Here we go, the finale of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island. Will Chappies win yet another immunity or will Smash and Nicole somehow survive to battle it out at final tribal council?
Final 3 (Kemper Boyd)
- We start off by being reintroduced to all the cast and woah mama it’s a hot bunch. Big takeaways, Amy is very attractive, Wardah’s new hair is superb, Anesu is just everything and the men are also there.
- WE get a full recap of the season and Nico going through each of the three’s resume. All this section did was remind me Nicole was the worst of her 3 Non Non Blondes Alliance, that Smash has done basically nothing and Chappies is a physical beast.
- Chappies points out that Tyson screwed up the final 4 vote. Had he voted for Smash then they could have gone to fire and Tyson probably would have won. I don’t think it hugely matters for Chappies as if he doesn’t win immunity it doesn’t matter who is with him they will take Nicole. Although I guess if Nicole wins she will definitely take Smash whereas she might not have wanted to take Tyson.
- Pre Immunity Challenge Chappies says that endurance is his middle name. So his name is Francois Endurance Chapman? That’s cool, he should definitely call his new baby Endurance.
- The Immunity Challenge is Hands on a Hard Idol. A complete classic, hand on the idol, do not remove it and keep your feet on the uncomfortable poles.
- Immediately Smash is wobbling. The challenge goes for over an hour before Smash falls. Chappies immediately tells Nicole he is taking her to FTC and she says that she will try her absolute best. Surprisingly Chappies slips and Nicole wins final immunity and gets to choose who to take to final tribal council.
- I knew she was winning immunity after Nico called her a challenge beast in the intro, because she had only one a single individual challenge.
- Chappies says he is thankful that he exceeded his expectations, he knows she’s taking Smash.
- Back at camp Smash called Nicole “the Chappies Slayer”. Chappies thinks it’s 50/50. But I don’t think it is. Chappies shares with Nicole that Anesu told him at Ponderosa, she has Amy and Marisha but Sean has convinced everyone else that Smash was the mastermind.
- Chappies really believes Nicole’s chance to win v Smash is very low but higher above himself.
- Nicole says that she has been aligned with Smash from the beginning and since their shared destinies they have carried each other. She doesn’t know what to do. Take Chappies who is a physical beast but people don’t necessarily like or take Smash who has played a social game.
- At Tribal Nico congratulates Nicole, she says it’s a big decision and it will take away someone’s dream. Chappies says he blacked out on the pole and he was hit with a wave of contentment knowing he gave his absolute all. Chappies gives a beautiful speech about aiming for the stars and falling, but the most important thing is standing up. Aim for the stars and land on the moon.
- Nicole says that Chappies mentions what he learnt from Anesu, that Sean is advocating for Smash and she needs to listen as she needs 5 people to vote for her. Smash says it was probably a way to sing his praises so she will vote him out. Smash says the jury will take an objective stance and vote on the day but then points out Santoni and Anesu are locked in for Chappies.
- Smash tells Nicole to put her heart in her decision. Chappies says he respects her decision and would love to be eating breakfast with her tomorrow.
- Nicole votes for Chappies and it’s a Vuna final 2, which is amazing considering the big swing Zamba took at the beginning of the merge.
- After the vote Nico talks to Chappies and asks about what he could have done differently, Chappies says if you change one thing you change the whole sequence. Chappies says in voting Wardah off the jury, he wanted to sit with Tyson so he took out Wardah.
- It’s day 39 breakfast, Chef Smash is out frying bacon and sausages. Nicole says she will never take food for granted again.
- We hear the last motivations of Nicole and Smash and now it’s time for FTC.
Final Tribal Council (Assistant Dragon Slayer)
- Opening statements: Anela says that his approach to the game had three pillars: freedom of expression, simplicity, and flexibility. Freedom of expression means taking off the Anela the coach hat and putting on the Anela the Survivor player hat. Simplicity means that at every stage of the game, he only played with three people–two players he wanted to go to the end with and one “mercurial” player as a shield (so at one point he was allied with Amy, Renier, and Dino, and at another with Amy, Shaun, and Santoni). Flexibility means that because he was only playing with three players, he focused purely on making social bonds with the others and gathering information.
