'Survivor' crowns Erika Casupanan its Season 41 winner in landslide vote over Deshawn Radden in Fiji
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/15/2021
Survivorcrowned Erika Casupanan its Season 41 winner in Fiji over runner-up Deshawn Radden during a pre-taped, three-hour finale episode that aired Wednesday night on CBS.
Erika, a 32-year-old communications manager from Niagara Falls who currently resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, won Survivor's $1 million prize in a landslide 7-1 jury vote instead of Deshawn, a 26-year-old medical student from San Bernardino, CA who currently resides in Miami, FL, on Night 26 of the game at the Final Tribal Council.
"The way that I look really affects the way that people treat me outside of the game... and that's something I knew I had up my sleeve," Erika explained toSurvivor host Jeff Probst during the after show.
"And I had no ego about how I was going to play. I knew that if it made more sense for Heather to talk to someone, she could do it and I don't need to have the full credit for anything. I knew that my path to the end, it didn't have to be pretty."
Survivorviewers haven't seen an on-location reading of the final jury votes since Season 1 back in 2000 with the exception of Survivor: Ghost Island, which featured a tie vote at Final Tribal and then Jeff reading only the tiebreaker vote months later from the United States.
Survivor's one-hour after show also took place on-location in Fiji when the finale taped in May, and there was no live reunion show based in Los Angeles, CA.
Xander Hastings, a 21-year-old app developer from Jacksonville, FL who currently resides in Chicago, IL, received zero jury votes and finished the game in third place.
Fourth place went to Heather Aldret, a 52-year-old stay-at-home mom from Charleston, SC, after she lost the fire-making challenge, and Ricard Foye, a 31-year-old flight attendant from Lynnwood, WA who currently resides in Sedro-Woolley, WA, placed fifth.
The Survivor broadcast began with the Viakana tribe of five starting over at a new beach with no food or shelter and limited supplies.
The castaways knew they'd have a challenging few days ahead, with two Individual Immunity Challenges, two Tribal Council sessions and a fire-making challenge before the winner was crowned on Day 26.
Going back to Night 23 following Danny McCray's ouster, Xander said it was "perfect" his tribemates had to begin again because he could last without food and he wanted his competition to be starving and tired.
And Erika was still very upset at Deshawn for throwing her under the bus with Heather. Erika considered the move "personal" and noted how she'd never trust him again, especially because she had tried to protect Deshawn multiple times.
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Deshawn, however, stood by his decision to "shake the table" because he felt he was on the bottom of the tribe.
Ricard enjoyed Deshawn being the focus, and he said he didn't want Deshawn in the Final 4 at all.
On Day 24, Deshawn told the cameras how Ricard had to get voted out next if he failed to win the upcoming Individual Immunity Challenge, and Heather appeared genuinely upset at Erika for saying she wasn't sure if she wanted to go to the end with Heather since they had played such similar games.
Erika accused Deshawn of "throwing grenades" just to see what he could break up, and she wasn't sure how they could or were supposed to move forward together from that point.
Suddenly, Tree Mail arrived at camp and the castaways were instructed to unscramble the following words: RHEEW EVLO YURO GNASH SERTRAEU AEDNC ERSET THE OT.
Once the words were unscrambled, the players had to switch the words around to decipher a phrase in order to find where an advantage was hidden on the new beach.
Xander solved the puzzle first, which revealed, "Your treasure hangs where the trees love to dance."
Ricard figured out the phrase next, and he was then followed by Deshawn, Heather and Erika.
Everyone searched high and low for the advantage, and Erika was the one who found it.
Erika learned she had won a slight advantage in the next Immunity Challenge, and she said she'd be grateful for a minute or an inch extra to give her a better shot at wearing the necklace. She was just glad to "weaken" Deshawn going into the next challenge.
Later that day, the five castaways met Jeff for the next Individual Immunity Challenge, and Erika announced she had found an advantage.
The challenge required the players to collect a series of rope rungs and use them to build a ladder and then maneuver a bag of puzzle pieces up a second ladder. Once at the top, the castaways would use what's in the bag to solve a 75-piece puzzle.
The first person to finish would win immunity and be guaranteed a spot in the Final 4. The winner would also receive steak, vegetables, bread and wine to fuel up for the last few days of the game.
As for Erika's advantage, she started with four rungs on each of the ladders already completed.
Thanks to her advantage, Erika began her puzzle before any of her competitors, but the others quickly caught up.
The challenge came down to Erika vs. Ricard, and in the end, Erika won it and she was so relieved! Erika, at the very least, would be afforded the chance to make fire in attempt to win a spot in the Final 3.
Erika then got to choose one person to join her for the Reward, and she selected Heather after "a tough Tribal Council."
Xander was hoping he would win immunity, but he still had a hidden Immunity Idol in his pocket. He was just thrilled Richard was not immune and therefore remained "an open target" they could possibly take out.
After the challenge, Erika and Heather enjoyed a real meal, and Erika apologized for damaging their friendship. Heather, however, insisted Deshawn's approach to outing Erika is what had hurt her and she didn't harbor any negative feelings toward Erika.
Heather said she and Erika respected each other's game, and then they discussed whether to advance Ricard or Deshawn in the game.
Both women agreed they were "pissed" at Deshawn, and so they had a big decision to make because if they kept Ricard, he could possibly make it to the end and beat them. Erika and Heather had to choose whether to keep a big threat they respected or an easy target they no longer liked.
Ricard said he wasn't going to give up, and so he tried to rally votes and told Heather that Deshawn would win the game if he ended up in the Final 3, which Heather disagreed with.
Deshawn promised Erika and Heather he would take them to the Final 3, but Erika no longer trusted him and didn't think he deserved to go any further.
Ricard then revealed to Xander that he had a second baby, a little boy, due the following week. He had given up a lot to be onSurvivor, potentially "a life moment" of his son's birth.
The story tugged at Xander's heartstrings, as the men had developed a strong bond during the game. Xander wasn't sure whether he should follow his heart and save his pal or make the smarter, more strategic decision.
"I could save you with the idol," Xander suggested to Ricard.
Xander, believing he'd be safe no matter what, acknowledged playing his idol for Ricard would make a big statement and give the appearance he's controlling the vote, and Ricard pointed out how it would be a move Xander could add to his resume.
Xander considered impressing the jury with a flashy move, but he also wasn't convinced he'd be able to beat Ricard in the end if they made it to the Final 3 together.
On Night 24, Xander announced Ricard and Deshawn were on the chopping block for different reasons, and Erika told Jeff that "any decision" for her at this point was "a tough one."
Ricard then started to cry and announced how he and his husband were expecting their baby to arrive in a matter of days but he didn't want to give up on his dream of playing Survivorand potentially winning $1 million for his family.
"My baby could literally already be born right now, and I don't know," Ricard shared in tears.
"I've really been struggling, but I'm so proud I made it this far! I did a a damn good job... I'm actually really kick-ass atSurvivor! I'm really good at it!.. I could literally be one of theSurvivor greats... without being a winner."
Xander confirmed he had "a bromance" with Ricard, who clearly had his back against the wall.
"I feel for him," Xander said.
But Ricard said if he was truly running the show, Deshawn would be gone. Ricard insisted Deshawn would receive more jury votes than any of the three players left in the game.
Erika didn't blame Ricard for throwing out truth bombs, and Erika pointed out how perception is very important in the game of Survivor.
Jeff essentially declared that he didn't feel like a blindside was coming, suggesting Ricard was definitely in trouble of having his torch snuffed, but he could be wrong.
When it became time to play an idol or advantage, Xander played the idol he had been holding onto for 20 days.
"I don't need to use it, but I also don't need a souvenir," Xander said, before playing the idol for himself.
Jeff then read the votes aloud in the following order: Deshawn, Ricard, Ricard, and Ricard.
Ricard was the only person who voted for Deshawn.
"Love you, man," Xander told Ricard on his way out of Tribal Council. "Strong work, man."
The remaining four castaways then returned to camp.
"I think this experience was pretty kick-ass," Ricard said in his final words. "I did a phenomenal job, I made some really good friends, and I am not leaving with any regrets and I don't have to walk out of this wishing I had done something differently."
Ricard added, "It's going to be great watching this with my husband and two kids. It hasn't even sunk in that I'm about to have another baby and I'm going to be a Survivor dad, which is just really amazing and great."
That evening, Erika, Xander, Heather and Deshawn celebrated making the Top 4 and congratulated one another. Erika knew she'd be able to, at the very least, compete in fire, and she felt fairly confident considering she had made fire while in exile.
The castaways endured a very cold and rainy night, but Xander said he still felt like a "rockstar."
On Day 25, the Final 4 players were tired and shaking after a sleepless night, but everyone still appeared to be optimistic and in good spirits.
Deshawn practiced making fire with flint, and then the castaways gathered for the next -- and final -- Individual Immunity Challenge of Season 41.
Jeff explained the players must navigate across a curved walkway while stacking blocks on a wobbling platform. The first person to stack all of his or her blocks and spell "Final 3" would win immunity and an automatic spot in the Final 3.
