by Jeremy Fogelman
As we dry our tears and clean up our snakeskins, we ask the perennial question: Why did Shan lose? Of course, Shan has been a dangerous person the entire game, and has certainly been a potential target for just as long. She’s built connections and plotted mightily, with a lot of charged back and forth alliance talks with Ricard and Deshawn. And all the while, those two always knew that they could never really go to the end with her. Right?
The path to Shan getting voted out was a series of steps, with only one true “mistake” I could see on her part. At first Shan and Ricard are shown explaining that although they are close, they know it’s “trust until you aren’t” for the two of them. Then Deshawn gets an idea from Erika to target Shan, and he doesn’t reveal this tidbit to Shan.
We also get one of several highly emotional moments this episode then, as Deshawn gets choked up feeling conflicted about wanting to be with the other three “for the culture” referencing the rough year that was 2020, but what about his own game? Then Ricard picks cleverly at the reward challenge, raising Danny’s paranoia at his jury management skills -- and they bring up the idea to vote out Ricard and simply not tell Shan (which is ultimately a reverse of what actually happens, since they vote out Shan and don’t tell Liana).
The episode teases us by having Heather call out Shan singing her theme song out loud, but hey, mayhaps that’s a portent of the future -- that finally Shan is no longer hidden? But the next step is that Liana (in tears) decides to tell Shan about the plan, and they decide to target Deshawn instead (although this fake plan will eventually change). At the immunity challenge, the camera made sure to notice when Shan smiled after Deshawn dropped his ball, before she immediately shifted into a fake grimace.
But since Ricard won, the Danny/Deshawn plan was off the table, and then Shan reveals to Ricard that he was a target. Using this as ammunition, Ricard decides that now is finally the time to get his longtime ally out -- and brings up this betrayal of trust to Deshawn. It’s funny, because Ricard was the target of Deshawn, but since Ricard didn’t betray anything, it changes things -- and suddenly Deshawn is on board, if still conflicted.
Erika is entirely on board, wanting to split the votes between Shan and Liana -- and now nearly everyone has the plan, except the targets, Shan and Liana. At tribal council, both Deshawn and Danny say kinda shifty things, and I thought maybe Shan picked up on it -- but if she did, she didn’t do anything about it. That was her one mistake; I think there were signs of a betrayal, but she felt too safe and went home with an idol in her pocket.
But getting to that point though, wow, what a great episode of back and forth, everchanging strategy. The connections built between these people make things much more interesting when they have actual conflicts to worry about internally and definitely interesting when they finally turn on each other. Shan has been a frontrunner in the game for most of the show, but she has gotten some negative editing here and there -- she wasn’t a perfect player by any means, but boy, was she great at the game she played. Definitely an all-star for sure.
Next time on Survivor, Liana gets quite angry, Erika is a target and targeting, and there’s some twist.