- Nicole says that she wanted to play differently than everybody else, which for her meant playing with honesty, integrity, honesty, and trust. As far as the “outwit, outplay, outlast” framework goes, she doesn’t think outwit necessarily means only blindsides, and that it isn’t in her character to run around scrambling all the time. Rather, she aligned herself with players who would relay information to her. For outplay and outlast, she notes that in that one immunity challenge she was the only one who took on Chappies instead of dropping out for food, that she was the only woman to win an immunity challenge, and she also of course notes that she was solely responsible for ousting the challenge beast Chappies.
- I thought both Anela and Nicole were really strong in their opening statements, making cogent points and pre-emptively addressing the objections the jury may have with their games. I give a slight edge to Anela in terms of presentation, but his statement was less tethered to reality than Nicole’s.
- Reinier does his duty as the first juror to ask a question and tells them (whether it’s true or not) that there are a lot of undecided jurors, including himself. He asks both of them to tell him what truly distinguishes their games and why they deserve to win more than the other person. This seems like a totally open-ended question. Anela says that after he and Nicole paired up, they had to decide whether to ally with Chappies, Anesu, and Santoni, or Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah. Nicole wanted to go with the first trio, but Anela convinced her to go the other way. He then brought up his disastrous attempt to blindside Kiran, and said that it was his social bonds that kept him in the game. This seems like a big stretch to me, but it’s probably best for Anela to address this event now rather than be on defense when a juror brings it up. He also says that when Chappies tried to shift the vote onto him at tribal council, both Nicole and Tyson didn’t bite. Nicole talks about all the times Anela was saved in the game by others without any agency of his own (including by her, twice).
- Anesu, looking incredibly fine, says that she played with intention, and she can see how Nicole’s actions linked up with her intention as well, but Anela not so much. He was all over the map and not in control of his game, in other words. She wants specifics about how he played with intention. It’s kind of a fuzzy question, but I think Anela totally whiffs, talking about getting sent to Immunity Island and his quick bonding with Kiran and Tyson as evidence of his social game.
- Santoni (who elicits a “here we go” from Anela) says she has more of a statement than a question (here we go). She talks about how at the Final 6, when she modified his plan to blindside Kiran to literally make it fool-proof, his ego took over, and that’s why he won’t get his vote.
- Amy reveals that she’s really a lawyer. Everybody knows. She says that she’s been underestimated a lot in life, and wanted to take advantage of that in the game, and asks them if they had that same kind of intentionality. Nicole says that she had the opposite approach, that she knew she would be underestimated and therefore played a bold game. Anela talks about how as an educator and coach, he’s organized, meticulous, and doesn’t leave things to chance. This gets some visibly negative reactions among the jury.
- Shaun also wants to make a statement. He says that as one of the first at Ponderosa, he saw person after person arrive saying that they thought Anela was on their side. He says that’s a sign of good gameplay. Whether it’s blind luck, flip-flopping, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Being on the right side of the vote is what counts.
- Kiran reveals that he’s a strategy consultant in real life, so outwit is his daily life. He says that good strategy is both deciding what to do and what not to do, so he wants to know what moves they decided not to make. This is a good question. Anela says that he allowed fellow Zamba Shaun (who was gunning for Santoni) to get voted out in order to forge ties with the Vunas. Nicole says that her only example is having to choose whether to take Chappies or Anela to the end, and she ultimately decided she would have an easier time beating Anela. This doesn’t have anything to do with Kiran’s question, but it’s another opportunity for Nicole to note that she beat Chappies and that Anela’s only there because she took him.
- An emotional Marisha says she can’t decide, and that her questions have already been answered, and that she’d vote for both of them if she could.
- Tyson (who elicits a very funny “please make a statement” from Nicole) says that his decision is made. He gives Anela credit for his social game and for getting to the end. But Nicole slayed his nemesis Chappies.
- Chappies says that Season 8 was the season of curveballs, and the final curveball is that Nicole and Anela are the Final 2. He asks Anela when he felt the most vulnerable. Anela says that trying to blindside Kiran was a moment of weakness, and that owning up to it was showing vulnerability. But every time he was weak and vulnerable, he turned it around quickly.