The winner would have the chance to plead his or her case to the jury about why he or she deserved the title of "Sole Survivor" and the $1 million that comes with it. The person would also be able to choose which two players would compete in the fire-making challenge.
The castaways had to maintain a steady pace while keeping balance, and it was Xander's challenge to win after Erika -- who was working right on his heels -- accidentally dropped her blocks.
Xander called it "an unreal moment" and joked about how it was "way crazier than the butterfly thing." He asked Jeff for a hug and expressed how it felt amazing to accomplish such a goal, which was his childhood dream.
Erika wished she could control her fate in the game, and she didn't know what "a wild card" like Xander was going to decide.
Once Xander stacked all six blocks, he inched his way back the walkway and nearly held his breath. Xander ended up winning Individual Immunity, and he cried with excitement after a great performance.
Deshawn told Xander that Erika would be a tough person to beat in the end, and Xander hoped to show the jury he was a smart and calculated player the whole way through.
Xander then told Erika that he was taking her to the end, which would leave Deshawn and Heather to face off in fire. However, Xander advised Erika to practice making fire just in case -- as both Heather and Deshawn worked on their fire-starting skills.
Xander said he didn't want to allow Erika to make "a big and flashy move" in the end in front of the jury, seemingly considering her the biggest threat left.
Xander hoped Heather and Erika would end up in the Final 3 with him because the women had played such similar games. Xander assumed Heather's pitch would weaken Erika's overall game.
Suddenly, Xander noticed Erika was unable to make fire at camp and he could probably beat her in front of the jury. However, there was still a chance Erika could win, and Xander realized he'd be taking a big risk by inserting himself into the final competition.
On Night 25 at Tribal Council, Heather announced that she was ready for anything, and Deshawn also seemed okay with the decision being in Xander's hands.
And Xander declared how the jury didn't seem to respect Heather or Erika's game, which appeared to upset Shantel "Shan" Smith, a 34-year-old pastor from Toronto, Canada who currently resides in Washington, D.C.
Xander also told Jeff that he didn't think Heather was "a goat" and she was a strong and "badass" player to the end in his eyes.
Xander then revealed he had decided to take Erika to the end, forcing Heather and Deshawn to make fire. Erika said she looked forward to pleading her case, even though Xander's choice indicated to the jury that he thought she'd be easy to beat.
Deshawn and Heather proceeded to compete in fire, and Deshawn sparked a flame first. Deshawn tried to maintain and build upon his flame while Heather finally sparked a baby flame.
Heather nurtured her flame while Deshawn totally smothered his, with Jeff commenting, "Heather's building a fire her kids would be proud of!"
It appeared Deshawn was out as Heather's flame burned high, but then Heather's flame suddenly dissipated, which enabled Deshawn to catch up!
It was a shocking photo finish in "one of the best fire-making showdowns Survivor has ever seen," according to Jeff.
The jury was shocked to watch Deshawn's rope burn first! He never gave up and won by just a few seconds, and Deshawn cried tears of relief and utter joy.
Heather said she was proud of herself and thankful for her journey on the show, and she wished the Final 3 castaways good luck and all the best on her way out of Tribal Council.
The Final 3 players had one night left on the island.
"I was so close! I'm sad to be going but I'm also so proud that I've made it this far," Heather said in her final words.
"I've got to see how all of this works and be a part of something that I've loved for 20 years. I hope I inspired some people to try something new and out of their comfort zone because the reward is so great -- so great. Thanks for having me!"
On Day 26, the Final 3 castaways were so grateful to have made it to the end, and Xander considered it the most challenging season of Survivor ever. He thought he had lost between 20 to 30 pounds.
While enjoying a feast on the final day of the game, Xander bragged about being an underdog in the game. He recalled having an extra vote and risking his vote as well as holding onto an idol and advantage. Xander also won the final Immunity Challenge and wanted to be the youngest person to win Survivor ever.
Erika, a Canadian citizen, considered herself a fierce competitor, "a lion dressed like a lamb." She had won two challenges, flipped the game upon deciding to smash the hourglass, and had also created the alliance "that dominated the endgame."
Deshawn told the cameras he had survived and thrived in the game thanks to his social skills. Deshawn said he was resilient and "worked [his] ass off" to get to the end.
"There are no goats in this Final 3. Everyone has a chance to win the million dollars," Deshawn explained.
The Final 3 castaways then headed to the Final Tribal Council, where Jeff and the entire jury awaited them for an interrogation session. Erika, Deshawn and Xander had to prove why they deserved to winSurvivor and go home with the grand prize.
