When Jeff Probst revealed this week’s big Survivor twist – that there would be two individual Immunity Necklace winners and two people voted out at Tribal Council – my first reaction was to be a bit skeptical. However, the two smaller groups ended up having some electric dynamics that powered the episode as a whole, and ended in two really entertaining Tribals…despite the fact that two fan-favorites were sent to jury once all was said and done.
These people are really here to play, and despite all of the changes that Survivor 41 has made, I will continue to champion this cast as being one of the most solid (not to mention diverse) in quite some time. There was a lot of next-level strategizing and gameplay going on, and although it was not mentioned on this week’s show, so far the “Cookout 2.o” alliance has stayed true. If you don’t know what this is referencing, the “Cookout” alliance just appeared on Big Brother 23, consisting of all of the African-American contestants banding together to ensure that Big Brother saw its first Black winner (the six Cookout members succeeded, and Xavier Prather did in fact become the show’s first-ever African-American winner). A few weeks ago on Survivor, Danny, Shan, Deshawn and Liana made a similar pact, and when it came down to it, their alliance was able to stick together to ensure that Evvie was ousted. This was the first time that Xander’s instincts at Tribal served him wrong, but just like the non-Cookout players on Big Brother, the idea that the other three were working together for that reason probably never dawned on him, and if Survivor plays out like Big Brother did, it won’t dawn on any of the others until its way too late and they’re sitting together on jury.
Sticking to that Tribal for a moment, it really ended up coming down to whether or not Xander would play his Immunity Idol on Evvie‘s behalf. Had he done so, she’d have stayed safe and Liana would have went home. Xander was probably weighing his options, knowing that it would have been great to vote out Liana and keep Evvie around, but at the cost of exposing himself when he still remains a major target in the game. Time will tell if that was the best long-term play for Xander, and truthfully he didn’t feel like he could trust Evvie much beyond this week anyways, ever since he discovered that Evvie told everyone about his hidden Idol.
Things worked out for the “Cookout 2.0” alliance, but things sure aren’t all roses for them. The episode began with the fallout of last week’s “live Tribal” where Shan (rightly so) was once again accused of forcing her will on others in her alliance. Shan and Deshawn seem to be like to missiles headed straight toward one another, and if next week’s preview is any indication, they likely will gun for one another at some point. Will they really be able to survive together all the way until Final Four?
Kudos this week to Ricard, who not only wasn’t portrayed like a complete villain (we got some backstory that he is completely deaf in his right ear), but he actually was able to exert HIS will over Shan‘s this week. I’ve mentioned it before, but there is an ongoing story thread revolving around Ricard and Shan’s rocky relationship with one another, and as numbers dwindle down it appears this will likely become one of the most important storylines of the entire season: Will they stick together and ride it until the end or will they flip on one another? Shan adamantly wanted Heather out in order to weaken Erika, but Ricard was not having it, not when he saw a chance to flush an Immunity Idol out of the game by voting out Naseer. They made him feel super-comfortable and then sent him packing with an Idol in his pocket, which of all the ways to go out on Survivor, that has to be one of the most regretful and excruciating.
There has been a lot of talk and questions as to why Shan and Ricard played their Extra Vote, and here’s the explanation: Basically there is a scenario where if Naseer were to play his Idol on himself (let’s say he gets spooked or starts to doubt his alliance), Erika and Heather could have potentially voted out Ricard or Shan, since if Ricard and Shan voted for Naseer and he plays his Idol, their votes would be wiped out. To absolutely ensure that this slim possibility didn’t come to fruition, Shan used her Extra Vote and cast one vote for Heather and one for Naseer. In doing so, they eliminated the possibility of one of them (Ricard or Shan) going home. If this makes your head hurt, just trust in me that it was actually a pretty smart way to use the Extra Vote in order to ensure no funny business could send one of them inadvertently out of the game.
So where do things go from here? It’s not too early to begin looking at how each remaining player stacks up as a potential Sole Survivor. We’re down to eight players remaining! And believe it or not, including the Finale Episode on December 15th, there are only four episodes of Survivor 41 remaining! Two Immunity Idols still are in play (Shan and Xander) and Xander now possesses the last Extra Vote advantage in the game. Clearly the majority alliance is still in control, especially now that they’ve gotten rid of Evvie and the pesky Idol-possessing wild-card, Naseer. Xander is Public Enemy #1 but he knows that every single Immunity Challenge is a life or death contest for him in the game, and he’s proven that he can win…his Idol and Extra Vote may make him hard to take out, but it’ll be even more challenging for him to mount some sort of major underdog upset. Xander can win the game of course, if only he could get to the end. You then have Erika and Heather who are both on the bottom, with Erika already in the crosshairs of Shan, which hasn’t boded well for others in the same situation thus far. Danny, Shan, Liana, Deshawn and Ricard (who doesn’t realize yet that he’s the odd-man-out of the Cookout 2.0 alliance) are in the driver’s seat…but can they keep it together and ride it out is the question.
The good news for Ricard fans (and there are plenty out there despite his villainous edit!) is that he has proven savvy enough to survive on his own merits and instincts. I find it unlikely though that he’ll turn on Shan anytime soon, which may mean that even if he does sniff out Cookout 2.0, it will be way too late when he does so. As of now I think Shan has a great chance of going far, possibly to the end, but I’m increasingly beginning to think that she doesn’t have a chance at winning over this jury with the way she’s approached the game. Same with Liana. Danny is interesting, in that he is incredibly well-liked and people don’t seem to be bothered by the fact that they’ve allowed an NFL athlete to get this far in the game, but I also think that Deshawn has a good chance of winning if he is able to navigate his current feud with Shan…if he ends up at the end, he definitely can say that he overcame more hurdles than Danny or anyone else for that matter.
There is little hope for the bottom-feeders, Xander, Erika and Heather, unless something major occurs next week. As we sit right now, I think that it was a big mistake for Xander to have not used his Idol on Evvie, because Evvie would have been a massive target, and had she stayed and Liana would have gotten voted-out, Xander would be Idol-less, but would have been in a situation where the numbers were four-versus-four…with Xander holding the game’s only remaining Extra Vote. That to me sounds like a way better situation to be in than the one he will find himself going into next week.
Episode Take-Away: Great ep! It was fast-paced from the beginning, with lots of strategy and cutting back-and-forth. At first I didn’t know if I’d like the two smaller Tribal Councils, but after the last few exhausting “live Tribals” this felt like a welcome switch-up, and both were entertaining and somewhat unpredictable. I was reminded tonight of the unprecedented representation on this season, from Evvie‘s final farewell telling Queer viewers to be proud and to be themselves, to Ricard‘s emotional reveal about his hearing loss and how he would love to be the first deaf winner, to watching members of the Cookout 2.0 stick together through a tough and trying Tribal. This cast continues to fuel my passion for Survivor even when the show introduces some twists and turns that I don’t love.
I was left wondering if we’d see any more Idols or other advantages introduced into the game, or if what we have now is what we will have for the remainder. I find myself rooting for the underdogs Erika and especially Xander, but also for Cookout 2.0…if there’s ever a majority-alliance to get behind, it’s them, and just like on Big Brother, I can’t wait to see who ends up coming out of the alliance alive once they are forced to go at one another later in the game.
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: Naseer and Evvie
Individual Immunity Winner: Erika and Xander
Tribal #1 Vote: Shan used her Extra Vote and was able to cast two votes. 3 – Naseer (Shan Vote #1, Heather, Erika), 3 – Heather (Naseer, Shan Vote #2, Ricard). Re-Vote: Unanimous vote-out of Naseer.
Tribal #2 Vote: No Idols or advantages were used. 3 – Evvie (Danny, Deshawn, Liana), 2 – Liana (Xander, Evvie).
Current Advantage Tally:
- Xander has 1 extra vote and 1 Immunity Idol
- Shan has 1 Immunity Idol
Next Week’s Episode: Deshawn gets in hot water after mentioning Ricard as a possible target…it looks like there is a lot more game to be played!
Important Show News! In case you missed the news last week, CBS recently made some big announcements regarding Survivor. First off, the Season Finale of Season 41 will air on December 15th. March 9th, 2022 will mark the debut of “Survivor 42” coming out of the gates with a two-hour premiere. Mark your calendars!
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 THIS WEEK’S EPISODE? DID XANDER MAKE A MISTAKE BY NOT SAVING EVVIE? AND WHICH PLAYERS ARE YOU ROOTING FOR/AGAINST AT THIS POINT?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]