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'Survivor 41' – Season Finale Recap: The Sole Survivor

(CBS) -- Survivor 41 has come to an end. And man, I must say – what an ending it was! For the first time since season one, host Jeff Probst announced the Sole Survivor at an epic Final Tribal. So, who Outwitted, Outplayed, and Outlasted them all? If you happened to miss the episode, here's the last recap from me of the season:Final FiveIt's down to these final castaways: Erika, Deshawn, Heather, Ricard and Xander. And as Probst said, "every epic battle has to have one final push." So, these five got to start all over again on their last few days of the game. Yep – another new 'Season 41' twist occurred as the remaining players now had to make their way to an entirely new beach and start from scratch, with limited supplies and no shelter. This new era of Survivor is wrapping up in the most epic fashion possible.

 The new curveball is exactly the twist Xander says he needs. He wants everyone else weak so that he can rise and finish strong!Meanwhile, the rest of the players are focused on Deshawn's outburst from the last Tribal Council – or as he phrased it, "truth bomb." Deshawn's "truth bomb" was how Erika doesn't plan to take Heather to the end, even though they've been so close. Now, Erika is pissed at Deshawn for this chaos he stirred – even Heather is shaken up and refuses to chat to her about it. At this point, Deshawn is taking full ownership for most of it because he just wants to "blow up her spot" any way he can.As Ricard sees it, Deshawn was 'thinking' he was making a big move; when in reality, he just continues to throw himself under the bus. But, as he mentioned, if everyone's focused on Deshawn, that leaves the spotlight off of him – and we know that spotlight has been shining brightly onto Ricard. Ricard is clearly the biggest threat in the game and the rest of the castaways realize it.

The castaways received one last tree-mail that included a word scramble phrase. Every person who unscrambles their phrase gets to use this clue to search for one last advantage to use at the next Individual Immunity Challenge. One by one, each castaway resolved their scramble and began searching this new island. The phrase was:"Your treasure hangs where the trees love to dance."Erika was the last to solve... and the first and only person to find this final advantage! She lets everyone know she found it – besides Deshawn since he did "make a fool" of her. Now she gets a significant advantage at the next challenge.The Individual Immunity was a huge challenge to win. Not only is the winner guaranteed a spot in the final four – but they also get steak, vegetables, bread and wine for lunch. This was an Immunity and Reward the castaways did not want to lose. Each player had to collect several ropes off a tower to build an individual ladder. The castaway then must climb up their ladder of ropes and move forward to navigate and collect their bags of puzzle pieces. After retrieving their bags and climbing even more, they would have to solve a 75 piece Survivor puzzle. The first person to solve their puzzle wins Immunity! Erika's advantage was that she got to start with four rope rungs already assembled onto her ladder.Erika put her advantage to work as she was leading the entire time. Ricard caught up real fast to her though. These two battled it out side by side, but in the end, Erika earned her spot in the final four! And, to make up for the craziness at last Tribal, she chose Heather to join her at her steak lunch.

After Erika and Heather agreed to continue moving forward together, this meant the chopping block was between Ricard and Deshawn since Xander has an idol, and it's the last Tribal he can play it.As Erika approaches Ricard and tells him how she's "on the fence" about the decision, Ricard is pretty stunned. He's baffled she'd vote him out after Deshawn just threw her under the bus.Before Tribal, we also see Ricard with Xander and how much they've bonded on this tribe. Ricard even says he can't wait for his kids to meet their "uncle Xander" one day. He was definitely tugging at the heartstrings – in a sincere way. Ricard shares to Xander how he has a new baby that's due within the week and could be missing the birth of his child. It was a sweet and emotional scene between these guys. And, at this point, Xander is even debating using the idol to save Ricard. After all, he truly loves the guy  – but, this is Survivor. Would that move cost Xander the million dollars?At Tribal Council – the battle was well-known: Deshawn vs. Ricard. As Xander phrased it, these two were battling it out like they were in the Wild Wild West. They're definitely gunning for each other. Erika describes it as "the good" vs. "the bad" from her point of view. Even though Ricard has been so good to her – does she want to risk taking him forward for her just to lose against him? Before the votes, Probst prompted Ricard to share if he did have "any last words." In this moment, Ricard shared how he's been struggling just like everyone else – except no one knows about it. He explains how he may be missing his baby's birth and how hard that is for him. This was a new and more vulnerable side to Ricard we've not seen all season.Before the votes, Probst even mentions how the focus has always been on Ricard for numerous Tribal Councils now. He applauds him for lasting so long – almost like he even knows Ricard is the next one to go.After all, it was pretty obvious. Ricard has, arguably, the best Survivor resume in the game this season. He was proud of himself and said he totally "kicked ass." Knowing his fate was coming to an end, Xander did not save him with his idol and Ricard was, unfortunately, the next person out of Survivor 41. Probst even said something completely true about this game:

Final FourIt's down to Erika, Deshawn, Heather and Xander. These castaways have a one in four chance to win the million-dollar check and title of Sole Survivor. Who will it be?The remaining four are definitely in FOR it. A torrential downpour was thrown their way, now with no shelter to stay warm and dry. These players are struggling... besides Xander. Xander says he feels like a rockstar embracing the pouring rain and all. Once again, he wants everyone to feel their weakest.

