Spoiler alert! Proceed with extreme caution if you have not yet watched Episode 12 of “Survivor” Season 41
“Survivor” is first and foremost a numbers game, so let’s take stock. At this point in the season, five castaways sit on the jury and six remain in the game. By the end of Episode 12, the jury will outnumber the people competing for the million-dollar prize.
This matters because it marks the threshold between playing to avoid getting ejected and playing to win. Every tribal council becomes a chance to pitch yourself as the Sole Survivor, if you can manage to make it to the final 3.
Almost every player this season has posed some version of the question, “If I was watching myself play from home right now, I wonder if I’d be yelling at the TV?” The answer is yes, I am yelling at my TV and I’d venture to guess that the remaining contestants – with a few notable exceptions – are yelling at their own screen images too.
I say that because this week, most castaways either dipped their toes in the waters of real gameplay before running back to shore or failed to take note of the obvious, making for a sluggish episode despite the best efforts of one player dropping a so-called “truth bomb.”
Before we get into the winners, losers and snoozers, let’s recount what happened on Episode 12 of “Survivor.”
A Missed Opportunity to Take “Tom Brady” Out
Following last episode’s muted tribal council ending with Liana’s exit, the tribe takes some time to regroup. Danny and Deshawn aren’t suprised that Erika and Heather voted for her, but they’re puzzled as to why Xander joined them instead of voting out the biggest threat in the game, Ricard.
“In NFL terms,” says Danny, this was the opportunity to topple “the old Tom Brady dynasty, and we’re playing kickball.” Kind of a mixed metaphor, but he has a point.
“There’s no chance he’s getting past another vote if we wins immunity,” Xander counters. Emphasis on the word “if.”
The next morning, Deshawn has heart-to-heart conversations with Erika and Heather about voting out Liana. Erika says she feels like she let people down by voting out Liana because she wants a woman to win this season. (The best way to fulfill that desire would be for Erika to become a worthy competitor, but it’s a little late for that.)
The Best-Laid Plans…
Another day, another obstacle course reward challenge. Split into two teams, the players must dive off a platform, release balls from a cage, and sink them into three nets. Xander, Erika and Deshawn end up winning chicken and vegetables (“Xander candy!”) for a reward.
Erika sees their lunch as a chance to form a final 3 alliance. “Food is put on the table, but also new plans and new allies are put on the table,” she says. Deshawn and Xander nod along, but neither of them seem committed to the idea.
Back at camp, Danny sneaks off to look for an idol. When he comes back humming and smiling, Ricard looks through his bag but finds nothing. He grows more suspicious when he asks Danny directly and he neither confirms nor denies that he found one.
Danny’s half-hearted commitment to this idol ruse was one of the more frustrating subplots of the episode. As it turns out, he didn’t find one, only a few scraps of burlap – begging the question, why didn’t he just make a fake?! He and Deshawn are well aware that they’re on the bottom, and without any advantages or idols, constructing a fake would have been an easy and effective way to gain an edge. Following his moment with Ricard, the subject of his potential idol never resurfaces, for reasons I don’t fully understand.
Meanwhile, Deshawn tries to coax Erika into saying she doesn’t plan on taking Heather to the end, since their games have been too similar. He doesn’t quite get her to confess “verbally, out loud,” but apparently it’s enough for whatever he has in mind.
Erika’s growing fond of the idea that “the chicken reward final 3 is the right final 3” because, as Deshawn points out, he, Erika and Xander have all played very different games. Generally, when someone wants to take you to the end, that’s not a compliment – it means they think they can beat you. Somehow, that backhanded compliment seems to sail right over her head.
Everyone is generally on the same page about voting out Ricard, so it’s only natural (or willed by the producers, depending on how you look at it) that the immunity challenge is a puzzle, Ricard’s specialty. When he wins the necklace, splitting the vote between Danny-Deshawn seems inevitable.
Truth Bomb or Truth Kamikaze?
Before heading to tribal, the only names that come up in discussion are Danny and Deshawn. Erika is angling to keep Deshawn, since they’ve worked together in the past and he’s part of her fantasy final 3.
The fact that Xander’s name never comes up tells you everything you need to know about the other players. If Ricard isn’t gunning for him, he clearly thinks he can beat him in the end. Despite being on the bottom, neither Danny nor Deshawn are the type of players capable of trying to orchestrate a blindside or even flush out Xander’s idol. Heather and Erika are too loyal to see Xander for what he is: the No. 2 (or even tied for No. 1) threat in the game.
At tribal council, Deshawn lays out what’s happening with the manner of someone who has stared (Survivor) death in the face and lived to tell the tale, which he has. The votes will be split between himself and Danny, and that’s all there is to it.
Before they vote, Deshawn drops what he calls a “truth bomb” by telling Heather that Erika doesn’t intend to take her to the end. Can you call a piece of information a “bomb” when it lands with a thud, rather than exploding? Ricard comments that it’s an “interesting” move considering that he hasn’t even been voted out yet. Erika and Heather don’t seem thrilled, but they’re also not giving him the explosive reaction he intended to set off. Kind of an underwhelming tactic for someone who’s staking their whole game on their social strengths.
A tied vote yields a revote, with Danny ultimately heading home. The most likely explanation for this is that Deshawn played himself in front of the other contestants and the jury, making him less of a threat.
Jeff closes out the night by telling the final 5 that when they leave, they’ll be taken to a new island with minimal supplies. Over the next few days, they’ll compete in two immunity challenges, two tribal councils and one firemaking challenge, meaning that the finale is just around the corner!
Winners, Losers and Snoozers
Ricard and Xander reprise their regular roles as biggest winners for the same reasons as usual. As the best players left in the game, they’ve managed to hang on through winning immunity (Ricard) or slipping under the other players’ radar (Xander). I know the likelihood of them both making it to final 3 is slim to none, but it would be fascinating to watch them battle it out.
Either the camera hates Heather or she actually does as little as she appears to do, making her this week’s snoozer. Erika sort of tried to get her alliance to keep Deshawn and proposed a final 3 alliance, which count for something.
As always, the biggest loser is the person who gets voted out, followed by their closest ally. Deshawn may have set up himself up for trouble with Erika and Heather. On the other hand, his self-sabotaging may have just made him a more desirable player to take to the end. Only time will tell.
Quote of the Week
“Your truth bomb was a little bit more of a truth kamikaze, my friend.” – Xander to the camera when writing Deshawn’s name down at tribal. A classic “Survivor” line.