Survivor 41: Finale Preview/Power Rankings

“Drop the 4, Keep the 1.” That’s been this season’s mantra, but at this point, it’s probably more appropriate to just add them together, as we’ve reached the Final 5 that will compete for the $1 million on Wednesday’s season finale.

And I have to be honest — at this point, I’m really rooting for Ricard to take this thing down. He’s been one of my favorites all season and one of the best Survivor players we’ve seen in their first appearance on the show in a while. Obviously, those are great reasons to root for him.

But also, (sorry to the other remaining players), he seems like the only deserving winner left, in my opinion. This jury consists of so many great players that could have made excellent winners — from Tiffany and Evvie to Shan and Danny. Even Naseer would’ve made for a great story and Liana was one of the players with the highest potential entering the merge.

Now, we’re left with Deshawn, who has repeatedly tanked his game in the last several episodes, and the trio of Erika, Xander, and Heather, who have all basically hitched themselves to Ricard in the hopes of eventually voting him out and then being the best of the rest at the end. And there’s a fairly high chance either Erika or Xander wins that way, but it’s just not very exciting.

I’m sure there’s a lot that we haven’t seen — after all, a few days get condensed to 40 minutes of television. But I think it’s fair to say that there hasn’t been a major move in this game executed by any of the remaining players that aren’t named Ricard.

This last episode saw Ricard win immunity and the four that voted together to take out Liana stick together again to vote off Danny, who I had as my leading contender in last week’s power rankings. I still think that Danny would have had the best chance to win if Ricard didn’t win immunity, as that would have almost definitely resulted in Ricard being voted out.

However, that didn’t happen, and now Ricard seems like the favorite to win the season. But there’s still a lot to discuss — does Erika really think Heather could beat her at the end? Why didn’t people vote for Xander at the Final 6? And what does each person’s path to a win look like? Let’s dive in.

5. Heather

Congratulations to Heather on making the finale. Even at the Final 6, we didn’t hear anything in terms of strategy from Heather, although she did get more screen time than usual and had a good conversation with Deshawn about race that served as an extension of the previous Tribal Council.

One of the more baffling conversations of the season came between Deshawn and Erika in this episode, where Deshawn tried to convince Erika that she couldn’t sit next to Heather at the end (something Erika actually seemed to buy, and then argue that if Heather wasn’t thinking the same about her, that it meant Heather thought she could beat Erika).

I think this conversation was probably just both parties trying to get the other to believe something that wasn’t true, but it still made for interesting TV and became the focus of Deshawn’s “truth bomb” at Tribal Council.

Heather has spent her entire game pretty content with not being a leader or a focal point in strategic conversations. She’s mostly been on the right side of the numbers but has also been viewed as someone that you want to take to the end, because, honestly, how can Heather win this game?

But now that we’re at the Final 5, let’s make that scenario happen. What would a Heather win require? I think it starts with Ricard being taken out at the Final 5, and then Erika losing the Final 4 fire-making duel. I just don’t think Heather can beat Erika, someone who has been viewed as strategic and potentially dangerous by most of the cast.

That leaves us with a Final 3 of Heather, Deshawn, and Xander. She’s probably still 3rd here, but here’s the case. Deshawn has been seen at times as a liar, unpredictable, and untrustworthy. Shan and Liana also seem to be harboring grudges against him from their Ponderosas. He could completely fall flat.

Then there’s Xander, who I think wins in this Final 3 combo, but still hasn’t made a big move by himself (that Final 12 idol play was Tiffany and Evvie’s idea). His best thing going for him is never needing to play his idol, but is that just because he isn’t seen as a threat? If the former-Yase members really don’t want him to win, I guess they could give it to Heather, who would be a female winner. I just don’t see it, personally.

4. Deshawn

Less than one month ago, it looks as if the alliance of Shan, Liana, Danny, and Deshawn had a chance of making it all the way to the Final 4.

Now, Deshawn is the only member of that alliance left, and his path to a win seems less likely than ever (although, still very possible).

Deshawn has clearly faced some emotional dilemmas in this game, but even outside of the Shan vote (which, knowing how tight of a four-person alliance ended up forming between Ricard/Xander/Erika/Heather now seems like a clear mistake), he’s made some real errors — first, with whatever his blow-up with Ricard was that seemed to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths, then with lying to Ricard and being unwilling to admit it when called out, and finally with his “truth-bomb”, announcing at the last Tribal Council that Erika said she can’t go to the end with Heather.

This “bomb” did a few things — it’s probably severed his ties with Erika and Heather for good, and it makes him look even more erratic in front of a jury where he’ll already struggle to gain votes from Shan and Liana, who still seem quite bitter, and Evvie, who probably also is upset that Deshawn voted her out.

Obviously, Deshawn can’t sit next to Ricard at the end and will want to be next to Heather. The question then becomes, who is Deshawn more likely to beat — Erika or Xander? I think I lean towards Erika, who could run into some issues with having played a very similar game to Heather. Additionally, I think Deshawn is better off surrounding himself with other Luvus while Xander had to survive a few extra votes in the pre-merge and play from behind in the post-merge.

Still, Deshawn might not even get a chance at making the Final Tribal Council. If Ricard wins immunity at the Final 5, Xander will play his idol, and I still think Deshawn is more likely to be targeted than Erika, although I’m not 100% confident in that statement.

