Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts, Episodes 1 & 2 Recap

Welcome to PRP’s coverage of Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts, the South African franchise’s first-ever all-returnees season. M-Net is for some damn reason releasing this season at the fire-hose rate of four episodes a week over six weeks, which is going to be tough to keep up with simply as a viewer, let alone as a recapper. But at least each episode is  45 minutes long excluding commercials, so each week of episodes is actually going to be a bit shorter than a week of Australian Survivor. 

The recaps will cover two episodes at a time (which actually works out well in the case of the first two episodes, a two-hour premiere in disguise), and will be posted as soon after the second episode airs as possible, otherwise it’s going to be really tough to discuss them before the next batch of episodes drops. To that end, the recaps will likely be more impressionistic and big-picture than previous international Survivor coverage.

Return of the Outcasts is more of a Second Chance season than an All-Stars season, since the gimmick is that it’s a tribe of pre-merge boots versus a tribe of post-merge boots, and even on the latter tribe, the only person who came close to winning is Chappies.

Organized by previous season, the tribes are:

  • Yontau (pre-merge): Phil (5), Shona (5), Killarney (5), Seamus (6), Tevin (6), Felix (7), Tania (7), Dino (8), Pinty (8), Thoriso (8)
  • Masu (post-merge): Tejan (4), Shane (5), Marian (5), PK (6), Palesa (6), Toni (6), Dante (7), Steffi (7), Meryl (7), Chappies (8)

OK, let’s go. My winner pick is Palesa.

Episode 1

  • There was a four-year hiatus between Season 5 in 2014 and the reboot with Season 6 in 2018. So naturally the returnees from Seasons 4 and 5 have aged more notably than the others. And life has thrown Marian quite a curveball, which I assume will be discussed at some point.
  • The opening minutes of Return of the Outcasts channels Winners at War in three ways: no marooning; it’s revealed to the players that the prize is being doubled, to two million rand (a whopping $117,055); and they go straight from the starting mat to the reward challenge, where pairs from each tribe battle in the water for a life preserver. Masu wins a flint.
  • Tania, Dino, Thoriso, Dante, Pinty, Tevin, and Seamus all vow to play differently than they did the first time round. Only Seamus manages to do so for more than a few hours.
  • Shane (who was in a ride-or-die alliance with Marian in Season 5) has at least two confessionals where he talks about how great it is to be reunited with her, and how their unbreakable alliance will carry them to the end. This must mean that Marian cuts his throat this season.
  • I assumed that alliances would form based on having played together before (and they did, particularly on Masu), but the Survivor SA alumni community is small enough that there are out-of-game relationships among players from different seasons, including PK and Marian (who had a short-lived romance that went about as well as you’d expect); Chappies and Steffi; Tevin, Toni, and Dino.
  • Yontau and Masu are, I kid you not, Vulcan for fire and water. Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe Survivor SA is going back onto Paramount Plus and it’s a synergy attempt with Star Trek.
  • We certainly don’t have time to cast Survivor: Star Trek, but I think James T. Kirk, Garak, and Beckett Mariner are the Final 3.
  • Marian and Thoriso notice a weird emblem carved into a tree at their respective camps. Nothing comes of this in the first episode.
  • Much is made of the fact that Tevin, PK, and Toni (all on the Mindanao tribe in Season 6) have matching tattoos. 
  • On Masu, Meryl, Marian, and Steffi form an alliance and pull in their partners (Dante, Shane, and Chappies). Tell me you’re forming an anti-Philippines alliance (the outsiders are the Season 6-ers PK, Toni, and Palesa, plus Tejan from Season 4) without telling me you’re forming an anti-Philippines alliance.
  • On Yontau, an all-women alliance tentatively comes together, but such alliances are famously fragile, and this one in particular seems doomed, given that Shona, Tania, and Pinty are involved. I have no idea what the men on the tribe are doing.
  • Tree mail tells each tribe to pick two representatives to send to the Outpost to negotiate for supplies. IIRC, this mechanic is straight out of Survivor New Zealand Season 2. It’s Steffi and Shane for Masu and Seamus and Thoriso for Yontau. 
  • Yontau selects rice and flint (but only after Seamus tells a pointless lie about already having fire at camp). Masu chooses two food items: lentils and pap (what’s pap?). 
  • The four have to vote (in secret) for someone (but not one of the four) to receive an Outpost idol, good for the first tribal council only. The votes will be revealed before the immunity challenge, and if there’s a tie there’ll be a rock draw (come on, purple rock!) The idol recipient has to attend the first tribal council and play the idol, whether or not their tribe wins immunity. 
  • Turns out it’s a non-elimination leg two-part premiere. Come back tomorrow for the immunity challenge and the first tribal council. 

