Coolest way to reveal new tribes ever? I think yes!
With Survivor SA on 4 nights a week, there’s bound to be some “filler” feeling episodes, but that is absolutely not the case this season. Initially I was disappointed that this one would be rushed to be over in 6 weeks, and while I do still wish I could enjoy it for longer, I’m not sure I could feasibly survive that? Imagine waiting a whole entire week to find out Shona’s fate after seeing her carried out on stretcher or not being able to find out Tuesday what was going to happen after one of the most explosive episodes ever on Monday. I’m generally not a fan of the “binge” model, but I can’t get enough Survivor SA so right now I’m on a total high trying not to think of the inevitable crash that will come in September. I guess US Survivor will only be a few weeks away by then but … meh.
Return of the Outcasts continues to solidify Survivor SA as my favorite franchise right now. There’s a lot of players to love and a few to hate, but the mix of them together is what makes the drama so good. Who stood out this week to earn themselves some shiny new Santoni Stan Stars? Here’s the list!
STAN STAR QUEEN OF THE WEEK! Shona almost went 4 for 4 if only she had a larger Episode 5 presence. She gave me EVERYTHING this week — the only thing she gave that I didn’t want was a goodbye! I loved seeing her claw her way back from the bottom in Episode 6, seeing through Seamus’s attempt to game with her and instead focus her attention on players with more emotionally good intentions. In Episode 7, not only did she give us this iconic moment:
But watching her choose to swap-screw herself was so wild and jaw-dropping that I instantly became captivated with her storyline. Shona going down in the challenge also literally took my breath away fearing the worst for her. Then, in Episode 8, she returned like the champion she is and let me with another audible gasp at her exit (not her fault, but Phil’s). The Shona show was JUST beginning and then we were totally robbed of it. I love everything about her personality and she quickly became the person I was most emotionally invested in this week. We were THIS close to an underdog upset against one of the biggest Survivor bulldogs ever, and Shona played her part perfectly (though I’d have liked to see that fake idol grab just for shits and giggles), but her alliance botched the blindside. UGH. Why is every boot this season so tragic? I was LIVING for the idea Shona making a questionable call to join a tribe where she’d start in the minority only to completely flip it around and be on the top. This had all the makings for a LITERALLY PERFECT week, but I suppose it was just too good to be true. Still, Shona shined brighter than all and I’m so glad I got to witness her greatness. I am definitely watching Champions soon … where I’ll just be heartbroken again seeing her leave early.
^Me almost every damn minute of Survivor SA.
Coming in at a close second to Shona with two stan stars is Dino. Obviously he played a huge role in making Episode 8 exciting and doing everything he was supposed to do to make it a perfect episode with a perfect ending. That idol find seemed a little conveniently timed, but whatever — if it took down Dante, I wouldn’t have cared if Nico just handed it to Dino before the vote and said “Happy Birthday.”
I thought Dino was brilliant in drawing the votes on him and while it was a big risk to include Palesa in the plan, it paid off at least when it came to her. Dino’s got a lot of work cut out for him now, but that may have bought him the most powerful in the game. What also stood out about Dino this week was his Episode 6 showing where he proved just how naturally gifted he is at the game. I think Dino is a genuinely nice guy, but what makes that dangerous is that he knows he’s nice and uses it as a weapon in Survivor. Even though he had just blindsided him, he had Shona and Killarney coming up to him to sell out Seamus, and he had Meryl and Marian going to bat for him in Episode 8 to stay over Shona. I’m really nervous for Dino going into next week, but based on what we’ve seen, he knows how to dig himself out of a hole. He just keeps needing a bigger and bigger shovel ….
ALSO, I appreciate his recurring retro Survivor references — LOVED him doing his best “Bobby Jon” on the mini-rollercoaster ride.
If I remember correctly, too, Bobby Jon was screaming here, “Does my package look big in this, Jamie?”
PALESA IS BACK! Palesa has played a bit in the shadows this season, but in Episode 5 and Episode 8 I was reminded very much that she’s still playing hard. Palesa is as observant as ever and with Dante running Masu like a dictatorship, she realized that the best way to buy favor in his game was to butter him and stroke his ego. Palesa talked about witnessing Dante trying to cut off everyone else’s tentacles, but as all the chopping continues, Palesa quietly awaits her time to prepare an “octopus meal” for herself and devour Dante like she should. On top of this beautiful metaphor, Palesa was also a powerhouse in the Episode 5 immunity challenge during one of the most iconic 20 seconds in any Survivor challenge ever — cinematography here was a 10/10:
BRAWN. BRAINS. BEAUTY. BLAZING SPEED.
