Survivor 41 has gone from good to boring to now just bad in a span of 3 weeks. I’ll be blunt (as if I’m ever not) this was a terrible episode and I’ll spend a good portion of this recap explaining why I hated it. In short…nothing happened. The entire episode was spent on a guy finding all sorts of advantages only to be immediately voted out, entirely erasing their impact on the game and this season. We got next-to no new content outside of that, so I was left feeling like we went literally nowhere with the story this week. For me, the episode came down to a quick couple of story beats that (might) matter and the rest that simply didn’t.
THINGS THAT DID MATTER
Liana was all of us (or me, at least) lamenting over losing Voce instead of Xander. This scene could have been taken negatively, painting Liana as a sore loser or crybaby over a vote not going her way, but I didn’t take it as such. I interpreted this as possible foreshadowing that Xander will play a role in Liana leaving the game or at least being a reason that she loses it, signifying this as her “million-dollar mistake” — not pushing harder for a Xander vote. I’m still baffled why Yase saved Xander over Voce, and of course the show couldn’t spare any moment of time to further explain, so I guess we’ll just be left with that narrative gap forever. Regarding Liana’s narrative, though, with Yase only getting one significant scene this week, I have to believe this is supposed to be super important.
It’s always good to sit at camp alone and watch the whole rest of your tribe laugh together on the beach!
Luvu seems to be flip-flopping on whether they need Naseer or they need Naseer to go. The premiere painted him as a possible first boot, but last week, Sydney spoke about the tribe changing its mind. However, as I wrote about in my last recap, that felt like “everything’s fine now” misdirect, so it was no surprise to me this week that we were back to Naseer as the #1 target. I suspect the story here is setting up to be Sydney vs. Naseer, and with the editors leaving out an incredibly hilarious scene of Heather where she made up a dream so the tribe wouldn’t trust Sydney, I have to believe that the vote will end up being Naseer. The promo for next week shows Sydney in trouble, so by Survivor promo logic, she’s safer than anyone.
THINGS THAT DIDN’T MATTER
There was almost zero time spent talking about the players in the first 29 minutes of a 43-minute episode, and while that may be a new record, it’s not just the fact that focus was so heavy on advantages and non-activated idols — that’s not something entirely new to the show. No, it’s that all of it was made irrelevant by the end of the hour when the guy who soaked up all the screen time getting hands on everything ended up amounting to nothing. Talk about “overselling and underperforming.”
The advantages were “hidden” in such a way that they were meant to be found the day they were placed which begs the question, “why hide them at all?” If the show wants to whisk 3 players away on boats to some mystery island, just fucking do it. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone have to “sneak” away for a midnight boat ride, and 0 times they’ve done so in the past have there been any negative consequences, so why was this presented as such a “danger”? You can’t convince me the show doesn’t help set these people up to sneak away, so really where was the risk here?
My favorite tweet of the night was Brian Corridan commenting how when he was on Survivor: Guatemala, the “danger” of the game wasn’t losing your vote; it was getting eaten by a crocodile at camp. But no, yeah, torn pieces of parchment are equally the same kind of horror.
I really do like the “summit” concept – players privately interacting with members of other tribes, and I like that we saw some early tension brewing between Tiffany and Sydney which may have a payoff later, but the show can dress this “twist” up all it wants with the torches, tarps, and switching the setting to the middle of the night; however, the premise was still the same old, same old as the first two episodes: protect your vote or risk your vote.
After yet another week, I seriously am dying to know how this would have worked if Xander, JD, or Deshawn had ended up here again. Which of their two votes are they risking, or is it simply the “ability to vote” that’s at stake? It’s not explicitly been made clear, but based on the risk and reward, it has to be the latter. Otherwise, anyone with an extra vote who “risks” their vote has nothing to lose because they’d only potentially lose one of two votes in their pocket. Rules like this must exist somewhere, so it’d nice if they were shared to us rather than have us sit here confused, coming up with not-totally-impossible-but-actually-probable “what if” scenarios with convoluted answers.
Sydney and Tiffany ended up playing it safe while Brad got the steal-the-vote advantage, but oh-ho! It’s only able to be used if Brad can vote, and thanks to the the Beware Advantage he also discovered this week — the one that takes away a player’s vote until the three-way immunity idol is activated — Brad can’t use shit!
For a shit episode, this was some creatively impressive B-roll.
Unless Luvu found their Beware Advantage and talked about goats at the next immunity challenge, all of the “advantages” Brad “won” this week would be completely null and void. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened. All the time spent on the Beware Advantages and the boat trip didn’t matter at all. Sydney got nothing. Tiffany got nothing. Brad got nothing. Xander still had nothing. Therefore, we all got nothing.
These advantages have played out so perfectly awful that I just have to laugh. If the producers sat in a room and asked “how could these new advantages possibly go wrong?” (they obviously didn’t), this is the exact chain of events in such a “worst case scenario.” The people finding advantages also can’t use them because of other advantages they’ve found, and just as the puzzle was almost being pieced together, the critical piece gets voted out of the game and is gone for good.
I hate it for the show, but I love that this has backfired so beautifully thus far — all the more evidence to just kill these twists already. Plant a few idols, throw in a steal-a-vote advantage hidden somewhere in a challenge, then just let the players play. I don’t need an entire week of my favorite show devoted to drama that doesn’t mean a damn thing in the end, and that’s all this week was.
IMMUNITY: BROCCOLI BROTHERS
^There’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear on Survivor — or anywhere, really.
