Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor 41 castaways into two categories, Hot or Not, based on who they think has potential longevity in the game. Hots are indicative of castaways who we think played well this week or who are setting themselves up for success; Nots are indicative of castaways who we think didn’t and aren’t.
ALI – DESHAWN RADDEN – HOT
I’ve got to be honest; I have no idea what to think when it comes to this season, as it seems like no one is really on the same page. Here’s what I know, I am a hundred percent certain that Erika is going to shatter that hourglass this week. She should, considering she is fully aware that the rest of her tribe wants to be rid of her. Know that the rest of my rankings are going to absolutely be informed by this obvious result.
Luvus are fractured; Deshawn said it himself. The rest of the players are going to be looking to Luvu as a huge threat considering they make up the majority. It only makes sense for the former Uas and Yases to work together to pick off some Luvus. That way, they won’t have this majority group hanging over their heads. However, due to their internal cracks, folks like Erika see the writing on the wall and are going to run, not walk, to the other group.
Traditionally, early merge is the time to go after athletic men, as they can go on an immunity run later in the game. However, I think that there may be a path for Deshawn going forward due to his connections with Shan, Liana, Sydney, and Danny. I worry a little about Danny going forward for reasons I will list below. Deshawn, however, I think might be in a good spot.
GUS – DESHAWN RADDEN – NOT
Deshawn was the first to throw the concept of tribe unity to the wolves and dismiss it as an impossibility, which is pretty funny when you remember that he was one of the first (after Naseer) to start putting targets on other people’s backs within the former Luvu tribe. I don’t fault him for his caution here, but he’s chosen to immediately embrace the fracturing of what overarching bond he had going into the merge, and I fear he does it at his peril.
ALI – DANNY McCRAY – NOT
I said for Deshawn pretty much all of my thoughts for Danny, but Danny has two demerits against him that Deshawn does not. First, Danny is a former athlete, and there has been no indication that he’s hiding that fact from his tribemates. That fact alone makes him more physically intimidating than Deshawn, and we are discussing ad nauseum throughout this article that the athletic men will be in some trouble going forward. The other concern is, bless his heart, but I don’t think Danny is as good of a player as Deshawn.
Danny claimed that they decided Erika would go based on “paper, rock, scissors,” which was clearly a lie. That lie can be confirmed by the rest of the people in his challenge group, several of whom just met him and have no reason to back him up. Additionally, Danny openly expressed his concerns about a women’s alliance in front of everyone. If this were a poker game, the other players aren’t just getting a peep at Danny’s cards; he’s laid them out on the table for everyone to see. This indicates to me that Danny’s going to have trouble with the more cutthroat gameplay that comes with the merge, especially with no tribal immunity to hide behind.
I think Danny’s saving grace may be that he is looped in with a group of four, but who knows if that group of four will hang tight, especially if Danny doesn’t have the strategic chops to keep up with them.
GUS – DANNY McCRAY – NOT
Danny still thinks he’s the king of the hill. Sure, he’s safe at this very moment, but he’s liable to not be next episode should Erika choose to smash the hourglass (which I’m almost certain she’s going to do); he may well be her top target. His efforts to hide his desire to kick Erika out of the game have been milquetoast at best (rock-paper-scissors isn’t a 50-50 game of chance, it can be thrown, and he publicly lied about it!). And his openness with everyone in the world that he’s concerned about a women’s alliance will likely come back to bite him. Danny is clearly suffering the most from having been on the tribe that never had to play Survivor.
ALI – HEATHER ALDRET – NOT
I’m not sure what Heather has done to earn some of the vitriol that is coming her way during this show because we haven’t seen much of her. Sydney says she “can’t stand” Heather. Naseer called Heather “crazy.” Something must be up that we are not seeing to give Heather this label. Whether or not Heather has done anything to earn these comments, reputation in this game is everything. From what I’m seeing, Heather’s only potential moving forward in the game is as a goat.
