“Survivor 41” Finale Recap – And the Winner Is…

“Survivor 41” (CBS)

IMPORTANT: I’m going to have exit interviews with all five of the finalists on my YouTube channel in the coming days. So, be sure to subscribe for all the goodness.

Watch Full Episodes of “Survivor 41”

Last Week: Abraham? Abra-liminated. Sara? Don’t care-a. Voce? No-ce. Brad? Bad. JD? N-O. Genie? Back in the bottle. Sydney? G’day. Tiffany? Silenced. Naseer? A perfect angel who was heartlessly ejected from a game that he’s too good for. Evvie? Leave-y. Shan? Hmm…hmm…hmm…hmm…hmm…bye. Liana? Knowledge is sour. Danny? Sacked.

39 26 Days, 18 People, 1 “Survivor Blog

Alright, let’s take a look at the tribe as it currently stands…

The Viakana Tribe (wearing red)

  • Deshawn, 26 – Medical Student
  • Erika, 31 – Communications Manager
  • Heather, 52 – Stay-at-home Mother
  • Ricard, 31 – Flight Attendant
  • Xander, 20 – App Developer

Post-Tribal Wrap-Up

Let’s do this!

We kick things off with the final five arriving at their new, empty camp. Xander loves this twist because he feeds off of his adrenaline. Yeah, that’s much better for you than rice.

And, as expected, Erika is not super psyched to talk to Deshawn after he blew up her spot at Tribal. (Do the kids still say, “Blow up her spot”?) Ricard smartly takes this opportunity to get her to target Deshawn next, despite the fact that…ya know…nobody is beating Ricard at the end.

Erika tries to smooth things over with Heather the next morning, but Heather isn’t having any of it.

The Return of Tree Mail

Ooo…everyone gets a piece of mail. Maybe it’s Deshawn’s letter from home!

Nope, it’s an advantage clue. They have to unscramble a phrase that will lead them to some kind of something. Xander figures out the clue first, but it’s vague enough that it isn’t obvious where it is. Everyone goes out hunting…and…Erika finds it! Turns out it’s a slight advantage in the next immunity challenge. So, really it’s the return of the Medallion of Power!

Immunity Challenge Time: The players will collect a series of rope rungs, then use them to create a ladder. They’ll then maneuver a set of puzzle pieces up a separate ladder. Once they’re at the top of the platform, the first person to complete a 75-piece puzzle will win immunity and a steak dinner.

Erika’s Advantage: She’ll start with four rungs on each of the ladders already completed.

Result: Erika makes the most of her advantage and pulls out the win. She’s given the opportunity to share her dinner and chooses…Heather. Interesting choice to smooth things over. I’d have been tempted to pick Ricard and then send him home. That way nobody gets the energy boost.

Pre-Tribal Politicking

Erika and Heather manage to make peace over their delicious steak dinner with Heather saying she was much more upset with Deshawn than the she was with Erika. Then why’d you shut her down after Tribal?

Ooo…and then they talk about how they’d rather see Ricard win over Deshawn. That’s uh…that’s interesting. They can’t beat Ricard, but I could see Erika winning over Deshawn. Also, the repercussions from the Deshawn bomb? He didn’t gain much, but there is some serious animosity towards him.

Later on, Erika tells Ricard that she’s on the fence with the next vote. This blows Ricard away. Yeah, buddy. You and me both.

Before we hit Tribal, Ricard plays the “missing his kid’s birth” card with Xander. And that’s not a judge-y statement. I’d do the same thing. This moves Xander to the point that he pitches the idea of using his idol to save Ricard. Wow, that’s a fantastic second-place move.

Tribal Time

Deshawn makes it seem like Ricard’s number is up, but Xander isn’t so sure.

Ricard then tells everyone about the emotional strife he’s been going through, saying that he didn’t want to tell anyone about his upcoming newborn because he’s worried that people would think less of him. (Didn’t Gervase have a son during the very first season? They sent out cigars and everything!)

I get that this situation is very stressful. But, why wait to tell everyone now that you’re on the edge of going home? And again, I’d totally consider using this strategy. But as an opponent, I’d be very suspect of it.

Ricard then lobs a bomb saying that he doesn’t think Heather, Xander, or Erika can beat Deshawn.

He also says that he considers himself one of the best players in “Survivor” history. Mmm…like…best 100 players?

Voting Time: Ricard votes for Deshawn, Deshawn votes for Ricard, and the rest of the votes are seeeeecret.

JPro tallies and returns. He asks if anyone wants to play an idol or an advantage or read a haiku and…Xander does. He plays his idol for himself.

Quick Note: I hate hate hate that move. Why pretend like you’re going to play it for Ricard? You’re just annoying a future juror.

Alright, we’ve got one vote for Ricard, one vote for Deshawn, one vote for Ricard, and the fourteenth person voted out of “Survivor 41” and the seventh member of the jury is…Ricard.

Post Tribal Disaster

Apparently our castaways figured there was no use in making a new shelter with only a few days left. Mother nature notices this and decides to send a few rain clouds their way. Whoops.

Anywho, we also learn that Erika is good at using flint and Deshawn is not. Sooo…Deshawn’s gonna win the fire-making challenge?

Immunity Challenge Time: Players will navigate across a curved walkway while stacking blocks on a platform. The first person to stack all six blocks and return to the starting point will win immunity and the ability to decide who squares off in the fire-making challenge.

Result: Xander wins it and is the first member of the final three.

Pre-Tribal Politicking

Before everyone gives Xander their pitches, he shares with us a story about how he used to be an overweight child, but found confidence and fitness by joining his school’s cross country team. Aww…

Deshawn kicks things off by making the point that Erika is going to be very difficult to beat. Heather is willing to make fire, but she thinks Erika can beat Xander too. And finally Erika is willing to do whatever, but it’ll look good if he takes her to the end.

Xander agrees and tells Erika that she’s going to the end.


Xander knows that Erika is a fire-making whiz and he doesn’t want to give her a big moment. OK, that makes some sense.

Buuut…it seems like Erika isn’t as good at making fire as Xander thought. So, now Xander is considering switching things up and taking Erika out himself.

Tribal Time

Xander tells Probst that he feels like the jury doesn’t respect Erika or Heather’s games. But, Shan whispers to her fellow jurors that she thinks that’s a bad read.

Xander keeps telling the jury what they think and they keep making confused faces. Uh oh…

Fire-Making Choice: Heather will square off against Deshawn. So…Erika is our new champion?

Result: Heather was on the verge of victory, but then her flame tuckered out! Deshawn was able to sneak back in and win it! Probably the best fire-making challenge ever.  Like, Heather’s rope gave out three seconds after Deshawn won. Heather is the final member of the jury.

And Then There Were Three…

Xander believes his tale is an underdog story. I don’t disagree with that. He wasn’t in the dominant alliance until the very end.

Erika thinks she played a great game, but was underestimated due to her size and disposition.  I agree with that too. I didn’t truly appreciate what she was doing out there until my exit interview with Danny.

And finally, Deshawn feels good about his time in the game even if he doesn’t take home the win. He points out that he didn’t win immunities or find advantages, but his social game took him far.

Tribal Time

Evvie kicks things off by pointing out that it’s a great final three and they all have the chance to get some votes.

Danny breaks the game down into pre-merge, post-merge, and final eight. He asks each of them to explain their plans for each section. Xander says he wanted to do something different and take big risks. He used his fitness to excel at the team dynamic early in the game. He then marketed himself as a number once he was on the bottom. And finally, toward the end, he wanted to keep Ricard as a shield.

Naseer also points out that he stepped down to get rice and offered to let Erika compete in his place. Naseer appreciates how Xander has been a good friend in the game. NASEER! Give him the million.

