‘Survivor 41’ finale recap: Did Ricard, Erika, Xander, Deshawn or Heather win the $1 million prize? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

After a diverse season full of countless twists (and one controversial hourglass smash), “Survivor 41” came to an end on Wednesday with one player winning the $1 million prize. Heading into the Season 41 finale, only five of the original 18 castaways were still in the game: Ricard Foye, Erika Casupanan, Xander Hastings, Deshawn Radden and Heather Aldret. Gold Derby’s racetrack odds favored Ricard to win it all, but did things go according to our predictions? And did a hidden immunity idol finally get played for the first time all season?

Below, read our minute-by-minute “Survivor” recap of the Season 41 finale, titled “One Thing Left To Do … Win,” to find out what happened Wednesday, December 15 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaways on CBS’s reality TV show, who annoys you the most and who you think will ultimately join the “Survivor” winners list and take home the $1 million grand prize. Jeff Probst hosts the Emmy-winning series.

Keep refreshing/reloading this “Survivor 41” live blog for the most recent updates.

8:00 p.m. – “Previously on ‘Survivor’!” In the 12th episode, a temporary Final 3 deal was created between Deshawn, Erika and Xander. Unfortunately, Deshawn spilled the beans on the alliance at tribal council when he incorrectly believed he was about to be voted out. Instead, it was his best buddy Danny McCray who got his torch snuffed, leaving only five people still in the game. So who will become the “Survivor 41” winner and take home the $1 million prize? We’re about to find out!

8:01 p.m. – Right from the jump of the finale, Jeff spoke directly to the audience to reveal that for the first time in 21 years, since the first season, he will be announcing the winner to the finalists and the jurors right after the votes are cast. He’ll also be keeping them around after the winner reveal to have an “after show” where they discuss the season, in place of the standard reunion. What would a season of twists be without this one final twist? Into it!

8:02 p.m. – As we heard at the end of the previous episode, the final five did not return to their camp, but instead arrived on a new beach with bare minimum supplies. The only player excited about this change was Xander who saw it as an opportunity to rise to the top while everyone else crumbled under the stress. Erika was not in the mood to discuss anything with Deshawn after his “Hail Mary” to cause chaos by blowing up the conversation he had with her about not taking Heather to the end of the game. At least Deshawn understood Erika being upset by it, realizing that he was on the bottom and it’s all he could do. Erika’ frustration came from having spent the day trying to protect him only to have him throw her under the bus. She and Ricard decided that Deshawn would have to be the next to go. Ricard saw it as an opportunity to make Deshawn the focus so that he would no longer be the one everyone wants out.

8:06 p.m. – The next morning Erika checked in with Heather who had “no comment” when Erika asked her how upset she is at her. She was surprised that Heather was unwilling to have a conversation about it, but Deshawn apologized for the impact his move had and stressed that he was only trying to save himself, not make a personal jab at her. Still, she had no idea how she could possibly work to keep him in the game like she previously planned.

8:08 p.m. – All the players received the same advantage clue together, a scrambled word phrase that they had to decipher before going to search for the advantage itself. Xander was the first to unscramble the phrase “Your treasure hangs where the trees love to dance,” followed quickly by Deshawn and Ricard, and later Heather, and even later Erika. Ricard and Xander worked together to ensure that Deshawn didn’t find the advantage, but that was all for naught since despite being the last to solve the puzzle Erika came across the advantage first! Her advantage promised a “slight advantage” in the upcoming immunity challenge.

8:12 p.m. – For the immunity challenge the players had to assemble and climb two different ladders before reaching a 75-piece puzzle that if finished first would earn them a spot in the final four. They also played for the reward of a steak, veggies, bread and wine meal. For her advantage, Erika received four rungs of her two ladders already completed. Erika made the most of the first stage by getting all seven of her ropes and climbing her first ladder ahead of the other players, but Ricard and Xander were close behind. Erika also whipped through the second ladder and got to the puzzle first, but she only had a small head start before everyone else caught up — the puzzle is always the great equalizer. On the puzzle, both Erika and Ricard were making quick work of the pieces and though the pace picked up quite a bit across the board, Erika maintained her lead and finished the puzzle first! As part of her reward, she got to pick one person to join her for steak. Because of their “tough tribal council” she “had to pick Heather.”

