Survivor returned to its normal hour long episode last night, but it was jam-packed from start to finish. Season 41 is only two weeks in and already is arguably the most unique season of Survivor we've ever had. They promised that this would kick off a "new era" of the show, and boy oh boy, they weren't kidding. It was another episode filled with new twists, changes, and advantages. There is a lot to digest. As I said in my last recap, I'm worried how new viewers will feel about all these changes. These people fell in love with a certain version of Survivor over quarantine and Season 41 feels very different so far. I'm a big believer in "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But I do understand the need to constantly evolve and keep things fresh. That's why this show has lasted 21 years. And all the new twists and advantages do give us more to discuss and think strategically about. So it helps us Survivor bloggers and podcasters I guess, but I can see a lot of viewers being turned off by it. But hey, Survivor is still Survivor, and it's still the best show on TV.
Before I get into my written recap, this is a reminder that you should subscribe and listen to Snuffing Torches on Apple and Spotify. We broke down the full episode and gave all our thoughts. Plus I did my own rendition of Ancient Voices to start off the show.
Alright let's get into it. Chronological recap, player assessments, updated winner rankings.
Ua Camp (Green Tribe)
The episode opened up at Ua camp with Brad being very paranoid. He got a vote at the previous tribal council and was concerned about JD's erratic gameplay. So when JD and Ricard went to get water, Brad decided to spy on them. Look at this majestic running from the rancher version of Bill Walton.
He ends up with his own version of Tony's "spy shack" near the watering well. But he was not able to gain any sort of useful information. All he heard is the word "he" so he knew they were talking about him, but that's it. He also wrongly hypothesized that JD has an idol (he has an extra vote, not an idol). So it wasn't exactly a successful mission.
I found it funny when Brad rushed back to camp so JD and Ricard "wouldn't know he was spying on them". Uhhh Brad, you could've just said you were taking a piss or something. Don't think their minds immediately would've went to spy shack, but moving on. To make matters worse, all that whole thing did was make everyone feel paranoid, especially Shantel. She told Ricard about Brad's spying. And Ricard responded "Brad's not good at playing this game." And I would agree with that assessment. It feels like Brad watched one "Best Of Survivor" YouTube video and based his all game off it. Next, he's going to start lying about his dead grandma, saying "Keep hope alive" and giving speeches about snakes and rats. That's really all we saw from this camp in this episode, but it set up that Brad is on the chopping block.
Luvu Camp (Blue Tribe)
Deshawn and the rest of the tribe are struggling to get a fire going. If only there was some superhero who could step in and save them….. Enter Naseer. Our Sri Lankan friend says how he's been waiting to do this his whole life. We then see some footage from his home village in Sri Lanka, which I found very interesting. Wonder how CBS got this footage. Did Naseer send it in? Did CBS go get the b-roll? And if so, does that mean Naseer goes far or maybe even wins? Why else go through all that trouble? Just something to monitor. It also very well could just be footage from Naseer's audition tape that he had himself. But it's fun to put the tinfoil hat on.
In general, I think these few minutes were very important for Naseer. We see him make fire without flint in less than a minute. He comes off as very likable. His tribe clearly likes him. Sydney even says that he's "absolutely essential to the survival of this tribe." Instead of wanting to target him, she now wants to keep him around. This is all we saw from Luvu Camp. It's very telling that they decided to spend it building up Naseer. I think he goes far. And I hope he goes far. How can you not love this guy? Personally, I am prepared to take a bullet between my eye balls to protect this man at all costs.
Yase Camp (Yellow Tribe)
This is where most of the action was happening. Xander continues to play hard and starts looking for the idol. Eventually, he does find the "Beware Advantage."
But that excitement wouldn't last for too long. Because the beware advantage comes with a twist, hence the word "beware." The note says that Xander can take it and he must do it what it says, or he can leave it. This is a tough spot. It does have the word "advantage" in it so I'd be inclined to take it. Especially with the cameras in your face, you probably don't want to be the pussy who puts it back. But sometimes being a pussy is smart. Especially this early in the game. I'd always lean on the conservative side this early, especially if I already had the extra vote advantage like Xander did. But with all this talk about the "monster" and the game moving fast, you might need to take more risks. Ultimately, Xander took the risk. Because of course did. Look at the guy.
But he probably regretted it.
Hindsight is 20/20, but I'd immediately be upset with my decision. This doesn't seem like much of an advantage at all! It's a new twist we've never seen before. Each camp has 1/3 of the idol hidden and it only becomes a full idol when each tribe finds it and someone says their secret phrase at a challenge. And until then…. you can't vote. That is BRUTAL. To me, an idol isn't worth not being able to vote. Your vote is your most important thing in this game and you never want to lose it. Personally, I think the phrase thing is pretty funny and will give us a couple laughs with the confused looks on people's faces. But I don't love this twist overall. You can't label something an advantage that is very much not an advantage! I thought it might be like when people had to grab idols at challenges or in the middle of their camp. But this is a whole other animal.
