Spoilers for Survivor's Oct. 13 episode ahead!
To be a villain in the game of Survivor means a player is waist-deep in lies and schemes. Either you're a Russell Hantz-type that is very upfront about it or you're a Sandra Diaz-Twine who pulls the strings from a distance. In Season 41, a bonafide Survivor villain has already emerged and orchestrated another player to make one of the dumbest strategic moves so far. And let's just say, this villain doesn't fit the type.
Her name is Shan Smith. She is a pastor from Washington, D.C. and she is totally owning these early days so far of Survivor 41 (opens in new tab). What Smith presents on the surface is a sweet, doe-eyed trustworthiness, which are attributes that very hard to come by on the exterior of any villain in the history of the game. They are usually mean-spirited, gruff or just too blunt, and it looks like Smith is using that stereotype to her advantage.
For two weeks now, Shan Smith's fellow tribemates have practically hand-wrapped gifts of advantages, delivered them to her doorstep, and been blindsided as a result. Brad Keese attempted to win her over before the last tribal council by revealing everything about his super idol and summit advantages, and Shan opted to obliterate his power from the game. Likewise, Smith all but Jedi mind-tricked JD Robinson not once but twice to give her his extra vote advantage for “safekeeping.” She could have stuck to the plan tonight of getting out the weakest player on their team, Genie Chen, but instead flipped the vote last minute and Robinson was booted out.
It was a terribly dumb move on JD Robinson's part precisely because it had no logic. There's never a good reason to give powers to others, as we learned most famously from Eric Reichenbach in Survivor: Fans vs Favorites. Yet Robinson fell for Shan Smith’s performance, hook, line, and sinker. She didn't even have to go the traditional route of making him feel like he was in trouble or on the outs. She made him feel like she was in trouble, and then voted him out for it. It's cunning strategy akin to that of alum Cirie Fields, but Shan is seemingly much more hands-on and ruthless. (Both markers of a true villain.)
A few other female players are standing out alongside Shan Smith to be movers and shakers in this season of Survivor. After declaring to another player that she wanted to make big moves soon, Erika Casupanan narrowly avoided a vote-out tonight when her Luvu tribe’s plan to throw the immunity challenge fell apart. Similarly, Evvie Jagoda is spearheading an all-girls alliance over on the Yasa tribe and she is also attempting some risky but big-time strategy.
It's definitely getting interesting on Survivor 41. Remember the name Shan Smith, though, because she might just be the winner of the season – if she doesn’t meet a villain’s end.
Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.
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