I thought Xander’s delivery of his special speech last week was cringe, but my god, Brad blew him away. I don’t even think he got the line right, did he? He worked the word “broccoli” in but his babbling hardly made any sense at all.
Fortunately or unfortunately for us — I don’t know which yet — poor Xander is going to be very frustrated when Brad’s missing at the next challenge, meaning Xander’s going to have to continue preaching his ridiculous philosophy on butterflies with no end in sight.
What exactly does happen to Brad’s advantage now? Does it leave the game with him, cursing Xander forever? That’s unlikely, so I’m guessing it will be rehidden at Ua, and I wouldn’t doubt the producers moving Luvu’s to a more obvious location too, like stuffed under Heather’s visor or in Sydney’s bra.
I’m just happy that Xander at least got a win for Yase to shake things up just a little — if only Luvu could’ve lost, though. There weren’t any other major highlights for me in this challenge except for more cute cheerleading action from the bench:
I guess I’m just going to have to accept the fact that my weekly Heather content is going to be extremely limited. Luckily, though, I have Genie’s water bottle to take out my frustration on:
YOU GOT CAUGHT
I almost forgot we had some camp content to cover, but still, there was nothing super new at Ua. The target was between Brad and JD, its two troublemakers. Brad was getting fed up with JD always volunteering for the hero role in challenges but failing to deliver, and the reason Brad was on the chopping block I guess was because he was just a generally untrustworthy spaz ... if you can imagine.
What should have tipped the scale in favor of JD leaving was an amazing moment in which Shan saw something sticking out of his pants. For the first time in the episode, I got excited because this felt very Alan Ball-esque.
I loved Shan so much for calling JD on his bullshit – “You’re not coming clean; you got caught!” She was exactly right and JD was like a dog who had just been caught with his head in the trash can, now begging for forgiveness. “I now belong to you,” he even said after Shan and Ricard told JD to his face that they were pissed. I felt JD should have been the boot at the last Ua vote, and this sealed it even further for me, but something about JD being indebted to them made Shan and Ricard still consider keeping him over Brad. Both guys were wild cards and had been proven to be untrustworthy, but JD may have saved himself by promising just a little more than Brad in exchange for safety.
JD gave his extra vote to Shan to hold onto through the next vote as a sign of loyalty – a gesture to which I’d have immediately been disloyal by voting out JD and kept the vote for myself, but maybe Shan isn’t as much of a cold-blooded mafia pastor as I thought she was (the lack of humming should’ve been a clue that she wasn’t going to be so sinister here).
The first “raw” moment of the night followed when Shan talked about being in the middle of this vote and hating having to choose as she remembered a difficult time in her past when she had to choose between living with her mother or father after a split. The decision to break one’s heart still haunted her 20-some years later, and she weighed her tribal council choice similarly, not being thrilled to drive a wedge between another family. Once again, though, the vote was all in Shan’s hands ....
JD’s apology tour continued at tribal council where he went on some wild tangent about everyone on the tribe having a “crystal” and he either dropped them or broke them or snorted them — I got a little lost, to be honest. Every time JD tells a story, he loses everyone:
I can’t hear the word “crystal” on Survivor and not make reference to the blazing speed legend herself.
It sounded like JD’s swan song was playing as he talked about his Survivor heroes once more, wanting to live up to legends like Ozzy, Malcolm, and Woo – JD’s words, not mine – and how they built him up during his younger years as the “skinny nerd.” On that topic again, I’m starting to feel a little personally attacked with JD continuing to talk about that like it’s a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with being skinny or nerdy, thank you very much. Skinny and a bit neurotic, though, will wind you up here:
It’s back to the ranch for the country boy. Going into the season, I thought Brad’s game had legs (not a height joke). He seemed like the nice, laid-back farmer who would steer clear (farm joke) of any drama. Instead, Brad became the center of it on Ua, so much that even confiding in the one who held all the cards — Shan — wasn’t enough to spare him. As for a character arc, at least, I think Brad had a strong showing. We got a glimpse into his life outside the game and of course got plenty of his takes, even if they were all terrible, in the game. He was fun, brought a lot of energy, and was blindsided under some tragic circumstances — loaded with advantages but unable to activate any of them. I say it throughout every season, but Survivor is still first and foremost a social game, even when the show decides to focus on literally everything but.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR …
^Me seeing another Beware Advantage being found.
The promo we saw maybe shows a promising return to social drama instead of more idol and advantage drama? I don’t want to count my f***ing chickens before they hatch, but Sydney’s under fire, JD feels burned by someone, and Danny thinks Deshawn should burn in Hell for suggesting a challenge throw. Whether intentional or not, Luvu needs to lose next week so we can finally get a look at what’s actually going on with them, so if the rest of the promo is mostly crap per usual, then I hope at least Luvu drama will deliver.
Broccoli wasn’t a name on my pre-season radar, but then again, neither were names like “Voce” and “Abraham.” For all the shit Broccoli stirred up this episode, there’s no other that I can name “Player of the Week” who better sums up Episode 3. They were more visible than most of the cast and we got a lot of personal content, like learning Broccoli’s emotional and gripping backstory about how it’s really just a bunch of small trees. This was extremely eye-opening and honestly changed my entire outlook on life — I applaud the show for its bravery in sharing this story. Shan still seems like the obvious winner to me based on the edit, but I wouldn’t count out Broccoli entirely. There was some key talk from Xander about liking what Brad had to say about Broccoli, and to win Survivor, you need that kind of positive recognition from your peers which Broccoli seems to have going for them. “Future Survivor players” take note: you want to win Survivor? Be like Broccoli.
Okay, maybe not so literally.
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