8:23 p.m. – At their steak lunch, Erika immediately wanted to address the fracture in the friendship with Heather. Heather explained that she was hurt by the way Deshawn displayed the whole thing and just needed time to assess her feelings. She said the lunch with Erika was their opportunity to reaffirm their friendship and move forward as a pair. Erika said that they need to get to the end together to plead their case and that if Ricard wasn’t such a threat he’d be the perfect person to go with. They both agreed that they “cannot go with Deshawn” because they don’t respect his game and don’t want him to win. Because Xander has the hidden idol and it’s his last chance to play it, Erika and Heather had to decide between Ricard and Deshawn.

8:27 p.m. – Back at camp, Ricard told Erika that obviously he and Deshawn are voting for each other and that the ball is in her court to decide who goes home. Erika said she was conflicted, which surprised Ricard because he doesn’t think it should be a hard decision for Erika to make considering the previous tribal council. Worried, Ricard went to Heather to see where her head was at, but she also hesitated to give a firm answer. Both women knew it made more game sense to get rid of Ricard, but they struggled with their trust of Deshawn. In a conversation with Xander, Ricard opened up about him expecting a second child in the coming weeks and it seemed to hit Xander’s heart on a personal level and causing him, too, to debate whether he votes with his head or heart. He even threw out the option to Ricard of saving him with his idol to counter Erika and Heather’s votes against him and to make it look like he was the one in control of the vote, not them.

8:34 p.m. – At tribal council, Jeff wanted to know from Deshawn if Ricard was still the target and if now that he’s vulnerable it would be an obvious vote. Xander explained that, no, the case was that both Deshawn and Ricard are on the chopping block and that everyone was open to hearing the reasons why they should keep either of them. Ricard made a plea that he’s been struggling throughout the game and opened up again to everyone about the birth of his newborn and not knowing if he should have even come out to play. After hearing that he is the biggest threat, Ricard tried to tell everyone that if Deshawn gets to the end he’ll have the most votes to win out of all of them.

8:43 p.m. – At the ballot box we saw Ricard and Deshawn swap votes for each other, but the others were kept from view. In his last opportunity to play his idol, Xander said although he doesn’t need to play he would still play it for himself. Jeff read the votes: Deshawn, Ricard, Ricard, Ricard. Looks like everyone voted with their head and sent challenge threat Ricard to the jury.

8:49 p.m. – After the vote and back at camp, everyone was happy and looking forward to the next immunity challenge and the fire-making showdown. Erika was confident in her fire-making ability, having made fire herself while on exile, and seeing the top three in her sights. Overnight, it stormed and sure enough Xander was the only one enjoying it, seeing it as the opportunity to wear everyone else down.

8:59 p.m. – For their next and final immunity challenge Jeff had them balance a stack of blocks on a wobbly platform at the end of a rocking platform. For the winner was a decision to bring one other player to the final three with them, leaving the other two to compete in a fire-making showdown to earn their own spot in the finals. Xander was the first two get to three of his six blocks stacked, followed by Erika and then Deshawn. On his fourth block, Deshawn dropped his stack while Xander increased his lead with five blocks. Xander was moving much quicker than Erika, who soon after dropped her stack as well, giving him a huge lead. On his way back after placing the sixth block, Xander moved very slowly and did it successfully to win immunity!

9:12 p.m. – With the immunity necklace around his neck, Xander felt the weight of the decision ahead of him. He grabbed each of the three aside to hear their pitches about why he should choose them. Deshawn said that Xander has a good shot of winning, but bringing Erika would be a risk because she’ll be tough to beat. Heather said that she’s willing to play in fire and also said that Erika could beat him. Erika pitched that there’s merit in taking her with him and he stopped her there, saying that he is for sure taking her, but then said “you might want to practice just in case.” Xander went back to the others to say that it’s likely going to be Deshawn vs. Heather at fire, on the point that he doesn’t want to give Erika another “flashy” chance of adding something to her list of accomplishments.

9:18 p.m. – Deshawn was terrified of having to make fire, but Heather saw it as a chance to prove that she deserves it. Xander was hoping that Heather would win because it’ll split attention off of Erika who has played a similar game to Heather. When Erika started practicing at fire, Xander noticed that Erika actually was not good at making fire at all — she was taking longer than anyone else. It made him question giving her the free ride to the finals and he began to consider pulling Heather in with him and making Erika go to bat against Deshawn.

9:24 p.m. – At tribal council, Xander explained that Deshawn’s “truth bomb” told him a lot about where everyone on the jury stood. He said that when he criticized Erika’s game he noticed the jury’s reaction as in agreement with Deshawn, noting that he thinks the jury does not respect Erika or Heather’s games, but Shan Smith whispered to Liana Wallace that she thinks that’s a “poor read.” Quickly, Jeff wanted to know Xander’s decision. Xander stuck with his choice to bring Erika with him and leave Deshawn and Heather to make fire.