The jury was comprised of Heather; Ricard; Shan; Danny, a 33-year-old ex-NFL player from Houston, TX who currently resides in Frisco, TX; Evvie Jagoda, a 28-year-old PhD student from Westchester, NY who currently resides in Arlington, MA; Liana Wallace, a 20-year-old college student from Evanston, IL who currently resides in Washington, D.C.; Naseer Muttalif, a 37-year-old sales manager from Sri Lanka who currently resides in Morgan Hill, CA; and Tiffany Seely, a 47-year-old teacher from Forest Hills, Queens, NY who currently resides in Plainview, NY.
Danny asked the Final 3 how they adapted throughout the game, and Xander said he often went with his gut and took big risks. Xander, who ran cross country and track throughout his life, said he was a workhorse for his tribe who shared advantages and preached a team dynamic at first.
Xander later marketing himself as a number and used Ricard as a shield before turning on him. Xander had also won rice for his entire tribe and made a couple of selfless moves.
Deshawn boasted about his social game in which he had built personal relationships, including with Erika and Heather, to rely on once his back was against the wall. Deshawn said he shot down negativity and kept comradery alive.
But Ricard called Deshawn out for being disloyal throughout the game and throwing "everyone under the bus." Deshawn said that statement wasn't entirely true and his truest intention was to keep Danny and Heather in the game.
Erika explained how she and Heather had became "an unlikely dynamic duo" early in the game who planned to kick ass at the merge, until Erika was sent to exile and then flipped over the game.
Erika said she took an opportunity to work with people on the bottom and then became a member of the majority alliance who eventually dominated the game.
Ricard commended Erika on playing a fantastic game, but he admitted the rest of the jury didn't necessarily agree with him since no one had become very close with her during the game.
"I'm not the person who is going to be best friends with all of you... I wish I got to know more people, but I knew socially what I was capable of in this game and I played within that," Erika confessed, adding that she had a sincere and true friendship with Heather all along.
Erika also shared how people always assume she's helping in the background when she's probably in charge due to her size and young appearance.
Evvie complimented Xander on holding onto his idol for so long, and Xander attempted to prove he had some social awareness through his ability to read the room.
Ricard called Xander's fire-making decision "crazy" and seemed hurt by Xander's choice to vote him out, but Xander said their connection was real and Ricard would have beaten everyone else in the game. Xander also said he didn't consider Erika to be a huge threat.
Xander explained how he didn't ask Erika to make fire because he didn't want to give her that opportunity to win and then tip the scales in her favor with the jury, who all seemed to understand his reasoning.
Shan announced how Deshawn had many emotional breakdowns and temper tantrums and had betrayed her, but Deshawn insisted he was completely serious about their people-of-color alliance and would never use his race or social issues as a strategy to advance his game.
Deshawn also insisted he would gladly take third place if it means representing the Black community well and making people of color proud.
After the jury cast their votes for the winner, Jeff revealed how he'd be reading the votes on-location, which only happened on Season 1 when Richard Hatch won.
"We are going to announce the winner of Survivor 41 right now. Are you ready?!" Jeff asked.
Jeff then read the votes in the following order forSurvivor's winner: Erika, Deshawn, Erika, Erika, Erika, and Erika. The rest of the votes belonged to her as well.
Jeff then treated the entire cast to pizza and champagne, and the after show -- which would typically be a live reunion show from CBS studio in Los Angeles, CA, in front of a cheering audience -- immediately commenced in Fiji after a commercial break.
Erika told Jeff during the after show, "I just had to get here. I didn't need to look like the one in charge; I just needed to be able to plead my case."
Erika also said being on exile was "the turning point" in her game because it made her realize earning credit for moves and getting to the end would be "totally possible."
"I was looking at my fire that took me nearly two hours to build -- so maybe Xander should have sent me into fire. I don't think I would have had the hero moment. That's when I realized, 'Survivor is going to be hard but as long as I keep going, I know I have what it takes to get to the end.'"
Deshawn said he's looking forward to reflecting on hisSurvivor experience and grow as an individual, and Jeff expressed how he never considered him to be "a disaster" and Deshawn was quite likeable in his mind.
On his intense effort during the fire-making challenge, Deshawn recalled, "That was a major moment. At a certain point in this game and after a certain vote, I was on the bottom. I had the 'do or die' thing happen and so there was going to be a slim chance of me making it to the end."
Deshawn therefore said he "put up or shut up" and completed the fire task to the best of his ability, recognizing he should never give up on himself.