Previously on… ‘Survivor’ recap: S41 E8 – “Papaya Etiquette”
Is it possible for chaos to be repetitive? In many respects, this week’s episode of Survivor 41 felt like a sequel to last week’s action-packed episode, full of a lot of the same elements but not quite as effective as the original. We saw Erika facing a similar unlucky rock draw, only a certain number of competitors in the Immunity Challenge, and a live Tribal Council, none of which carried the same weight as last week, though we did get some shifting dynamics in alliances that will affect how Survivor 41 wraps up.
Episode 8 begins in the aftermath of the previous night’s Tribal Council. While the Yase group should be celebrating their staying in the game, there is some lingering tension that prevents them from fully feeling themselves. Xander isn’t pleased with Deshawn’s revelation that Evvie told him all about Xander’s idol, while Evvie is frustrated with Liana for being so willing to take her out. Evvie doesn’t think she can trust Liana at all moving forward, which is probably the correct read. It’s fine that Liana formed stronger bonds with others in the game, but it’s still understandably hurtful to Evvie that she was essentially abandoned by Liana in favor of a seat at the cool kids’ table.
But as it turns out, Liana isn’t the only Yase member to want to abandon ship. Evvie, Tiffany, and Xander all see the writing on the wall that they’re next to go, so all three are in self-preservation mode. They chat up just about every other member of the tribe, essentially saying they’re willing to turn against their own Yase members if necessary. There isn’t a whole lot of progress made, though, as Deshawn fully admits he doesn’t want to work with them at all, especially after all three of them voted for him at the last Tribal Council.
Next up, it’s time for the Reward Challenge, but before that, it’s time for The Jeff Probst Show. He breaks the fourth wall to reveal a hidden advantage that will be placed underneath the sit-out bench, in the hope that some sneaky player will find it. For this challenge, the tribes will be randomly divided into two teams of five, with one person forced to sit out (and ideally find that advantage). The challenge, which is for grilled cheese sandwiches, involves diving off a ramp to get puzzle pieces in the water, then solving the puzzle. The rocks are drawn and as luck would have it, Erika draws the gray rock again! Hopefully, none of this is an omen for Erika potentially in a rock drawing situation at Tribal Council, but alas, we get Xander stepping in and volunteering to sit out in Erika’s place. It’s presented as a sweet gesture, but as we saw in last week’s Tribal Council, Xander is far cannier than he lets on, so there are surely ulterior motives here.
The challenge is mostly uneventful until the end, when Evvie puts the puzzle together in about two seconds, single-handedly winning the challenge for teammates Danny, Deshawn, Erika, and Ricard. Evvie explains that she saw this same puzzle being solved on Survivor: Edge of Extinction and tried putting it together at home. This won’t be Evvie’s last challenge success this episode, and it’s only cementing her target further. Throughout the challenge, we do see Xander looking around the sit-out bench but he isn’t able to find it, which Jeff tells us is a “missed opportunity.” At this point, most of the audience is so sick of advantages this season that this feels like a blessing in disguise.
While the winning team enjoys their grilled cheese, the losing team of Heather, Liana, Naseer, Shan, Tiffany (plus Xander) continue to starve and are forced to only smell the goodness. Shan and Liana have a good cry about their continued bad luck, but Shan quickly shifts into gamer mode as she tells Liana and Naseer that Evvie should be the next one to go. Meanwhile, Xander reveals that a big part of why he sat out at the challenge is because he enjoys being able to commiserate with the losers, hoping it can open up connections for him. His mind! Not sure it’s really working, but A for effort!
We get one last scene before the Immunity Challenge, and it’s one that could have an impact later on in the game. Naseer finds papayas for his fellow losing teammates, so they’re at least able to eat something. After the winning team returns with their bellies full of grilled cheese, Ricard is intrigued to see the papayas and decides to try a piece. Shan spots this and does not take kindly to Ricard’s audacity. As Shan argues, Ricard already got to enjoy a full reward, and now he’s eating the losing team’s meager resources. Ricard, in his words, doesn’t like being “snapped at,” but while they’ve reached this boiling point, it seems like both of them still want to work together. It’s only a matter of time, though, before something happens that causes irreparable damage to their alliance and I’m so intrigued to see what goes down.
