Beware: spoilers from Survivor 41 below!
The Survivor game of “outwit, outplay, outlast” is certainly charging forward at warp speed in Season 41, as the latest updates and twists have given new meaning to the concept of thinking on one's feet. Some things have yet to change in Survivor, however. Namely, how a player manages to win. I'm rooting for him, but contestant Xander Hastings has unfortunately shown a very particular kind of weakness that can be detrimental to becoming Sole Survivor.
What is the weakness, you might ask? It's not something totally obvious like a bad vote or a shaky alliance. In the past few weeks of Survivor 41, Xander Hastings has time and time again made the mistake of self-sacrificing for the benefit of the group. Well, maybe not a mistake, as it is a strategy that can benefit him, too, if done well. But as noble and daring as it is, it is equally as risky.
Early on, Xander Hastings shared all his secrets on the Yase tribe to keep his supposed “alliance” unified and, last week, was willing to gamble his hidden immunity for them as well. Now in the latest episode, he not only gave up a reward challenge to Erika Casupanan, but he also willingly stepped down from the immunity challenge so everyone could have rice to eat. If we’re reading between the lines, it seems as though he wants to save everyone but himself.
It goes back to a very old Survivor debate, which is: do you want to be the hero or the villain? More often than not, we see villains prevail in the game. So I am genuinely worried for Xander Hastings’ position at the moment. He still has the hidden immunity (for now) but when players start showing their Achilles heels like this (and when they’re physical threat to top it all off), it's not long before they are gone. There is such a thing as being good to a fault – just ask Woo Hwang or Rupert Boneham.
Despite the obvious risks of a hero’s strategy, there is a chance that it shakes out just right. As fans will remember from J.T. Thomas’ first Survivor season, he played the loyal, “good guy” game to a T, while also being a competition beast, and rightfully won the game. If the same scenario would become anyone in Season 41, it would be Xander Hastings. But the night is dark and full of terrors – and blindsides.
Xander Hastings’ foil in the game is Shan Smith, another potential frontrunner in Survivor 41 but for diametrically different reasons. She's going the villain’s route and, judging by the teaser for next week, some people are starting to not like it one bit.
I would absolutely love to see both Shan Smith and Xander Hastings duck and dodge their perceived fates in the Survivor history books. It would be like a devil facing off with an angel, with the devil ironically being made from a literal pastor from Washington, D.C. Hopefully, they don't become devoured by their own archetype's weaknesses before the end. To find out, tune into new episodes of Survivor 41 on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.
Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.
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