Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts Week 1 Recap

Survivor expert Shannon Guss breaks down Week 1 of Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts.

Shannon Guss World Of Survivor byline

A David V Goliath battle tells a tale of two tribes.

With an abundance of knowing glances and longing stares shared between 20 former and now current Survivor South Africa castaways, Return of the Outcasts began, ushering in the first ever returnee season for the franchise. In the first four episodes, the showdown has already become a tale of two tribes, a gripping battle of David V Goliath proving even more biblical than US Survivor’s literal David V Goliath season.

On one beach, the messy Masus, a group of alpha-type, post-merge behemoths leaving pure destruction in their wake. On the other, the agreeable Yontaus, so congenial, accepting and scared to move even an inch, lest those moves have them booted pre-merge for a second time. As a testament to the difference, after a short win streak built through pure tribe unity and gumption, Yontau’s one dalliance with tribal council earned a telegraphed, unanimous vote out of the obvious boot. Conversely, by the end of the week and Masu’s mere two votes, only three of ten contestants could say they stood on the right side of the numbers both times. Three gigantic franchise luminaries paid the price for this opening chaos. Let’s dive in.


Welcome to the clash of egos I’m calling Messu, where the dynamics were, initially, a six-member Breakfast Club alliance (anyone familiar with the famous five stars of that movie could see the obvious trouble with this early alliance name) of duos Meryl and Danté, Marian and Shane and Steffi and Chappies. It instantly looked like the alliance of players from Survivor SA: Philippines, Toni, PK and Palesa, with tagalong Tejan, were done for, but those who watched Immunity Island (and if you didn’t, say it with me, how dare you?) know Chappies doesn’t sleep and his nocturnal idol search with Steffi placed a giant target on his back. Shockingly it was Danté, easily the biggest surprise element of the week as he transformed from pure physical competitor to strategic instigator, who saw the search and spearheaded a vote against Chappies, leaving Steffi and Shane out and the major alliance in tatters.

However, the Breakfast Club would not be deterred. They soldiered on with their alliance and even the alliance name of the now numerically-appropriate Breakfast Club, despite not even making it through the first vote intact and all voting for each other. I love the sheer gall. Through the fallout and as a target Marian went to work, keeping Shane on board and in the loop despite the betrayal and emotionally bonding with Steffi to avert any possible flip. Even so, let it be known that Marian breaking from legacy partner Shane in any way hurt me personally. From there the blindside was on, as The Philippines Three and Tejan (a terrible alliance name I just made up, I’m sorry) mistakenly thought they were in control and were led like lambs to the slaughter.

The power now sits back with the majority, but mostly the secret sub-alliance of social, strategy and strength (that is Meryl, Marian and Steffi, respectively) that are running the game from the inside. They call themselves Full Package, I call them The Powerpuff Girls. Either way, it seems their return came just in time.


The most compelling aspect of the first week for me was the inimitable energy of the pre-mergers, who became the communal embodiment of Survivor at its most affecting and brutal. We’ve, somehow, never seen a tribe of pure pre-mergers in Survivor history, and the camaraderie and clear shared trauma of being pre-merge Survivor players pierced the atmosphere. It was there when Tania reminded the tribe that they promised on day one to never make each other feel as isolated as they all had been on their first seasons, and when Tevin lamented going to tribal council so that at least one player wouldn’t reach the “other side” of the merge and all the missed milestones it entails. It was also in the dynamics, making Yontau something of a strategic blob, free of any clear lines or hierarchy.

Honestly, this is great strategy from everyone. Former erratic standouts like Seamus, Dino, Thoriso, Shona, Killarney, Phil and Felix are mostly just standing back and blending in, save for Thoriso randomly making up that Tevin had an idol, but even that was quickly dismissed with calmness, unity and a public idol found all together and then immediately flushed.

