What a weird episode. Among a whole lotta nothin’ and a whole lotta nonsense, there was one really important conversation that mattered more than anything else the show could offer, so that I at least enjoyed. However, Survivor mostly offered yet another new and exciting twist that was unfortunately, yet expectedly, a flop. No one wants to see someone’s game end by chance, so thankfully that’s not the ending this episode delivered, but after all the dust settled, I think it could have delivered more .
THE NEW TOP IN TOWN
I said this episode was weird and it started off nothing short of strange. First, Liana was pissed at Deshawn and said it was fucking stupid to vote out Shan like he and Danny did. Since Survivor ’s timeline is negotiable, let’s rewind a bit. Last week, Danny wanted to get rid of Ricard so he told Deshawn who told Liana who told Shan which made Shan tell Ricard which made Ricard confront Deshawn which made Deshawn want to vote out Shan which is when Ricard decided it was time to vote out Shan. That sequence of events started with Danny and escalated because of Liana’s loose lips, but yeah, blame Deshawn.
However, at the same time Deshawn was taking blame for the blindside, Xander was … taking credit? I’m not sure what spirits of dead relatives had convinced Xander he was the mastermind behind the episode in which I don’t even remember him speaking, but he sure believed it. I hope he was being cheeky when he said “I’m in charge,” because while Xander was no longer on the bottom, he was not at the top after the vote. Ricard was very much in control after scooping up the three on the bottom (Xander, Heather, and Erika) and taking this new alliance of four to the top. Ricard’s rise to power is made even more impressive by the fact that he essentially tricked Deshawn and Danny into voting themselves into the new minority within the tribe. That’s some game within the game shit right there.
The morning after getting a little explosive and trying to shift the blame/credit for the big move onto Ricard, Deshawn took a note from Evvie with his own “relationship recovery tour.” It went about as successfully as Evvie’s, making little progress toward making amends. Ricard was put off by Deshawn’s inability to own his own decisions, and Liana listened to him, but in the back of her mind sought to get revenge on the guy who voted out her Survivor sister — because, again, it was all his fault and no one else’s. Definitely not Danny’s.
In a touching personal segment, Danny opened up about how today, Day 20 in the game, was the 25th anniversary of his dad’s passing away in a car accident. He wanted to let Deshawn know what was on his mind so that if he seemed “off” it didn’t come off as sketchy; Danny was just dealing with some heavier stuff than what was going on in the game.
Talking about a really powerful topic, Danny admitted that he had been dealing with a lot of anger over those years. He was angry with his dad for not being around; he was angry that plenty of other people survive car accidents but his dad didn’t; he was angry that at every football game and Father’s Day, his dad wasn’t there but other kids’ dads were. Damn , Danny … and we had no idea!
This story would have an even more powerful payoff at the upcoming challenge, but what a moment to experience with Danny. These 20 days on Survivor gave Danny the time to devote to tackling these inner demons and shifted his anger toward feelings of wanting to live a happy life and rather than go on resenting this dad for not being present, instead live on to make him proud from where he may be. I loved that, and I love that in an episode filled with a lot of fluff, we got something this heartfelt. It just makes it all the more frustrating to be reminded that this content is there — this is what we want to see, but we so rarely do because we just have to watch someone play Let’s Make a Deal with Jeffrey Hall.
IMMUNITY: DO OR DIE
When Jeff starts talking at the camera, I know we’re in for something stupid, so at least he’s nice enough to be predictable. The only unpredictability is just how stupid whatever he’s about to say next will be, and I have to say that whoever came up with “Do or Die” is pretty stupid.
Rant time. Jeff is always calling out women (let’s be honest) for sitting out of too many challenges, yet this new twist incentivized exactly that. Sit out and you don’t win immunity, but you don’t have a 66% random chance at going home. Play, and if you’re the first out, then you get doubly shafted. No immunity and now your fate gets determined completely by chance. I don’t think this twist was designed to hurt someone like Deshawn — no. This crap was crafted specifically for someone like Heather.
Jeff had to be thinking that no one this late in the game would sit out of an immunity challenge and volunteer themselves to be vulnerable, so how else could he hope to send a “weak” player out of the game? Enter “Do or Die.”
Jeff asked us to think about what we’d do, so I did — for about half a second. I’m sitting my ass out. Even if I was the lowest person on the totem pole, abso-fucking-lutely not am I going to risk being eliminated from the game by random chance, especially when I wasn’t even given the odds in advance. 50/50? 2 out of 3? 1 in 6 like Shot in the Dark? Everyone was left in the dark which made this deal even less enticing.
