Survivor 41 Episode 5 Recap: Spare Tire

What doesn’t get you voted out only makes you stronger. That’s at least what Ricard and Shan are hoping after they found themselves at yet another Tribal Council during Episode 5 of Survivor 41. It wasn’t an easy road, but being the two best strategic players on the least competitive tribe has gotten them to where they are now, and this dangerous duo have presumably made it the merge next week (although there seems to be some sort of new twist regarding the merge…more on that in a bit) and most likely jury as well.

Tonight’s episode laid bare the relationship between Shan and Ricard, and it looked for a moment like they were certainly going to turn on each other. Ricard up until now, has been shown to be the strong, silent type…he hasn’t said all that much heading into this episode, but we’ve seen from his intense glares and facial expressions that he is an intellectual master strategist. Shan on the other hand has captured more air-time than any of her fellow contestants this season, and with good reason: As I pointed out last week, Shan is the closest thing this season has to a bona fide future All-Star Survivor player and she has definitely been the show’s stand-out personality, what with her catchy little villainous song and the fact that we’ve seen her so much, given that her tribe has shown up at Tribal more than the other tribes through the first batch of episodes.

There’s no question that both Shan and Ricard can now also safely be labeled as villains, although of course this is speaking in terms of the show and not them personally. Both Shan and Ricard seem like very noble, trustworthy people in real life, and this episode’s only flashback gave us some insights as to Shan’s journey that brought her to Survivor. Now a pastor, Shan revealed tonight that she was once a gang member, and also recently lost her mother to the pitfalls of addiction. She also shared some great, genuine moments with Liana after they were both picked to go on a trek, and they formed a tremendous bond while spending time together, reveling in the fact that they are the only two female African-Americans on this season’s cast (and for anyone that just recently watched “The Cookout” make history on Big Brother 23, this new alliance may prove unstoppable).

But yeah…all of that aside? Villains. Not only is Shan the first player in Survivor history with her own unique theme song, but how they played Genie tonight was borderline brutal. Not only was genuine Genie sent out of the game, but they did her dirty by taking the three-way Idol advantage for themselves and trying to trick her with a fake Idol in its place. Poor Genie made a grave, fatal mistake by taking the “Beware Advantage” back to Ricard and Shan and sharing it with them…did she really feel like she was going to break the two of them up? Her one vote is useless anyways if she is the low woman on the totem pole – which she feared she was – so who cares if she were to lose her vote? That Idol being activated wasn’t a sure thing, but the way it played out, Genie could have ended up with an Idol and her pick as to whom to take with her further in the game. It’s a shame because I liked Genie and thought that if she could have just made the merge, she would have been a real threat to go far as a loyal under-the-radar player.

Speaking of that three-way Idol, although I’m sad that I won’t ever again hear Xander wax poetic about his dead relatives and butterflies, I did love, love, love that they revealed to us that Naseer had indeed found the missing piece live in the moment. In Survivor of old, we 100% always saw players find Idols or advantages in chronological order, but some clever editing here really made for a dramatic moment when he told the others that he “was as confused as a goat on Astro-turf.” I’ve loved this hidden phrase idea and it’s been so fun to see the players figure out how to somehow say these lines out loud at multiple challenges in a row. If you are a player that isn’t in on this or has no knowledge, you probably do believe that this is the hardest Survivor in history…I mean, these peoples are all losing their marbles and it’s only Day 10!

Back to the evil at hand (Shan and Ricard), I must say that I am a bit surprised that they stuck with one another. When Shan asked Ricard to give back the extra vote advantage, it made for one of the more awkward exchanges I’ve seen on Survivor in quite a bit (i.e. it was super entertaining). But the minute that Shan asks for it, if I’m Ricard, serious red flags go up immediately. He was right: There’s no reason to ask for the advantage back unless Shan was contemplating voting him out, and if she was really seriously contemplating that, then maybe she does need to go! They may have survived the night together, but I wonder if we have started to see the cracks in their relationship and alliance…they are the two most battle-tested players in the game having been to the most Tribals, but they could very well become swing votes in a merge situation, especially when you have the Blue Tribe chomping at the bit to take a shot or two at some of their own.

We also got to see an interesting power-dynamic shift over at the Yellow Tribe. Up until now, it had appeared that Evvie was maybe in the top spot of the social food chain, as there had previously been talk about getting rid of Tiffany. But Tiffany showed some moxy herself, catching Xander in a lie, figuring out that Evvie was getting way too close to Xander, and also coming up with the devious plan to rustle through his bag looking for Idols/advantages. Liana seems like she is finding a fantastic position in the game, with Tiffany on one side and Evvie on the other, and with a secret alliance across the way with Shan…not to mention that new “power of knowledge” advantage Liana just scored. We haven’t had a chance to see massive amounts of gameplay from her yet, but Liana could be someone to really keep an eye on moving forward.

