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Survivor 41: everything is now negotiable!

Survivor 41: everything is now negotiable!

“I was playing too hard,” Evvie said at the start of Survivor 41 episode 8, which gave us our first juror and only one attempt at adding a new advantage into the game. Evvie’s admission is respectable; if only the show itself was as self-aware, considering this season of Survivor is guilty of that, too.

The Yase tribe members were in full-on scramble mode, and so were the editors, who were showing us clips of last week intermixed with new footage at the start of the episode. (Why not just show us a “last week on Survivor” segment, friends?)

But it was ultimately Shan who may be playing too hard—or perhaps just being too honest—because her social interaction got more attention than Evvie’s over-playing, even though Evvie was the tribe’s primary target.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think Shan was wrong for being annoyed that Ricard returned from the reward challenge feast and immediately eating some of the papaya gathered by the (starving so much they cried) non-winners. That’s obnoxious!

I don’t think Shan was wrong when she argued, forcefully, to Deshawn and Danny that Xander was a much bigger threat and should be targeted first. He is! He has a freaking idol everyone knows about!

But what makes Survivor interesting is that you can’t necessarily just be direct and brutally honest—especially if other people are convinced they’re right. Deftly navigating those social dynamics is so, so hard, and yet it’s a critical part of the game. It seems to be the biggest challenge Shan has right now.

That’s the kind of Survivor content I love: watching people navigate the game’s built-in obstacles, not external ones, so I was glad to see that instead of 10 minutes of reading advantage rules.

Similarly, not having a tribe swap pre-merge (a great choice on the producers’ part) has kept old tribal lines intact—at least for some of the players.

Evvie tried to convince the others that Yase, as a tribe, is done, and that she’s a free agent: “whoever needs me, I’m here.” She later tried to repeat that idea at Tribal Council, pointing out that she was a single vote away from being voted out, and her allies refused to play an idol for her. But the rest of the tribe doesn’t seem to buy it.

Deshawn was clear: “No,” he told us. “It’s not going to happen; I’m not a fool … I want to see you guys go one by one by one.” And that is what ultimately happened, with Yase losing another member, though a brand-new player showed up and tried to throw off that plan.

Survivor: now with negotiating for everything

Heather Aldret, who is actually a cast member on Survivor 41, and has apparently been one all season
Heather Aldret, who is actually a cast member on Survivor 41, and has apparently been one all season (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

A new episode of The Jeff Probst Show came early in the episode. Talking to the camera before the reward challenge, he said,

“It’s been a while since we’ve hidden an advantage at the sit-out bench, and we do this not just to keep the game unpredictable, but also to remind players that sometimes when you think you’re on the outside, you’re exactly where you want to be. But it only works for the smart player who’s always looking for opportunity.”

I’m looking for something to clean all that bullshit off my shoes. And there was more bullshit to come.

The tribes arrived by boat, which we got to see, a quick behind-the-scenes glimpse that I thought was perfect because no one called attention to it! Well, except Probst did call in the boats. But that’s real. Oh wait, and then he said “even getting here is a challenge.” Never mind, dammit.

They were split into two teams for the challenge, drawing rocks once again, and once again Erika drew the odd rock, meaning she’d sit out and have no chance at earning grilled cheese. (This is Survivor 2.0! No more limp pizza!)

Xander volunteered to give up his spot, swapping with Erika, and Jeff Probst let him. What? What is the point of a random draw for teams if people can just switch? Could other tribe members have switched? Hey Jeff, my team looks kind of pathetic so I’m going to give up my spot to someone on the other team.

Why do this? Xander told us later, “I love being with the losers,” because when they’re more vulnerable, there’s more of a chance for him to break in. Definitely a fascinating idea, though I don’t know if it actually worked.

Evvie nailed the puzzle literally in seconds, winning for the blue team. “I remember watching this on Edge of Extinction,” she told Jeff Probst, and added, “I can make that puzzle out of beads in my house.” This was interesting contrast from six years ago, when Spencer solved a puzzle in seconds because he’d practiced, but that practice wasn’t acknowledged on TV.

This time it was turned into an ad mid-episode: “That is what research and practice get you—lesson to you future Survivor players. That’s how you do it right there!” Probst said, looking at the camera.

While I mind the host of the show interrupting the show like this, I don’t mind challenges or puzzles that are recycled. Classic challenges can be fun! I just wish Survivor would mine more of its challenge history and mix up challenge types, so we’re not just doing team challenges with puzzles at the end, even after the merge.

Just look at all the individual reward challenges the show used in Borneo and The Australian Outback that could be re-used, perhaps with some updating and modernizing.

Xander spent the challenge looking around the bench for an advantage, but never found it. We knew this because:

  • he didn’t find it
  • the camera showed us the advantage still there after he left
  • Jeff Probst went over after the challenge and grabbed it
  • Jeff Probst turned to the camera and lectured us about missed opportunities

Survivor 2.0: where everything simple and clear is explained four times, except all of the complex and unnecessary things remain confusing.