Xander then makes the mistake of immediately telling Evvie and Voce everything. He believes they're in a tight, three person alliance but Evvie has other plans. She recognizes that Xander is becoming a bigger and bigger threat between this potential idol and also his extra vote. Xander is playing very hard out of the gate and painting a huge target on his back. Also, telling his alliance that makes him worthless to them. "Hey guys I know we're a 3 person alliance in a tribe of 5, but I actually can't vote with you." Just a questionable decision. I'm a big believer in never telling people about your advantages unless it's absolutely necessary.
Evvie then immediately tells Liana and Tiffany about all this because she's secretly planning an all-girls alliance, knowing that a girl in a Final 3 with two other guys is unlikely to win. So the girl who said her pet peeve is men starting an all-girls alliance wasn't exactly shocking. Would've been like -10,000 on the Barstool Sportsbook.
The challenge started with Jeff almost getting himself cancelled!
You can't say the G-word Jeff!!!!! (Honestly this just shows how ridiculous the whole "Come on in guys" thing was. Almost like "guys" is just a gender-neutral term that casually gets used in conversation all the time. But moving on).
Xander then had to give his secret phase, aaaaaaaand……….
Lot of confused looks. Pretty funny moment. Felt like Survivor meets Impractical Jokers. But honestly, if anyone can get away saying something weird like that it's Xander. He's just got that surfer, airhead vibe to him where people probably thinking "Ah classic Xander being weird." Unfortunately for him, nobody else has found it so he still doesn't have a vote and just looks like a weirdo. And the funniest part is he has to repeat the same phrase at every single challenge. So people will just really think he loves butterflies. Unless next time he decides to wait and see if someone else says it first. Then we have a little Mexican standoff of who wants to look like the weirdo. A lot of strategy at play with this.
Onto the challenge itself…
We had some swimming, some balancing obstacles, and a puzzle. First two tribes to finish are immune. First to finish gets a bunch of fishing gear. Second to finish gets a little less fishing gear. The blue tribe had to sit someone out, so they of course sat Heather down. In case you are unaware, Heather is in fact a player on this season of Survivor.
It wasn't exactly a display of athleticism for our Long Island Queen Tiffany.
Eventually, Simone Biles was able to get across the beam but it couldn't make up for all the lost time, and Yellow was heading back to tribal council. Blue finished first as they continue to be an absolute powerhouse. Have to think Heather's cheering was the real difference maker.
As the winning tribe, blue also had a decision to make. They had to send one person from the losing tribe to the secret getaway from last week, and then could choose someone from either their tribe or the other winning tribe to join them. They chose to send Evvie from the losing tribe and Deshawn volunteered to send himself. Side note, they really need to come up with a name for this "secret getaway" island thing if it's going to be in the whole season. For now, we'll have to go with….
Secret Getaway Place Thing
If I'm Evvie, I'm pissed that I'm sent here in the hours before tribal council. You never want to give your tribe a chance to talk about voting you out, and this gave them a perfect opportunity. But it's a massive credit to Evvie's social game that her name wasn't even brought up at Yase camp while she was gone.
Meanwhile, her and Deshawn were bonding on their trek and forming a bond. Evvie told him about the risk/protect vote twist and was honest that she was going to protect her vote because she needed it that night. So Deshawn basically had a free chance to get an extra vote, and he took advantage of it. A win for both. I do wonder if this twist is going to be there every single week. If so, we could have like 8 extra votes floating around at one point. Or conversely, we could have a bunch of people losing their vote. I do like the prisoner's dilemma and all the strategy that goes into it, but I don't love tinkering with the votes so much.
I also thought Evvie did a really good job building a bond with Deshawn by sharing some "secrets" with him. But as she said, they were Xander's secrets, not hers. It's worth offering those up in order for her to personally gain trust with Deshawn, which I think she did. Also at that point, she thought Xander might be heading home so there was really no downside.
The weirdest part of the whole thing though was the "3 Ds" montage. Deshawn was talking about how he's becoming a doctor and his dad always preaches the 3 D's to him.
There was then a very strange voiceover of a man's voice saying "Remember the 3 D's!" Was it his actual dad? Was it Deshawn imitating his dad? Was it a random CBS staff member doing a weird ghost voice? Very strange. I sort of like the real life packages being included, but at points they seem forced.
