Survivor 41 Episode 12 Recap: The Final Five Are Set, Who Will Win Survivor 41?

This week’s penultimate episode of Survivor 41 is now behind us, and there are just five who have manage to navigate their way to the end of what has definitely been a “different” season of Survivor. It was the first season back following the beginning of the pandemic that saw the show delayed for a full year. That additional time off allowed Jeff Probst and the other producers to rethink and retool the game, with smaller tweaks (like Jeff occasionally breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience), to larger changes (the introduction of flashback sequences and several new game twists) to seismic shifts in how the game is played (shortening the 39 day format that had been in place for over a decade to a shorter but more physically grueling 26 days). This “reimagined” version of Survivor was met with new policies from the top of CBS, where the station introduced new directives to ensure that people of color (POC) made up no less than 50% of all reality TV casting from this point forward.

All of this swirled together and created a “big bang” of sorts that coalesced and formed itself into what we came to know as Survivor 41. A new era for sure. Not all of the “newness” was well-received by fans, but for those of us that stuck with it, I must say that Survivor 41 has rewarded us with one of the best casts in the show’s 21 year history…and one hopes, an exciting finish to come.

Yes next week is the Survivor 41 Finale, a full three hour cap to the season in which there will be two Tribal Councils, a fire-making challenge and a final vote for winner. And for the first time since Season 1 back in Borneo, the winner will be announced during that Final Tribal, instead of live at the Reunion Show. That’s right, due to COVID concerns at the time that Season 41 filmed (this past Summer in Fiji), the winner was announced out on the island so we will get to see how that played out. A traditional “Live Reunion” special has been a staple too since the very beginning of Survivor, but no Live Reunion Show has been confirmed. We may still get a “post-game” Q&A with the cast, but it might happen right after that final vote, taped and edited and shown to us as part of the Finale. Or perhaps there will be some “live” elements. What we do know is that this will be a Finale Night like none other, which is fitting, since this was a season of Survivor like none other.

We got down to five players after Danny was voted out during this week’s episode. It was never addressed head-on, but we learned last night that Danny never revealed to his cast mates that he was actually a former NFL player…a fact that he finally shared with Deshawn before the end of last night’s episode. Why the tribe decided to vote out Danny and not Deshawn is a bit of a mystery and one that I’m sure we will get answers for at the start of next week’s Finale. It seemed that Deshawn was asking to be voted out, when he decided to throw Erika under the bus by divulging that she was thinking of turning on her ally, Heather, a fact that Deshawn coerced Erika into saying during an earlier conversation near the water supply. Erika was visibly miffed and made a sarcastic gesture to Deshawn after Danny was voted out, but apparently the overriding plan was to get Danny out regardless of Deshawn’s last-minute actions at Tribal.

The votes were split between Danny and Deshawn to ensure that Danny didn’t have an Idol, and upon the revote it was a unanimous vote for Danny to join the jury. The once strong and dominant POC alliance is now down to one, represented by Deshawn, almost single-handedly destroyed by Ricard’s lethal strategic prowess matched with the fact that he has now won his third Individual Immunity. Of the hundreds of players to have played Survivor, only 39 players have ever won three or more Individual Immunity Challenges and Ricard becomes just the second LGBTQ person to accomplish this feat (joining Survivor: Guatemala‘s Rafe Judkins who did it back in Season 11).

Apparently Danny did not find the hidden Idol even though he appeared to be close. Interestingly, this does confirm that there is still an Idol to be found out on the island. Also of note, in a season that has been criticized for its massive amount of twists and its plethora of advantages, not a single Immunity Idol has been used at a Tribal Council all season. We’ve seen two “extra votes,” one “shot-in-the-dark” and a failed steal attempt by Liana, but Idols have not come into play as of yet. This is amazing if you consider that Xander still possesses an Immunity Idol, not having needed to play it the entirety of the game.

