Shan Smith Describes Ponderosa as ‘Toxic’

Shan Smith

YouTube Shan Smith in "Survivor 41."

Ponderosa is usually a place of relaxation and decompression for “Survivor” jury members to go after getting voted out as they wait until they have to cast their vote for a winner. Indeed, this is how it is portrayed in most CBS “Ponderosa” videos. However, many contestants are still undergoing quite a bit of psychological trauma after being voted out, especially those who were blindsided or betrayed by their close allies.

Shan Smith, the eighth-place finisher of “Survivor 41,” has been open about how despondent she was by the betrayal of her allies Danny McCray and Deshawn Radden, who blindsided her with an idol in her pocket. It was largely because of this despondency which exacerbated her mood during her week-long stay at Ponderosa, so much so that she described her time there as “toxic.”

Shan Wanted to Leave Ponderosa ‘As Fast As I Could’

Shan Smith and Liana Wallace in Survivor 41

YouTubeLiana tells Shan about Deshawn and Danny’s plan to blindside Ricard in episode 10 of “Survivor 41.”

In an interview with “Survivor: Island of the Idols” contestant Lauren Ashley Beck on Monday, Shan spoke about how her blindside at the hands of Deshawn and Danny was “deeply triggering” due to the cultural bonds she believed they made which extended beyond the game. As a result, Shan explained, she “did not do well at Ponderosa” after she was voted out. “I just wanted to get out as fast as I could,” she said. “It just was toxic.”

She added that she “felt like I was still getting a slow, steady trickle of information that was just re-triggering every single time that someone came in.” The three subsequent jury members who joined her at Ponderosa turned out to be Liana Wallace, Danny, and Ricard Foyé, her close ally and friend who masterminded her blindside. Although Liana didn’t participate in her elimination, she stated in the same interview that Shan was still reeling from the blindside so much that she even approached Liana and asked her if she did participate in it. “I was like, ‘No! I would never do that! I [voted for] Erika’!” Liana said.

Liana also echoed Shan’s statements when it came to her own experience, saying that she herself wanted to go home. “It was just very painful,” she said, “and honestly I just wanted to go home to people that love me. I want to hug my brothers, I want to hug my mom, I want to hug my dad.”

“It was explosive a lot of times,” Liana added. “You’re like, ‘damn I just want to get away from you!’ So it was hard.”

Shan’s ‘Ponderosa’ Video Shows a More Positive Light

Shan’s Ponderosa video, released shortly after the episode in which she was eliminated, seems mostly to belie these underlying feelings. After reflecting that she should take her blindside as a compliment and telling the medical staff that she was “fine,” she also revealed to the other jurors – Tiffany Seely, Naseer Muttalif, and Evvie Jagoda – that she had multiple sclerosis, saying that she wanted to play well and win to help represent those with MS in a positive light. Near the end, the four of them also write an upbeat song about their experience on “Survivor” and getting voted out.

Shan also added that she wanted to take her time on “Survivor” as a learning experience. “I really just want to just absorb everything, every lesson,” Shan said in the video. “Every person was a teacher to me in this game in some way. How I process it here ultimately will be what I take back home.”

She also spoke about how she had aspirations of her fellow Black players to control the game together in order to form a watershed moment in the media, which were crushed when she was blindsided. “There are so many systems in America that oppress that to see four Black players coming together potentially to work together to create a win [could be] a moment of hope for the community outside of the game,” she said.

Shan went on about what “Survivor” meant to her overall:

I wanted what I did out here on ‘Survivor’ to mean more than me just winning a million dollars. I wanted to lift up a culture, I wanted to lift up my community, that’s what I wanted. And so that’s why I feel at peace I think with how I played the game.

“Survivor” airs Wednesdays 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS. Be sure to catch season 42 when it premieres March 9, 2022.