Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts, Episodes 11 & 12 Recap

Spoiler alert for two of the most dizzyingly complex episodes in Survivor history: ????????????????????????????????

Episode 11

  • Masu: We jump straight to the morning after Thoriso went home. Apparently, nobody has anything to say to Felix now that he’s the last of the minority alliance left. Felix says he’s not going to play for revenge, then he rebuffs Toni and Tejan when they say they’d rather keep him than Killarney. Separately, he fake-agrees to work with Tejan. Toni is feeling vulnerable because she has so many connections to Yontau 2.0, and therefore might be a target for elimination right before the merge.
  • Yontau: The only two original Yontaus, Phil and Dino, are on the chopping block. An idol can save one, but only one, of them. Dante tells Meryl (in the presence of Marian and Palesa) that he got a Masu tribe idol at the Outpost, but omits the fact that it’s expired. He wants Meryl to let it slip to Dino that he has an idol and is going to play it, to snuff out any ideas Dino might have of blindsiding or idoling out him (remember that Toni gave the other-tribe idol to Dino post-challenge, but lots of people saw it). Meryl chafes at the way Dante is bossing her around. Palesa interprets her inclusion as a sign she’s in good standing with the Breakfast Club. Marian plans to sneak her Diplomatic immunity to Steffi if Yontau wins immunity, in order to keep the Breakfast Club and her Day 1 alliance intact.
  • Immunity challenge: Everybody must stand on a tiny perch over the water, holding a ball overhead. Last person standing wins immunity for their tribe. BUT THERE’S A CATCH! Both tribes will attend tribal council and both tribes vote out somebody on the losing tribe. Also, last person on each tribe left standing goes to the Outpost. Please tell me there’s no hourglass waiting there.
  • Dante and Felix are the first to drop and immediately start exchanging information at the sit-out bench. Although they’re allies, they’re a little at cross-purposes, since Felix’s core alliance is with Phil and Dino (the No BS alliance), while Dante is gunning for Dino.
  • Things get more and more jumbled as people drop out and arrive at the sit-out bench. Palesa wants Dino out, Marian floats the idea of using Diplomatic Immunity, and later throws Palesa’s name out. Meanwhile, the people still on the perches start negotiating. The last two Yontaus are the targets Phil and Dino. Toni promises to move the vote off Dino if he drops, allowing Phil to go to the Outpost. This should raise red flags, because why would Toni care which one goes to the Outpost and which one Masu 2.0 saves?
  • But in fact, Dino drops. Phil wins for Yontau, but can’t outlast the three remaining Masus Toni, Tejan, and Steffi. Tejan and Steffi agree to let Toni go to the Outpost and drop out (even though Steffi says she could have gone another 45 minutes and there’s no reason to doubt her). One of the Yontaus will be voted out at the combined tribal council.
  • Marian plays her Diplomatic Immunity, moving back to the now-immune Masu tribe.
  • Masu: Tejan notes that the vibe is weird at camp, considering that they’ve essentially made merge. And he’s not wrong: Steffi is for some reason unhappy that Marian has complicated things (although she should be happy that she can reinforce the Full Package ties) and Marian is sulky that she hasn’t received a warmer welcome.
  • Yontau: While idol-hunting, Dante and Shane lament that they can no longer safely split the vote between Dino and Phil. Shane says he’ll check the beach for an idol later (!!!).
  • Masu: Felix says he’s stuck between two sets of alliances (Dino/Phil and Dante/Merrill) and will have to betray one side or the other. Killarney, of all people, notes to Tejan and Felix that Marian could run back to Shane and other allies on Yontau after the merge with all the intel about Masu. Steffi, who’s been separated from the rest of the Breakfast Club since the swap, comes to the conclusion that Marian jumped ship not because she was vulnerable on Yontau, but to ensure that the upcoming vote goes the Breakfast Club’s way. Again, I’m not sure why Steffi feels like this isn’t a great thing for her.
  • Yontau: Meryl doesn’t want to stick with Dante long term, and having to be his messenger and fire-putter-outer is hurting her ability to play the social game. She discusses options with Dino (mainly Palesa) and reveals that Dante has an idol. Meanwhile, Palesa is worried because herself, Shane, and Meryl will be the only people without some sort of protection (actual or perceived) at tribal council. She says she needs to go with the numbers, and her sense is that Dino/Phil, plus Toni and whoever she’s controlling at Masu, are going to have the numbers.
  • At the Outpost, Phil and Toni find a note telling them that if they successfully predict who gets voted out at tribal council, they each get half of an idol. I love this: power (but not too much power), but you don’t get it for free. You have to take risk and form a relationship with someone you’re not necessarily working with already (and would have reason to betray once you each have a half-idol).
  • In discussing whose name to write down, Toni essentially reveals the existence of the Breakfast Club alliance to Phil (and therefore the existence of a split in the Masus). They realize they can form a super-alliance of the four remaining Yontaus, the three non-Breakfast Club Masus, plus Steffi, and with eight votes they can split the vote on the non-Steffi Breakfast Clubbers. They choose as their targets Meryl (to isolate the idol-protected [lol] Dante) and Shane (whose been lying to and pushing around Phil/Dino). They write down Shane’s name even though Meryl is the preferred target because he’s an easier sell to their respective tribes. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
  • Right on cue, Shane spots a red string on a dune and follows it to a buried pouch containing… something. DUM DUH DUUUUUUUUMMMM.

Episode 12

  • Because this is a two-part episode and both tribes are going to tribal council, we get a full 50 minutes of pre-tribal scrambling, spread across two episodes and two separate camps (plus the Outpost). It’s EXHAUSTING.
  • It turns out Shane found the Yontau camp’s Diplomatic Immunity advantage. But he can’t play it, because Marian has already played the Masu camp’s counterpart. WOMP WOMP.
  • Meryl conveniently recaps who’s safe and who’s not among the individual Yontaus: Dante has an idol (she doesn’t know it’s expired), Dino is acting like someone who’s safe (she must not have seen Toni pass the other-tribe idol to him), Shane at least has a real pouch for a fake idol, Marian jumped over to Masu, and Phil is presumably receiving something at the Outpost. That leaves only Meryl and Palesa completely exposed (Meryl has the Tribal Council Pass advantage but wants to keep it secret).
  • In the grand Survivor tradition, Phil and Toni return from the Outpost and tell half-truths about what happened there. Toni has a perceptible tell when she’s lying. Even Killarney sees it.
  • I’m just going to fast-forward to the mind-blowing tribal council. Suffice it to say that everything leading up to it involves Phil and Toni trying to line up the votes according to the plan they hatched at the Outpost, and that Phil does it better than Toni. At Yontau, Phil is helped greatly by the fact that Dino independently comes up with the idea of voting out Meryl, but he also has to keep Meryl from rounding up votes against Palesa. At Masu, people don’t want to vote for Shane and/or don’t want to be dictated to by Toni. I’ll add that the obvious weak point of the plan is Toni’s assumption that she can get Steffi to go along with what is essentially a blindside of the Breakfast Club alliance. I have to give Steffi credit for staying calm and poker-faced throughout Toni’s pitch. Season 7 Steffi would have blown up at Toni for having the audacity to suggest that she be disloyal. And the look on Steffi’s face after agreeing to a Final 2 deal with Killarney is priceless: 
  • At tribal council, Yontau is on the regular tribal council stumps and Masu is on the jury bench. This physical separation causes a lot of signaling and word-mouthing across tribes.
  • I don’t think this actually spooked anybody, but given the fragility of the vote plan, I don’t think it’s a great idea for Phil to be wearing Marian’s cap.
  • After bemusedly watching the whispering escalate, Nico says they should just get up and talk to each other.
  • With 11 people milling around whispering to each other (plus Nico, who Phil hilariously pretends to whisper to), there’s  just no way to recap the twists and turns of this extraordinary live tribal in less than 4,000 words. It lasts just over three minutes but it feels like 15.  I hope the subtitlers got overtime pay. Suffice it to say that as the vote plan fall apart and people get more and more spooked, there’s really only one name most everybody can agree on. Everybody sits down again, but the whispering continues. Tejan says he doesn’t understand why his people are about to vote out one of their own.
  • Just before the vote read, Dante “plays” his expired idol and Shane reveals he’s also got just a useless stone.
  • By the time Nico reads the votes, it’s a foregone conclusion, which cushions the blow ever so slightly: Palesa, Palesa, Meryl, Meryl, Palesa, Palesa, Palesa, Palesa, PALESA.
  • And with Palesa now out of the game, Nico says there’s no point in continuing, and declares the season over. It’s certainly an unorthodox way to finish a season, but I can’t say I object. Thanks for reading these recaps and see you next year for Season 10.
  • There’s a very unusual head-on, slow-motion shot of Palesa as she walks down Losers Lane, and for a split-second I think she’s going to walk up to a lit torch and a sign telling her to go to Redemption Rock. Alas, no.
  • The vote for Palesa was nearly unanimous (Toni voted for Meryl, as promised). This was a soft version of the Game Changers idol-palooza that took out Cirie (who nobody voted for; yes I’m still salty!). In Cirie’s case, the idols and advantages were real and made it literally impossible to vote out eliminate anybody else. In Palesa’s case, the idols and advantages were mostly invalid, but created enough doubt in enough peoples’ minds that it was virtually impossible to vote out anybody else.
  • Meryl’s membership in both the Breakfast Club and Full Package saved her. Although Palesa had good relations with both alliances (and also with No BS), she wasn’t actually a member of any of them and thus the expendable, no-risk option.
  • Goddammit!
  • Since all of the remaining players are in attendance at this tribal council, before dismissing them, Nico tells them they are merged, and hands out new yellow/purple buffs and gives them a new tribe name: Salan, which is Vulcan for “wind” (seriously, what’s up with that?). Everybody whoops it up (the Full Package alliance perhaps drawing a little too much attention to themselves), and it’s particularly gratifying to see the joy on the faces of the four original Yontaus who made it to the merge this time. But I suspect Palesa could hear all of this in the distance.