Yase Camp Pre-Tribal
Back at Yase, it seemed like Tiffany was initially on the hot seat after that horrid challenge performance. This was clearly the weakest tribe and they couldn't afford to keep losing challenges. Xander and Voce seemed set on sending her ass home. But when Evvie returns to camp, the all-girls alliance begins to take shape again as they want to blindside Xander. He's playing hard, has all these advantages, and will only become more of a threat as the game goes on.
But Tiffany was FREAKING out. Just absolute paranoia. She was very concerned that Xander had an idol with power and if he used it, she'd be one the going home. Tiffany failed to understand that it was quite literally impossible for Xander to have one since Evvie saw the note herself and nobody at the challenge said their weird phrases. Tiffany just couldn't comprehend this.
Tiffany, you were in fact being one of those stupid Survivor players. Her paranoia got the best of her and she started throwing Voce's name out instead. This erratic gameplay worried Evvie and had her considering voting with the guys. Heading into tribal, it seemed like it would be either Xander or Tiffany.
Thank God we had Jeff on the screen here to explain what tribal council is. I thought he was going to be on screen talking us through all the new twists and advantages. But it seems like they maybe forgot about that? Also tough to see Jeff lose his voice like this. I guess the long layoff between seasons took a toll on him. You'd never see this from old Jeff. Hope this isn't the beginning of the end for him. Like watching your grandpa slowly forget how to drive. Just sad. But I think he'll be fine.
Nothing too crazy at tribal council. Just an emotional moment from Voce talking about his single mom raising him and how he wasn't the smartest kid but became a doctor through studying hard. He also kind of casually mentioned something about cutting an artery open during surgery. Is that something he does often? Maybe don't want him in my operating room.
Going into the vote, it still seemed like it was probably Xander or Tiffany. There were only four votes at play since Xander lost his.
Ultimately, Voce got sent home with a 3-1 vote in a move that blindsided both him and the audience. We did hear his name mentioned, but it didn't feel like he was actually in danger. Maybe Tiffany is a strategic mastermind after all. I do like the occasional audience blindside, but I also love gameplay and strategy talk so I would've liked to see exactly how this plan came together. It seemed like Xander was even in on it based on his reaction of saying "Yeah I feel so bad" after Tiffany said "It sucked." He didn't seem shocked at all. So I wonder when/what they told him.
You just have to feel bad for Voce here. He really did nothing wrong. Was just a victim of circumstances. All the new advantages. A small tribe with a majority of women. And a paranoid Long Island lady. Just a no win situation. I don't really know what he could've done differently. He thought he had a strong alliance with Xander and Evvie and maybe trusted them too much? But sometimes Survivor is just a game of luck, especially this early in the game. And Voce didn't have the luck this time. He was a player with some promise, too.
So as for the decision itself, I don't get it. If I'm Evvie (or Liana), I'm either targeting the guy who is playing super hard in Xander. He has advantages already and they will only become more powerful as the game goes on. And you know he'll be a threat in individual challenges come merge time. But if you think he's too important to keep around for challenges, then get rid of the challenge liability in Tiffany. With voting Voce, you just made your tribe weaker AND kept a threat around. Makes no sense. The only thing that could make sense, which we talked about on Snuffing Torches, is if Evvie wanted to keep Xander around to use as a "meat shield" of sorts. She knows he's an easy target at any point. And she knows Tiffany already wants to gun for him. It's always good to have people against each other in Survivor, as long as they're not against you. She seems to have both on her side, especially if she warned Xander of the Voce plan and it seems like she did.
-Evvie is my MVP from last night. I don't totally know what went into the Voce decision, but if she did warn Xander that's a very smart move. She also gained an ally on another tribe with Deshawn. And she was able to avoid having her name brought up while she was gone the entire time before tribal. She's going to make a deep run, but people might realize soon what a threat she is.
-Liana is quietly playing very well. Sort of hiding behind Evvie but still is very much in control of her tribe and the votes.
-Brad has no idea what he's doing, but he'll be entertaining to watch.
-Naseer is shooting up my rankings with his likability and social game.
-JD was very quiet this week after leading the show in confessionals last episode, but that's likely because we didn't see much from his tribe at all.
-Heather does in fact still exist.
-Not a single mention of the Shot In The Dark twist last night. I guess there was nobody who really thought they needed to use it. But it also feels like maybe people forget that exists.
Game Within The Game
This is a new thing that's an interactive feature for fans all season with word puzzles and shit online. You can play it here.
W + Earth = Worth
Plate - T = Play
Ring - R = Ing
For - K = For
"Worth playing for?"
Not exactly rocket science so far.
That's it for the Episode 2 recap. A very full episode with a lot to keep track of. It seems like there's going to be tons of new twists and advantages thrown at us every week. You might need to start watching with a pen and note pad. Or even a better option.
'Til next week.