So who will win Survivor 41? Xander‘s Idol gives have the best statistically chance to reach Final Three, being that the next Tribal will be the last time he can use his Idol, so why wouldn’t he? That places Xander in the Final Four, and if you make Final Four, the worst you can do is get a chance to compete in a fire-making challenge to make Final Three. In other words, assuming Xander uses his Idol and doesn’t pull an Erik Reichenbach (sorry Erik!), his chances of being in the Final Three comes down – at worst – to a fire-making challenge against Heather, Erika, Deshawn or Ricard. If Xander makes the Final Vote, which seems likely based on these facts, can he lose?

Xander has quite the story, has made big moves, is likable and physical, and was an underdog for almost the entire season. To me, everything is pointing to Xander.

But not so fast…what about Ricard? Sure Xander has a crazy-good chance of making it to the end, but can he actually win if Ricard is sitting next to him? Ricard seems to be the giant that nobody can slay, the biggest obstacle in the way of the rest of the player’s ultimate success. Ricard would likely need to either find that remaining hidden Idol out there, or win at least one more Individual Immunity, which would give him a fire-making chance to reach the end, at worst. Ricard still seems like the front-runner as far as who can win the game, but I find his chances of actually making it to the end to be a bit worse than that of Xander’s.

The other interesting angle is that the season itself has now included two different segments about how a female has not won the game in a while (the last six Survivor winners were men, and 12 of the last 15 have been men). The editors are purposely leaving this in…is this the show showing us some awareness or is it a bit of foreshadowing? In other words, are they hinting to us that we will indeed see a female winner this season? Let’s be frank: Heather has less than a zero percent chance of winning this game, so that would imply that Erika could be the Sole Survivor. She has definitely had an uphill battle and has played a low-key but strategic game, and I think she benefits by being a lesser target still than Ricard, Xander and Deshawn. That being said though, Erika and Heather are viewed as a two-some, a dangerous moniker to have when we’re down to just five players. If the boys decide to “split up” this duo, would they really vote out Heather over Erika? I think not. Erika though, could be one ginormous Immunity win away from having a great chance to make Final Three. I think her only real scenario of winning though is to sit there next to Heather and Deshawn…I think she loses if Xander and/or Ricard are there at the end.

This takes us down to Deshawn, a fascinating yet chaotic player to be sure. Can Deshawn win? You betcha. He’s already shown that the “Survivor Gods” are on his side when he somehow survived the “Do or Die” challenge last week, so could his Survivor luck also carry him to the end? He’s begun burning bridges, like throwing Erika under the bus, but could this be his strategy? Follow me for a minute…Deshawn has played a hard-fought game and could have votes on the jury in Danny, Shan and Liana at minimum (it will take five votes from an eight person jury, but four could even give us a winner if the votes are split among three people). Could he be pissing others off right now to maybe get the others to think that he’s a good person to sit next to at the end? Deshawn can win challenges, and if the Survivor Gods are truly with him, I could also see his story continuing with a miraculous fire-making challenge win. If Deshawn ends up sitting next to Ricard and Xander, could there be enough of a split vote among the jury to have Deshawn somehow come out on top? Or in another scenario, could Deshawn win outright if up against Erika and Heather?

I know this to be true: Next week we shall find out! Please join me following next week’s three-hour Finale as we discuss the ending, the winner and where both this season and its Sole Survivor rank all-time.

Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. A huge thank you to Survivor legend Erik Reichenbach for his amazing contributions to this column all season! Check out his latest artwork, “Truth Bomb,” below. 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!

“Truth Bomb”

Art by Erik Reichenbach – DabuDoodles.com

Voted Out This Week: Danny

Individual Immunity Winner: Ricard (3)

Vote: No advantages or Idols played. 3 – Danny, 3 – Deshawn (votes were split between the two to attempt to flush out a potential Danny Idol). Re-Vote: 4 – Danny (Ricard, Heather, Erika, Xander).

Current Advantage Tally:

  • Xander has 1 Immunity Idol

Next Week’s Episode: It’s Survivor 41 Finale Night, a three-hour extravaganza! Probst announced that the last three days spent in the game will be at a new island, where the contestants will need to start over once again. And as mentioned, for the first time since Season 1, we will see the winner named out there at Tribal Council at the end of the jury votes.  Don’t miss it!

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? WHO WILL WIN SURVIVOR 41? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS SEASON OVERALL?

[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]