At the Immunity Challenge, which is the classic balance on your toes while balancing a block of wood on your head challenge, we get more twisty twists. Jeff offers three days’ worth of rice to the hungry tribe if a certain number of players opt out of the challenge. They negotiate for a while and come to the decision that four will sit out, which is Shan, Naseer, Xander (who all have immunity idols to protect them) and Ricard. The challenge plays out between the remaining seven players and it becomes one of the quickest in Survivor history, lasting all of four minutes. And the person who needed it most, Evvie, pulls out the win! Don’t you just love when that happens?
This also guarantees a fun day of scrambling ahead of Tribal Council. With Evvie not able to be voted out, the tribe focuses on getting out her allies, Tiffany and Xander. Liana leads the charge against her former tribe, saying she hopes they can goad Xander into playing his idol while placing most of their votes on Tiffany. It’s a seamless plan, but Danny is getting uncomfortable with the idea of Naseer getting too far into the game, proposing the idea of putting the votes on Naseer and Tiffany instead of Xander and Tiffany. Deshawn loves the idea; Shan does not. Uh oh.
Shan proposes a whole bunch of reasons why it’s better to take out Xander, and Deshawn is feeling slighted. He doesn’t feel like he’s being heard, so he pulls Shan aside in the hope of getting her to recognize how he’s made her feel. They come to an understanding, but we also get a Shan confessional in which she explains how it’s important for people to feel heard but that her way is ultimately the best way. It’s fun watching Shan exert this kind of thirst for power and control. We rarely get this from women on Survivor, sometimes out of fear of being perceived negatively. Regardless of where she places, this remains the Shan show, and the season will likely be remembered as such.
Shoring up her trust with Naseer, Shan tells him about his name being thrown out as a possible target, which doesn’t please him. They talk about Heather as an alternate decoy target, and it is here that I worry that Heather might indeed be going. She hasn’t factored into literally anything at all this season outside of a bungled challenge performance that one time, so why would her name suddenly be brought up? To take things further, we then get a Heather confessional! For those playing along at home, that’s confessional number *check notes* three after eight episodes. Shan tips her off that her name has been through around, and Heather’s confessional is all about how she doesn’t trust Shan. Which is probably fair. I would love to know more about Heather’s strategy and how she sees the metaphorical chessboard of this season, but apparently, the producers could care less.
At last, we come to Tribal Council, and everyone is a little on edge. There’s a weird vibe happening that Jeff comments on, but the players are keeping their cards concealed for now. There’s some chatter about the possibility of another live Tribal, and it seems like we might avoid it, until the very last second. Jeff says it’s time to vote, but, of all people, Heather decides to cause a little chaos. Damn it, Heather! She whispers to Tiffany, and that sets off a whole chain reaction where the majority alliance discusses possibly switching the vote onto Heather. Once again, Deshawn is pissed at Shan for trying to dictate how the alliance should vote, and he’s not afraid of making his annoyance known. While I’ve been a fan of Shan all season long, I understand the frustration in cases like this when a vote should be relatively simple. The group finally settles down, and it’s time to vote. Nobody plays any advantages or idols, and the final vote tally has four people hearing their name read. Xander, Heather, and Naseer collect one or two votes each, but the rest of the votes are for Tiffany, who becomes the first member of the jury, which is most displeasing to this author.
As Tiffany gives her final words to the camera, we see who voted for whom, and it essentially affirms that pretty much no alliances shifted since the last vote. Evvie and Tiffany voted for Heather and Xander voted for Naseer, while the huge eight-person alliance split their votes between Tiffany and Xander. Kudos to the Survivor editors for still making the episode messy enough that this wouldn’t feel like a predictable vote, but it’s sad to see Tiffany go. She was one of the bigger personalities of the season and very far from a threat, so I expected her to go further in the game. It was easy to assume based on the many scenes we got of her socializing with other players that she was making inroads, but it seems there was little she could do with this group. Ideally, we won’t get an exhausting episode next week of scrambling that ultimately just results in either Evvie or Xander going, but the teaser suggests the girls will be fighting, so I have hope.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS