Survivor 41 recap: Butterflies, broccoli, and AstroTurf
Survivor has taught me many things over the past 21 years. It has taught me that a baseball cap with an orange bill is a dope-ass look that should be sported on as many occasions as possible. It has taught me that real true "strength" is being able to solve a puzzle, even if players still don't seem to grasp that concept. And it has taught me that if you want to succeed in the game in the year 2021, the one thing you do not want to do is force people to call you by your last name. First, Abraham (which is to say, Eric) and now Voce (which is to say, David).
It's as if the Yase tribe looked at these two and was all, "Oh, you too good for your first name? Do you have delusions of becoming the next Penner or Cochran dancing in your head? Yeah, we can take care of that, no problem. Here's a ticket to Snuff City. Enjoy! Are we on a first-name basis NOW?"
To be fair, David should not have been voted out of this game. I mean, it was obvious he was about to be voted out as soon as a raspy-sounding Jeff Probst — who apparently started smoking five packs of Marlboros a day during quarantine — out of nowhere started asking the neurosurgeon about his background so we could get to know him a bit approximately 90 seconds before he left our TV screens forever. But it still shouldn't have been him, and I'm as confused as a goat on AstroTurf as to why it was. I saaaaaaaaaid, "I'm as confused as a goat on AstroTurf as to why it was…"
No…? Nothing…? No idol? Are we still waiting for someone to tell us how broccoli is just a bunch of small trees? As an aside — Oh, who are we kidding? This entire recap is one elongated aside — I love the idea of forcing the contestants to say ridiculous things. FUN FACT! Back in season 8 (Survivor: All-Stars), my fellow members of the press and I that went on location in Panama actually came up with random words (DEET was one) that we had to figure out how to work into our articles. Since my articles generally make no sense to begin with, I definitely had the upper hand in that department. Sorry, Cynthia Wang! Tough noogies for you, Shawna Malcom!
But here's what I'm trying to say about David. He should still be there, because there is no way Tiffany should have been calling the shots on that elimination. Tiffany should have been bowing down at the feet of Liana and Evvie, thanking them for keeping her after that immunity challenge performance in which she was lapped by both teams on the balance beam while doing her best Ryan Aiken and Daniel Lue impersonation (look it up, kids). Instead, she hounded, pestered, and annoyed the other women beyond belief while moving the target from Xander to David out of fear that Xander had an idol.
Look, it would have been Tiffany's neck on the line if he did, so in that sense, I get it. But Survivor is a situational game, and this situation told us that Tiffany should be thankful for being saved by two women and not push her luck. Plus, there was a strategic reason for taking out Xander, because now Xander is still in the game, and while he does not currently have a vote, what if he does later? And then there's his extra vote and a potential immunity idol to contend with, and then the tribes swap, and then he wants revenge. I realize that is a hell of a lot of thens, but that's the way you have to think on Survivor.
There was much more value to taking out Xander here than David. Evvie knew it. That's why she targeted him to begin with and then told Deshawn EVERY SINGLE THING about him, including which vaccination shot he got, his mother's maiden name, and the identity of his favorite Backstreet Boy (it's Howie). And Liana knew it. That's why she looked like she wanted to run away from Tiffany like a dead relative or butterfly every time the latter attempted to explain why it made so much more sense to take out David. (Narrator: It didn't.)
But Evvie and Liana clearly couldn't take it anymore, so their choices came down to ousting either David or Tiffany herself. While it may appear as if this was a big power move for Tiffany, it wasn't. For one thing, she was proven wrong about Xander having an idol, and she frustrated the hell out of her allies, uselessly burning social currency like it was kindling in a failed Deshawn fire-making attempt. We'll see if Evvie and Liana rue the day they bonded with Tiffany instead of the fellas. Considering Evvie was my episode 1 pick to win it all, I certainly hope not. Okay, everyone, grab a bowl of small trees as we hit on the other big moments from episode 2 of Survivor 41.
Clueless (and Not the Alicia Silverstone Kind)
Here's the thing about a Spy Shack™. Or a Spy Bunker™. Or a Spy Nest™. For it to work, other players can't know about it. Which brings us to Brad, the same guy who announced that Shan or Sara should be voted out first… to Shan and Sara. As soon as I saw that, I thought to myself: "This guy is gold. Clueless gold."
It's one of the most underappreciated aspects of a great Survivor cast. Yes, we want the hardcore gamers who know the show inside out and can take it to the next level through dynamic playmaking. Yes, we also want likeable folks with interesting backstories worth rooting for. Yes, we also want villains who will shake things up not through abhorrent personal behavior, but rather through devious game tactics. But the other type of contestant that is so much fun to watch is the player who has no idea what the hell they're doing. Think Keith Nale just kind of delightfully winging his way through things, or Woo Hwang allowing himself to be manipulated into bringing Tony Vlachos to the end. That's TV gold.
Speaking of which… Brad's brilliant idea this week was to essentially record a terrible cover version of Tony Vlachos' Greatest Hits and spy on JD and Ricard at the water well. But before he could make like a gangly, well-coiffed Usain Bolt down the beach to stake out his spot, Brad decided to tell Genie and Shan exactly where he was going and what he was doing, making his venture perhaps the least successful intelligence mission since Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd's in Spies Like Us.