3. Xander

Still with an idol, Xander is guaranteed a spot in the Final 4, which is a tremendous achievement considering where he began the post-merge. He will not be voted out of this game.

There are a few major questions surrounding Xander’s game. The biggest one, obviously, is how much credit is he going to potentially get from the jury? One of the weirdest parts of the season is how Xander hasn’t been targeted since the Final 11.

I think we’ve seen a general reluctance to target people with idols this season (which I stand by despite both Naseer and Shan being voted out with idols in their pockets) but even more than that, Xander making it this far without having to play his idol (especially at the Final 6, which we’ll discuss more with Erika), comes down to a combination of not being viewed as the huge threat Xander thinks he is and then garnering enough trust in recent episodes with Xander, Erika, and Heather which has left Danny and Deshawn as larger targets.

I’m still trying to figure out when Xander and Ricard became best friends, but even the secret scene from this week confirmed the bromance dynamic which has arisen seemingly out of nowhere. And while I’m sure Ricard will be buddy-buddy with anyone at this point in an effort to find numbers and not be voted out, we have to remember that Xander even played his extra vote for Ricard.

Xander is the most likely person to win immunity not named Ricard, and he’ll need to get Ricard out of the game to stand a chance at winning, whether that comes at the Final 5 or at fire-making. I still think he’ll struggle to beat Erika, who has seemed to have more agency as a swing vote and can say she orchestrated the vote split to take out Shan. That being said, I don’t think he’s a major underdog to Erika, and he’s a pretty clear favorite over Deshawn and Heather.

I think we can finally buy the Xander hype. This guy has a good chance at winning the season — he just needs to get Ricard out of this game and have a good pitch for why his moves make him a deserving winner.

2. Erika

Positionally, Erika is in a quite similar situation to Xander. It’s a little more complicated considering she doesn’t have an idol, but she’s in the Final 5 with a clear chance path to winning the game with the major threat of Ricard still around.

To rinse and repeat, the other four players need to beat Ricard at this Final 5 immunity challenge. If they do, Ricard is going home. If they don’t, the vote comes down to Erika and Deshawn, where I *think* Erika would stay, but it really depends on just how unlikeable people think Deshawn is at this point. She could definitely still end up 5th.

Assuming Ricard isn’t in the Final 3, I think Erika is the favorite over everyone remaining. I would hope she ends up next to Heather at the end. The only way this doesn’t happen is if she wins immunity at the Final 4 and then selects Heather to compete in the fire-making competition. This would be a disaster. I’m really hoping her fears about losing to Heather have been played up for TV.

Outside of Heather, I see her as a favorite over both Xander and Deshawn, but I do think her odds are a little better against Xander (I could probably be persuaded in the other direction, but that’s my read at the moment).

What I want to talk about with Erika is her decision not to go after Xander at the Final 6 and instead vote out Danny. Theoretically, she could’ve teamed up with Heather, Danny, and Deshawn to blindside Xander, sending him home with an idol in his pocket.

Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of this potential plan which was never even brought up during the episode.

On the pros side, this gives Erika a real signature move and prevents Xander from getting a free ticket to the Final 4 by simply taking him out of the game entirely. I think it makes her case as a winner stronger, and might even move the needle on an Erika/Heather/Ricard Final 3 a little bit, although I still would expect Ricard to win in that situation.

On the cons side, it raises Erika’s threat level significantly, to the point that if Ricard wins immunity at Final 5, it’s probably Erika that gets sent home rather than Danny or Deshawn. Remember, Ricard can still lose the fire-making challenge if he gets to the Final 4 and doesn’t win immunity there.

It also keeps Danny in the game over Xander. I consider Danny to be a larger threat at Final Tribal Council than Xander, which means she would be actually keeping someone more likely to beat her at the end.

Ultimately, I think it was probably a smart move for Erika to take out Danny instead of going for the flashier move. When you get this late in the game, you’re going to need to get somewhat lucky to win anyways, and I think I prefer her just needing to reach the end with two people that aren’t named Ricard and having a strong Final Tribal Council performance.

1. Ricard

It’s really not that complicated for Ricard. If he makes it to the Final 3, we can hand him the check.

His obstacles to getting there are winning immunity at the Final 5 (he’s won three immunities and an individual reward challenge so far) and either winning immunity at the Final 4 or winning the fire-making duel.

I find it interesting that for as great a strategic player as Ricard is, his challenge abilities have become perhaps his most valuable asset. If he didn’t win immunity at Final 12 after Erika rewinds time, there’s a good chance he goes home. If he doesn’t win immunity at Final 8, Danny and Deshawn are leading the charge to take him out. If he doesn’t win immunity at Final 6, he seems almost guaranteed to be voted out.

Should he win this season, though, Ricard’s biggest move will have been keeping his newfound alliance of himself, Xander, Erika, and Heather together at the Final 7, convincing the other players to vote out Liana instead of himself.

It seemed like a mistake for them all at the time but seeing that they stuck together at the Final 6 as well, maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all. They just need to take out Ricard and then either Erika or Xander probably wins. Individually, Ricard is still the favorite, but it’s not a bad position for Erika or Xander to be in, now is it?

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