Premiering in 2000, the hit CBS reality show Survivor is still going strong. Today, the show is on season 41 and the finale is set to air on December 15, 2021. This season casted 18 individuals of all different cultural and working backgrounds. Of the 18 who originally set out on the journey to win one million dollars, 5 contestants remain in the game on finale night. This elite group is composed of three men and two women, each of whom played very different games.
The three men going into the finale consist of Deshawn Radden, Ricard Foye, and Xander Hastings. Deshawn is 26 years old from Miami, Florida and is currently in school as a medical student. Ricard is 31 years old from Sedro-Woolley, Washington and is currently employed as a flight attendant. Xander is 21 years old from Chicago, Illinois where he works as an app developer. Information on both the men and women contestants is retrieved from CBS.
The two women going into the finale are Erika Casupanan and Heather Aldret. Erika is 32 years old from Toronto, Ontario and works as a communications manager. Erika is also the first Canadian to make it to finale night on the show. Heather is 52 years old and is a stay-at-home mom from Charleston, South Carolina. In an interview with Survivor fan, Lisa Burke (47), she states that “Heather and Erika know how to outsmart all of the boys that think they have them beat.” She goes on to say that “I have never seen someone as nonchalant and strategic as Erika, I think she has a lot to be proud of.”
This season was groundbreaking in terms of the casting choices because no other season had a cast as diverse as this one. The most inspiring group formed because of this cast is that of four contestants: Danny McCray, Deshawn Radden, Liana Wallace, and Shantel “Shan” Smith. This group of four all identify as African American men and women and have been very outspoken about their shared bond and cultural experiences. Through them sharing culture and real-life experiences, they were able to educate viewers on issues bigger than the game.
Their story is best summed up by Liana in her exit interview posted to TV Line. She goes on to say “what’s worth more than a million dollars is if people watching the show can begin to unpack and think about some of the things I was talking about. What’s happening to Black people in America is real and deserves to be paid attention to and for people to be conscious of and actively work against. It would mean all the world and more if people really took the time to understand those dynamics and why, as the four Black players in the game, this was weighing on our minds so heavily.”
While Deshawn is still left in the game, the other three were voted out and take on the role of jury member where they will cast a vote for the winner of one million dollars. At the halfway point in the game, all players who are voted out will be a member of this jury. However, those voted out before the midway point are sent home and do not cast a vote for a winner. Each season features 2 or 3 contestants in the final vote for a winner, and the jury is made up of no less than 7 members.
The ceremony in which players are voted out by their peers is called “Tribal Council.” Everyone is at risk of being voted out at tribal council unless you win immunity challenges. Other advantages such as secret immunity idols have come into play which allows the person who uses it to negate all votes against them. The host, Jeff Probst, talks to the contestants briefly before each of them goes into a private booth to submit their elimination vote. After the votes are submitted, Jeff reads them aloud to the group until the castaway with the most is revealed. Upon this revelation, the eliminated castaway gets their torch put out by Jeff, then either returns home or joins the jury.
In a telephone interview with Mackenzie Morrell (23), she recalls her own audition for the show. Although she was not chosen for casting, Mackenzie states that “I have always wanted to be a part of a tribal council even if I am the one getting voted out. “The anticipation and live game really make the game as unique as it is.”
A typical season of Survivor lasts 39 days, whereas this season lasts 26 days. Changes to the game were made because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions placed upon the cast and crew while filming.
As stated by Jeff Probst in an article from Entertainment Weekly, “The decision to change the game to 26 days came from the fact that we couldn’t leave our bubble,” explains host Jeff Probst. “So if we wanted to shoot two seasons, we had to do it back-to-back. For us to shoot two seasons of 39 days, back-to-back, along with our 14-day quarantine, would have meant nearly 100 days, and that was simply too long.”
With a winner soon to be crowned, there is still a lot of potential for anyone to take the win this season. Whether or not this season will feature two finalists or three has yet to be determined. Regardless, one of the five remaining individuals will walk away with the title of sole survivor and one million dollars.