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Survivor 41: How Xander Hastings Became A Fan Favorite

The cast of Survivor 41 features several standout players, but few have reached the fan-favorite status achieved by Xander Hastings. One of the youngest members of the cast, Xander is a 20-year-old app developer from Chicago. He began the game as a member of the Yase tribe and has made it to the merge phase. Viewers are now watching him try his best to survive the solo stage of the game, following a bumpy ride through the first half.

Xander's time on Yase was hectic, to say the least. Not only did he become a major target in the eyes of his tribemate, Liana Wallace, but he also lost his ability to vote for several rounds because of the Beware Advantage twist. Xander found an idol, but he wasn't able to activate it until the idols planted at the other tribe camps were found. As a result, Xander lost his ability to vote until the other idols were found and activated by Naseer Muttalif and Shan Smith.

Related: Survivor: Why The Show Might Change Its Swimsuit Policy

Xander has become a fan favorite in Survivor 41, which features some format changes. This is thanks to a combination of his position as a scrappy underdog, his gutsy gameplay, and the humorous moments he's provided along the way. Xander had to activate his idol by reciting a specific phrase at challenges: "I truly believe that butterflies are dead relatives saying hi." Xander managed to cleverly engineer ways to incorporate the phrase into mat chat with Jeff Probst. He's also had a few notable one-liners, referring to the season's controversial merge twist as "merge-atory," and his ability to snuff out his castmates' lies as his, "betraydar."

In addition to his humorous moments, Xander's made a number of impactful game moves, the biggest being when he tricked Liana into using her Knowledge is Power advantage on him, only to reveal that the idol she got from him was a fake. He had passed the real idol to his alliance mate, Tiffany Seely.

It's possible that Xander is the biggest Survivor 41 breakout star, which may be a surprise to fans who became familiar with him via preseason press. Xander's preseason persona made him seem like someone who was a bit naive. Some people thought Xander would be in over his head when it came to the intense Survivor game. In interviews, his verbose and intellectual answers indicated that his youth and enthusiasm might be big disadvantages on the island. However, Xander has proven skeptics wrong, as his presence on the season has been one of the highlights so far.

Xander is the perfect mix of Survivor character and player. Not only does he have a strong camera presence and memorable confessionals and interactions, but he also clearly came to play and is not afraid to make big moves. In his counterattack against Liana, Xander cemented himself as a fan favorite and probable lock for a future returnee season of Survivor. However, he has also displayed a keen self-awareness in the social component of the game. Xander is making a concerted effort to ingratiate himself with his fellow castaways. It'll be exciting to see how he fares as the season progresses, and there's no doubt that legions of Survivor fans are rooting for him to take it all the way to the end.

Next: Survivor 41: Weighing The Pros & Cons Of The Season So Far

Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

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