This article contains spoilers about Season 41 of “Survivor.”
Before getting into all the technicalities, twists and turns of episode nine of Survivor 41, let’s just state the unfortunate truth: this episode, both Naseer and Evvie are voted out. I know, I know. If it’s too much pain for you to bear, stop reading now. Instead, go search for “survivor 41 jurors 2 and 3 ponderosa” on YouTube so you can watch the fan favorite players of the season chill on the beach, give each other haircuts and get cooking lessons. Seeing Evvie and Naseer joke about their blindsides and share heartfelt reflections on their time in the game in their Ponderosa video is the only thing giving me the strength to keep watching the rest of the season.
So, how did we end up here in the trenches, wallowing in the loss of our two greatest heroes this season? That should be obvious by now. Yet again, another twist to keep contestants on their toes – literally. In a combined immunity and reward challenge that more resembles medieval torture than it does a reality TV challenge, the remaining contestants had to balance on their toes and hold onto a short bar behind their heads for as long as possible in unforgiving heat.
At this challenge, two players have the chance for immunity. Sounds like good news, but that also means two players will be voted out. Players are randomly assigned to one of two teams and each team would have their own separate tribal council that night. Whoever lasted the longest in the challenge for either team would win individual immunity, and whoever lasted the longest overall would also win a reward of delicious beef stew for their team. On one team, there’s Ricard, Shan, Naseer, Heather and Erika. On the other, there’s Xander, Danny, Deshawn, Evvie and Liana.
For Shan, this looks great. In her eyes, Heather and Erika are the biggest threats in the game right now… yeah, let that sink in. Shan thinks Heather is a huge threat. Heather, who has no advantages, idols or real allies other than Erika. Heather, who has no chance of winning immunity at any challenge. (Sorry, Heather.) Erika wins individual immunity, which leaves Heather as the obvious boot for Shan.
Ricard has other ideas. He knows Naseer has an idol. Also, Naseer is likeable – very likeable. He seems to be everyone’s favorite contestant, whether they’re other players or viewers at home. (As he should be, TBH.) Ricard recognizes that this makes Naseer a much bigger threat than Erika or Heather. Shan, who has been playing a “my way or the highway” type of game, doesn’t like this at all. To be frank, she never likes it when anyone thinks for themselves in the game.
At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst acts shocked to find out that everyone knows Naseer has an idol, making him a potential target. As if Probst and the production team aren’t the ones who came up with the idea of having everyone basically announce to the world that they have an idol with their “secret phrases” at challenges. Even with Jeff pointing out Naseer as a threat, Naseer keeps the faith that his allies are with him and he never sees the votes for him coming. Cue the tears. Through my tears and devastation at losing the fan-favorite, I was still a little proud to see Ricard making a big move like that. I think he’s the only one who could have ever convinced Shan to change her vote for Naseer, and it was pretty impressive.
As for the other team of five determined at the immunity challenge, Xander and Deshawn both put up incredible performances, but Xander comes through for the win. He wins not only immunity, but also the stew for his team. You might think this would get him on Liana’s good side since she’s been crying over getting no rewards for multiple episodes in a row, but no such luck for Xander. In fact, Liana even tries to get his immunity idol from him again. She asks him if she can “just hold onto it” at tribal council so she knows he won’t play his idol to save Evvie, but he refuses. Obviously. Fun fact about these two: Liana is from Evanston and Xander is from Chicago, so this rivalry should excite all the Northwestern viewers.
At this point, things are looking iffy for Evvie. Danny, Deshawn and Liana are all in an alliance with Ricard and Shan, but that alliance is shaky thanks to Shan belittling Deshawn in every other conversation she has with him. Plus, Xander is a past ally with an immunity idol who might want to keep her around so that the underdogs’ numbers finally outweigh those of the previously mentioned major alliance.
Now, since the airing of episode nine, Survivor fans have been engaged in heated debates over the strategy behind Xander’s choice to not use his idol for Evvie and Deshawn’s choice to stick with his original alliance. Some say Xander knew the votes were going to Evvie and chose not to use his idol anyway because he didn’t consider her much of a loss. Some say he would have played the idol for Evvie if he knew she was going to get the majority of the votes, but he read Deshawn wrong and thought he had an ally where he did not. And then there are the Deshawn doubters who are speculating over whether or not Deshawn made a huge mistake.
All the strategy talk would usually excite me, but right now I need time to mourn my dreams of seeing Naseer or Evvie in the final tribal council, arguing their case for why they should win. I’ll miss Naseer’s infectious positivity and rooting for Evvie to be the first queer sole survivor since season 15. I guess I’m rooting for Ricard now, because at least he knows how to stand up to Shan.