These last two episodes of Survivor have been some of the strongest of the season… and of the series.
From its rich storytelling and high-stress competition, to the real-life elements that further complicate the already complex social experiment: This episode is exactly why we’re Survivor fans! While Season 41 may be far from perfect, this cast has been remarkably vulnerable and strategic, further proving that we don’t need gimmicky twists-of-the-week to solidify a great season. We just need a dynamic — and diverse — cast of superfans who are hungry to play.
In Wednesday’s episode, Jeff unleashed yet another twist, which frankly, has become quite exhausting. But that’s not even what fueled these powerful 44 minutes. As the aftermath of Shan’s shocking vote-out last week (read her exit interview here) sent a ripple effect throughout the tribe, the Black castaways struggled to reconcile their wanting to play the game with the burden of representing their culture and doing Black America proud. Their concerns led to one of the most emotional Tribal Councils the series has ever seen, as Liana, Deshawn and Danny explained to Jeff and their castmates what it’s like to be Black, while simultaneously trying to win such a deceitful game. So who went home? Read on for a full recap.
Liana wants answers as to why she was left out of the Shan plan. Danny and Deshawn tell her it wasn’t their idea, but Ricard’s. They try to repair their bond and difference of opinion, but it’s clear that all Liana wants is revenge.
Meanwhile, it’s the 25th anniversary of Danny’s father’s death, and the loss still weighs heavily on him. He tells us his dad died in a car accident when he was just a boy, and though he usually keeps himself busy on the anniversary, he has nothing to do on the island but reflect. He spent years being angry at his dad, but now that he’s a grown man, he’s learning to get over the shame he felt for being angry in the first place when he knows it was beyond his father’s control. “I’m going to try to move forward being happy and try to live the rest of my life making him proud,” he says. (This scene was yet another example of Season 41’s storytelling prowess.)
IMMUNITY IS BACK UP FOR GRABS | Players must use a set of handles and wooden cylinder blocks to balance a ball. Over time, they’ll add blocks to the contraption, but if their ball drops, they’re out. And of course, there’s a twist! (New drinking game: Chug every time Jeff says the word “dangerous.”) The first person to drop out of the challenge must participate in a new game called “Survivor Do or Die.” At Tribal, the loser must play a game of chance. If he or she survives the game, that player is safe, and the vote carries on as usual. But if that player loses, he or she is automatically out, and there will be no vote. However, players don’t have to compete in the immunity challenge. It’s another high-risk, high-reward situation, but this one’s gonna come with a hefty price for one of these castaways.
Heather and Liana decide to sit out, while Erica, Ricard, Deshawn, Xander and Danny decide to play. Deshawn’s ball unfortunately drops first, merely seconds into the challenge. The challenge lasts a few rounds, but Danny eventually wins out.
STRATEGY | Back at camp, Deshawn tells the group he’s OK with his decision because at least he took fate into his own hands. Privately, Danny celebrates his win with Deshawn, but the two know that if Deshawn survives the twist, they have to get Ricard out next. Danny talks to Xander about doing just that, but the idol-holder knows if Ricard goes, he’s next in line. Plus, he trusts Ricard way more than he trusts Liana, who has lied to his face countless times.
Erika entertains the idea of snipping Ricard. The guy is likable, has a resume and is a big challenge threat. Though she trusts him, Erika is scared they might not get another chance to take the shot.
TRIBAL COUNCIL | While discussing the season’s high-risk predicaments, they all justify their decisions to play (or not) in the immunity challenge. A conversation about integrity then brings Deshawn to tears. Coming into the game, he wanted to represent the Black community as well as possible, which made last week’s Shan vote extremely difficult. “The gameplay and morals intersected, and it was so hard,” he says through tears. “This is the game I love, and I came here to play it, but people don’t understand that extra baggage you bring into this game. It’s a blessing to have such a diverse cast, but I didn’t think this decision, this moment, would be so hard.”
Liana comments: “Everywhere I go as a Black woman, I’m a Black woman first… There’s no question that we’re coming out of a year like 2020 where people are just now becoming conscious of the fact that being Black actually means something. It has this currency that can kill you… literally kill you. Coming here to play this is about uplifting other Black people and giving Black people something to root for, [aside from] everything else that’s out there that’s killing us.”
She talks about how beautiful it is that the cast is so diverse, and that there was another Black woman in the game playing with her. She says all four of them are Black in unique ways, and that being Black isn’t “this monolith, this one thing.” But they don’t want to throw strategy out the window, either; they all want to play the game. (If you haven’t watched the episode, I implore you to at least watch the Tribal Council to hear Liana’s full statement.)
Xander then acknowledges his white privilege, adding that he doesn’t have to play the game with the burden of representing an entire culture. Danny chimes in, saying that in the outside world, it’s important to show they have allies, that they have people who care about the justice Black Americans seek and what’s happening in the world. He feels their cast would make a great group of allies.
Emotions run high, and despite the powerful exchange, it’s business time. Jeff takes out three boxes from his podium. One has a fire symbol inside (which, of course, represents life), but the other two have skull symbols, which would mean Deshawn’s outta there. Deshawn makes his selection, and Jeff opens one of the other boxes. It’s a skull. He gives Deshawn a chance to change his pick, but he sticks with his gut. Deshawn’s selection is opened… and IT’S A FLAME!
Before they have time to catch their breath, it’s time to vote! Ricard writes down “Liana,” while Danny votes for Ricard. Jeff tallies the votes: Xander uses his extra vote advantage, making it a 5-3 vote that sends Liana straight to Ponderosa.
Were you a fan of the latest twist, or are you over all these new rules? And what did you think about that Tribal? Let it all fly in the Comments below.