GUS – HEATHER ALDRET – NOT
Poor Heather; the sum total of her content this week was, once again, “she’s struggling in a challenge! Look she kept trying! Good for her!” And I mean, honestly, good for her, yes! But can we please get to know her at all?
ALI – ERIKA CASPUNANAN – HOT
It was nice to see Erika come out with a bang this week. There’s zero reason not to shatter that hourglass and guarantee herself safety. Erika doesn’t owe the rest of her tribe diddly, and she definitely knows that. She’s going to guarantee herself safety and potentially endear herself to everyone she’s saved. I don’t always recommend flipping at the merge, but Erika knows she’s on the bottom, and that’s exactly the person who needs to flip like Simone Biles.
In one move, Erika’s going to rapidly improve her place in the game. Is she going to make people angry? Yeah, but they’re people who were against her anyway. She’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
GUS – ERIKA CASPUNANAN – HOT
Oh boy, oh boy. Erika gets a Hot purely by dint of her benefitting from yet another colossal twist in the game—one which Jeff himself admitted might ruffle (rustle?) some feathers. Despite her having arbitrarily been chosen as public enemy number one by her former tribe, and despite (rather, because of) her being sent to Exile to while away the days, Erika finds herself with the extraordinarily fraught and pressing choice before her of: do I let all my former tribemates who sent me here and who clearly want me voted out stay safe while I myself remain vulnerable… or do I say “haha get bent nerds,” smash this hourglass and flip the script on them while making myself safe?
What a hard choice that must be. What an enormous cost she will incur by protecting herself and making her enemies vulnerable.
ALI – NASEER MUTTALIF – NOT
Naseer is singlehandedly carrying our Inside Survivor draft team. We’ve lost literally everyone else. So, first, I want to say thank you to Naseer for giving us an iota of hope this season. I also just love the guy. He makes me smile every time he’s on-screen. I know that he, like most of the other Luvus, is going to be in for some trouble. Overall, though, I struggled with where to put Naseer. On the one hand, I worry that he’s the only one on Luvu that actually buys the “Luvus are sticking together” narrative. He’s also singlehandedly won challenges for his tribe even when the rest of them were purposefully trying to lose.
On top of that, a ton of people know that he has an idol, thanks to the catchphrases at the challenge. People are already talking about what to do about Naseer and his idol. Naseer doesn’t quite seem aware of how dire things might be for him. Unfortunately, he also hasn’t been looped into any of the alliances that were forming this episode. There may be some hope for Naseer because he has such a great personality, but I’m definitely concerned that we may lose the last of our draft team.
GUS – NASEER MUTTALIF – HOT
Naseer thinks he’s in a better place than he is right now, but all things considered, he’s still in a fairly good place. The Luvu gang has apparently decided he’s far from the worst person to keep around. And with Danny’s obsession with preventing a women’s alliance, I expect he’ll fight hard to keep Naseer around (likely to his peril) should Naseer’s name come up as a potential target. He’s got an idol (though Liana might take it, which, ugh), and he and Xander look to have a nice burgeoning connection, perhaps nice enough that ingenuous Xander will play his idol to keep Naseer in the game if Liana decides to strike at him?
ALI – SYDNEY SEGAL – NOT
Sometimes, when people are concerned about targeting the big guys, they’ll go for the lieutenant hanging around them. Sydney fits that role for Danny and Deshawn. Danny and Deshawn’s new allies may want to get rid of Sydney in order to strengthen the ties in that group of four. If Danny and Deshawn are off the table as targets, it doesn’t leave Sydney with much of a place to hide. Not to mention, we’ve heard a few times that Sydney can be tough to live with. In Survivor, that alone can put a target on a person.
We know that Tiffany got bad vibes from Sydney, which will make Tiffany’s group more reluctant to work with her. Being perceived as a difficult person will also make it harder for Sydney to form relationships with the folks from the other tribes. She will need those connections in order to pivot as things get more intense during the game. Either that, or it can make someone the perfect person to drag to the end as a goat.
GUS – SYDNEY SEGAL – HOT
If nothing else, Sydney is cognizant of the fact that her tribe hasn’t really played Survivor thus far—and is wary of that fact. She’s likely to play cautiously in the days ahead, or at least not shoot from the hip as violently as Danny seems to be doing.
ALI – RICARD FOYE – NOT
It’s not a fabulous look to promise something to your alliance member and then start to renege on that promise. I think that Ricard has reasons to be cautious about Shan based on her behavior last episode. However, it’s a bad idea to create overt waves with her right before the merge. And make no mistake, holding onto her extra vote as long as he did created overt waves. When you’re entering the merge this down in numbers, ideally, you would have a tight alliance that will stick together moving forward.
Like I said last week, I think the Genie vote did some serious damage to the Ricard-Shan relationship. I have a hard time figuring out how they are going to smooth over the cracks that have formed to work together. If they can’t find a way forward, it’ll be too easy for the bigger groups to pick them off. We’ve already seen how quickly Shan is willing to turn on her allies the minute they make her uncomfortable. I’m worried Ricard will be next. I’m also concerned that Shan’s new alliance may mean that Ricard has become expendable to her.
GUS – RICARD FOYE – NOT
The relationship between Ricard and Shan looks like it’s going to be pivotal going forward, and the big question is whether or not it will sustain itself. I really worry that Ali was right last week that Shan has caused an irreparable schism between herself and her erstwhile tribemate. While Ricard yielding back the extra vote was the right move to try to sustain that relationship, the degree to which Shan is starting to panic when anything is out of her control might well have justified his holding on to it.
Then again, Shan might well have taken the opportunity there to vote him out. Ricard was, frankly, in a lose-lose situation this week, purely as a result of his panicky ally. And I hate to fault him for it, but what he’s got right now is a frayed relationship with his only remaining former tribemate, and that does not a Hot make.
ALI – SHAN – NOT
I really like Shan as a person, and I would absolutely go on a lighthearted walk with her. But in the game, Shan has this unfortunate habit of turning on people who are with her. It’s complex because I think that Shan and Ricard have both done things to make the other uncomfortable. Both of their feelings in this situation are valid, but neither of them is making the effort to communicate and heal the relationship. The two things that I think will be Shan’s saving grace in this situation that Ricard doesn’t have are her advantages and her relationships with Liana, Deshawn, and Danny. However, I think she had some bad plays this week that brought her stock down a little.
GUS – SHAN SMITH – NOT
This was a really tough call, but much like Liana, I think Shan is starting to turtle up in a bad way. She’s losing trust in her former teammates, she’s going all-or-nothing with Liana, Deshawn, and Danny (and I don’t think Deshawn and Danny are in a good position at all). And though she has advantages, she’s lacking in personal relationship real estate. I fear that her gameplay, hewing to pure strategy, control, and a focus on physical real estate (advantages and idols), will not benefit her in the long term.
ALI – EVVIE JAGODA – HOT
Evvie could be in a little trouble as they’re going to be up for elimination when Erika inevitably smashes that hourglass. However, I think that Evvie has enough relationships with folks like Xander, Tiffany, and Liana that people won’t be gunning for them. I’m slightly concerned that Danny may be interested in eliminating Evvie because he views them as someone interested in picking men off the season. But I do think that Liana’s going to want Evvie around enough that they will be spared from the chopping block.
GUS – EVVIE JAGODA – HOT
Evvie is (for the moment) safe, and everybody seems to like them a lot. They ate food and enjoyed it, and they did well in the challenge—but not too well. All in all, this spells out a reasonable justification for a Hot to me.
ALI – LIANA WALLACE – HOT
Ugh… I really didn’t want to give Liana a Hot this week, to be honest, but there are people I’m more concerned about right now. I’m super concerned about Liana’s ongoing fixation for Xander, and I think Tiffany shares my sentiments. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a merge with so many people on so many different pages. I know that Liana is eager to make a move, but sometimes doing less is the appropriate move early on.
However, Liana’s newfound alliance with Danny, Shan, and Deshawn saves her from getting a Not label. While she did have a slightly weird moment with Tiffany, I don’t think she had as much misstepping this week as Danny or Shan. Her new alliance rose her stock a lot more than her sparking suspicion in Tiffany. Right now, I’m thinking Liana may be in for the long haul.
GUS – LIANA WALLACE – NOT
This is a hard call, but I think Liana’s cutting off of her old alliances in exchange for pretty much a ride-or-die thing with Shan (admittedly partially Shan’s fault with her outing Liana’s advantage) will work against her in the long run. She’s prone to distrust her former allies and seems to hold eternal grudges based purely on former targeting, in the case of Xander. At the same time, she has the Make Gus Angry Advantage ™ in the form of her idol-stea. And she’s more or less guaranteed an idol whenever she wants it. But I do think that her gameplay style is trending in the direction of causing people to distrust her and potentially even hold grudges against her down the line.
ALI – XANDER HASTINGS – NOT
Being an athletic male in the merge with no genuine alliances is a terrible place to be. All eyes are going to be on getting rid of Xander because he’ll be considered a challenge threat. Xander has no one in his corner who will go to bat when those eyes shift to him. Honestly, he might be viewed as an easy vote early on. Not to mention, Xander doesn’t have a clear understanding of his position in the game. He thinks his initial tribe is a tight four when he’s clearly on the bottom. In addition to everything else working against him, Xander doesn’t have the game awareness to save himself. I predict he’s not long for the game. Though, I’ve been predicting that for a while, so maybe we’re in for a surprise.
GUS – XANDER HASTINGS – NOT
I really feel bad for Xander. He’s been the workhorse of the Yellow tribe, he’s been upsettingly open with his information, he seems like he’s mostly just been keen to support and play nice with his teammates, and he’s been pounded into the dirt for it. Liana suddenly hates him with a burning passion; – she said she was “chomping at the bit” to get him out. And meanwhile, he’s literally serving as a human ladder to help her climb up the wall in the challenge. I suppose that his physical prowess is now a strike against him as we’ve come to the individual portion of the game (I mean, sort of), and his idol is as good as gone, considering Liana’s totally game-breaking garbage brand-new advantage.
ALI – TIFFANY SEELY – HOT
I’m going to say it, I think Tiffany is in the best spot in the game. I don’t see anyone targeting her because she’s an older woman. Still, unlike Heather, Tiffany has displayed tons of strategic and social ability that indicate to me that she has a case to win at the end. Tiffany has a great awareness of what is going on around her in the game. My one concern about Tiffany is that she can come across as a bit abrasive and can rub people the wrong way. Clearly, this hasn’t impacted her too much because people are still wanting to work with her.
I think Tiffany’s personality may actually benefit her because people might not feel as betrayed when she votes them out as they would with typical older women in the game. Older women who fall into the trap of being a mother figure to the tribe often leave the people they turn on feeling personally hurt because they felt a genuine connection to that “mom.” Tiffany’s not here to be anyone’s mommy, so no one should be surprised or hurt when she actually plays the game. In addition, I think her “tell it like it is” persona makes her seem more honest without making her appear to be a pushover.
GUS – TIFFANY SEELY – HOT
I’m growing to appreciate Tiffany more and more as the game continues. Her initial directionless paranoia has become a more focused distrust, and while it is extending to members of her alliance (Liana), frankly, Liana is also distrustful of Tiffany, so I can’t blame her. Admittedly this is a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, but I credit Tiffany with being appropriately wary of Liana.
Gus: You gave Deshawn a HOT?
Ali: He found himself an alliance and didn’t do anything actively terrible. I think Liana and Shan are going to put in work to keep him around. If he didn’t have an alliance, he’d have a Not. The alliances are all kind of weird this season. Luvus aren’t together. Ricard and Shan have tension. Tiffany doesn’t trust Liana or Evvie. Liana’s going after Xander. The only alliance that’s in place right now that doesn’t have any clear issues is Liana, Deshawn, Danny, and Shan.
There won’t be many places to hide next episode. I think Deshawn and Danny will actually survive, and Sydney, Evvie, and Naseer will be in more trouble. Danny has expressed that he wants a woman to go, which leaves Sydney and Evvie as options. It’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen, honestly.
Gus: Alright, I can’t fault you for that; he does have an alliance. But apart from Danny, that alliance is composed of people with a provable reputation for flakiness and panic. Can we count that as a huge mark in his favor? I’m not sure.
Ali: That’s fair. I struggled with everyone this week. No one appears to be solidly with anyone. There’s a lot of in-fighting and power struggles. Chaos. It’s actually pretty exciting. I get your reasons for giving Deshawn a Not. I almost did that myself, considering he’s an athletic guy at merge time. However, I think that while Danny did some work that could bury himself to other players this week, Deshawn wasn’t part of that overtly. He seems to have a lot more game awareness than Danny, making me optimistic for him.
Shall we discuss Liana? For me, it’s a similar vibe. She had a little bit of a bumpy moment with Tiffany. However, Tiffany gets suspicious pretty fast and still wants to work with the people she suspects. More importantly, though, Liana was probably on the bottom of her alliance and used her social abilities to get in with Shan and that alliance of four. Like I said above, this game has been pretty chaotic so far, and she found a place to land that I think has more tangible reasons to be loyal to one another than another alliance.
I mean, think about what The Cookout was able to achieve in Big Brother this year. I’m not saying they’re equivalent, but there’s a bond in being a minority together that the players themselves spoke about that goes a lot deeper than the confines of the game.
Gus: Very true. But, I think Shan was the engineer behind that alliance,; and Liana’s contribution to it was the complete extraction of herself from her former tribe. She’s out for Xander’s blood for no good reason, she and Tiffany are now at odds, and we know from last week that she and Evvie weren’t on the best of terms. That constant… if not flipping, then inconsistency, bodes ill to me.
Ali: I don’t know if I’d call it a complete extraction yet. I think she rubbed Tiffany the wrong way, sure, but I don’t think she’s quite dead to them yet.
Gus: How about Naseer? I agree that he’s in jeopardy, but he’s doing better than he had been up to this point. And his idol, plus the fact that he’s openly preaching Luvu unity (at least outwardly), makes me think that he’s not in the same danger he was in during the early game.
Ali: I’m concerned about Naseer because he seems so threatening. He has an advantage everyone knows about, and he is a beast in challenges. I don’t know if he has his finger on the pulse of the game enough to realize when he’s in trouble. Danny and Deshawn have openly spoken about how they don’t want to work with him going forward. The thing that makes me feel like he may be in a better position is that Danny has openly expressed wanting to get rid of a woman.
However, I worry that people may view this as a time to go for Naseer, and he doesn’t have the relationships to fight that. All he has is an idol. I think they may go for Naseer in order to force him to burn the idol, which I think wouldn’t be a bad move. The one thing working in his favor is Evvie and Sydney are sitting right there. Now that I think about it… I kind of wish that I’d given Evvie a Not now because I think Danny may try to go for them in this case, since he views Evvie as someone who is voting men out of the game. I don’t know how hard Liana will fight for Evvie to stay.
On the other hand, Sydney is close with Danny and Deshawn, which may save her. But I think Shan and Liana may want to get rid of her for that reason in order to cement Danny and Deshawn’s loyalty? That’s part of why I gave Sydney a Not. She also grates on people, which may put a target on her back. I think, at the end of the day, I’m wondering what will bear more fruit, the very fractured alliances existing in the game or the bond that may supersede the game… I think it’s the latter, so anyone not part of that may be in trouble.
Gus: Fair enough. I have her as a Hot because she seems to have more savvy than the rest of ex-Luvu, but everything you’re saying makes sense to me.
Alie: Wow, ever since we’ve gotten married, we’ve gotten a lot nicer to each other! Tune in next week to see who’s right and who will wish they could turn back time.