Sure enough, Shan reported right back to Ricard, and the only thing I want in the world right now is for the rest of the Ua tribe to start staging tons of totally fake conversations by the water well to lead a hidden Brad into thinking all sorts of nonsensical nonsense. Sample conversation below:
RICARD: "Hey, everyone. Guess what? I found a hidden clue back at camp."
SHAN: "Really? That is fascinating. Tell us, Ricard: What did it say?"
RICARD: "I am so glad you asked, Shan. Let me tell you."
GENIE: "Yes, please do, Ricard. This is quite exciting."
RICARD: "It certainly is, Genie. So the note said that the idol is hidden at the next immunity challenge."
JD: "Oh my gosh. That is crazy. What a brilliant idea. Whoever thought that up must be a total genius."
SHAN: "I agree, JD. The person who dreamed up the idea of hiding idols at challenges does sound like a genius."
GENIE: "Say, I think I heard somewhere that a reporter who covers Survivor thought that up. Pretty crazy, huh?"
JD: "Wow, that is crazy, Genie. That person sounds pretty awesome. The kind of guy I certainly would give a high five to if I ever got the chance. I bet he also has lots of other awesome ideas that he in no way attempts to shove down producers' throats on a regular basis."
RICARD: "Hey, everyone. I haven't even gotten to the best part!"
SHAN: "What is the best part, Ricard? Please tell us. And if you don't mind, say it really loud. I think I have some ocean water caught in my ear and am having trouble hearing."
GENIE: "Yes, I too have ocean water caught in my ear, so please tell us loudly, Ricard."
SHAN: "What's that, Genie? I didn't hear you."
SHAN: "Ha. Ha. Just kidding, Genie. So Ricard, where is that idol anyway?"
RICARD: "I'm glad you asked, Shan. Apparently, the idol is under Jeff Probst's hat! And anybody who walks up to Jeff and removes his hat gets the idol! Isn't that incredible?"
JD: "It sure is, Ricard. I hope nobody runs over there and gets it before I do!"
RICARD: "Well, they would have to be pretty fast, JD. Someone with really long legs, I imagine."
SHAN: "Hey, everyone. Should we all head back to camp now?"
GENIE: "I think that's a great idea, Shan. Brad is probably back there asleep and we should go check on him."
The Beware Advantage
We already referenced the Beware Advantage a bit at the top, but let's get into exactly what it is and how it works. Xander found an envelope in a tree that read: "Beware Advantage. If you take it, it's yours and you must do what it says. Otherwise, leave it."
It gives you a choice, but not really. Because if you have any sense of adventure whatsoever, and if you are a newbie Survivor player who wants to have a prayer of ever being asked back to play this game again, you have to open that envelope, which is exactly what Xander did. Inside, he learned what was at stake: a three-way (not that kind of three-way — get your mind out of the gutter!) immunity idol that would only be unleashed once they all uttered super-goofy phrases at an immunity challenge together. And those phrases were…
"I truly believe that butterflies are dead relatives saying hi."
"I'm as confused as a goat on AstroTurf."
"I didn't realize this until now… broccoli is just a bunch of small trees."
As far as the phrases go, the second one is clearly the easiest to work into a conversation. Hell, it sounds like something Keith Nale would actually say! Whoever gets that one is kinda psyched. As for me, I'm psyched just to see who can work that broccoli line in, because to quote my good friend Ned Ryerson: It's a doozy. (Bing!)
But here's the best thing of all about the stupid secret phrases, and honestly, it might be the best thing Survivor has ever done: I have confirmed that the quote does not change, so Xander has to keep saying the same absurd line about butterflies being dead relatives saying hi at every single challenge. That means if people on the other tribes do not find their advantage, then he just keeps going challenge after challenge saying that same idiotic phrase over and over again. If this goes on even two or three more times, everyone is going to be like "What the f--- is wrong with this dude? Does he have brain damage?" It's so amazing! I have never in my entire Survivor-watching life been so intent on players not finding an advantage so we can bear witness to what could become the greatest television moment since Armond took a dump in a suitcase on The White Lotus.
That's the good news for us. The bad news for Xander is that he cannot vote at any Tribal Council until all three advantages are found and all three phrases are uttered, with the vote penalty ending at the merge. Man, that's a brutal hit. Especially when you are already down a tribe member (now two!) and every single vote can mean the difference between moving on or moving out. While I absolutely would have opened that envelope, had I actually known the stakes involved, I would have passed. And I certainly would not have told my tribemates about it. How many times have we seen someone burned by that? Well, whatever the number was before this week, it just increased by one.
Missing in Action
By the way, has anyone seen the monster yet?
I am titling this section after a Van Halen album in honor of Survivor challenge producer John Kirhoffer, who loves nothing more than a good rock-band reference. You all know I love a water challenge, and a water challenge this was, as players had to either swim out, dive down and retrieve a key, run across obstacles in the water, or solve a giant turtle puzzle. This time, the first two tribes won immunity as well as fishing kits. Basically, I love any challenge that features a shot of someone diving down to do something (like unclipping a key). And I also love any challenge where people are falling off things over and over, so this was basically made for me. Not made for Tiffany, perhaps, but made for me.
