, you also know that this page is the EXCLUSIVE home to new artwork from none other than two-time Survivor contestant and legend, Erik Reichenbach. Each week, Erik contributes a brand-new, original piece of artwork relating to the new week’s episode. It will appear here usually in the days after the show’s airing, so if it does not appear here now, check back usually by the weekend following an episode and give this page a refresh. All of Erik’s work as well as past works can be found and purchased on his site, DabuDoodles.com, and I urge you to support this amazingly talented former Survivor player!
Voted Out This Week: Jairus “JD” Robinson (green tribe)
Won Immunity: Blue Tribe (Danny, Naseer, Sydney, Heather, Deshawn, Erika) and Yellow Tribe (Xander, Liana, Tiffany, Evvie)
Rewards Won: The Green Tribe won a tribe visit from an expert Fijian who taught them hunting/gathering skills, the Yellow Tribe received one good-sized fish to cook
Vote: No dice rolls, no idols/advantages played. 3 – JD (Genie, Ricard, Shan), 1 – Genie (JD). JD voted out.
Current Advantage Tally:
- Xander has 1 extra vote and one-third of the Immunity Idol (cannot vote until other two-thirds are discovered)
- Shan has 1 extra vote
- Deshawn has 1 extra vote
Next Week’s Episode: Lots of drama was previewed despite no sign of a big game twist like a swap or a merge. Genie finds a “Beware Advantage” while Danny worries about the girls starting to have the numbers advantage. Tiffany and Liana go searching through Xander’s personal bag.
Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Those that have followed me also know that I am also a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic and I encourage you to check out my past movie reviews and my movie show (episodes are also available online at the website, www.MovieShowPlus.com.) As always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.
TELL US – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE DECISION TO VOTE OUT JD? WHO IS PLAYING THE BEST GAME THUS FAR? AND WHICH PLAYERS ARE YOU ROOTING FOR/AGAINST?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]