Deshawn says his gameplan was to rely on his social skills. Early in the game he pulled in Heather, Erika, and Naseer. At post merge, he realized he was a threat and relied on his relationships to pull through. And in the final eight, he used that social capital to get him to the end.

Ricard disagrees with Deshawn about  keeping people together. He says at the merge Deshawn targeted Erika and wanted to get Sydney out to throw Danny off…basically just tosses Deshawn right under the bus.

Finally, Erika intended to be a sweet lamb and join the majority alliance and work her way up. But, since Luvu never lost, she ended up close to Heather. At the merge she flipped the game with the hourglass and started to work with the other people on the bottom. She points out that Shan noticed what she was up to, which is smart. At final six, she knew she had set herself up so that she had a shot to sit at the final three.

Ricard tells Erika that he loves her game, but she didn’t have a particularly good relationship with most of the jury. He then asks Erika if she chose to only connect with the people on the bottom. Erika says that it’s tough to have strong ties to the entire tribe, but she wanted to be kind with everyone.

Tiffany then asks Xander where he thought he stood with his original tribe at the merge. He believed he was an Ozzy-type and they don’t make it very far. He enjoyed his tribe and wanted to protect them, but eventually it was detrimental to his game and he had to adapt.

Liana doubles down on this and asks if he had a good read of where he stood in the game. Xander stammers on this one…but eventually says that he was fed different stories during the Tiffany vote. So, he knew he was being duped.

Evvie then asks how he was able to keep the idol for so long. He says he tried to stay paranoid, but his relationship was strong enough with Ricard that he knew when Ricard told him to play it that he was in trouble. But, the chaos of that Tribal was so much that there wouldn’t be enough unity to take him out.

Ricard then calls him out for leaving Erika in the game. It makes him wonder if their relationship was fake. Xander says their relationship was real and that he took Ricard out because Ricard couldn’t be beat. When Ricard counters by asking why he kept Erika in the game, Xander admits that he didn’t realize Erika was that big of a threat.

Heather then points out that she had warned Xander that Erika could beat him. But he thinks Erika winning the fire challenge would have been the final nail in his coffin. The jury seems to like this reasoning.

Hey, remember Deshawn?

Oh, Shan remembers Deshawn. She calls him out for throwing “temper tantrums.” She felt very emotionally hijacked because their alliance was so important to her.

Deshawn says to give him third place, because he’d never sell out his people to win a game. He admits that he wears his heart on his sleeve and that he’s young and still has a lot to learn.

She forgives him and tells him that he’s going to make a lot of people proud.

Before we finish things up, Danny gives Erika serious credit for how well she performed in the challenges and her ability to fly under the radar.

Oh, and Liana asks Xander if he has an idol. Aaaaaaaadorable.

My Thoughts: I think Erika is our champ. She did a great job making a case for herself. Xander did a respectable job too, but not quite as good as Erika. Honestly, Deshawn had a good showing too, but I think the jury came in with their minds made up about his game.

Voting Time: No votes are shown.

JPro tallies and returns. We’ve got one vote for Erika, one vote for Deshawn, three votes for Erika, and the winner of “Survivor 41” is Erika!

Verdict: This is going to end up being a mid-level season for me. And I really didn’t reach that conclusion until Ricard was talking about how he belongs with the all-time greats. Yeah, he played a great game, but was anything iconic? Five years from now are we going to think; Boston Rob, Parvati…Ricard?

I think I’ll remember this season as having an awesome diverse cast, that was somewhat overshadowed by the need to cram 20 pounds of advantages into a 10-pound bag.

Casting works. The format works. Trust them.

Power Ranking Results: Michele Fitzgerald had Erika and Ricard in the right places for 4 points. Gordon had Erika and Ricard in the right places for 4 points. So, the final score is Team Fitzgerald 94, Team Holmes 97.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes