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
Listen, I, like the rest of the world, have no idea who are candidates to win this thing. I’m starting to get the feeling that the tightest existing alliance consists of Deshawn, Danny, Liana, and Shan. No one else seems aware that this is the core group within the large, loosely held alliance, and that only indicates good things for the four. Loyal allies in the game tend to get people to the end-game, and this is the only one that I see that has the bonds to go the distance.
If Deshawn plays his cards right, he’s set up to potentially make it to the final three. My concern about him is that he can get a little inflexible in his feelings about what they should be doing. Do I get why Shan dictating who needed to go rubbed him the wrong way? Absolutely, but it can be a bad look to let those feelings show so obviously. I also worry a little bit that Deshawn might be trying to do too much too soon with the Naseer plan. Since Naseer thinks he’s in a tight alliance, there isn’t a super big reason to target him just yet, idol or no. Regardless, Deshawn and Shan need a little couple’s therapy to work out their communication issues. But I think this is going to be a temporary blip for them.
Gus – DESHAWN RADDEN – HOT
Deshawn is veering back and forth in terms of his strategy, and I’m not sure where he’s winding up. At first, he seemed wholly dismissive of the concept of working with his ex-Luvu tribemates, but now he seems dismissive of working with the Yase three. That leaves… what, Shan and Ricard?
Admittedly, his commentary against “Luvu strong” was more of a commentary against forcing a Luvu Final 6, so he likely is still happy to work with Danny at least. And we know he’s got a good thing going with Danny, Liana and Shan (probably), but keeping a backdoor open for the Yase three down the line might be a wise play. Anyway, despite having been a potential target last week, it seems like Deshawn is in a pretty good place now.
ALI – DANNY McCRAY – HOT
Here’s the thing, I think Danny has the power to make it to the end-game for the same reasons as Deshawn, hence the Hot. However, I think Deshawn has shown far more strategic acumen than Danny has. If this group does eventually turn on one another, or there is some level of bolstering of the folks not involved in this alliance, I think Danny may be a casualty of that. He’s an athletic guy who openly talks about being an athletic guy, which tends to be a death sentence at the merge.
I’m going to talk about why I think the game may come down to Shan or Liana, but I think those two are likely going to be a final two duo. When the time comes to cut Deshawn or Danny, I feel like it’s pretty likely they’ll go for Danny since he has the ability to win his way to the end. That, or if the others get wise, they’ll want to cut off the four’s best challenge performer. For now, I think Danny’s best play is to keep working with his group and picking off anyone who could be a threat to him. However, if he doesn’t start showing some level of strategic weight, even if he does make it to the end, he’s not going to win.
Gus – DANNY McCRAY – NOT
I just don’t know enough about Danny’s gameplay plan. He’s part of the strong four-person alliance at the core of the game, which is good, but other than that, all I really know about him at this point is he’s a strong dude post-merge. I expect him to stick around for a while, but I don’t see him lining up the win.
ALI – HEATHER ALDRET – NOT
Was Heather entertaining this episode? Absolutely. I love a good dose of messiness at Tribal. Did we get to finally see why everyone is so reticent about Heather? Absolutely. Is Heather drawing dead? Hard yes.
Gus – HEATHER ALDRET – NOT
Heather doesn’t trust Shan, but considering that Heather has had two confessionals this season and Shan has had eleventy billion, I don’t really see that going Heather’s way in the long run. I believe Heather got as much content this episode as she has in the entire rest of the season, and we barely saw her at all, which is concerning, to say the least. Also, her behavior at Tribal will not endear her to any alliance members.
ALI – ERIKA CASPUNANAN – NOT
I really had hopes that Erika would shake up the game a little bit. She seems to realize that the majority is not keen on working with her, but she’s still sticking by them. It may be that Erika doesn’t have a ton of room to move, so she’s working within what she has. Sadly, I think it means her days are numbered. She’s likely not going to be this week’s victim since they still have Xander and Evvie to fry, but it looks like Danny’s vendetta against her is going to make her a casualty sooner rather than later.
Gus – ERIKA CASPUNANAN – NOT
Erika didn’t really do anything last week, and I can’t imagine she’s improved her position much. Simply not being the target isn’t enough, in my eyes, to give her a Hot this week.
ALI – NASEER MUTTALIF – NOT
Sweet Naseer, thank you for holding down the fort for our fantasy team. However, I just don’t think Naseer is aware enough of the changing winds to make a move against the strongest alliance. Naseer was blissfully unaware that his name was being bandied about last week. If this were a game of just who can physically survive the elements, a la Naked and Afraid, Naseer would have this in the bag. Unfortunately, I think Naseer’s lost when it comes to the fast pace end-game strategy. Danny and Deshawn have said that they aren’t interested in working with him, so I’m thinking he’s going to be in trouble sooner rather than later.
Gus – NASEER MUTTALIF – NOT
I want to give Naseer a Hot, but I feel like he’s still playing his own game sort of on the fringes of the strategy going on within the tribe. Deshawn seems eager to get him out, and Shan was happy to wrangle votes in such a way as to allow his exit, if not encourage it.
ALI – RICARD FOYE – NOT
Ricard’s been shooting himself in the foot. I think he’s being set up to eventually become an antagonist for the main four. However, he keeps making these little mistakes like the papaya incident. He’s not endearing himself to his existing alliance member, so I’m wondering if those small personality flaws may make it difficult to form the new bonds necessary to take on Shan when the time comes. Shan’s also expressed that she may not want to work with him going forward, and I think that Ricard’s not aware of that change. Ricard may be in for a blindside.
Gus – RICARD FOYE – NOT
Ricard is dealing out hot James Clement energy with his terrible papaya etiquette. Did Shan overreact? Maybe a little bit, but she’s also starving, so I’ll give her a pass. Should Ricard have rolled into camp and started chomping on the fruit? Certainly not. If nothing else, this continues to obliterate the bare remnant of his and Shan’s alliance from earlier in the season. His “you should play your idol just in case” also gave me big Amanda Kimmel in Heroes vs. Villains energy.
ALI – SHAN SMITH – HOT
I do wonder if Shan may burn too many bridges, especially with Ricard, and that will work against her. She’s a woman who likes to do things her way and definitely frustrates her alliance members because of that. Is Shan right most of the time? Totally, she’s got her finger on the pulse of the game. She’s playing really well socially as well. My worry for her is that she has a tendency to rub people the wrong way (Ricard and Deshawn as two notable examples), while she also makes people think that they’re with her.
There’s a possibility, since she’s the one holding this larger group together, that the folks who are eliminated may feel particularly betrayed by her. That’s a tough thing to overcome, even in modern Survivor. Shan’s up there on my list of folks who can win (though it’s hard to really say for sure who that could be right now). I think there are a few flaws in her game that people may hold against her, but she has a far better chance of getting to the end than most of the folks still left. If I’m a betting woman, I think the final three is some combination of Deshawn, Shan, and Liana.
Gus – SHAN SMITH – HOT
Shan is also hungry and frustrated, and she’s still got a good, strong alliance. I do have some concern for her long-term game strategy, but she’s not in anyone’s crosshairs right now, nor is she overplaying. Her paltry offer to Jeff of two sit-outs was pretty poorly thought-out, but her spearheading the sit-out campaign was well done.
That said, her leadership tendencies look like they might be getting her in trouble. Deshawn is actively worried about working with her, and she’s being more than a little obvious with her need to be fully in charge. Her frustrated conversation with Deshawn at Tribal was a clear indicator of that. Regardless, she’s doing well at the moment, so I gotta give her a Hot.
ALI – EVVIE JAGODA – NOT
Should you practice Survivor puzzles at home before entering the game? Absolutely! Should you brag about it. In confessionals, go for it! Should you brag about it in front of potentially hostile tribemates looking for any reason to target you? NO! While I really think Evvie has a lot going for them as a player, I think they want too badly to be seen as a good player. It’s causing Evvie to make too many mistakes when they could benefit from being a little more under the radar.
To me, the move was to stick together with Tiffany and Xander while making overtures to pull in folks from the bigger group. The larger alliance doesn’t need any of the Yase members, so turning on one another just makes it easier to get picked off. Instead, they needed to look for cracks last week, and they failed to do so. Erika, Ricard, Heather, and Naseer are sitting right there, and we barely saw them approach them. That was a mistake, and I think Evvie’s going to pay for it.
Gus – EVVIE JAGODA – NOT
I kinda get where Evvie is coming from in doing a grand apology tour after they were targeted, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Their commentary and behavior on how awkward the situation was seemed to make the situation even more awkward than it had to be. In my eyes, Evvie wasn’t targeted for being some kind of strategic god as much as they were targeted because only five people were vulnerable. Regardless, Evvie’s now gone even further to delegitimize their existing relationships and openly acknowledging that they memorized the puzzles was a bad idea, but luckily they won immunity.
ALI – LIANA WALLACE – HOT
At this point, I think Liana is my winner pick. She’s tight with the alliance with the most staying power, clearly has a good social game, clearly has strategic skills, and has some meat shields in front of her. Something working against her is that Shan, who I also think is a possible winner, may have a better story than Liana. The other concern I have is that Liana definitely has her foibles, like her tendency to underestimate Xander, which lead to an embarrassing moment at Tribal. Regardless, Liana’s in a good spot, and she put herself there, so she gets a Hot from me.
Gus – LIANA WALLACE – HOT
Liana is hungry and frustrated, but she still has a powerful alliance, and nobody is actively targeting her. She’s also got some strategy going on, one way and another.
ALI – XANDER HASTINGS – NOT
Everyone should be and is going to be gunning for Xander at this point. Let me be clear, it’s because I like Xander so much that I think all eyes are going to be on him. He’s shown himself to not only be athletically capable but he’s also been a strategic threat. Since he’s not a part of this larger (albeit loose) alliance, the best move would be to cut him. We’ve seen Shan and the others gunning for him so many times already. Eventually, Xander’s luck is going to run out.
Do I think he has the chops to survive? There’s a lot of promise there, for sure. At this point, though, it’s going to be an uphill battle for him to get to the end. He’s going to have to start finding the advantages under the benches if he wants a chance.
Gus – XANDER HASTINGS – HOT
Xander seems to be wise in his choice to not shackle himself to Yase. Liana is even open to working with him (under specific circumstances) after his humiliating duplicitous act against her last week (which, by the way, was amazing). He’s going hard to curry emotional favor with the rest of his tribe, from deliberately sitting out of the reward challenge to sussing out the four-person compromise with Jeff and giving up his chance at immunity for rice, to his holding fast to his idol and advantage. I’m really impressed with Xander’s gameplay of late, even though he’s still getting targeted and getting votes.
Of course, with how convoluted the twists and turns of this season have been so far, that probably means he’ll be going home this week, but oh well.
Ali: I have never seen so much wrong on one page. What possible justification do you have for giving XANDER a Hot? He’s a dead man walking.
Gus: A very well-armed and armored dead man with a lot of avenues of escape. He’s got himself configured well enough that even his enemies have considered working with him under the right circumstances. And he’s comporting himself in such a way as to curry a lot of favor with the rest of his tribemates. I think he’s very much making the best of what is currently a bad situation.
Ali: He’s an athletic male in the minority at the merge. He might survive this week thanks to an idol, but there’s no way they’re going to allow a fit man with strategic acumen anywhere near the end game.
Gus: But he wasn’t even anyone’s target this week! I mean, apart from Liana, who seems to have decided that he’s public enemy number one. He got two throwaway votes for what reason I know not. I’m not contesting that he’s not in a good place right now, but by that logic, Mike Holloway would never have gotten a Hot either. Xander is doing the best he can with what he’s got.
Ali: Xander’s name was on the table until Shan flipped it permanently to Tiffany. He was mentioned a few times, though Evvie and Naseer were mentioned more. Liana should feel like Xander’s public enemy number one because he’s on the other side and he’s smart and strong and social. Triple threats should not stay in the game. He got throwaway votes because Heather decided Tribal was the moment to be wacky and everyone panicked.
And finally, I would have absolutely given Mike Holloway a Not all the way until the end. He was on the outs the entire time and managed to win his way to the end. Luckily, he was against two players that were pretty universally loathed and managed to get the votes to win from that. Any other scenario, he would have been ousted. Does that kind of gameplay warrant praise over a character who finessed their way to the end? I don’t think so. And I would have been justified giving him a Not week to week because he played himself into a corner where his only option was to win and idol his way to the end. Was it exciting gameplay? Absolutely. Was it good gameplay? I think no.
Xander is playing a far better game than Mike. Unfortunately, the tide has turned on him. He will need absurd luck to make it to the end at this point. Can he replicate a Mike Holloway run? Can he possibly turn the winds back in his favor? Maybe. But that hasn’t happened and would be outside of the norm.
You’ve said that you think I’m putting too much stock in this core four. But I ask you, who else has an alliance that is thriving as well as this? It honestly feels like a bunch of loosely tied individuals and these four at the epicenter. I don’t think anyone else has that four on their radar. As long as they don’t let their differences get the better of them and they can continue to stay quiet, what is stopping them from playing their way to the end? What’s more likely? Xander hulks his way to the end? Or what we see more commonly, which is a core group get control of the game and pick folks off until the end?
Gus: Good points about Xander. I just want to say I think he can still pull it out, especially with the chaos that seems to be reigning. My concern about that group of four (Shan, Liana, Deshawn and Danny) is that the alliance has been mentioned, what, twice? Three times? It looks to me more like Shan just running a small voting bloc than anything else. I don’t contest that she’s running it well; I just don’t know that it will last forever. And Danny barely seems to be a part of it, outside of his voting with them. The lingering specter of Luvu seems to have at least as much power as that group of four.
Ali: I earnestly hope you’re right because it would be far more interesting having Xander as a thorn in the alliance’s side than having the four of them cakewalk to the end. I’m also hoping Ricard, Erika, Naseer, and Heather start to realize how things are going and shake things up a bit.
It’s possible that I’m overinflating the importance of this group. I mean, there’s already some infighting, and Shan has cut allies before. But it does feel like the four of them are looking out for one another, and I can’t say the same about pretty much anyone else in the game.
Gus: I can see where you’re coming from there. But with both Shan, Deshawn and Liana clearly happy to pole-vault away from people they’ve worked with before, and Danny just kind of vibing, I hope you can also see where I’m coming from with my concerns about the group’s longevity.
Ali: Definitely can now that you’ve explained it. I agree Danny isn’t the strongest strategic force in the game, but I wonder what deserves a Hot more? A