Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island—The Sort-of Season Preview

Real Survivor is really happening! In the Southern Hemisphere, anyway. Welcome to the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast’s coverage of Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island.  Kemper Boyd and I (Assistant Dragon Slayer) are thrilled to welcome Survivor back into all our lives. We might not be the varsity PRP team, and you could argue (incorrectly) that Survivor South Africa is not real Survivor, but as you’ll see, this is undoubtedly the site’s most on-brand season preview yet.

Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island kicks off on June 3, exactly one year, two weeks, and one day since the last new episode of (broadcast TV, English-language) Survivor anywhere. I assume some PRP community members, starved for new Survivor, will be watching an International Survivor season for the first time, so let’s go over the basics. Immunity Island is the eighth season of the South African franchise but the third season under the current showrunner, Survivor superfan Leroux Botha. It’s this rebooted version that caught on among Survivor fans outside South Africa, when word of the first 2-3 truly wild episodes of Season 6 (Survivor South Africa: Philippines, 2018) quickly spread around the Survivor Twitterverse.

Inevitably, coverage of this upcoming season will include references to the people and events of Seasons 6 and 7, possibly including spoilers. Sorry about that, but if you end up liking Immunity Island I urge you to seek out these seasons as well, particularly the bonkers Season 6 (if Season 6 is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Season 7 is that ride that shoots you straight into one huge loop-the-loop and back, also fun but entirely different). The last time I checked, Season 6 was on YouTube but Season 7 was not.

If this is your first season of international Survivor, you’ll be amazed at how much it’s like US Survivor in terms of the sheer look and feel of it. I suspect the production crews for the US, Australian, and South African franchises are largely the same people. And unlike Australian Survivor, Survivor SA hews closely to the US Survivor formula (39 days, 18-20 castaways, etc.). And if you prefer Survivor without the recent American innovations (automatic fire-making at the Final 4, the open-forum final tribal council, Extinction Island, Fire Tokens), then Survivor SA is for you. Moreover, while Survivor SA host Nico Panagio may have his quirks and biases, at least they’re different than Jeff Probst’s.

Host Nico Panagio

One area where Survivor SA unambiguously outdoes the US version is casting. As I said earlier, the showrunner is a Survivor superfan first and foremost, and it shows in the casting. There were virtually no duds in the Season 6 and 7 casts, and as Shannon Guss (who heads up the RHAP coverage of international Survivor) puts it, you know why each and every person is on the show, something you can’t necessarily say about US Survivor. And Survivor SA casts are notably more ethnically diverse than pre-S41 US Survivor (excluding Cook Islands and Fiji, of course), although still not proportional to the ethnic composition of South Africa itself.

As for watching Survivor SA from outside South Africa, I wish there was a completely above-board way of doing it (I for one would pay up for a season subscription on iTunes). M-Net makes episodes available for streaming here, but they’re region-blocked. I suspect but don’t know for sure whether using a VPN gets around this. Otherwise, if you poke around the r/survivorsa subreddit, you’ll find links for watching or downloading the episodes shortly after they air. If all else fails, DM me on Twitter.

OK, enough stalling ADS, get to the cast assessment! Well… that’s a journey. For our  Season 7 season preview, Kemper Boyd and I recorded an actual podcast episode, which 1) is way harder than it looks, and b) proved to have basically zero predictive power (despite one of the cast members turning out to be a cyborg sent from the future to win Survivor). On top of that, doing that much work violates the PRP ethos, so this time around we decided to just draft off of M-Net’s cast bios and the RHAP cast interviews. Well, those cast interviews turned out to be four episodes of around 2.5 hours each, and merely listening to 10 hours of podcasts (let alone taking notes and writing up takes) would get our JV Team cards revoked for sure. Estimating conservatively, 1,000 words about 20 castaways would mean writing… um… (removes socks)… a huge number of words. Like, a New Yorker feature article number of words.

So then Kemper Boyd came up with a great plan B: no-research, all-vibe assessments based entirely on the cast photos. But just as we were about to get to it, RHAP International dropped a 2.5-hour Bryce Izyah (Survivor: Cagayan) Issa Look cast preview, which is the exact same thing! We can’t compete with that! So we just gave up and decided to run cast photos without comment other than name, age, and occupation.

Check back the weekend of June 4 for our recap of the premiere. For now, here is the cast:

Amy Eliason (33), corporate lawyer

Anela Majozi (25), maths teacher and rugby coach

Anesu Mbizvo (29), doctor, yoga teacher, small business owner

Carla Gubb (29), corporate sales executive and entrepreneur

Francois “Chappies” Chapman (32), ????

Dino Paulo (30), escape room owner

Jason Brookstein (27), structural engineering draughtsman

Kiran Naidoo (29), strategy consultant

Marisha du Plessis (35), guest house owner

Mike Laws (32), lawyer

Nicole Wilmans (26), digital marketing manager

Paul Cupido (29), aftercare teacher

Noleen “Pinty” Nkanjeni (30), freelancer

Qiean Wang (35), “funemployed”

Renier Louwrens (30), chemical engineer

Santoni Engelbrecht (39), online business owner

Shaun Wilson (40), IT entrepreneur

Thoriso M-Africa (36), marketing officer

Tyson Zulu (24), creative director and entrepreneur

Wardah Hartley (39), yoga instructor and fitness professional