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Did A Survivor 41 Player Make A $1 Million Mistake During The Finale?

Spoilers ahead for the season finale of Survivor 41!

It has all come down to this. After weeks of scrambling and blindsides, all of Jeff Probst’s new twists and a severely shortened game, the final three emerged. Heather Aldret quickly followed Ricard Foye onto the Survivor 41 jury, leaving only Deshawn Radden, Erika Casupanan and Xander Hastings left. They each pitched their cases and the Sole Survivor was indeed crowned. But did one player actually make a huge $1 million mistake during the finale?

More specifically, did Xander Hastings royally mess up in his fire-making challenge decision? He won the final immunity and was able to decide for himself who out of the remaining contestants he wanted to take to the end. By proxy, it also dictated who would have to fight for their spot in the fire-making challenge. And quite shockingly, Hastings chose Erika Casupanan for the free ride instead of Heather Aldret.

We now know that Erika Casupanan was crowned the Survivor 41 winner in a landslide 7-to-1 vote, making her the first female contestant to win in four years. But even before the final votes were read confirming Xander Hastings’ major loss, both the jury and fans online were reacting to his seemingly dumb move to not take Heather Aldret to the end. For many, Aldret was and is the perfect goat: lots of heart but no immunity wins or hard strategy. Casupanan, on the other hand, had made some moves that set her apart even from both Hastings and Deshawn Radden, including the hourglass twist and winning immunity.

The obvious 1 + 1 = 2 logic is that if Xander Hastings had taken Heather Aldret, then most likely Erika Casupanan wouldn't have won the fire-making challenge and he would have won the title of Sole Survivor instead. That's all good in hindsight but it's just as possible that Hastings would’ve still lost out next to anyone else. Eliminated contestant Danny McCray flat out revealed recently that the reason Hastings got as far as he did with a not-so-hidden immunity idol to boot was because the tribe let him. He in fact claimed that the Season 41 cast didn't respect Hastings’ gameplay the entire time, and it clearly shows by the fact that even a player who had issues with many jury members such as Radden got a vote over him in the end.

From a fan’s standpoint, though, the result is still a major upset. One Twitter viewer even claimed that we were all "robbed" of a real winner. Because typically, players like Erika Casupanan, who neatly and quietly pitted the middle against itself, haven't gotten as much credit for strategy in Survivor history. It's usually the comp beasts and wild card players that look the shiniest. Much like how Survivor: Kaôh Rōng winner Michele Fitzgerald got major flack afterwards in 2016 for beating out two big strategists in Aubry and Tai during her season.

Regardless, I know when to admit I'm wrong – and boy was I wrong to count out Erika Casupanan in this “new era” of Survivor. However, tonight’s finale proved that I wasn't wrong in my early theory about Xander Hastings: some people wear their heart on their sleeve (and to their own detriment).

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.