Fil-Canadian is the latest winner of 'Survivor'

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
Fil-Canadian is the latest winner of 'Survivor'
Erika Casupunan was crowned the winner of the 41st season of the American reality competition show "Survivor".
Survivor / CBS

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino-Canadian Erika Casupanan was crowned the winner of the 41st season of the American reality competition show "Survivor," becoming the first Filipino and Canadian to become the "sole survivor."

Collecting seven votes from eight jury members at the Final Tribal Council, Casupanan becomes the show's third winner of Asian descent, following "Cook Islands'" Yul Kwon and "San Juan del Sur's" Natalie Anderson.

She is also the first female "Survivor" winner since Season 34 "Game Changers'" Sarah Lacina in 2017.

"If you want any proof that we're in a new era of 'Survivor' is that I am the winner, a Filipino immigrant woman who lives in Canada, and I won the game," Casupanan said in an Instagram post after her victory aired on television. "I don't care what you look like, sound like, where you're from, your background, what you believe in... you can win the game. I'm proof."

Casupanan also said she would love to see more beautiful diverse winners of the show following her win.


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Game progress

Casupanan was born in Hermosa, Bataan and migrated with her family to Toronto, Canada where she currently resides.

She was cast for "Survivor 41," which features a diverse cast after a new commitment by the show to feature 50% of contestants who are people of color. In 2020 however, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the show to be filmed in April-May in Fiji this year—the traditional 39-day game was also cut to 26 days, incorporating more twists to make up for the lost days.

Casupanan was part of the successful Luvu tribe that won every challenge up to the traditional merge, meaning she and her tribemates never had to go to tribal council and vote someone out.

Though initially having a quiet start, Casupanan's gameplay blossomed when she was sent into exile and overturned the results of a challenge to allot immunity to other players, including herself.


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Post-merge she reunited with her old teammates to take out former members of the rival Yase tribe as well as the players holding immunity idols, namely Naseer Muttalif and Shan Smith.

Casupanan formed a strong relationship with Luvu tribemate Heather Aldret; together they ensured to be on the right side of the votes, and were a formidable threat at challenges, winning immunity twice.

Despite being his closest competitor for the title of sole survivor, fellow finalist Xander Hastings selected Casupanan to join him in the Final 3—his explanation was to avoid Casupanan boosting her resume should she become victorious in a fire-making challenge.

Casupanan made her case at the Final Tribal Council, explaining her subtle moves to navigate her way through the second half of the game and her social skills as reasons that she deserved to win. She received all but one vote from the jury, which went to co-finalist Deshawn Radden.

'Looking like a lamb, playing like a lion'

During her two days in exile, which became pivotal to her future performance, Casupunan admitted she broke down in tears because she came from a strong tribe but was not selected for the merge feast.

In her private interview with the production crew, Casupanan shared the challenges of being a young Filipino in Canada and her parents' struggle to give her family a good life.

"Everything [my parents] did set me up with the skills to achieve what I want to do," the eventual victor said through broken tears. "Me being on Survivor is like a love letter to my parents to let them know that everything they did gave me what I need to survive out here."

"The way that I look really affects the way people treat me," Casupanan later said after her victory, sharing that she is always mistaken for a minor or an intern when in truth she is "the one pulling the strings."

She added that she had no ego about how she was going to play, "The path to the end didn't have to be pretty, I just had to get there."

Her mantra for the game, which inspired the title for the this season's sixth episode, became a resurgence where she would be "still looking like a lamb, but ready to play like a lion."

"Survivor" is an American reality competition series where contestants must live in the wilderness, win challenges, navigate social politics through alliances and voting people out in order to become the "sole survivor."

The show has taken place in the Philippines four times, from Season 25 to 28, shot in Caramoan, Camarines Sur and Palaui Island, Cagayan.

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