After Luvu took first place and Ua followed in second, the winners were informed they had to pick two people to go on a journey and make a decision, so Luvu selected Evvie from Yase and then Deshawn volunteered to send himself. Like last week, the "journey" consisted of the two having to hike all the way up a mountain only to walk back down, but the conversation that took place during that hike was very different, as this time Evvie pretty much gave away the entire store. I appreciate what she was trying to do in making an ally in Deshawn, but what happens if Deshawn has no interest in aligning with Evvie — which in Survivor is a very real possibility?
Not only did Evvie tell Deshawn all about how the idols work this season, what with the broccoli and the butterflies and all, but she also told him how Xander had one and can't vote for now, and also has an extra vote once he can use it. And then she told Deshawn she would be protecting her vote so he should risk his to get an extra vote to use whenever he wants.
So now that Evvie gave him all that info, let's play this out. Evvie gets back to camp only to discover that Tiffany has gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and is insisting they now keep Xander. Xander and Evvie both make it to either a tribe swap or a merge (because the tribe wins immunity or there is an early swap). Now Evvie and Xander have to work together because they are down in numbers at the swap or merge, but Deshawn has the info about everything Xander has and does not have. Plus, Deshawn has an extra vote to use against them so he and his tribal allies can stay Luvu strong.
Will that all happen? Probably not, but it very easily could. In fact, the first part of it (which Evvie never saw as a possibility) already did. Loose lips sink ships in this game, and I hope my winner pick's ship did not just get sunk by the verbal diarrhea that took place. Although I suppose in the game of Survivor verbal diarrhea is preferable to #SevereGastrointestinalDistress. Either way, if I am Deshawn in that situation, I'm feeling like I just hit the Survivor jackpot. Now it's time to see if he can cash in.
Another One Bites the Dust
Yes, another rock band reference as section title. (That's a bonus for you, Kirhoffer!) We've already gotten into Tiffany's post-challenge performance in moving the vote off of Xander being even worse than her actual performance in the challenge, but we still needed to head to Tribal Council to make the blunder official, which we did courtesy of Probst staring us in the face and explaining, "The players are about to walk in…"
I joked about Probst's smoky, sexy morning voice earlier in the recap, but the truth is… I love it. Not in some weird, creepy way (well… maybe), but I love it because of what it means. It means we have a host who is so super engaged in the action that he is murdering his own vocal cords in the process. Go back and watch the way Probst called that immunity challenge: There were veins bulging in his neck as he implored Tiffany over that balance beam. The dude was so caught up in the moment and so invested in the outcome. That is exactly what you want in a host. The dude gives 100 percent.
While I am giving Probst props, I'd also like to give a shout-out to my man Xander for being such a cagey bastard. I'm not referring to his finding of the Beware Advantage, but rather the way he recognized an opportunity at Tribal Council to guarantee himself a few more seconds of airtime. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that Probst loves more than a player reinforcing a theme they are trying to push in a season, so when Xander gamely repeated Probst's "Drop the four, keep the one" line (I don't even understand what that means, by the way), there was no chance that moment would end up on the editing room floor. Well played, Xander. Definitely keep an eye on this guy next time Applebee's shows up as a reward-feast sponsor or Adam Sandler has a terrible new movie to promote.
In any event, thanks to Tiffany's paranoia, it was David, not Xander, voted out, marking yet another early exit for a Survivor superfan. The track record for such players is, unfortunately, not strong. That bums me out because when a person who obsesses over the game and fulfills the dream of landing on the show gets cut so early, it can be a pretty big blow.
As David said himself, "It's a big letdown to be out this early in the game." While I am sure there was massive, massive disappointment over having his torch snuffed on day 5, I hope time has healed some of those wounds and that David is able to focus on the incredible accomplishment of even making it onto the show. He is now part of the show's history, certainly not in the way he wanted or envisioned, but part of its history nonetheless. Thousands of others would kill for that opportunity. Well, maybe not kill. That seems a bit extreme, but you know what I'm getting at.
Look at me! Getting all emotional and stuff! It must be all those tearjerker backstory packages getting to me. DAMN YOU, BLATANT NETWORK EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION!!! All right, I better wrap this up before I start shedding tears all over my keyboard. But if you liked the episode and would like to see even more, then enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from the show that we'll be adding at the top of the recap right after the west coast airing ends. Also make sure to keep your eyes peeled for my exit interview with David Voce, which should be up Thursday morning. For even more nonsense, you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss, where I say a bunch of garbage which may or may not be of interest. As always, it's been a pleasure, and I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.
- Sara Wilson on why she did not use her Shot in the Dark on Survivor 41
- Eric Abraham reacts to being the first person voted out of Survivor 41
- Jeff Probst answers Survivor 41 season premiere burning questions
- Survivor 41 season premiere recap: Welcome back, old friend
- Did Survivor already read the season 41 winner votes?