There was more negotiating at the immunity challenge. Probst offered a single serving of rice to a player who’d choose to sit out. Or, he offered a large bag of rice to the whole tribe—he said enough for three days—if a bunch of them sat out, but he wanted to negotiate that number.

Shan asked how many, and Probst told her, “That’s what we’re negotiating.” Shan offered “three,” and Jeff said “I’ll take seven,” and maybe if someone puts Jeff on Shark Tank we can be spared this in future seasons?

While Shan got Probst to agree to five players sitting out, five players didn’t step forward. Xander then asked to change it to just four players. “Here’s why I’ll renegotiate,” Probst said, “because I believe now watching you, you are understanding how dangerous this game is, and you are petrified to give it up.”

I am petrified by bullshit like this, thank you very much. Anyway, Probst agreed to that, and what was that all for exactly?

Evvie won the immunity challenge, the block-on-head challenge which was over in record time.

With Evvie immune, the tribe seemed settled on splitting the vote between Xander and Tiffany in order to flush his idol and/or send him home. But because Naseer didn’t want to be used as a pawn, they told Xander the vote was between Tiffany and Heather, which it ultimately turned out to be, even though in that moment it seemed like a huge red flag. Why would Heather be in the mix at all? Who is Heather?!

At Tribal Council, that new player, Heather, showed up. After some meandering discussion, Jeff Probst asked it if it was time to vote, and did so in a slow and exaggerated way to make sure no one else had anything to say. After he was done, Heather spoke up, for the first time ever, and said, “Oh, I thought we could talk.” Now you decide to say something?! (I joke, of course; Heather’s absence has been because of the editing, not by her own choice.)

Heather asked Jeff Probst, “Can we whisper stuff right now?”, and of course the correct answer was NO YOU MAY NOT SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP EVERYONE.

Alas, they were given the green light, because everything this episode is negotiable. I wonder if the not-televised conversation/argument that happened last week prompted all of this negotiating: Was the production feeling guilty for its merge twist, and decided to give the players more power here?

More importantly, I am so, so tired of these whispering Tribal Councils, in part because it really doesn’t allow us to understand what’s going on.

Heather wanted to change the vote to Naseer; a large gathering decided to vote for Heather as a result of her attempt; Deshawn balked at that because he felt like he was being told what to do by Shan yet again, and I’m not sure if he’s being reasonable or childish or both.

Meanwhile, Ricard looked at Xander and said something like, Please play your idol so it’ll be out of the game even thought the vote won’t involve you at all—sound good, great, thanks. Xander did not play his idol.

Was this all planned, a ploy to make Naseer and Xander flush their idols simultaneously? Or just a blunder by Heather? And while Tiffany was voted out, becoming Survivor 41’s first juror, why did they split their votes between Tiffany and Heather? And why did Deshawn and Naseer throw two seemingly random votes toward Xander?

If they’re going to do this, maybe at least Jeff Probst can look at the camera and explain what’s going on if Survivor is not going to actually show it.

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  • 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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Wednesday 17th of November 2021

Since there seems to be a power for everything now, how about the ability to prevent jurors from discussing anything between themselves at one Tribal Council?


Thursday 11th of November 2021

As usual, I agree with everything you wrote. I was also confused by who this Heather person is. And the whispering!! They were whispering about voting for Naseer and then Heather, but they still voted out Tiffany. Weird. I'd love it if once Jeff says it's time to vote, they aren't allowed to leave their seats. Then they could still talk if they wanted, but it would have to be out loud for everyone to hear. :)

P.S. Anyone know how I can change my avatar here? I need my tarsier back!


Thursday 11th of November 2021

@Andy Dehnart, awesome, thank you!!

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 11th of November 2021

Yes, I miss the tarsier! And I just learned how to do that this morning!

So, avatars in WordPress are controlled by Gravatar, which is owned by Wordpress's parent company. Just sign upon Gravatar's site using the e-mail address you've used here, and then choose/upload your avatar. It'll automatically appear on any WordPress-powered comment, including this one!


Thursday 11th of November 2021

The original plan was Xander and Tiffany, so I guess Naseer and DeShawn just stuck with that rather than get caught up in the whisper fest. May have been some spite there if they thought they were being steered to Heather (who??) on short notice. Or was that a weird 17D chess move Shan used to get DeShawn to vote for Xander after all when he rejected her first suggestion to do that?


Thursday 11th of November 2021

What do you think of the block-on-head challenge? It seems to me that it would be hard to make it completely fair, given that people are of different heights. Any insight into this challenge?


Thursday 11th of November 2021

@Cheryl, Yes. If you look at the Challenge, you can definitely see that different people's foot planks are at different heights, but the heads are level. It was most obvious when they showed Erika standing next to someone much taller than her (Danny, I think, but could be wrong).


Thursday 11th of November 2021

@Alex, I believe that they measure people and adjust the setup according to their height.


Thursday 11th of November 2021

Jeff Probst seems especially crazed this season and you are one of the few writers who points this out. Your recaps are always entertaining.