This week’s episode is pretty standard Survivor fare, which might seem disappointing after last week’s lively season premiere. But don’t mistake quiet for uneventful. Often the series gets caught up in introducing new advantages (we do have one in this episode) or documenting disasters (there was an actual earthquake in season nine on Vanuatu). So it’s nice for once to simply hang with the castaways who are distinctly in their Lorde “Solar Power” music-video era: no phones and nothing to do. Just sandy-beach vibes.
And Brad lying in the woods. Usually when there’s a big elimination — like last week’s double elimination that saw Ua bidding Sara adieu and Yase blindsiding Abraham — there’s a dramatic fallout. But this episode was surprisingly minimal. Just Brad, who received a vote at tribal council, spying on Ricard and JD chatting at the well.
The problem is Brad tells Shan about his hideout, unaware that Shan is Ricard’s No. 1 bestie. So, naturally, she spills on Brad’s spy sesh. Obviously, this annoys Ricard, and he trash-talks Brad. And that’s what you missed on Ua!
The other benefit of not much going on in the Survivor world is you finally get to connect with previously overlooked castaways. So we spend some time on the Luvu camp as Naseer proves he’s essential to the tribe and shows us his skills in making fire and chopping down breadfruits. As Sydney notes, this makes him a threat. Surprisingly, though, they’re not thinking of voting him off so soon. I’m excited to see more of Naseer’s journey from here. He seems nice!
Let’s complete our camp visits over at Yase, where Xander, the nice young guy, is proving himself to be, well, a bit naïve. Having scored an advantage last week, he successfully finds the new “Beware” advantage that Jeff Probst hid in a tree last episode.
And now I must issue my first (and hopefully last) Survivor correction of the season. Last week, I called it the “Be Aware” advantage. Alas, it’s not. It’s the “Beware” advantage. Clearly, as your humble recapper, I need to be more aware of my Survivor-isms.
The advantage turns out to be quite interesting, as Xander reads to us while wearing a fun tropical polo. (Where’s the Gossip Girl Closet Instagram account for Survivor? I want that polo. Can someone tell me where they get these athleisure ’fits?)
Anyway, back to the hidden advantage. According to the instructions, if he takes the advantage, he must follow the directions. If he doesn’t want to, he can leave it in hiding. Of course, Xander takes the advantage and learns it’s a new three-way-shared hidden immunity idol. There’s one on every tribe beach. However, it only goes into effect once the other idols are found and their owners say a secret phrase at the immunity challenge. Until all three secret phrases are said at the same challenge, its owners have no votes at tribal council.
He decides to share his news with allies Voce and Evvie … except he’s not as close with Evvie as he thinks. She correctly points out Survivor has a history of women who make it to the end with a male ally only not to receive credit for their big moves. Evvie will NOT be the Amanda to Xander’s Todd (Season 15 Survivor: China stans, that reference was for you). So Evvie takes Xander’s info to Tiff and Liana, and they form an all-women alliance. *Shania Twain voice* Let’s go, girls.
Suddenly it’s day five and we’re at our first water challenge of the season. Water challenges are a big deal because they show who the true athletes are. Water is scary, and not everyone is attuned to traverse it. Before the competition, Xander says his wonky immunity-idol phrase (it’s about butterflies), but no one says anything back.
As for the challenge, it’s pretty simple: Dive to grab a key, swim to and traverse a beam in the water, and complete a puzzle. Fortunately, only one team is going to tribal council this week. The challenge is pretty standard. Luvu continues its winning streak, while Ua is safe in second. Unfortunately for Yase, Tiff struggles on the water beam and the team is sent to the tribal council.
But first, Luvu must send two players off on a journey. They pick Evvie, Deshawn volunteers as tribute, and together they head off only to arrive at the risk-or-protect-your-vote island. Evvie seizes the chance to make an alliance outside her tribe and wisely tells Deshawn to risk his vote because she can’t risk hers given the precarious situation with the impending Yase tribal council. This means he’s guaranteed a vote and she’s received a friend.
But Evvie doesn’t stop there. She keeps chatting and informs Deshawn of the three-way hidden immunity idol. “I’ll reveal some things, but mostly other people’s secrets,” she says during her talking head. Not Evvie spilling the queer handbook to CBS’s straight viewers! It’s still early, but Evvie is playing a good game. Whether she’ll be able to make it to the merge and beyond is still unclear. But right now she and Shan are sitting prettiest.
Back at camp Yase, Voce tries to convince Liana to go with him and Xander and vote out Tiff. Liana plays along but later reaffirms her all-women alliance with Tiff and Evvie. They want Xander out. He can’t vote, and he’s got the most tricks up his sleeve.
Going into tribal council, it seems pretty cut-and-dried. Either Xander or Tiff is headed home. And the third person voted out of Survivor 41 is … Voce.
Gasp! Tiff managed to convince Evvie and Liana to play it safe in case Xander had an immunity idol and put their votes on Voce. (What’s that biblical saying? No weapon formed against Tiff shall prosper?) It was a smart move by Tiff to target Voce, but it wasn’t necessary, as Xander didn’t have an idol to play. Evvie knew that, so it’s clear she’s solidifying her alliance over taking the opportunity to cut out a big player. Only time will tell if that’s the right choice.
After years (and last week’s season premiere) of Survivor relying on tricks to foster compelling story lines, it’s refreshing to have an episode during which we sit back and watch the castaways work through the machinations of surviving on an island together. We don’t need elaborate twists when we have contestants like Evvie.