This article contains spoilers about Season 41 of “Survivor.”
Episode four of Survivor 41 finally gets it right for the first time this season. As if to apologize for the complete waste of time that was episode three, the Survivor gods blessed the audience with chaotic camp life, menacing confessionals, and legitimate humor.
The episode opens with the aftermath of Brad being voted out, and we get all the juicy betrayal drama that I’ve been missing so far in 41: the Ua tribe has to deal with Genie’s shock over Brad’s blindside. Genie acts as if she’s never seen a blindside or, in fact, any episode of Survivor, like this is the first time a tribe has not made a unanimous vote at tribal. She pouts and whines that all she wanted was for JD to go home, while JD is sitting right there. Once Genie’s tantrum is over, JD’s begins. Finally, we get to see real camp life arguments and outbursts instead of pointless twists. Maybe something good came out of the last episode after all.
To spoil us even more, after the first real drama, we get the first reward challenge of the season this episode, too. What a gem of a reward it is. The tribe coming in first gets a fishing kit and hunting and foraging lessons from an authentic survivalist, and the tribe coming in second gets lunch in the form of a single bright blue fish that looks like it came from a high school prop department. However, in this challenge, the spotlight is taken from this striking fish and put onto Heather of the Luvu tribe when she cannot get past the first obstacle in the challenge and loses the challenge for her tribe due to a lack of athletic ability and hand-eye coordination. I can’t help but feel a kinship with her. Of course, Jeff Probst can’t just let this slide, and he has to call attention to it. He tells Heather, “I love the gameplay of Survivor, but I really like it when people are vulnerable.” Maybe it’s meant to come off as comforting, but instead Probst feels eerily close to a Disney villain with this line.
We also get a rare look into the Luvu tribe this episode, whom we have mostly only known up to this point as the tribe on a winning streak. On Luvu, Erika is the player with a case of big-moves-itis who randomly wants to vote out her allies. You could say she’s the Liana of Luvu. Of course, as soon as her allies catch wind of her plan to vote out Sydney, the most popular player in the tribe, Erika is target number one. Erika has made herself so much of a target that Luvu tribe members actually want to throw the next immunity challenge in order to have the chance to vote her out.
The plan to throw the challenge comes from Deshawn, and he knows in order for it to work, he’ll need former NBA player and fellow tribe member Danny to go along with it. Danny has integrity, though.
“As a professional athlete, it would be a sin to throw a challenge,” Danny asserts. One commercial break later, and then it’s “... so Deshawn and I decided to throw the challenge.”
Things are not looking good for Erika as the immunity challenge begins. The two best athletes on her tribe are actively sabotaging the group, dragging their feet as they swim and retying knots on the bags of puzzle pieces as the other tribemates frantically try to keep their winning streak. Unfortunately for Danny and Deshawn, the other tribes are just so bad that even with all their attempts to make their own tribe lose, they stay ahead of the other tribes. At one point, Deshawn looks back at the Yase tribe hoping to see them gaining on Luvu, but instead the Yase tribe members are literally swimming the wrong way with their puzzle pieces, accidentally heading further out in the ocean rather than toward the beach. It’s not the Yase tribe’s incompetence that ultimately ruins the plan to throw the challenge, though, that would be JD from the Ua tribe once again.
I’m actually loving the Ua tribe's failures because all they do is provide constant entertainment. Shan is quickly becoming an evil mastermind, holding everyone’s trust and flying by each episode without her name on the chopping block, even when she seems to be a huge social and strategic threat. She has a great plan to act paranoid about JD’s loyalty to her, telling him to give her his extra vote “just to hold onto,” so she can “feel safe.” With JD’s advantage in her pocket, Shan hums happily all the way to tribal council knowing she’s going to give this man deep-seated trust issues for the rest of his life. JD really believes Shan truly wants to go to the end of the game with him, and then he’s unanimously voted out.