It’s the penultimate episode! Next week is the Survivor finale, which means it’s time for some final predictions. Who will win? More importantly, which players will pop star Sia name her favorite contestants of the season?
Before I share my predictions, here’s a brief recap of this week’s episode. It starts with reactions to Deshawn’s memorable speech and Liana’s exit last week. We see Deshawn have one-on-ones with Heather and Erika, unpacking what his testimony meant to them. Heather is thankful that Deshawn illuminated layers of gameplay she was unaware of, while Erika feels guilty that by voting out Liana she’s potentially letting down viewers who want to see a woman win after six seasons of men getting crowned the Sole Survivor.
Erika’s second-guessing indicates what a modern Survivor player looks like. We’ve seen this happen in other fandom-heavy series — most notably RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Real Housewives — where stars are aware of potential reactions to their choices made on TV, so they pseudo-produce themselves in real-time.
For Erika, that means explaining why she had to vote out Liana even though she knew it wouldn’t be a popular decision. As Erika says in this episode, hopefully a woman can still win and she will be that woman. She wins the reward challenge alongside Deshawn and Xander. They agree to a final three, though it’s unclear how genuine all three players are about this alliance.
First, someone has to go, and the target is on Ricard’s back. Unfortunately, he’s just too good and wins at the immunity challenge. This is his third solo immunity win. It’s the most of any player this season and further evidence it’s his game to lose.
Because Ricard is immune, tribal council becomes a battle of Danny vs. Deshawn. Thinking he is going, Deshawn starts drama (Whom among us …) and calls out Erika for saying she may not take Heather to the final tribal. The man is messy! Both Ricard and Erika are unhappy with his antics and make clear he’s essentially turned himself into a target. But the vote still goes to a 3-3 split between Deshawn and Danny. In a revote, Danny goes home.
There’s still a ton of gameplay before a winner is crowned. As Probst mentions to the Final Five, they’re heading off to restart on a new island where over the next three days, they’ll have two immunity challenges and tribal councils followed by a fire-making tie-breaker and finally a winner. It’s fun to muse where everyone’s gameplay stands, so here are my predictions for who will likely win it all — ranked in order.
Among the remaining résumés, he’s the most hirable. Ricard has three individual immunities and a major blindside in Shan’s exit. I can’t think of a player or jury member who he angered, so there really isn’t a case against crowning him. Plus, Shan already publicly backed him, which could mean she’s advocating for him on Ponderosa. Unless the remaining players take him out in the next two immunity challenges, I don’t see a situation in which Ricard loses at the final immunity.
If Ricard is eliminated in the remaining two immunity tribals, do not count out Erika. The runway for Erika to land a victory is long. She has one immunity win under her belt, which is more than Deshawn or Heather has. Plus, there’s her memorable hourglass smash and execution on the Shan blindside. She’s great at carrying out a plan, which not every player can claim. Plus, everyone keeps saying how smart of a gamer she is.
For Erika’s game, she’ll likely want to get Luvu back together. She has a great story to tell the jury if she can get Ricard and Xander out at the next two tribals. Though she’s concerned about differentiating herself from Heather, I think the jury will see their gameplays as different. As Erika notes this week, there is also a sizable push on the island and among certain viewers at home to see a woman win. I think it just might be her.
Xander is the underdog who could come out on top. Even though he’s always been a physical and strategic threat, he remained at the bottom until Shan’s exit. Certainly, his fake idol play toward Liana is a point in his direction. He also has an individual immunity and the ability to say he never used his idol. That’s impressive.
Then there’s his strategy by keeping Ricard around as a shield. When everyone targets Ricard, they’re not targeting Xander. He explains this move to Danny this week as justification for why he went back on his word of voting out Ricard last week. Feasibly, Xander has two more chances to take Ricard out before eyes turn to him. If he keeps Ricard another week and then beats him in the last immunity challenge, Xander has a fantastic and successful strategy to sell at the final tribal. The question is can he take out Ricard before Ricard turns on him?
It seems like Deshawn might’ve blown his odds this week. He even says at tribal, “It’s going to be a tough road to get to the end regardless.” Even if he makes it to the end, I can’t see where the jury will give him the win. He hasn’t won an immunity, and he might’ve alienated allies on the jury with his truth bomb about Erika. Xander even called it a “truth kamikaze” while voting.
Deshawn’s had an up-and-down season. His impassioned speeches the last two weeks endear him to many players, but his ardency proved irksome to others. Remember that Shan didn’t like that she had to appease his opinions on who to vote for and called him a “snake.” Deshawn doubles down when Survivor is a game of mobility. But his biggest blow came from Tiffany. Watching Danny leave this week, she said to Evvie, “I didn’t want to see him go.”
All this said, Deshawn has been a huge presence the second half of this season. If he can snag an individual immunity win (or two) next week, there’s a path forward.
Unfortunately, I’m struggling to come up with a way for Heather to take it all. Survivor wants to reward those who take ownership for big moves, but Heather hasn’t spearheaded any vote-outs. Certainly, we aren’t seeing every conversation Heather is having, so for all we know she could be making decisions we’re not aware of. However, from an audience and possible jury standpoint, Heather will have to prove that there was more to her gameplay than what audiences are aware of.
Sia Award: Shan or Danny
The easy answer for a fan-favorite is Shan. I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed to see her get Sia’s honor. She played with integrity, honesty, and skill. Shan is a new Survivor great.
There’s also a case for Danny. They were both personable players who won individual immunities. Specifically, Danny was humble and honest. He brought mature masculinity that wasn’t staunch or toxic. He appeared level-headed and thankful for this experience. I enjoyed the energy he brought to the show, and it should be rewarded.