Fans are still reeling after Erika Casupanan pulled out a surprise victory in Wednesday night’s “Survivor 41” finale. Although Erika was warmly embraced not only by the “Survivor 41” jurors, but the fanbase as well, she was not always certain she would be the one taking home the million dollar prize.
Due to her own internalized doubts about her chances, as well as the external factors that she felt she had to live up to, Erika actually ended up having a mental breakdown shortly before the Final Tribal Council. Her win, when it was revealed, ended up being even more overwhelming than she had expected.
Here’s everything you need to know about how Erika Casupanan reacted to her “Survivor 41” win.
How Erika’s ‘Imposter Syndrome’ Led To A Mental Breakdown Before Final Tribal
Erika secured a spot in the final 3 when final 4 immunity winner Xander Hastings chose her to come to the final 3 with him, pitting Deshawn Radden and Erika’s top ally Heather Aldret in a fire-making challenge; a nail-biter which Heather narrowly lost.
She explained in her Rob Has a Podcast exit interview that she went into the Final Tribal confident in her game and her ability to pitch it (in part due to her career as a communications manager); however, she nonetheless had an emotional breakdown hours before she, Deshawn, and Xander were set to go in and plead their case. This was due not only to her fears of “coming so close to making your dream come true,” but having “doubt come over you at the eleventh hour” (per TVLine), but also because of the external pressures brought onto her due to the social and cultural dynamics which formed a heavy backdrop throughout the entirety of the season.
Not only was Erika the only female finalist in a show which hadn’t seen a female winner since season 34, she was also a person of color in a season which put great emphasis on the difficulties faced by minority groups. As a result, she felt a great deal of external pressure and broke down in fear that she couldn’t live up to the hopes and dreams of many fans who might have been rooting for her in part due to these factors.
She said on RHAP of her breaking the “curse” of a six-season drought of female winners, “It’s crazy that I was the one that did it.”
The psychological experience of believing that one’s accomplishments came about not through genuine ability, but as a result of having been lucky, having worked harder than others, or having manipulated other people’s impressions.
Essentially, Erika felt a great deal of internalized self-doubt. She elaborated on her breakdown in RHAP:
It’s an added pressure that the women in the game face knowing that the fans really want to see a woman win. On the day of Final Tribal Council I actually had to go into the woods and bawl my eyes out because…it was that moment of imposter syndrome in thinking, ‘what if I cant get it over the finish line?’ I know the history of when women go to the Final Tribal Council where there’s two men and one woman, the woman gets zero votes. What if I become just another zero vote finalist? What if knowing that so many people want to see a woman win and I’m not able to make it happen? … I felt there was so much pressure on me to really deliver what people wanted, and I was scared I couldn’t do it.
She added, however, “I honestly think I just needed to bawl my eyes out, get it out of my system, and I knew I was going to kick butt in the Final Tribal.”
Why Erika Was So Shocked By Her Victory
Although Erika was proud of her game and confident in her ability to win, she revealed she was not only shocked by Xander’s decision to bring her to the final 3, but also the final outcome of the jury vote.
She revealed in an interview with EW that despite jury member Naseer Muttalif‘s praise for Xander during the questioning period, there was an incident which the audience didn’t get to see where Naseer actually said to her, “You know, Erika, I promised that I was never gonna write your name down, but tonight I’m breaking that promise because I’m voting for you.” She said of that announcement, “That is an achievement. I never thought I was gonna get Naseer.”
She went on to calculate the votes in her head, figuring that, along with Naseer, it was clear she had secured the votes of Heather and Ricard Foyé, as well as possibly Tiffany Seely and Evvie Jagoda. “So in this case,” she explained, “five is enough.”
However, when host Jeff Probst announced he was going to read the votes live, and it was revealed she won in an overwhelming 7-1 vote, she said she was “totally floored, totally shocked.”
“I thought that my eyes were gonna fall out of my head,” she said of her landslide victory.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS. Season 42 will premiere March 9, 2022.