In the blob, Tevin feels like a spiritual leader, voted to have first-vote immunity and towering above them all in both height and game experience. Down the bottom of the blob, Tania and Pinty spent the week arguing over whether Pinty was taking up too much food and space. All in all, she probably was but Tania still shouldn’t have made such a big deal out of it. Everyone is just trying to chill on Kumba-Yontau and focussing on not getting voted out first or falling into fires. In the end, Tania was sent home in the pursuit of further tribe unity and fewer arguments, but with still less rice to go around.


Chappies came into the season with three possible hurdles. First, his reputation as the biggest fish in this pond, as the most recent fan favourite and the only almost winner on the cast, being the sole player this season to have lasted 38 days. We often see those insurmountable reputations claim early victims on returnee seasons, with winners and legends susceptible to trouble from the get-go. The next obstacle was a one-sided feud Shane told me about in pre-season interviews, where he swore to take Chappies out first if he was there. Both these things actually turned out OK. Chappies found a solid alliance early despite the glowing target, and Shane was not only part of that alliance, but ended up frenetically campaigning to save him (or whoever Danté flipped on, he didn’t seem quite sure) and wasn’t even part of his vote. It was the third thing, Chappies’ impenetrable erraticism, that was his demise, but I’d bet he’d rather go out digging for things late at night than any other way. His impact on the series as a top-tier star can never be tarnished, not even by being first boot.

The man we once dubbed PKaos paid the price in the second blindside, surely hindered in the game by the fact that he had dated Marian (I love this show), his matching tattoos with two other players and by his named reputation for said chaos. An icon of the franchise’s revival season, both he and the possibility of seeing him reunited with former ally/blindside-victim Tevin will be missed. The group weighed up PK versus Toni as targets and, in that choice, the anarchy versus emotionality of the certain fallout. Based on Toni’s as-promised strong reaction and vow to flip as soon as she can, they may be ruing that decision.

Tania left with a litany of incredible quotes and the end of a crusade against Pinty’s food consumption that at the very least seemed very important to her. Being a two-time pre-merger takes nothing away from her legend status. Moon charts, wolfpacks, instant failed alliances and discourse around whether you should or shouldn’t call someone a “greedy little pig”. We got it all in four episodes and we were blessed.

Twist Check

The Outpost made its South African debut, borrowed with love from Survivor New Zealand: Thailand and becoming the exciting cliff-hanger to episode 1. The external island mechanism will see cross-tribal dalliances that may manifest as challenges, meet-ups, negotiations or more. Here, Seamus and Thoriso met Shane and Steffi for a negotiation around supplies and immunity, battling Shane’s next-level reads as a former counterintelligence agent, with each pair weighing up obtaining power against showing their hand. I’m all in on cross-tribal potential and this beloved international twist.

On the island, Marian found Diplomatic Immunity, where she can control a cross-tribal mutiny for herself or others, and shared it to consolidate her alliance. Seamus’ timed public idol is already gone, Tevin used his one-episode immunity on Palesa to reach across the aisle and Shona is working on something novel. For the first time in Survivor history, she has created a great-looking fake idol and already hidden it at tribal council, a deliciously creative move that could see her earn strongly realistic future immunity. Or, as we say in South Africa, Future Life.

Biggest Winner: Marian put on a show, five stars for strategic brilliance from this super fan.

Biggest Loser: Pinty may have won the battle but we’re only days in and I don’t think she can win the season.

Shocking Moment: Dino paid tribute to iconic moments of Survivor past and literally fell into the fire. I don’t need my winner picks to win but I do prefer they actually make it out of the season alive. Luckily, he seems ready to continue on with bandaged hands and some solid relationships.

Best quote: As Steffi apologises for missing information from her and Shane’s trip to the Outpost, Shane retorts “I can tell you, I’m not sorry”. Any day we get more entertaining, droll Shane quotes is a good day.

Prediction: Masu resume their losing streak before being saved by a merciful swap.

Journalist Shannon Guss hosts International Survivor coverage on Rob Has A Podcast's Survivor International RHAPup. Find out more here.

Survivor South Africa: Return Of The Outcasts is fast-tracked exclusively on 10 play on demand