Survivor 41: Final 6 Power Rankings

I wasn’t expecting the battle lines to be so firmly drawn. Yet, that was the situation last episode, as in the aftermath of Shan’s blindside — a blindside which 6 people were a part of, a foursome of Ricard/Xander/Erika/Heather emerged, with Xander remarking early in the episode as to how happy he was to finally be in the majority alliance.

I expected Liana to return to Danny and Deshawn’s side despite being the only person left out of the Shan vote because there was seemingly nowhere else for her to go, but I had no idea it would be so difficult for Danny and Deshawn to work with anyone else, as it seemed like the Final 7 would be a real power struggle between the duo and Ricard, fighting to bring in the remaining players to their side.

Yet, the remaining Black players found themselves squarely on the bottom as Xander saw value in keeping Ricard in the game as a shield for himself, even going as far as to play his extra vote to guarantee Ricard’s safety, and Erika similarly decided not to take the shot at Ricard. Heather presumably just followed Erika.

This episode saw the debut of the “Do or Die” twist, which I’ve seen a lot of discussion about. I understand the arguments that because players are allowed to opt-out of the immunity challenge, those who do compete are more likely to be those in danger, and so if someone is eliminated by the “game of chance”, it’s more likely to be someone on the bottom anyways.

I also get that Jeff Probst is trying to add more of these “what would you do?” types of dilemmas into the game. Still, I’m strongly opposed to the idea of people being eliminated from the game by chance, without an actual vote being held at Tribal Council. I also think we’re lucky that Deshawn ended up surviving (despite misplaying the Monty Hall problem and setting back the public’s understanding of game theory), as public perception of the twist would probably be far more negative had it actually sent someone home.

As things eventually turned out, Danny won immunity and Deshawn won safety from the vote by surviving the game of chance, making Liana, the majority alliance’s third choice, the default vote. Poor Liana — I don’t think she had a realistic chance at winning the game, but she definitely would not have gone home if that for the twist.

I also want to shout her out — and really the entire cast — for their incredibly eloquent and thoughtful discussion of race and how it impacts their lives within the game and also outside of the game. It was really a continuation of the previous episode, where Shan and Deshawn in particular really seemed to struggle over how to play the game and whether to do what was best for them individually or what would be best for the Black community they represent as a whole.

There’s only one episode left before the finale — here’s how I rank each remaining castaway’s chances at winning the game.

6. Heather

Surely, Heather’s going to finish with the fewest amount of screen time for anyone that has ever reached Final Tribal Council, right?

Even with just seven players remaining, Heather remained a ghost in this episode, and perhaps even worse than that, as she gave an answer at Tribal Council that drew a clearly unimpressed reaction from the jury, just in case you thought there was even the slightest chance anyone over there respected her gameplay.

Heather remains everyone’s goat — she will not be voted out of this game, and she will be the last-place finalist. I remember a few episodes ago where she said that something to the effect of that she knew she was on the bottom but was content with her spot for the time being. My question is, will it ever be time to make a move?

Maybe she just wants to prove she can survive for the whole 26 days, which is fine. It just won’t win her one million dollars.

5. Xander

I’m going to begin by saying that I believe all five of the remaining players on this list have a real chance to win the game and that many of their positions are interchangeable depending on your assumptions.

If you believe that Xander has a strong chance of winning should he reach the Final Tribal Council, I could see him placing as high as #2 on this list. However, I’m much more skeptical.

Xander certainly believes he’s the second-biggest threat left in the game after Ricard, and that at least in the Final 7, he needed to keep Ricard safe, or else people would come for him immediately afterward.

But is that really true? Time and time again, Xander has been able to survive votes without needing to play his immunity idol. He hasn’t even been seen as a serious target at the last two Tribal Councils, and it seems more and more like since his former Yase alliance-mates of Tiffany and Evvie were voted out, the tribe has been relatively content to let him meander along as a free agent. And let’s not forget that Tiffany and Evvie have said that the whole thwarting of Liana’s Knowledge is Power advantage was their idea, leaving Xander really without a signature strategic move.

However, I think an even more important response to the argument that he needed to keep Ricard safe in order to keep the target off his back is this: does keeping the target off your back really matter at this point?

No, seriously. We’re now at the Final 6. If we still have a fire-making contest at the Final 4, that means there are only two more votes left, and Xander still has an idol. That means, should he be willing to play his idol at the Final 6 if he is vulnerable, Xander just needs to win one of the next two immunity challenges to guarantee his spot in the Final 4. And, by the way, it’s still not guaranteed he’d even be the next target if Ricard is gone.