So it’s time to talk about that new advantage. Do you hate it like me? Sound off in the comment section. For one, it’s a bit too powerful, but two, forcing someone to tell the truth in a game that has built a foundation for players telling lies just seems wrong and ill-conceived. Last week, there was universal praise that Survivor was perhaps getting back on track…it was a solid episode and contained a lot of interaction among players that didn’t involve advantages. Tonight I must say was a pretty good episode overall and I think did continue some of the momentum created last week, but a lot of the talk this week was regarding advantages and at some point it just feels like too much. I just don’t think that you should be able to steal advantages or Idols in Survivor…stealing a vote here and there is one thing, but the idea that someone can have an Idol taken away seems a step too far. Sure, I definitely remember the “Idle Nullifier” advantage, but at least that advantage just nullified another person’s advantage…it didn’t technically take it away from them to be used by another player. I’m a bit uncertain too as to how they are going to make a player have to “tell the truth” as revealing an Idol/advantage not only exposes said Idol or advantage, but it could blow up a person’s entire game. Imagine having an Idol and then having to give it up to Liana and also publicly admit that you had it all this time, but then imagine your closest allies had no idea you had an Idol in the first place? You’d have a lot of explaining to do. I just think that this is an undercooked idea and one of those advantages that will be pointed to in the future as a mistake…time will tell I guess, and we’ll have to see just how it plays out.

With the three-way Idol now activated, Naseer, Xander and Shan all enter into next week with Immunity Idols, which is a big deal. And even though the players were making a big deal about having made it 10 days in the game, in today’s Survivor that’s nearly the half-way point. Yes this season is moving along fast, and usually any season’s best stretch of episodes happen right around the merge and beginning of jury. Let’s hope that the coming weeks allow the potential of this cast to bloom and that it backs away for a while on the slew of advantages that will undoubtedly make the game less – not more – interesting down the stretch.

Episode Take-Away. I thought this episode started off super-strong, with players tricking other players with fake Idols, and wanting to ransack personal bags and whatnot, but where last week excelled throughout, the second-half of this episode fell back in to the trappings of the first few episodes, where there is just too much reliance on advantages to create the drama. That being said, seeing Tribal Councils with just three people are actually quite rare, and I not only didn’t know what was going to happen, but I didn’t really want any of these three to leave the game. I loved the bonding between Shan and Liana and think that could be very important, especially given the screen-time Shan has been given thus far (some would call Shan’s a “winner’s edit” but we shall see). Also as I mentioned, the reveal and then flashback to Naseer finding the Idol advantage was game-changing and is a tactic that should be used more often on the show. Imagine someone playing an Idol at Tribal when we didn’t even know that person had an Idol, and then quickly showing the flashback! The possibilities are endless with this somewhat manipulative but entertaining storytelling technique. Finally, there are some players that we still haven’t seen much or know all that much about, and we’re nearly halfway through. That’s a drag, but I do like the possible dynamics of the existing tribes and am still holding out hope that this season can right the course. I definitely have to see how the Shan/Ricard story ends!

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!

“Genie Finds An Advantage”

Art by Erik Reichenbach – DabuDoodles.com

Voted Out This Week: Genie (green tribe)

Won Immunity: Blue Tribe (Danny, Naseer, Sydney, Heather, Deshawn, Erika) and Yellow Tribe (Xander, Liana, Tiffany, Evvie)

Rewards Won: Tarps (a larger one for the Yellow and a smaller tarp for the Blue)

Vote: No dice rolls, no idols/advantages played. 2 – Genie (Ricard, Shan), 1 – Ricard (Genie). Genie voted out.

Current Advantage Tally:

  • Xander has 1 extra vote and 1 Immunity Idol
  • Shan has 1 extra vote and 1 Immunity Idol
  • Deshawn has 1 extra vote
  • Naseer has 1 Immunity Idol
  • Liana has the “power of knowledge” advantage, which allows her to potentially steal another player’s Idol/advantage

Next Week’s Episode: Drop your buffs! The merge is…wait, huh? But Probst said “drop your buffs!” that could only mean one thing, right? Isn’t the merge happening? It appears that this will be a “merge with a twist” and I for one can’t wait to find out what it is and then tear it apart as a dumb idea! Until then!

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 GENIE? 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]