9:31 p.m. – In the fire-making challenge, Deshawn was the first to get a flame in his husk and so he was able to begin to build it up with twigs. As he built it up, Heather got her flame to her husk and so she, too, began to build it up. By this point Deshawn had smothered his flame with sticks and his flame went out. As Deshawn got his second flame, Heather’s had built to the point of hitting the rope, but as Deshawn’s hope seemed lost Heather’s flame dropped a couple inches. By the time Deshawn got his to reach his rope, Heather’s had returned as well and so it was an even match. Then, out of nowhere, Deshawn’s rope snapped and he was through to the final three! Only seconds later, Heather’s rope snapped as well, but a few seconds too late.

9:39 p.m. – The next morning the final three was treated to a breakfast for finalists and a chance to reflect on their time in the game. Xander clocked all the advantages he had to use and his challenge wins, naming many things that he checked off of his “Survivor bucket list.” He also knew that at 20 years old, he’d be the youngest winner ever. Erika knew that she was one of the biggest underdogs of the season and in the last stretch of the game she created the alliance that controlled the late-stage votes. Deshawn felt good about his social skills and resilience in the game without individual immunities or any advantages.

9:42 p.m. – At the final tribal council, Jeff declared that it was time for the jury to “interrogate” the finalists. Evvie Jagoda spoke first, nothing that it would be a very competitive race between the three because they all have a chance of earning votes. Danny McCray wanted to know everyone’s game plan and how they adapted. Xander said he planned on playing his own game instead of trying to play like past winners had, and a big part of that was sharing advantages and in the late game keeping Ricard around as a shield. Naseer Muttalif spoke up to defend Xander’s strong heart and social game as well. Deshawn spoke confidently about his own social game, but the faces on the jury suggested they weren’t buying it. Ricard decided to interject to ask Deshawn to explain why if he was about a positive social game did he throw his original tribe under the bus as soon as the merge happened. Erika pointed out that she had to adapt her social game based on being at the bottom and not having the social capital because of exile. Ricard also gave Erika a chance to speak to how her strong social connections with some people was a better option than Deshawn, by comparison, who tried to have smaller connections with everyone. Her strongest statement was that she knew what she was capable of socially and she “played within that.” 

9:52 p.m.Tiffany Seely wanted to know from Xander what his approach to the merge was and how the former Yase tribe played into that. He said that he genuinely wanted to play with them, but he saw that the group was detrimental to his game. Liana followed up by asking about how “social awareness,” pointing out that there was a point where he didn’t know she knew about his advantage. Xander had a tough time answering the question, but Evvie propped him up by stating that everyone knew he had the idol the entire time and it’s impressive that he never used it, knowing he didn’t have to. Ricard wanted to know why Xander decided to get him “the #1 threat” out, but gave Erika “the #2 threat” easy path to the finale. Xander said his impression was that Erika wasn’t a threat. Heather spoke up and said that she pointed out that Erika is the only one that could beat him in the final and he still chose to take her, to which Xander said he didn’t want to give Erika the chance to beat someone in fire.

9:57 p.m. – When Shan got a chance to speak, she spoke to Deshawn about his “emotional breakdowns” and how their four person alliance with Liana and Danny imploded. She said that he “hijacked” her emotionally and she wanted to know if he was capitalizing on a social movement or was he serious about the purpose of their alliance. He made it clear that he would never sell his people out for a game or use a social movement to his advantage, and he also accepted the perception that he threw temper tantrums and may have come off as emotionally manipulative.

9:58 p.m. – Danny closed it out by giving Erika props for playing a competitive game in the challenges and allowing people to underestimate her. She said she was never out in front, but never in the bottom and she was always on the right side of the vote. He said that he envies her for playing the game he wanted to play, and a number of other jurors said “me too.”

10:16 p.m. – When the jury of eight casted their votes we heard Naseer vote for the player he respected and Danny for the person that played “more intentional and risk-taking.” This is when Jeff dropped the ultimate “truth bomb” that he’d be revealing the votes to them right then and there for the first time since Richard Hatch on season 1. Jeff read the votes for a winner: Erika, Deshawn, Erika, Erika, Erika, Erika. She got every vote except for one, meaning she’s the first Canadian winner and the first female winner since Sarah Lacina won “Game Changers” on season 34! Deshawn placed second with one vote and Xander third with no votes.

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