But you know what Ricard being gone would do? It would make it easier for Xander to win immunity, as Ricard has already won three individual challenges. It would also keep Liana in the game, someone Xander likely can beat at the end. It would also allow Xander to have kept his extra vote, which really made no sense for him to use at the Final 7 anyways.

The final vote tally last episode was 5 for Liana and 3 for Ricard, with Xander voting for Liana twice. He put two votes on Liana as a safeguard against Erika flipping and voting for Ricard. However, that would still make the vote 4–4, not even guaranteeing Liana goes home, AND it relies on Erika making that move by herself and not with Heather, which seems highly unlikely.

Now, had he not played his extra vote and flipped, sending Ricard home 4–3, he could have had a legitimate claim at being the person that took out Ricard and still had two advantages to help him navigate the upcoming votes. That seems like a much stronger position for Xander to be in, whereas now, Ricard is such an obvious threat that it will be difficult for any individual person to get the credit for taking him out.

It’s counterintuitive, but I think Xander really needed to raise his threat level, and that didn’t happen.

4. Deshawn

Brutal episode for Deshawn, who was my #1 contender in each of the previous two weeks.

It began by him confronting Ricard following the vote in an attempt to alert the rest of the tribe to Ricard’s status as the frontrunner moving forward. However, by Deshawn’s own admission, it went terribly.

He also found himself on the bottom after Xander, Erika, and Heather all sided with Ricard following the vote, establishing a solid four, at least for this episode. This was more than surprising, as I thought the partnership of Deshawn and Danny had a chance to bring in all of those people to take out Ricard.

This made Deshawn the #1 target for this episode. Or, I should say, it would have if Deshawn hadn’t accidentally gotten a huge break by earning immunity through the game of chance as part of the Do or Die twist (and again, he even played that incorrectly, just getting lucky).

But Deshawn falling down to #4 is about more than just him nearly getting sent home — after all, Danny was also on the wrong side of the vote this week, and *spoiler* I have him as the top contender to win the game right now.

It’s Deshawn’s chances of winning at Final Tribal Council that seem to have taken a major decline. Upon her elimination, Shan called him a snake, and he’s been caught lying by Ricard without being willing to admit he’s been lying.

Deshawn clearly made a mess of the post-Shan vote situation, and it seems like he may have lost some respect from the tribe. Let’s also remember that he’s betrayed Evvie and Xander, although it’s unclear how negatively they took it.

This whole game, Deshawn has been someone eager to make big moves, but he’s also really executed his own big move. And for someone praised for his strategic thinking and social game, he’s been a major target at multiple votes.

In the immediate future, I think Deshawn is still in a good position to team up with Danny/Erika/Heather next episode against Ricard/Xander, but out of the three possible winners in that foursome (himself, Danny, and Erika), I think Deshawn might be both the least likely to win at the end and the most likely to be voted out before the Final 4. Not a great spot, although he still very much has a shot at this thing.

3. Ricard

Ricard has been a force this season, and I’ve loved watching him navigate the game. He’s had several incredible moves, but getting through this vote has to be near the top.

I thought he was easily the most likely person to be voted out this week (which would have benefited everyone in my opinion), yet here he is. Ricard was able to pull Xander, Erika, and Heather to his side at the Final 7 AND even get Xander to play his extra vote to keep him alive.

Of course, there are still major downsides to the situation. Xander and Erika both stated during the episode that Ricard is the biggest threat to win the game, so it seems like that’s common knowledge to everyone moving forward. Again, we’re only two votes away from the Final 4, meaning Ricard has the option of just winning the next two immunities, something he’s capable of doing.

However, it’s more likely that he’ll need to pull *something* off to get through at least one more vote while vulnerable. I think his best bet is to convince his new alliance that Deshawn and Danny remain big threats, and work to take one of them out at the Final 6. Could Xander, with his idol, go along with that, and hope to take Ricard out at 5 or the fire-making challenge? I could definitely see it. Erika and Heather seem like a more difficult bet, though.

In my head, even if Ricard manages to escape the next vote, I just don’t see he wouldn’t be taken out at the Final 5 if vulnerable. Really, it seems like he should be a unanimous vote at any possible opportunity from here on out. I do not think anyone can beat him at the end. But you can never count out Ricard — this last episode proved it.