With pruney hands, sand stuck to their faces, and a lack of sleep – surviving the night through pouring rain was definitely a "badge of honor." But now, these four have to compete in the final Immunity Challenge. If they don't win today, they could potentially face a fire-making challenge to earn their spot in the final three.This final Immunity Challenge was a Survivor classic. Each player had to balance on a rocking post while stacking a block phrase that spells out "Final 3." The challenge gets more difficult the taller the stack. The first castaway to successfully spell out "Final 3" earns their spot in the final three. You definitely need to have a lot of patience to win this one!This challenge was all in Xander's hands. Everyone else continued to drop while he was stacking his last block. In this instance, slow and steady does win. And thanks to his patience and poise, Xander won the last Individual Immunity, earning his spot to pitch to the jury why he should be the Sole Survivor! With no surprise, Xander had tears in his eyes. This guy is only 20 years old, but man, he does not act like it! He's been so grateful for this game and his confidence is truly admirable! If he won, he'd be the youngest person to win Survivor. It was genuinely a touching moment seeing how thankful he was to be in that exact spot – he even asked Probst for a hug!

After Xander experienced a massive rush of joy, it was now time for him to take control of the wheel in the driver's seat. Wearing this Immunity necklace means he gets to pick one person to join him in the final three, and the other two must battle it out by making fire. But, as Xander says, this decision is all about perception. He needs to really think about what the jury would say about his decision, so he can ultimately win in the end. He feels if Erika is the biggest threat to him right now – why give her another moment to build up her resume? If she earned her spot to the final three making fire, that gives her another notch in her belt as to why she should win. And, if he just takes her with him to the final three, maybe her credibility of actually 'earning' her spot would go down. Plus, he's under the impression Erika knows how to make a fire since she was the only one on Exile Island this season. Keeping all of this in mind, he tells the tribe he's taking her. That means both Heather and Deshawn now know they'll be up against each other to make fire.But, just before Tribal, Xander notices Erika practicing anyway... and realizes she can't actually make fire. He questions this initial decision – but wonders, is this all a ploy? Is Erika just fooling Xander and lying that she can make a fire so she doesn't have to compete? Now, he's more confused than ever...All eyes are on Xander at Tribal Council. He knows wearing the Immunity Necklace means he holds all the power. He then proceeds to share how Survivor is all about perception. The thing is, though, the power of 'perception' is in the hands (or eyes?) of the jury. Every person sitting on the jury bench has a unique view of who's playing the best game. Each move a player makes is crucial. After thinking long and hard, Xander stuck with his decision and chose Erika to sit with him at the Final Tribal.Now it's Heather vs. Deshawn in the epic fire-making challenge. Who will earn their spot in the final three?

Let's just say, this was one of the best fire-making challenges ever! Right off the bat, Deshawn got his flame right away, and Heather was falling behind. But not too long after, Heather did get a flame and it seemed she was in it to win it! That's because, shortly after, Deshawn's fire began to dissipate. It looked like Heather's to win – when suddenly, Deshawn got a flame going once again.At this point, you couldn't tell who was going to win this battle. And out of nowhere, Deshawn's flag raised  – meaning he won his spot in the final three. It just goes to show, no matter how far behind you are – you should never give up. Deshawn was speechless.On her way out, Probst applauded Heather for her admirable effort this entire game. She's pushed herself like no other and is truly an inspiration!  She left with a good attitude, and sure enough, her torch was snuffed.Final ThreeWe're down to the final three: Erika, Deshawn and Xander.There's no doubt this was the most brutal Survivor season yet – both physically and mentally. Now, these three get to enjoy a final three feast and reflect on their incredible journey. Who will win the title of Sole Survivor?These three all have unique, under-dog-like stories. Xander, a 20-year-old who has conquered his own challenges yet, is one of the most gracious and grateful castaways we've seen in any season. Erika, a Filipino Canadian, who claims she's always viewed as a "lamb" when she feels like a "lion." And Deshawn, a black man who's struggled with adversity and is proud to represent his culture in the most honest, vulnerable way we may have seen on any season. Each of these castaways played with their own strategy... but there can only be one winner.Now, it's time for these three to plead their case to the jury as to why they're the most deserving of earning that one-million dollar check, and of course, the title of Sole Survivor.  The people who they all voted out now get THEIR chance to ask questions and "interrogate" these final three. This is the Final Tribal Council Q & A.The Q & A seemed pretty equal across the board – as each castaway had their spot in the "hot seat" at some point. But, there was one person in particular that the jury applauded a bit more than the rest. The winner of Survivor 41 is...

Erika!Erika was crowned the first Canadian winner of Survivor! For the first time since season one, they read the votes there and then, out in the jungle/ As they say, "drop the 4, keep the 1" in Season 41. It was incredible to watch this raw moment of her winning. Even their "reunion show" was out there in the jungle too.So, what'd you think of the results? As the jury highlighted, Erika played an "unbelievably" clever game because she flew under the radar incredibly. Jury members like Danny and Tiffany said they wished they had played her game. At the reunion, Erika says she didn't want to play with her "ego," and being underestimated was her plan all along. She explains how that's even reality to her out in the real world. For example, she may be in a board meeting and treated as an intern, but in fact, she's the one running the meeting. Erika said her path to the end didn't have to be pretty – she just had to get there. Erika's win was applauded by most of the entire jury. She received every vote to win, besides one – where Deshawn got the other. There were no votes for Xander, but his spirits were high, and he was pretty self-aware about how bringing the ultimate underdog, Erika, was his million-dollar mistake.This season was pretty awesome! I enjoyed all the harsh challenges and twists. In past seasons, it felt like we'd always watch people search for idols – and in my opinion, it was getting sort of old. This new era is fresh, but it also reminds me of the Old School Survivor seasons. Plus, this cast was extremely heartfelt and shared so many unique and inspiring stories – I appreciated how more personable this season was. I can't wait to see this classic style of Survivor continue in Season 42! Tweet me @mick_cloudy and let's talk until then!Don't miss Survivor 42 premiering this spring on CBS!

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