This article contains spoilers about Season 41 of “Survivor.”
Episode eight of Survivor 41 began with heartbreak. Not the heartbreak of any of the players — shockingly, no one was terribly torn up about Sydney leaving. The heartbreak was mine. I couldn’t bear to look at the screen as Evvie and Xander, my favorite lesbian-himbo alliance, broke their ties and started scrambling as “free agents” trying to save themselves. They successfully made it out of the last tribal council with none of their former tribe members going home so I thought this duo had a chance, but unfortunately, the duo can see that the power has concentrated around Shan, Ricard, Liana, Danny and Deshawn and they both want a piece of it.
Of course, none of these people are going to let either of them weasel their way into this alliance. The power alliance is already making room for unwanted allies like Heather, so adding so-called liabilities like Evvie and Xander seems very much out of the question at this point. But are they really liabilities?
Evvie basically single-handedly secures the win for her team during the reward challenge this episode with her puzzle-building skills (which Jeff Probst hypes up a little too much). Xander plays a great social game during this episode by stepping out of both the reward challenge and the immunity challenge so other players can have food. Honestly, I think they both still have a shot at going far in the game and hopefully reuniting as an alliance. With Xander’s idol and Evvie’s surprising challenge wins from both the reward and the immunity challenge in this episode, they could make a comeback. Fingers crossed.
With my hopes for Evvie and Xander still staying strong, you might be wondering about the last outcast of the former Yase tribe, Tiff. It’s no secret that Tiff has been one of my least favorite players since day one. She ruined what could have been a great chance to vote out Xander — even though I like him, he’s still a threat in the game who could’ve been eliminated earlier — and she blabs to everyone about the intel they give her. I really think she could have had a chance to squeeze into the power alliance of the game by buddying up to Liana and keeping her mouth shut, but that would be too out-of-character for her. So now it’s Xander, Evvie and Tiff on the outs, with an emphasis on Tiff.
Although things are looking grim for the Yase three, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows within the power alliance either. During the reward challenge, a few lucky members of the alliance landed in the same team as puzzle builder extraordinaire Evvie, and a few of them did not. The reward is grilled cheese sandwiches and potato chips, which Erika credits to her “manifesting” sandwiches, and the devastation of not getting to share in this reward sends Shan and Liana spiraling. They break down in tears and lean on Xander — their supposed enemy — for comfort, as if that’s not playing right into his hands.
Naseer, ever the hero, brings a little joy back into camp by climbing trees for some papaya like a true wilderness explorer. Shan is still teary-eyed but settles for the papaya anyway. But just as she is digging in, Ricard pops up behind her and grabs a small chunk of the papaya. This is completely unacceptable. Ricard already participated in the reward and ate his fill of grilled cheese, and now he wants papaya too?!? He’s a mad man. Shan puts a stop to it immediately. She bans him from all papaya-eating and tells everyone who will give her their time of day what a blunder this was for Ricard. Ricard responds by passive-aggressively checking if everything he does for the rest of the day is okay with the tribe. And to think, these are the two who are still saying in every confessional that the other is their “number one.”
Honestly, I’m not sure whose side of “papayagate” I’m really on. Shan probably does need the calories more than Ricard, but it was one bite. Also, Naseer, as the amazing, wholesome provider of the tribe, was the one responsible for the papaya even being at the camp. Like with most things in this game, I think Naseer should have the final say.
Tension between Shan and Ricard has been amping up for the past few episodes now, with Ricard not returning Shan’s extra vote advantage when she wanted him to do so. Now with this papaya incident, these conflicts have the potential to blow up Shan’s whole game. It’s true that Shan has been playing a good strategic game, but she’s been playing it very aggressively. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by her alliance members. When the alliance is discussing the next vote while knowing they can’t vote for Evvie, who won immunity, Shan asserts that it has to be Tiff or Xander so they can flush Xander’s idol. Deshawn suggests that they blindside Naseer so they can flush his immunity idol instead (which hurts my heart to think about, but might be a good move given how much of a social threat Naseer is). Shan shoots that idea down as soon as it’s out of his mouth. Now Deshawn and Ricard are both in the fed-up-with-Shan club.
Perceptive Shan notices she’s getting on people’s nerves, so she tries to make amends. She says in her confessional with an eye roll, “I have to make Deshawn feel heard as a man.” Then at tribal council, she reminds everyone that she gave up her spot in the immunity challenge to get food for the tribe, nevermind that Naseer, Xander and Ricard all did the same thing. “My pastor heart went out to the tribe,” she says, needlessly reminding everyone of her career for the millionth time. I’ve loved Shan’s game so far, but I have to admit she seems like one of the most patronizing, frustrating people to have a conversation with.
After another needlessly dramatic live tribal council, Deshawn is disappointed with the plan his alliance settles on. Shan repeatedly goes over to him to “make him feel heard,” but he’s having none of it. Just before they vote, Shan announces to the tribe that she’s learning so much in Survivor, like how to talk to new people with the way they need to be talked to, implying that Deshawn is a whiny, petulant person who needs to be handled very delicately. And all this is going on when she has the papaya drama to deal with. Might this be the start of Shan’s downfall subplot?
In the end, all the drama comes to an anticlimactic vote out for Tiff. Since she is one of my least favorite players, I have to admit I was hoping for more fireworks when she left. Some tears, some cursing or maybe some throwing things at Jeff Probst. Alas, she exits quietly and accepts her lame sendoff. Here’s hoping the spite will come through when Tiff sits on the jury as its first member.