2. Erika

I could give you 1,000+ words on Erika’s decisions and position in the game — I really think she’s probably the most interesting person to talk about right now.

Let me start by saying that I don’t think this was the best move for Erika. She had two options — take out Liana, or flip with Heather to take out Ricard.

There are pros and cons to each decision. Taking out Liana leaves Ricard in the game, meaning there is someone who is a definitively better threat than Erika. It also lets her and Heather play the middle again at the Final 6, effectively getting to choose between Deshawn/Danny and Ricard/Xander, who will at least begin the episode as a pair (we’ll see where Xander ends up). This also means the threesome of Danny/Deshawn/Liana is split up, which I understand is very appealing, as they could all work together to reach at least the Final 4.

However, here’s where I would propose an alternative because I believe there are larger benefits to taking out Ricard (and having that move on your resume) and keeping Liana, someone you can probably beat at the end.

Xander played his extra vote last Tribal Council because he wanted to keep the target off of his back in the future. I think Erika’s best move (and who knows, maybe she tried this) would have been to promise Xander a spot in the Final 4 with the following pitch: take out Ricard now, and save the extra vote. Now at the Final 6, you have the numbers (Erika/Heather/Xander x2) and can take out either Danny or Deshawn. Then, at the Final 5, Erika/Heather/Xander can take out the other member of the Danny/Deshawn duo with Liana as the backup plan in case that person wins immunity. And even if Xander is nervous about being betrayed, he has an idol to play at the Final 5 anyways.

It seems like a pretty perfect plan to me that gets both Erika and Xander into the Final 4 with the best chances to win the game from that point. If that type of plan gets put into motion, Erika ends up #1 on this list by a considerable margin.

But even with Liana in the game, Erika has a strong path moving forward. At the Final 6, if Ricard and Xander don’t win immunity, I think Xander having played his extra vote leads to an incredibly easy vote split. Danny, Deshawn, Erika, and Heather can put two votes on both Ricard and Xander, flush Xander’s idol, and send one of them packing.

Erika having a built-in ally in Heather and being in the middle while not having a huge target on her back makes it unlikely that she gets sent home before the Final 4.

Should she reach the Final Tribal Council, Erika will have made a few moves, been viewed as a strategic threat by most of the players in the game, and should be next to Heather guaranteeing her at least second place. After an extremely quiet pre-merge, Erika could really pull this off now.

I would rank the people she’d want to be the last member of that Final 3 as follows: Xander, Deshawn, Danny, Ricard.

1. Danny

What am I missing? I’ve been higher on Danny than most all season long, but now I really think he is the clear frontrunner, despite not hearing anyone else mention him as such.

Let’s look at the situation. Danny is still pitching a perfect game — no one has voted for him all season long, and if he reaches the Final Tribal Council with that still intact, that’s a major feather in his cap.

But even outside of the perfect game, Danny is now into the Final 6 with a clear bigger target in Ricard. We’ve seen all season long that Deshawn has drawn more attention than he has, and that could continue moving forward. Plus, Deshawn losing favor with the injury only improves Danny’s case, and I now think he is a clear favorite to beat Deshawn at the end.

And as for the next few votes, I don’t think Danny will be a significantly bigger target than either Xander or Erika will be. Danny could also win immunity, as he showed last episode. He’s played a strong, loyal game, where he’s mostly always been on the right side of the numbers.

He also seems to be possibly the most likable member of the cast — at least in terms of the remaining players. I think Ricard is the only person that would be favored against Danny at the end, and it’s difficult to imagine them both going all the way.

What’s going against Danny? I’ve said it before, but I disagree that he isn’t a strategic player — it’s just that Deshawn has always been the more vocal member of that partnership. If you’re playing from the top, you don’t need huge moves to build your resume. But even so, he was a part of the Shan vote and will be a part of the Ricard vote if that comes to fruition.

Now, Ricard may determine Danny is a bigger threat than Deshawn and work to take Danny out next. It’s also possible that if Ricard goes at the Final 6, Danny will be seen as the person to beat by the remaining players.

But I don’t think anyone has an exceptional chance at winning. I just think Danny has the best chance right now.

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Sportswriter. Researcher @NFL. Host of the Slept On Sports podcast. Relentlessly curious. My book: amzn.to/398nYk6.

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Connor Groel

Connor Groel

Sportswriter. Researcher @NFL. Host of the Slept On Sports podcast. Relentlessly curious. My book: amzn.to/398nYk6.

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