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Which was dumber: Survivor 41’s immunity idol twist, or episode two’s vote?

“You’ve got to throw all you know about Survivor out the window, because this is a new game,” Xander said sometime during the Survivor 41’s second episode. Is it? Do you really? Likewise, is there more “danger,” as someone else said, parroting Probst’s marketing for this season? Because this seems like pretty standard Survivor to me, just this week with a whole lot of WTF while I was watching.

Nearly the entire episode focuses on the losing tribe, Yase, in yellow. There are two exceptions:

  • A scene at Luvu, blue, that introduces us to Naseer, whose tribemates are struggling to make fire while we see him share a story about growing up in Sri Lanka. “I don’t need flint to make fire,” he tells us—and then does it, but the editing didn’t bother to actually show him doing that, which is a weird choice.
  • A scene at Ua, in green, where Brad runs down the beach and throws himself into the bushes to spy on JD and Ricard talking at the well. It seems clever at first, with his racing back to camp and pretending he was sleeping the whole time—except he did this in front of other people, and told Shan he’d filler her later, but it was she who filled in her ally, Ricard, later. As Ricard said, that “is dumb. He’s not good at playing this game.”

Speaking of not good at playing this game, back to the Yase show, which is a shitshow. In the middle of the immunity/reward challenge—challenge three, episode two—Probst screamed, “Yase has been a disaster in challenges this entire season!” I’d be inclined to mock him for that overheated declaration, but he’s not wrong.

Tiffany Seely attempts to cross a balance beam during Survivor 41's second episode
Tiffany Seely attempts to cross a balance beam during Survivor 41’s second episode. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

The challenge was an obstacle course on water, and while it ended with a familiar puzzle, it began with just a regular-old swimming race between three tribe members. And I appreciated the production design that not only had each tribe’s floating obstacles in their tribe’s color, but put the tribe’s name in big letters on their starting platform, so I could start to learn their names.

The editing during Yase’s failure got weird: As Tiffany failed to cross a balance beam, everything slowed down and we heard Evvie (I think) shout “you can do it,” except we were also looking at Evvie who was not shouting, so the audio was disconnected from the image.

Speaking of editing: Who decided that Survivor no longer needed to, like, start? Just a flash of the logo and some fire and we’re at a camp, really? Nothing else? Okay, yes, I’m still lamenting the loss of “Ancient Voices”—and can’t quite figure out why we don’t have time for that but we do have time for hoarse Jeff Probst to stare at the camera before Tribal Council and say insightful things such as, “The players are about to walk in” and “Somebody’s going home.”

Xander finds the “Beware” advantage that Jeff Probst hid during his season premiere stroll, and it is comically dumb: three individual immunity idols, on three separate beaches, that don’t work until each of their recipients says a goofy phrase:

  • “I truly believe that butterflies are dead relatives saying hi”
  • “I’m as confused as a goat on astroturf”
  • “I didn’t realize this till now….broccoli is just a bunch of small trees”

At this rate, I expect that, by the merge, Probst will haul out costumes for the players to wear as punishments.

For now, each player who has that advantage loses their vote at every Tribal Council until the idols are activated or the merge occurs. This could mean we soon have two players effectively unable to play the game at Tribal Council until the merge. Is that interesting television, or good Survivor?

Xander did his best with that silliness, prefacing his required line with a story about his exhaustion, and segueing into “I woke up delusional…”. Kudos to Xander for how he’s embraced this, like in his Twitter bio. I don’t know how he’ll do it again, but he’ll have to; the instructions said the idols are only active “once all three phrases have been said at the same immunity challenge.”

Earlier, Xander said, “Jeff’s throwing another twist our way,” and that’s what this is: Jeff Probst standing on the sidelines hurling garbage into the field to try to make people trip. And now that is making me miss plain old hidden immunity idols!

Evvie Jagoda and Deshawn Radden just before they realize they're repeating Survivor 41's risk/protect your vote twist.
Evvie Jagoda and Deshawn Radden just before they realize they’re repeating Survivor 41’s risk/protect your vote twist. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

The second twist of the episode was a repeat of episode one’s risk your vote/protect your vote, but with only two players going to the top of the island to make that decision.

The winning tribe, Luvu, chose one person from the losing tribe (Evvie) and one person from the second-pace tribe or their own tribe (they went with their own: Deshawn). Evvie, cleverly, admitted she could not give up a vote, and basically gave that to Deshawn. She also gave him info about the split idol, sharing “other people’s secrets.” Evvie seems to be playing a lot of this game very, very well.

I really don’t like the producers forcing a player to be away from camp before Tribal Council. But since it is happening, one thing I do like about these summits is creating cross-tribe connection. With three tribes and so few people on each one, that’ll help keep things interesting at the merge.

While Evvie was away, the shit hit the actual fan. There’s a clear and smart plan in the alliance of Evvie, Liana, and Tiffany to get rid of Xander while he’s vote-less and holding both an extra vote and a possible idol. Evvie nearly broke the fourth wall by saying that people are likely to think that getting rid of Xander removes the possibility they’ll win physical challenges: “You dummies! You need to win something!

But as Evvie said, “We haven’t won a freakin’ challenge anyway.” So even with Xander, they’re screwed, so they might as well vote him out.

Alas, Tiffany freaked out that she’d somehow go home from a non-existent hidden immunity idol, so she wanted the women to target Voce instead. The paranoia from a pawn is understandable. What was frustrating was, as she admitted, “I can’t keep it all straight.”

By the time Evvie had to explain, again, to Tiffany, I was like: vote her out. As Liana said, voting for Voce would “be idiotic.”

Guess what they did after an uneventful and flat Tribal Council? Voted for Voce. I assume that’s because Liana and Evvie just couldn’t persuade Tiffany, and without her vote, they couldn’t blindside Xander—and I also assume they think keeping Tiffany around is better for their game than having her gone. But we didn’t get any of that in this episode, which is why I’m assuming.

Ultimately, thinking about the best possible way of dealing with both Xander and Tiffany is fascinating, but I couldn’t quite shake the empty feeling that comes from knowing this was all drama sparked by this season’s twists: the extra vote, the Beware advantage. I like most of the players and we’re getting a good sense already of their very different approaches to playing the game. Let’s just let them play. Please?

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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