Survivor 41 episode five came down to a fascinating vote, but wasn’t as strong an episode as last week’s. This was like a mix of the previous two episodes: half the episode dragged into boredom by advantages—including an “insane” new advantage whose rules I’ve transcribed below—and the other half a fascinating exploration of dynamics in an alliance that was suddenly tested.
That alliance is between Shan and Ricard. “We have been together every single vote,” Ricard said at Tribal Council, and the question was whether that’d be true after tonight’s episode.
Ricard also told Jeff Probst, “All three of us are genuinely concerned and scared, which means we’re all doing a really good job.” That’s true!
Would Ricard and Shan vote together to get rid of Genie? Would Genie and Ricard—who very much don’t trust each other—work together to boot Shan, who’s clearly a huge strategic threat? Or would Shan use Genie to get rid of Ricard for the same reason?
The real test came before Tribal Council, when there was a bizarre repeat of last week’s episode, when Shan asked JD to give up his advantage before Tribal—and then, of course, voting him out.
Earlier, having potentially lost her vote thanks to her decision to open the Beware advantages—you know the one, not the other one also named Beware—Shan gave her extra vote to Ricard, so they could still vote out Genie.
Now Shan wanted her extra vote back, and was using the same argument Ricard suggested she use with JD, as Ricard pointed out. Watching these moments between two people who trust each other but are so good at the game that they realize they can’t fully trust each other: that was terrific Survivor television.
As far as we saw, Ricard refused, leaving them in a tenuous place. Ultimately, they did stick together, which is impressive and also establishes them as incredibly formidable players. While Luvu sat around and enjoys the Fijian beaches, Shan and Ricard have worked together to vote out every other member of their tribe.
I’ll begrudgingly admit that part of the tension between them was fueled and/or prompted by a few of the three million or so advantages in play.
Before we get to those, during the first half of the episode, we dipped briefly into the other two tribes: At Luvu, Danny and Deshawn were thwarted by an unknowing Naseer last episode when they tried to throw the challenge, and this episode they tried to get Naseer to help out.
That’s because Danny is particularly concerned about how “the men are leaving the game, and they’re leaving the game very quickly.” Naseer didn’t agree, and once again performed extremely well in the challenge; he’s getting less attention than other players, but he’s one to watch.
Meanwhile, Evvie and Xander chatted, but Evvie told us that she was just “making Xander feel like he has all the power.” Tiffany, however, was convinced Xander’s alliance with Evvie is real.
While Evvie and Xander got water and talked about how he should hide his advantages, Liana and Tiffany went through his bag to see what he actually had. Xander later tried to pretend that he just found one of the advantages, which led to Tiffany making faces at the camera when Xander wasn’t looking.
Meanwhile, after the challenge, Shan and Liana were sent to the island for a walk and bonding time. It was an emotional conversation, with A considerable amount of time to Shan’s backstory: her mother’s addiction and death, Shan going to foster care and becoming involved in a gang, how religion changed her life.
Fascinatingly, Shan also told Liana, “If I am not here, Ricard cannot be trusted.” That tells Liana how close Shan and Ricard are, which could create issues for Ricard and Shan in episode six, when the not-a-merge arrives.
Speaking of advantages, the Beware advantage finally activated. The Beware idols, that is, not the other Beware advantage that I’ve already forgotten about even though it has the same name.
Although I find the whole “say these dumb phrases we’ve written” thing to be ludicrous, and watching Jeff Probst pretend he doesn’t know what’s going on is increasingly painful, I am impressed that Xander yet again found a way to utter his dumb phrase, and I was also impressed by the editing blindside.
As far as we know, only two of the three have been found so far, but one of those left the game with Brad.
Genie found that advantage, but decided not to open it, and talked to Ricard and Shan, who also thought it was best left unopened. Shan argued against its consequence—”our vote is our voice, and it is the most-powerful thing we have in the game”—and I jumped up from my couch and cheered. I also cheered when she said losing a vote is “trash.”
But Shan changed her mind. “The Survivor player in me can’t help but want to take a risk,” she said, and later said, “I want the idol. I want it to go into play.” She opened it, and that led to her attempt at saying her phrase at the challenge.
Xander repeated his, too, and that was that. Jeff Probst was about to move on to the combined reward/immunity challenge when BLINDSIDE! Naseer stopped Jeff from introducing the challenge by saying, “I am as confused a goat on astroturf.”
That led into a flashback—the best use of an in-episode flashback yet this season—showing us Naseer finding the advantage the day before.
So now three idols are in play. So is something else that can take one of them away—and also prevent the players from lying.
Survivor 41’s Knowledge is Power Advantage, explained
We now know what Survivor’s producers were doing during their year-long hiatus: inventing and writing ludicrously long rule sheets for new advantages that continue to chip away at the core of Survivor.
Besides literally scripting lines for players to say, the producers also have now decided they have the power to prevent a player from lying. So we’re taking away people’s ability to vote, and now their ability to lie? What will we have left? Just the Survivor theme song? Oh shit.
This dumb new advantage, which Liana received thanks to her decision to risk her vote after her summit with Shan, is called the “Knowledge is Power Advantage.”
It might as well be called the “Just Take an Idol from One of Those People Already,” because the fact that the dumb, dumb phrases have been said so many times at Tribal Council means that everyone now knows exactly who has an idol.
However, this advantage is also good until the final six, so maybe Liana will hold it to use against someone later in the game. She can use it to take an advantage or idol at Tribal Council, and the player cannot lie, though they can conceal additional idols/advantages if they have more than one.
Here are the 197 words on the Knowledge is Power Advantage’s instruction sheet, which introduce and explain all kinds of rules and clauses and exceptions:
The Knowledge is Power Advantage
This advantage offers you power in the game…but you’ll need inside information to insure its success.
Here’s how it works…
You are allowed to ask ONE PLAYER either of the following two questions:
Do you have an advantage?
Do you have an idol?
THE PLAYER CANNOT LIE
If the answer is yes
They must give you the advantage or idol and it becomes yours
If the answer is no
You receive nothing and this advantage becomes powerless
If the player has more than one advantage or idol, it is up to them which one they give you and they DO NOT have to reveal they have more than one. You Must share this information with them.
If there are any limitations on the advantage or idol, they must share them with you.
To be clear:
You can only ask one player one question one time. That is it.
[Unreadable] question must be asked at Tribal Council before the votes are cast. The shot in the dark die does not count as an advantage.
The last time this advantage can be used is when there are six players remaining in the game.
After reading that, Liana said, “That’s insane.” Agreed.