‘Survivor’ Winner Comments on All-Black Alliance

"Survivor 41" Liana Wallace, Shan Smith, Deshawn Radden

CBS Liana Wallace, Shan Smith and Deshawn Radden in "Survivor 41."

The most recent episode of “Survivor 41” saw a dramatic shakedown of the season’s most dominant alliance. With eight people left as of Wednesday’s episode, four of them — Shantel “Shan” Smith, Liana Wallace, Danny McCray and Deshawn Radden — were part of the so-called “Black alliance,” which had been dominating the game strategically up until this point. However, with the sudden blindside of Canadian-born pastor Shan in episode 10, the alliance seems to be crumbling.

Nevertheless, Wednesday’s episode saw several heartfelt scenes between members of the alliance, as well as Ricard Foyé, who led a blindside against his former ally Shan. One such scene led season 36 winner Wendell Holland to speak up about the nature of race and social dynamics in the current season of “Survivor.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Episode 10 Saw Deshawn Face a Dilemma

The first half of episode 10 saw an emotional confessional made by Deshawn, in which he reflects on his relationship with Shan, whom he had previously considered blindsiding. After a heartfelt conversation with her, however, he reconsiders, and weighs the importance of race in their season (he would end up blindsiding Shan at the end of the episode, albeit under different circumstances).

During the confessional, in which Deshawn is visibly emotional, he confronts a dilemma between playing for himself versus doing what is best for the Black community — both in “Survivor,” as well as in America — given that Black Americans have never had so much representation in the show before. “It gets tough,” he said, “because you still want to win for yourself, but there’s that duality …” at this point, Deshawn trailed off to compose himself.

He went on:

The people before us did so much for us to be here, and the year that we just had — 2020 — it was rough … and you get this opportunity, the opportunity you’ve always wanted, and you feel like the No. 1 person standing in your way is your biggest supporter and your biggest ally.

He said that playing the game under these circumstances was really difficult, because he wanted to remain loyal to the Black alliance while also playing the best game for himself, which might not necessarily include them. “It’s just hard ’cause I don’t want to turn my back on any of the three of them,” Deshawn said, “but what am I gonna do for myself? What do I do?”

This sentiment echoes comments made by original “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch last week, in which he praised the four Black players for their revolutionary alliance, but also warned them not to compromise their game for external reasons:

If what they’re doing is maintaining that alliance … in order to … this kind of proud moment where four Black people came together and drove the game to the end, at the expense of what would be the best decision for them at the end, it could undermine it for all of them.

Whether or not Deshawn, Danny and Liana’s games are compromised as a result of Shan’s blindside (which Liana did not participate in), is yet to be seen, although it isn’t looking good for the three of them. With seven players remaining, they are now in the minority, and judging by the preview for next week’s episode, there will be serious fractures between Liana and the two men that the latter may not be able to mend.

Furthermore, Shan seemed disappointed and angry with the members of her alliance that turned on her (calling Deshawn a “snake” on her way out), while praising her other ally, Ricard, for doing the exact same thing. In the end, Deshawn decided to betray the woman whom he called his “biggest supporter” and “biggest ally,” and so far, it appears as though he may have made the wrong move.

Wendell Says Deshawn’s Dilemma Is ‘Deep’

Wendell Holland

GettyWendell Holland at the “Survivor: Winners at War” premiere in February 2020.

Wendell Holland won the 36th season of the show — “Survivor: Ghost Island” — back in 2018, by a single jury vote. He is the fourth-ever and most recent Black winner of the show, coming of the heels of Jeremy Collins of season 31, Earl Cole of season 14 (both of whom won unanimously), and Vecepia Towery of season 4.

On CBS’s official “Survivor” Instagram page, Wendell, who has previous spoken out praising the new rules by production that made casting more inclusive, commented under the post in support of Deshawn, saying his confessional was “deep,” and that “there’s a lot to it.” He went on to encourage Deshawn, saying that now “it’s YOUR time to play hard for whatever you want/need to play hard for.”

He also spoke out in support of the Black alliance as a whole, praising them for making this a “great season.” He explained:

I was Shan’s biggest fan, I wanted all 4 of y’all to get to the end. But, you gotta play YOUR game. And you’re doing that. And, we’re seeing this difficult/impossible/ emotional dilemma play out. I think production did a good job showing how hard this vote was. And after that episode, everything is up for grabs. Great season.

Davie Rickenbacker, who placed sixth in season 37, “David vs. Goliath,” also commented on the post, saying, “The Game within a Game we call LIFE,” referring both to the real-world racial dynamics experienced by people of color, as well as the show’s new “game within the game” interactive feature which fans can participate in live at home. 

To stay up to date on the current season, and the remaining three members of the Black alliance, be sure to catch “Survivor 41” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern time on CBS.

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