Tonight’s episode of Survivor 41 was a turning point, now dividing this season into two distinct eras. The biggest player of the season is now out of the game, at the hand of one of her closest allies, and the editors smartly recognized the gravity of the moment by delivering one of the rawest episodes yet. This is Survivor at its purest and most heartbreaking, and it is no coincidence that advantages and twists did not enter the picture at all.
Episode 10 begins with the two groups reuniting back at camp after going to separate Tribal Councils. While the Evvie boot was fairly straightforward, Ricard and Shan have some ‘splaining to do about how they blindsided Naseer. The former Ua pair divulge their complex plan of using Shan’s extra vote to take out Naseer with an idol in his pocket, and this sets the table well for how the other players perceive them. Erika delivers a shockingly violent metaphor about how Shan having an idol is like “giving a baby a machine gun,” and how she is the biggest threat left in the game.
Erika has a conversation with Deshawn about how they should take out Shan at the next opportunity, and despite his weird tension with Shan, Deshawn is conflicted. He doesn’t trust Shan very much, but he also doesn’t want to turn his back on the alliance of four he made with her, Danny, and Liana as the remaining Black players in the game. He proceeds to talk with Shan and they have a heart-to-heart moment about their backgrounds and how they want to stick together to the end “for the culture.” Both of them want to make the Black community proud by showing they can stick together. They feel better about each other after this conversation, which is presented in a refreshingly unfiltered manner, as is Deshawn’s confessional, which includes him breaking down in tears. He recognizes that staying strong with each other would be an important symbolic moment especially after a tumultuous 2020 for the Black community, but he fears it might get in the way of him winning the $1 million. While the show can often feel over-produced, in a rush to cover as much as possible in 42 minutes, it is always worth treasuring these moments of authenticity.
Next up is the Reward Challenge, and it is thankfully not team-based. The players are tasked with maneuvering individually through a series of obstacles while attached to a rope and solving a star puzzle at the end. The reward is a night in a sanctuary, with pizza and blankets and pillows. It is the biggest reward of the season yet, as Jeff Probst reiterates multiple times for some reason. Ricard wins the challenge and is, of course, asked to pick some of his tribemates to go along with him. He chooses Shan, who hasn’t had a proper reward in god knows how long, in addition to Heather and Xander. This is the start of Danny zeroing in on Ricard as a huge jury threat, which seems to be a recurring theme for Danny, after previously fearing Naseer for the same reason.
With Ricard and Shan away at the reward, Danny gets the opportunity to set his plan in motion. He tells Deshawn they need to blindside Ricard next. Deshawn agrees, but they need other people to make it happen. They talk to Shan’s other close ally, Liana, who acknowledges that she’s been in Shan’s shadow since the merge. As we’ve seen all season, Liana wants to make big moves and become the Survivor legend she’s dreamed of being, and she could differentiate herself from Shan by making this move to blindside Ricard, which would also bring her closer to Liana anyway.
Meanwhile, the sanctuary gives Ricard and Shan another chance to reaffirm their unique relationship. They haven’t exactly made a Final Two pact but they’ve stuck together through the whole game so far. Yet, both of them know that there will come a time when they have to turn against each other. They share some nervous laughter as they address this inevitability, one of them unaware that the other is sharpening their knife for a backstab sooner than they think.
After the winning team returns to camp, Liana does exactly what we all expected her to do, spilling the beans to Shan about Danny and Deshawn’s plan to take out Ricard. They share a good cry about the meaningful moment they shared at the summit in the pre-merge, and Liana reveals in confessional that she doesn’t really mind losing to Shan. This is a big admission that while honorable, shows that Liana doesn’t really have the killer instinct required to win this game. Shan says they should think about turning the vote on Deshawn, and eventually brings tells Ricard about Danny and Deshawn’s plan. Ricard reacts in a way that doesn’t quite compute with Shan, admitting he’s surprised he told her and that he needs some time to process.
It’s time for the Immunity Challenge, which is yet another balancing/endurance test in which the players must stand on a narrow beam while holding a pole to balance a ball. It comes down to Xander and Ricard, and in classic Survivor fashion, the person who needed it most was the ultimate winner. Ricard is now the only person this season to have won multiple Immunity Challenges, and now Danny and Deshawn have to go back to the drawing board to figure out Plan B.
Back at the beach, Shan defaults to her position in previous episodes of wanting Erika out. She and her alliance agree (very temporarily) that Erika is the safe, easy move. But Ricard has something else up his sleeve. Bolstered by his Immunity win, he thinks now is the time to take out his buddy Shan. He sets his plan in motion by talking with the free agents, Erika, Heather, and Xander, who are all probably just happy to not be targeted themselves, so they’re fine with it. Ricard also takes it upon himself to confront Deshawn about that initial plan to blindside him, and Deshawn pretends it never happened. Regardless, Deshawn confirms to Ricard that he is willing to turn on Shan, and that’s all he needs.
The problem is, as everyone knows, Shan still has an idol. If they all place their votes on Shan, and Shan plays her idol, she and whoever else votes with her can dictate who goes home. Erika is very perceptive that this person would probably be herself (correct), so she comes up with a plan to split the vote between Shan and Liana, to make sure at least one of them goes. They all agree to this plan, but Danny has his eye on Erika. He actually admits that he would prefer to just take out Erika, so this will be a tough decision for him.
At Tribal Council, the discussion largely surrounds the hierarchy of the tribe. Erika and Heather both note that they are on the bottom, but as Erika observes, her vote counts just as much as everyone else’s. After Jeff praises them all for giving him such thorough answers, it is time to vote, and the only real suspense left is whether Shan is going to play her idol. At the reading of the votes, Shan decides she is comfortable enough and declines to play it. After two votes for Erika, the rest of the votes come in with Erika’s plan being executed to completion — three votes on Shan, three votes on Liana. The revote occurs and the remaining players all vote for Shan, who leaves the game with an idol in her pocket. The editors rightly give this moment the grandeur it deserves, with a bittersweet score that underlines the magnitude of Shan leaving the game. Before she gets her torch snuffed, Shan announces she’ll be voting for Ricard to win if he’s in the Final Three and takes a jab at Deshawn, calling him a snake. We love a bitter moment.
It’s hard to not see this as a major transition point for the season. Moving forward into the post-Shan era, it will be interesting to see who takes credit for her exit and how the hierarchy shifts. I assume that Danny and Deshawn will still feel threatened by Ricard, but is he less dangerous in their eyes now that Shan is gone? Will Erika fully shift from her promised lamb to lion mode now that she helped pull off a major blindside? Will Xander be the next target considering he’s the only person left with an idol? And where is Heather in all of this? It is exciting to have so many questions heading into the endgame, but I can’t help but be a little sad to no longer have Shan and her messiness on the board anymore.
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