Liana was in that “low” spot and she sat. As long as your torch is burning, you still have life in the game. I’d rather go out knowing I didn’t win immunity but at least had an entire day to claw, scratch, and scheme my way into staying, and I have to think that the chance of the game flipping at such as pivotal time as Final 7 is higher than the 33% chance given to survive a goofy game.
Another factor — what’s the challenge? Endurance … again . It’s been the same people sticking it out for the long haul in every single one of these. Xander and Ricard both had endurance immunity wins; Danny and Deshawn were close before. I know that for “logistics” it’s easier to build these challenges where everyone lines up in a row, but it’s no surprise that when each one tests the same type of skill, the same people keep doing well. Do better, Survivor ! If I’m Liana, Heather, and Erika, I’m not even hesitating to haul my ass to the bench. I’ll bet on my social game any day over sheer dumb luck.
My absolute favorite moment in this episode and maybe this season was Deshawn lasting about 5 seconds and Jeff following up with, “Wow, that drama was over quick!” There is no other possibly better line to sum up this episode (and a few others).
Erika soon followed and *shocker* it was Xander and Ricard again lasting among the longest, but this day was ultimately Danny’s to shine! Recalling what day it was for Danny on a personal level really had me rooting for him, but of course, the moment was killed a little when we immediately just jumped to the jokes starting about how Deshawn was gonna die. I guess you can’t have a very serious segment when it’s suffocated by such a joke of a twist.
OH MY GOD, IT’S SO OBVIOUS!
This pre-tribal scramble was another weird part of the episode. The players had to plan for a vote … but maybe not? If Deshawn died (I’m just going to keep referencing that in a literal way) then there’d be no vote. Again, there was almost an incentive not to play Survivor . Obviously, everyone needed a plan B in the event that Deshawn wasn’t burned alive over an open flame, but there was also a risk of revealing their cards too soon. That could have possibly shied anyone into saying too much this round, and while tribal council talk is usually a bunch of beating around the bush, this one would certainly be dull because who wants to talk about a vote that might not even happen? There’s too much to lose there by saying anything, so it was a dumb risk for the show to take to potentially have no one saying much about strategy when as few as seven people are left in the game, one of the most exiting times of any season.
That wasn’t exactly the case, thankfully, but it would have at least crossed my mind — how much to say knowing there was a chance this would be the absolute easiest tribal council ever. Danny and Deshawn were back to targeting Ricard, and interestingly, if there’d be a vote at all, they’d both have immunity with nothing to lose. This, however, put Liana in the most vulnerable position of everyone. She was left out of the last vote, and the only other two people not in the new majority would be immune from the vote, so Liana was dealt a crap hand here.
One could argue she made a mistake by not playing for immunity, but we all know that wouldn’t have mattered. In retrospect, I suppose she could’ve played and intentionally lost so that she couldn’t get voted out. It worked for Deshawn, which maybe we should’ve guessed at since 41 has been all about “losing is winning.” Deshawn lost the immunity challenge but ended up immune anyway – what fantastic luck!
Liana’s only chance here was to flip at least one of Erika, Heather, or Xander who, for the first time ever in the game, had power in numbers, so … good luck with that.
Ricard was correctly perceived as a much bigger threat than Liana, but keeping Ricard was a shield for Xander and, again, numbers finally for Heather and Erika. Erika seemed the only one open to entertaining voting out Ricard and, thus, was the swing vote, so I tried putting myself in her mind. Danny, Deshawn, and Liana, while they had a rocky start of the round, had come back together as a three. Letting an alliance of three get to the final six is stupider than letting one individual threat get there, so I think Erika was correct in going for Liana. Her best final three is with Heather and Xander, so she needs Deshawn and Danny to be duking it out with Ricard at six. With that in mind, the vote looked to be Liana unless we were about to witness the first-ever live murder on primetime television. That’s why these people have to sign waivers….
Putting me in a wonderful mood, I think I got my first confirmation that Heather isn’t actually winning this season but instead may be the its 0-vote finalist. The way the jury cringed when she said all the people who she’d been outlasting in challenges were already over there …
To quote the great Rupert Boneham, “So much for my dreams ….”
Joking aside, this was actually a good tribal council. I audibly laughed when Jeff said, “to me it’s about this” when reacting to the night’s powerful dialogue given that he’s done about everything he can to the show to make it less personal, but outside of Jeff being usual Jeff, this segment saved the episode from being a complete and total waste of time and story.
I can’t restate the words better than the speakers spoke themselves but Deshawn and Liana were especially bright stars. I frequently complain about modern Survivor being all “strategy strategy strategy” but these two both delivered amazing speeches that remind us all that while Survivor is a game, as Deshawn perfectly put it, morals and gameplay intersect. Putting personal feelings aside for the game isn’t easy, especially when carrying around impossible baggage .
My favorite moment was Liana speaking to viewers as if she already knew exactly how some would react to the all-Black alliance because, good god, have I seen some reactions. Her words carried a lot of weight because looking at “the game,” I think Liana’s biggest mistake was jumping ship so quick from Tiffany, Evvie, and Xander over to Shan, Danny, and Deshawn, but part of that “move” wasn’t so much a “move” as it was being conscious of a move ment . Representing and wanting to give the Black community something to celebrate was of higher importance to Liana than maybe a different path that would’ve won her a million dollars, and that’s incredibly admirable.
Survivor can give people whatever they need. Some just need the money. Some need to find something within themselves. Some need to find peace with someone or something else in the world. As long as those people find what they need, win or lose, those become the compelling stories of the season.
I appreciate good gameplay, but if Survivor was played with zero emotion, the island would just be oversaturated with gamebots playing by the book, and by the book would make boring TV. Conflict doesn’t have to be arguments or fighting between people; it can actually be more compelling when it’s through someone at conflict within themselves. “Do I do what’s right for morality or do I do what’s right for a million dollars?” That’s the show, and it has been for 20 years, so I love when we’re reminded of it. Everyone at this tribal council made it a special one.
Then Jeff had to ruin it with his stupid game that everyone hated.
The suspense was admittedly killing me (not literally) but only because I was actually worried poor Deshawn would go down as one of the most ridiculously robbed players ever. This was such a joke that it was happening that I think Jeff should’ve just gone full camp with it so he could pretend to be in on the joke rather than oblivious to how bad this was.
Thankfully, Deshawn picked the box with the best gift inside and stayed, even though he failed to solve the “Monty Hall Problem” correctly because you’re supposed to always switch after the host reveals one of the things you didn’t pick, but remember that in Survivor 41 , losing means you actually win!
Once more, “Wow, that drama was over quick!” and it was an easy majority vs. minority vote to send Liana packing. Who’d have ever guessed the one person left out of the last vote would be the next vote?
*pretends to be shocked*
Liana’s journey has been a journey . Preseason I had the bar set low for her mostly due to her age, but after about two weeks in I was questioning my judgment, and then for the rest of the pre-merge, she had me thinking she could be a quiet killer and become a serious endgame threat. Then Liana hit the merge and things fell apart but for reasons we can at least understand better now. It blows me away that Liana was only 20 out there. I always thought I was wise beyond my years, or just a wise-ass, but Liana is in her own league. There are people who get on Survivor and have a platform who shouldn’t, and there are people like Liana who deserve that platform. I wish she could’ve stayed, but I loved the way she left. She may have had some moments where her youth showed throughout, but she left the game with her head held high and with grace. I’m glad she was never shy to speak her mind or voice her opinion — those are the best kind of women.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR …
That’s the creepy smile of a guy who knows where an idol is. Can’t wait. I LOVE hidden immunity idols entering the game at final six. We always need MORE ways for people to propel themselves to the end by non-social and non-strategic methods. “To me, it’s about this.”
Danny – Danny has been ever-present but as Pitman pointed out last week, Danny plans things and Deshawn gets the blame. This is great for Danny so long as he doesn’t sit with Deshawn at the end, and since we haven’t heard otherwise, I’m not sure he has other plans than that. Still, this was a big episode for Danny that should earn him praise. Often times the ex-athletes aren’t my type, but I surprisingly wouldn’t mind seeing Danny take the title. He seems like a stand-up guy, he’s played well socially, he’s gotten some votes to go his way, and despite being a jock, he hasn’t had to rely on challenges to get to this point. Danny’s the only person left in the game who hasn’t received a vote yet which, if you look at him, despite his athletic appearance shouldn’t be shocking. Just look at this picture. Would you say NO to giving this man a million dollars?
Deshawn – On top of me appreciating Deshawn’s raw emotions and vulnerability at tribal council, this week may have been “do or die” for Deshawn for more than one reason. Having survived a shittastic twist, I think Deshawn has the goods to go all the way. I mentioned earlier how the best move for Erika, Xander, and Heather would be to go to the end together, but they can’t let Ricard get to the final four and risk him winning fire-making to go on to win the game. They’ll have to play with Danny and/or Deshawn before four, and with Erika already close to considering Ricard as the vote this week, I think next week Deshawn and Danny will give her the push she needs and they’ll maybe bring back Heather to make for an all-Luvu endgame. I know someone who especially would like to see it.
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser