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
For all of the back and forth that Deshawn and Shan are doing all season long, I think that both of these players know it’s better to stick together rather than try to start from scratch now. This is what makes Survivor so interesting. I can see that both Deshawn and Shan have valid feelings about how the other treats them, and it’s like they’d benefit from some good ol’ fashioned couples’ therapy. The miscommunications paired with the stakes of the show and the fact that these folks are super hungry all the time is a perfect storm for interpersonal conflict. Neither of them appears to be truly wrong or truly right about the situation, and that’s usually true in the majority of human communication. This is the stuff that really interests me when looking at this show as a whole.
However, Deshawn and Shan, for all their issues and the ominous Next Time On, are clearly intelligent players. The other folks still in the game don’t have the same history of working together that these two have. While both of them want credit for being “in charge” of the alliance, and that may come to fruition down the line, it’s too early to start taking out the core group of four in the middle of this. I have this strange idea that Deshawn may lose the final four fire-making due to some scenes of him failing to make fire earlier in the game. Granted, that may be the editors just having fun with us, but it was something that caught my interest early on. Honestly, I think one of the four is going to win this, and Deshawn is up there on my list of possibilities.
GUS – DESHAWN RADDEN – HOT
Deshawn and Shan have certainly made broadsides at one another, and thus far, they’ve been able to reconcile their differences—with Deshawn seemingly getting what he wants but Shan getting what she wants as well. I think the two of them are on a collision course, but I don’t expect that collision to happen this week. In the meantime, Deshawn remains solidly in second or third place for “most likely to win” in my mind.
ALI – DANNY McCRAY – NOT
While I have said for quite some time that I think Danny has a path to the end, which I still stand by, I don’t see winner potential from him unless he really picks up some pace in his gameplay. He was smart in the early merge in lying back and letting the game come to him. As an athletic man, if he had come in ready to make moves, everyone would have gone for him for sure. I got a tad worried about him because he was pretty open about being a former athlete, but that hasn’t seemed to impact him as much as I feared it would. As the end game nears, Danny’s going to have to come out of his shell and take some risks; otherwise he may be a goat at the end.
GUS – DANNY McCRAY – NOT
Though Danny remains part of the alliance of four, he continues to lack long-term winning potential, and I don’t see him breaking ahead of the rest of the pack this late in the game.
ALI – HEATHER ALDRET – NOT
Oh Heather… I really don’t want to seem like I’m picking on her. She did a nice job of narrowly avoiding the boot last week. For the first time, we got to hear that she actually has a positive relationship with Erika. Who knew? While I appreciate that Heather was able to stay calm when many would have panicked, not to mention how she was able to use Erika to find a path to staying, there’s nothing that indicates to me that she’s going to have a strong chance going forward.
She also didn’t handle her interaction with Naseer very well early in the episode, which came back to bite her later. Heather easily could have gone to Ponderosa in the wake of that. We’ve heard time and time again that people view Heather as unpredictable and don’t want to work with her for various reasons. Right now, the only path I see for her is as a goat. I’m sorry, Heather.
GUS – HEATHER ALDRET – NOT
Heather got votes as a secondary target, and I don’t see her gaining much traction in the coming weeks.
ALI – ERIKA CASPUNANAN – NOT
The contrast between Erika’s edit and the fear she seems to spark in her fellow players is pretty hilarious. Clearly, Erika is playing a far better game than we’re seeing, which is just a dang shame. I hate it when the under the radar female players get shafted by the edit. While I understand that the more out in front gameplay makes for more fun scenes, it pains me that we aren’t seeing what Shan clearly sees in Erika.
Erika really went to bat for Heather this episode, and it’s seemed like we started seeing some inklings of the player the others see. However, the majority of the credit there went to Ricard. Sadly, I’m not seeing enough of Erika’s game to feel as though she has a fighting chance going forward. I really wish that this could be more of a nail-biter in terms of who will win out, but I think Erika’s days are numbered if Shan has anything to say about it. She was the target until she got immunity, so I doubt that things are going to improve for her going forward.
GUS – ERIKA CASPUNANAN – NOT
Erika did very little of note this week from a gameplay perspective, but she won immunity, which is really great!
ALI – RICARD FOYE – NOT
First, I just wanted to say that I have really loved the representation that Ricard is providing on the show in so many regards. As someone who is hard of hearing, not due to hearing loss, but due to auditory processing disorder, Ricard’s story has really struck a chord in my heart. It’s easy to forget that there are people who walk among us with invisible conditions inside a world that wasn’t built for them. All this being said, on a game level, I fear that Ricard feels more in control of the game than reality suggests.
Ricard was pretty instrumental in the Naseer vote last week, which is definitely a huge point in his favor. Unlike some other folks in the game right now, he is a very active participant in forming plans. However, he’s not as tight with Shan as he seems to think. He’s had some blunders in terms of his social game that he doesn’t realize have impacted the perception of him as a player. He’s not a part of the core alliance, and I don’t think he’s going to put that together quickly enough to take advantage of the number split.
It doesn’t appear that he has tight enough relationships with the other players in the game to make something happen, even if he does spot the way the winds have shifted. Shan has repeatedly expressed frustration and suspicion toward Ricard. To me, it’s only a matter of time before her fear of her former close ally turns to a reason to eliminate him.
GUS – RICARD FOYE – NOT
While Ricard is making good moves, I think he’s at a massive social disadvantage. His closeness with Shan, while coherent last week, seems to still be crumbling, and I expect she will be targeting him before long. Major props to him for configuring the Naseer vote (it seems as though he provided much of the masterminding behind that elimination), and I’m hopeful that he’ll have the longevity to make it to the end. But I don’t think he’s got quite enough of a case (or enough social favor) to win out against any of the other contenders at this point (Xander, Deshawn, and Liana).
ALI – SHAN SMITH – HOT
Shan’s really playing this game hard. It’s refreshing to see a woman really taking the game by the reigns. I’ve heard some commentary that her splitting her extra vote and the vote for Naseer was to mitigate the risk of an idol play. I found that to be a pretty interesting idea that I don’t think would have occurred to me. Like I said with Deshawn, I think much of the “Deshawn and Shan will turn against each other” narrative won’t bear much fruit any time soon. I’m not super concerned about this reputation Shan has of always trying to make things go her way. Most winners have prickly moments in their gameplay: Wendell, Tony, Sarah, Adam, Ben, to name a few.
As I’ve said before, my big concern for Shan’s winning chances is the fact that so many people have expressed how close they feel to her, only to have her cut them. While we would like to assume that the best player always wins the game, this is a social game at the end of the day. People on the jury are humans. Some will have a hard time voting for someone who betrayed their trust. That being said, this could easily also be a reason people decide to vote for Shan. Regardless, I think Shan has what it takes to make it to the end, putting her above quite a lot of people in my book. We’ll have to see if the jury can forgive this pastor for her trespasses.
GUS – SHAN SMITH – HOT
I’ve read enough commentary from folks on the internet to wrap my brain around the convoluted reason why Shan played her extra vote and split things the way she did; I just wish the show had done more to explain it in the moment. Shan’s clearly doing a good job leading her alliance, though I think she and Deshawn are being set up for a confrontation down the line. Likely one of them will cut the other before the end of the game. I do think that Shan is probably the front-runner to win the game at this point, as she’s been pretty centric to most of the eliminations and she’s leading the strongest alliance around (not to mention her idol and advantage which I keep forgetting about).
ALI – LIANA WALLACE – HOT
Liana’s another one who I think has end-game potential. We’ve seen that Liana has a pretty strong social game. Her short bonding time with Shan on this season’s version of “exile island” had lasting ramifications in the game. I do find Liana’s fixation on Xander to be a bit odd since it doesn’t feel like Xander’s done anything to Liana personally. Not one of us really has anything to stand on in this regard, as no one is the best version of themselves in a game like this. I’m fairly certain that this all comes back to Liana feeling embarrassed that Xander was able to best her advantage in a very public way. In Liana’s head, she may think if she’s able to oust Xander, that she may get some respect back that possibly was lost.
I also agree with Liana’s assessment of Xander’s threat level and find it rather odd that the other folks in the game want to go for someone like Erika when Xander’s clearly a huge threat who isn’t with them. Liana’s in a good spot in the game. Something that will be challenging for her to overcome is her age. Her voice may be getting lost in the crowd because the other players see her as more of a little sister than a strategic force. This game can be tough for young women, who need to overcome the preconceived notions leveled at them. On the other hand, I see a path to the end for Liana, and there’s enough game left to bolster her resume.
She’s had a few strategic moments. Have they all worked out for her? No. But she’s been able to at least showcase that she’s playing in front of the jury. Liana may have a tougher road going forward than Deshawn or Shan, but she has an argument to make at the end for why she should win.
GUS – LIANA WALLACE – HOT
This was also hard because I just don’t think Liana is going to win. She’s been obsessively focused on eliminating Xander to a frankly confusing degree; her loathing for him (commenting about how she hates his face during the challenge) seems overblown from what we’ve seen in the game. I worry that she will blind herself to all other things until he’s gone and will either take another swing-and-a-miss and fall on her face or be eliminated immediately after him. I’m honestly on the verge of switching my Liana and Xander ratings, but I think Liana has far more paths to the end than Xander, albeit fewer roads to victory.
ALI – XANDER HASTINGS – NOT
I’m like Liana. Every week, I keep saying Xander needs to go. He’s a huge threat in the game, strategically and physically. In terms of gameplay, Xander’s had some pretty big blows back to back in losing Tiffany and Evvie. I don’t think he’s forged strong enough relationships with the outliers to wrest control of his game back. He also had a huge blunder last week in trusting Deshawn and Danny to keep Evvie. So episode to episode, he’s going to be on borrowed time.
Could he make it to the end? If he keeps winning immunity and finding idols, maybe. But there are some pretty decent physical threats still left who can challenge him. Not to mention, challenges are not always going to benefit the physically strong players. Mike Holloway and Ben Driebergen have certainly won in similar circumstances, but I think they’re more the exception that proves the rule. Hopefully, this week has really confirmed for Xander where he stands in the game, but I think his path to the end got a lot narrower.
GUS – XANDER HASTINGS – NOT
This is a really tricky one for me. Xander has retained most of his gameplay capital (challenge prowess, idol, advantage) but at the expense of an ally in Evvie. Then again, the longevity of that alliance with Evvie wasn’t entirely clea. He seemed more than willing to cut them last week; so, the choice for him to not play his idol on Evvie week may not have been as much of a blunder as I had initially thought while watching the episode. Although admittedly, I may have been suffering from some Big-Move-itis at the time.
Then again, he’s entirely without friends now. I can’t think of a single person who would be willing to stick their neck out for him, and Liana has some of the most intense tunnel vision I’ve seen in a long time towards eliminating him. I’m not sure how he could have handled himself better this week, and I think he’s still got a shot to win the game. But his avenues to the end rely entirely on either a Mike Holloway style immunity run or a Ben Driebergen style Hidden Immunity Idol spree, and neither of those is something I’d be willing to bet on.
Ali: So you’ve finally come around to my way of thinking.
Gus: Well, kinda sorta not really. I think these three have the highest chance of winning the game even if I don’t think that alliance is firm to the end. I think it’s likely only one or MAYBE two of them will get to the end, alongside maybe Heather or Erika. Or both.
Ali: Well, at least we won’t be arguing during the holiday tomorrow. I do think that they may fracture eventually, but likely they all know that it’s too early to rock the boat. Whelp! Tune in next week to see whether we remain on the same page. To all celebrating, have a happy holiday!