- Final statements: Nicole says she’s proud of the game she played and by the way Anela is only in the Final 2 because of her. Anela makes a very strained comparison of his game to being a coach, and if his gameplay and moves aren’t very apparent it’s because a coach shouldn’t take the spotlight away from the players.
- Before we get to the vote, I want to note a few things. First, most of these questions were terrible. Four of the nine jurors didn’t even ask a question. I know a lot of Survivor fans are unhappy with the roundtable discussion FTC format, and certainly it needs fine-tuning, but what it replaced wasn’t great. Second, I kind of wish someone had pressed Nicole on how she thoroughly botched who to take on reward with her in the Tied Destinies episode. On the other hand, Anela was obviously not in a position to do so, and ultimately I think it might have been a bad look for Renier or Amy to. Third, Nicole and Anela both outperformed my expectations. I said in the comments last week that we were either going to get a ‘meh’ but clearly deserving winner in Chappies, or a big letdown in either Nicole or Anela. While I still would have preferred almost any two of the other post-merge players to be our finalists, I’m less down on our actual Final 2 (and therefore our winner) than when FTC started.
- We see Shaun vote for Smash and Santoni vote for Nicole, as expected. Nico thanks all of the castaways for playing so hard and honoring the world’s greatest game, and asks them to make sure Chappies doesn’t steal anything else. He and the urn helicopter away.
- Back in Cape Town, the castaways have cleaned up very, very well. Like the Season 5 finale, they save the vote reveal until the very end of the broadcast, after the reunion and the awarding of the car and whatnot, which seems cruel to the finalists. I’m going to skip ahead since this recap is running very long already.
- The votes come in Nicole, Anela, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, NICOLE. The only Anela vote was from Shaun.
Final Thoughts (Kemper Boyd)
A really fun season but the ending really is a disappointment for me. The winner was a non-entity strategically, the runner up was shown as a weak flipper. We didn’t get an edit that told the winner’s story or even why the runner up lost. It was the story of how one alliance destroyed themselves and let the non-threats win, which is a lesson in itself.
Final Thoughts (Assistant Dragon Slayer)
I think it’s safe to say that this was not the outcome anybody was expecting. In fact, I had zero-percented Nicole as recently as Episode 14. And she’s not the kind of winner who embodies their season, the way the surprise winner of Season 6 perfectly epitomized that madcap, chaotic season. I suspect that many people are disappointed at best and may even think that this ruins the season (there are certainly filthy casuals on Twitter saying this). Frankly, I think that’s silly. I strongly believe that while a fantastic finish can elevate a season (for example, Micronesia, San Juan Del Sur, or Australian Survivor Brain vs. Brawn), the opposite is not true. Moreover, even if you think Nicole mostly bounced down the Plinko board and landed in the pocket labeled “R1,000,000” without ever truly controlling her destiny (and I do), that’s an entirely legitimate way to win Survivor. By definition, Nicole played a winning game. It’s just the kind of winning game that’s not super fun to watch and almost impossible to construct a narrative around. And so now in retrospect it’s easy to see why so many of the post-merge players got some form of “winner’s edit” and why so much of the post-merge was a cascade of “how X lost” episodes.
Ironically, the biggest impact Nicole may have had on the season prior to the Final 3 was when she won the reward/immunity challenge in the Tied Destinies episode and took Zamba friends Renier and Amy, dooming them and accelerating the Pagonging. That was foolish, but it was equally foolish for the Vunas to leave both Nicole and Smash in the game.
But the point I’m trying to make is that even if you feel that a season didn’t stick the landing, it shouldn’t negate your enjoyment of all that preceded the endgame. So with that in mind, congratulations Nicole and thank you to everyone who’s been reading these recaps and commenting. This was a fantastic season and it was great fun sharing the experience with you.
Assistant Dragon Slayer began watching Survivor in 2013 with Survivor: Caramoan, but continued to watch the show anyway. He is up to 59 seasons and counting (43 US, seven Australia, five South Africa, two New Zealand, two Japan). So there.
Favorite player from each country: Cirie Fields (US), Luke Toki (Australia), Santoni Engelbrecht (South Africa), Lisa Stanger (New Zealand), Sakiko Sekiguchi (Japan) [and Maryanne Oketch (Canada)]