Survivor 41: Episode 5 Debrief

Episode Five has come and gone, and while I didn’t feel it was the most exciting episode of the season so far, it felt like a good transition into what seems like some kind of merge. There was still plenty to dissect, so let’s get into it.

That Sneaky Idol Move By Shan and Ricard was Brilliant

The biggest storyline of this episode is the tribe dynamic of the remaining three Ua members: Genie, Ricard, and Shan. This sneaky smart move early on set the tone, it’s Shan and Ricard in power, and Genie is along for the ride. Genie feels like she has to build the rapport with her other two tribemates after collaborating with them to vote JD at the last tribal council so she makes the decision to tell the tribe about finding the poorly hidden Beware Idol. Unfortunately for Genie, her two other tribemates are certified lethal cutthroat Survivor snakes.

A New Advantage Enters the Fray

After foregoing twists in the previous episode, we return to the summit with Liana and Shan where a different advantage enters the game. Liana gets the “Knowledge is Power” advantage, which is an advantage steal. She can ask another player if they have either an idol or an advantage (has to be specific about it), and they are legally obligated to give it to her. However, if she asks the question to someone and they don’t have said advantage or idol, she wastes the steal. Given how public idols have been this season, it’s going to be very hard for Liana to miss, with Xander very publicly acknowledging his advantages to people. In a season where people’s idols are kept closer to the chest, this advantage could be a bit more difficult to use. I could see it coming into play if she is doomed and wants to make a last second grasp for safety, or if her alliance is targeting a key player and they want to guarantee that they can’t protect themselves (however, doing that would give up the secrecy of a blindside: you would have to feel very secure that the vote goes your way and no one else intervenes for them).

Shan and Ricard: Who Will Backstab the Other First?

The most intriguing part of the episode to me happened right before tribal council, where Ricard fights back at Shan for demanding that he return the extra vote she got from JD to her, for his own security and safety. Both Shan and Ricard proved today that they are cerebral strategists and paranoid players: while in the end they agree to vote out Genie it has become clear that neither truly trusts the other person to have their back through the whole game. For now, they stay together based on the bonds they had made to get to the point where they are the last two standing in Ua, but in the merge will that hold? Both clearly know to look out for themselves first, and we have already gotten the Shan and Liana alliance set up after their bonding experience at the summit. Shan or Ricard backstabbing each other is not an if but a when.

Biggest Survivor Tradition: A Tie Between “Is There an All-Girls Alliance?” and Going Through Another Person’s Bag

Outside of Ua, we see Danny and Deshawn worry about the dwindling number of men in the game, and Tiffany and Liana choosing to figure out what Xander’s advantages are really all about. Both are common Survivor moments: the all-girls alliance is always in the back of every guy’s mind in every season, and in response to that Naseer is included in Danny and Deshawn’s plans. Tiffany and Liana discover what Xander’s advantages are really all about, and they sneakily leave Evvie out of their plans, fearing she has a closer alliance with Xander than she is letting on.

Purest Naseer Moment: Naseer Finds the Idol

Shoutout to Naseer! He single handedly overcame throwing efforts from his tribe in the last immunity challenge, and in this episode he uses all the skills he learned at home for his daughter hiding fake idols in his backyard to secure a real one in Survivor. Now that the phrases have all been said, three idols are in the mix for the rest of the game, spicing up the strategy even more (especially in Yase now that Xander can vote again).

Strategic MVP: Liana

She made a real bond with Shan at the summit and got an advantage that will be really easy to use, armed with the knowledge of what Xander had in his bag. Her stock rose dramatically this episode.

Entertainment MVP: Shan

Dare I say Shan has been the MVP of the pre-merge part of the season over former tribemates Brad and JD. We get to hear about her tragic and powerful backstory, and she continues to play the game so hard for us.

Goat of the Episode: Xander

He committed a classic Survivor mistake: he kept advantages in his bag for everyone to see instead of burying them for secrecy. Then he unknowingly makes a fool of himself to the spectator by telling Tiffany about his idol hours after she learned about it on her own. At least he can vote again; but Liana can steal his idol at any time now.

Prediction Time: What is this Unprecedented Tribe Swap That Was Teased?

So the preview teases us with what seems like a merge, but not quite according to a one second Jeff reaction. What could it be? Some guesses:

1. Not a merge, but everyone is on the same beach now (like Thailand) — Shan and Ricard each split off to a new tribe. Not my preferred method.

2. An immediate individual immunity challenge and tribal council — No merge festivities, but there will be some time to discuss strategy beforehand. Maybe Deshawn and Danny could try to recruit people to blindside Erika then?

3. Shan and Ricard are captains and they pick two new tribes — This would help soothe my discomfort in how often Survivor did random tribe swaps in the past.

4. Some weird two tribes, one beach, tribe immunity, combined tribal council??? — The challenge seemed set up for tribes, and I just watched the Gamechangers episode where they did something like this. This is my official guess for what happens.



18. Abraham

17. Sara

16. Voce

15. Brad

14. JD

13. Genie — She tried to play the loyal soldier card which I felt was the right move… it’s just that Shan and Ricard decided not to eat each other up just yet.


12. Xander — He still feels like clearly the next to go on Yase. At least he has an idol and can vote again, and some sort of merge thing is coming.

11. Heather — Once again a ghost this episode, she is obviously not winning


10. Erika — people still are looking to blindside her, there just hasn’t been an opportunity yet. A merge is the best thing for her, as those who want her gone might bring her back in as a vote against a clear threat on another tribe.


9. Naseer — He’s in with Luvu boys now and has an idol, good for him

8. Sydney — She got an Ozzy-style fishing montage, good for her

7. Tiffany — Her alliance with Liana seems strong, and Xander wants to trust her. She recovered nicely from her early episode failures

6. Evvie — Someone seems to be losing the power that she gained from the Voce vote out


5. Danny

4. Deshawn

These two seem to be in charge of a Luvu vote out if it ever were to happen, as they have Sydney and Naseer as part of their numbers

3. Liana

2. Ricard

Both Ricard and Shan are strong players, and in a tribe swap or merge setting I see things going the way of Malcolm and Denise in Philippines: the others tribes already have set targets on their own members so Shan and Ricard can slide right into those alliances and plans.

I never got around to typing up my Millennials vs. Gen X review… I guess I’ll get to that now LOL. Also, Michelle Young’s season of the Bachelorette just started, so maybe some power rankings in the future? We’ll see.



Reality TV connoisseur writing about the shows I like, especially Survivor. I also watch the Challenge, the Bachelor, Love is Blind, and more.

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Reality TV connoisseur writing about the shows I like, especially Survivor. I also watch the Challenge, the Bachelor, Love is Blind, and more.