This article contains spoilers about Season 41 of “Survivor.”
With twist after twist after twist in Survivor 41, it’s clear that Jeff Probst is getting power hungry, and maybe he’s gone too far this time. In episode six, he grants a player the opportunity to go back in time. Change the course of history. Reverse the past. Probst invented time travel, and he did it all to help Erika – one of the most “meh” players this season of Survivor – get through the first merge vote.
Now, what does it really mean to “turn back time” in the Survivor world? Can Erika go back and tell JT not to give his immunity idol to Russell in Heroes vs. Villains? Can she return to Survivor: Gabon and give Randy his long awaited chocolate chip cookie? I wish. The only thing Erika can do with this advantage is reverse the outcome of episode six’s immunity challenge.
This immunity challenge was the first one of this season’s merge – when all the players leave their original tribes to join in one large tribe – but players did not play for individual immunity like they typically do at the merge. The players were split into two random teams, one that would end up with immunity and one that would not. Erika and Naseer ended up teamless and once the challenge was over, the winning team had to choose one of them to join in the immunity win and send the other one to Exile Island. Obviously, like any sane person would, the winning team extends immunity to King Naseer. This lands Erika in Exile Island, where we get to watch her build fires and cry for the rest of episode six.
By reversing the immunity challenge results, she would give herself, Heather, Xander, Liana, Shan and Tiff immunity and put Danny, Deshawn, Evvie, Naseer, Ricard and Sydney at risk of being voted out. Obviously, since reversing the challenge results would keep herself safe, Erika is going to choose to “reverse time” and change the challenge results. But since production thinks they’re leaving the viewers on a major, dramatic cliffhanger, we have to wait until episode seven for them to confirm what we already know will happen.
It’s hard to say whether this is a good or bad thing. On the one hand, it keeps Xander safe. (Xander is the token young, attractive, long-haired man of this season who got on my nerves in the early episodes but has grown on me.) He and Evvie form the ultimate lesbian-himbo friendship alliance, something I think Survivor has really been missing out on in its first forty seasons. On the other hand, Erika’s time-turning twist puts the other half of the lesbian-himbo alliance, Evvie, at risk, as well as Naseer, who I think we all can agree needs to stay to the end.
Also, let’s just say it. This twist is unfair. The rules of Survivor are supposed to guarantee that whoever wins immunity... you know... gets immunity. Even when the immunity wins caused Brad Culpepper to make it to the final tribal council over Cirie in Survivor: Game Changers, I accepted it. It was annoying, but it was fair. This new advantage just… isn’t. What is the incentive to win immunity anymore if a twist can take it away from you at any moment?
Stupid twist aside, at least episode seven was interesting. Don’t worry, King Naseer is not on the chopping block. Instead, the remaining members of the “people of color alliance” joined together (along with Heather, the purple edit player of the season, for some reason) to attempt to strip Xander of his idol and vote out one of his allies.
Initially, you might think the POC alliance has this in the bag. They’ve got Shan, strategy queen, Liana, who has an advantage that allows her to steal someone else’s advantage or immunity idol, and Ricard, who won the episode seven individual immunity challenge (the one that was only for the people who got screwed over by Erika’s twist). Shan is smart and perceptive, so combined with Liana’s much-too-powerful advantage, they should be able to snag Xander’s idol at tribal council and leave his whole alliance vulnerable. But Xander’s got some tricks up his sleeve. It turns out that he’s more than just a laid back bro.
At tribal council, Liana smugly plays her advantage, thinking she looks like a Parvati-level girlboss.
“Xander, can I have your idol?” she says.
“No, but you can have this fake one,” Xander replies.
The crowd – at least the one in my mind – erupts into chaos. Liana and Shan, who thought they were playing an indomitable game, just got played by the hot guy. Now what? They assume this means that Xander gave his real idol to Evvie, who was their number one choice to vote out, so who’s next? It turns into a live tribal council.
Xander plays his cards pretty much perfectly. Even after the chaos of a live tribal, he correctly assumes that the POC alliance will aim to vote Sydney out. He tells Tiff, the ally he actually gave the immunity idol to, to not play it for Evvie at this tribal council. Evvie desperately tries to convince their allies that they need the protection of the idol at this vote, but to no avail. Their face crumbles as their name is revealed on several votes as it becomes clear that the POC alliance chose to split the votes between Evvie and Sydney, probably hoping to flush the idol in this vote. Throughout the whole vote reveal, Xander remains confident that the main target was Sydney. And he’s right.
Sydney takes her elimination exactly how you would expect her to: with pettiness and arrogance. She proudly claims that no matter how Survivor went for her, her life outside of the game is so much better than anyone else’s, so it’s no bruise to her ego. Honestly, I’ll miss Sydney’s self-important attitude on the show. It was a nice break from people who actually spend their time strategizing.
This vote was also a blow to master manipulator Shan. Maybe all along she only got by because her former tribe members were dumb. We’ll find out when we see how she handles the rest of the merge.
At this point in the game, if you’re rooting for anyone besides Tiff and Erika I can pretty much see where you’re coming from. Deshawn and Danny were the masterminds of the failed attempt to throw a challenge and get Erika out. Xander and Evvie are the only duo that doesn’t seem to hate each other (cough, Shan and Ricard, cough). Naseer is infectiously positive and effortlessly hilarious. Liana is trying, bless her heart, even though it’s not going too well for her so far. Shan and Ricard are the ultimate underdogs from the pathetic Ua tribe. And Heather… seems nice. Sorry to rain on her parade through the fabric of time, but I have my fingers crossed that Erika is out next.