Episode 2

  • Upon further reflection, Constable Odo’s shape-shifting ability means that he can spy-shack at any time and is probably unbeatable in individual immunity challenges. So maybe he gets to the end, but the jury will be pretty angry with him. ACAB.
  • Shane asks Seamus and Thoriso if there’s anybody on the outs at Yontau that they want protected. Seamus says nobody comes to mind and turns the question around on Shane and Steffi. They immediately name Tejan, which makes sense since he’s the only person from Season 4 in the entire cast. 
  • Seamus, over the objections of Thoriso, refuses to put up a name and therefore tip their hand about who’s in and who’s out on Yontau. The idea is to force a 2-2 tie and leave it up to fate rather than reveal anything about their tribe.
  • Dante sounds the alarm about Chappies with the four Masu outsiders, saying that with Chappies’ night-time antics it’s like playing against two players. He’s either stoking paranoia, making sure he knows where their votes are going, or keeping his options open, given that he’s already bro’d down with Chappies and they’re both in the majority Breakfast Club alliance.
  • The Outpost idol vote is two for Tevin, two for Tania. Presumably, Shane and Steffi opted to protect Tania, the most likely first boot on Yontau, and Seamus wanted to protect a fellow Season 6-er in Tevin (Thoriso confirms in a confessional that she went along with Seamus’s wishes to demonstrate loyalty). Tevin wins the rock draw (no purple rock, dammit).
  • The immunity challenge is the typical episode 1 obstacle course/puzzle. I do like how the puzzle elements are integrated into the obstacle course rather than being at the end, making the obstacle course basically irrelevant. Yontau wins.
  • Yontau notes the arrogance of Shane and Steffi voting for a Yontau (since it means they assumed Masu would win the challenge).
  • A new majority six (Dante, Meryl, Tejan, Toni, PK, Marian) gathers at the well and tries to come to a consensus. I’m guessing the (anti-Philippines) Breakfast Club alliance is untenable because Tevin is likely to protect a Season 6-er. Marian and Meryl are unhappy about this.
  • Huh, Dante genuinely wants Chappies out. Tejan objects. Marian offers up Shane as the decoy vote in a 4-3 vote split as a demonstration of loyalty to the group over her number 1 (I assume PK and Toni will loop in Palesa as the seventh vote).
  • Shane senses that Dante is going to flip on the Breakfast Club because Chappies and Steffi are too close. He tries to rally the votes against Dante but it’s almost time for tribal council.
  • Tevin is leaning toward protecting Palesa, but Felix makes the case for saving Dante because he’ll be loyal to them after a swap or the merge. 
  • Tribal council: Greater than average obfuscation because of the presence of Tevin. Just before the vote, Nico lets Tevin speak and he asks Shane and Steffi why they asked Seamus and Thoriso to protect Tejan. Chaos ensues.
  • Tevin plays the Outpost idol for Palesa. Four votes Shane (Chappies, PK, Toni, Steffi), one vote Dante (Shane), five votes Chappies (Tejan, Meryl, Palesa, Marian, Dante). Bye Chappies. That’s a true shocker but also it’s kind of poetic for Chappies to be the last one voted out in one season and the first one voted out in the next season.