I hope that’s the same energy she uses to come after Dante the rest of the season. Palesa also played the last tribal council to total perfection. The plan to dump Dante failed, but Palesa walked away from that vote with zero blood on her hands and presumed loyalty from everyone. She voted with her alliance to split up Dino and Shona, but in going along with voting for Dino, in an ironic twist, she actually secured his loyalty since that’s the vote Dino wanted her to cast. Who the hell else can earn someone’s trust by writing their name down? That’s some queen shit right there. It’s been several days and she is finally ready to drink and DEVOUR!
^That’s Dante’s blood I’m pretty sure.
Thoriso delivered my favorite confessional of the week so that earned her one of two stan stars — when she was sitting in the middle of Steffi and Killarney connecting over fitness, weightlifting, or keto or whatever, internally Thoriso said to herself, “I don’t belong in this conversation.” I felt that on a spiritual level. I do enough to stay healthy, but fitness for fun? HA! I stan a self-identifying couch potato! Thoriso is terrific in confessional this season – my other favorite was her trash-talking Tejan and the very bland attempt he made at recapping his visit to the Outpost. For as many times as she’s bold-faced lie to her tribe(s), she probably was thinking, “what an amateur.”
Thoriso is someone who’s so far improved upon her game last time where she was a total outcast (makes sense why she’s returning as one) but this season, she’s stepped up her strategic game. I gave her another stan star in Episode 8 for strong-arming together an actual alliance! So what if Felix didn’t agree to it before she talked to Tejan about it? Minor details. I love seeing Thoriso in the mix having meaningful strategic conversations with people, and we also saw her step back a bit when needed – she could’ve played a lot more active role in the Tevin blindside, but instead she planted the seeds and let the boys do the rest of her bidding, taking all the blame. I think that’s good in the pre-merge because all of these people with big resumes will become early targets at the merge, so Thoriso can hopefully sneak her way to the end! Who would have thought?!
That’s all of the multi-stan star recipients of the week, but by no means is the rest of this list lesser. The biggest surprise stanning of the week started off with Phil (the end of the week … we’ll get there)! He was another who I knew little of before the season and his edit wasn’t doing him any favors with letting me learn about him, but boy did he come into Week 2 hard! We got a tease last week of Phil (and Felix) wanting to target Tevin, and the wheels were set in motion, they delivered one of the wildest Survivor episodes and blindsides I’ve ever seen! Phil was majorly responsible for a lot of the fireworks, most of all essentially telling Pinty to go apeshit at tribal council which she was almost too happy to do! I loved Phil’s comedic confessionals, especially the one where he imitated poor, pitiful Pinty pleading for her life (see screenshot above).
Now, Phil was the king of Episode 5 and earned highest stan star, but in Episode 8 he was the jester for fucking up the blindside that would have outshined his own (maybe that’s why he did what he did — can’t share the spotlight). His vote for Shona was simply self-preservation, sensing something was up at tribal council and wanting to make sure Shona had more votes than he did. He succeeded in securing his safety for that vote, but in doing so, he put himself at a major disadvantage going into the next. Phil, you started off the week so high but really fell with that fumble. I get it, but I hate it.
I had to give Pinty another stan star this week for her big tribal council performance in Episode 5, playing the role perfectly of blowing shit up all just to create a diversion for the delicious blindside that was about to go down. I’m either very hot or very cold with Pinty, and in that moment she was definitely hot. Her complete willingness to make a fool of herself made for a great episode to start off the week. I was in stitches seeing her go completely off the rails, only for everyone to realize she was in on the joke all along.
Pinty is unhinged, and on a good day, that’s great TV. On a not-so-good day, that’s her being way too brutal and nearly killing Shona. I think Pinty should’ve immediately been pulled from that challenge before causing more damage (she arguably could’ve been pulled before the Shona incident). For that, I should give her a -1 star, but I’ll let her keep the one as I treat each episode as standalone with my stars. Talking like a crazy person at tribal council = fine. Tackling people to the point of nearly getting them medically evacuated = not fine.
Killarney is another who has played a very quiet game thus far but when it came to the first tribal council this week, she let me know that she could get LOUD TOO WHAT THE FUCK!!?? And that earned her a star from me! Pinty was committed to her performance, but Killarney was no pushover when challenged center-stage. Tania was the only person to previously stand up to Pinty and after being called out for losing her round in the challenge ( … like everyone else on Yontau), Killarney finally had something to say for herself. I love some good tribal council drama and though she ended up on the wrong side of the vote, Killarney was absolutely correct there to call Pinty on her bullshit. It looks like we’re getting Round 2 next week and I could not be more excited for it!
This poor guy! He started off looking the strongest but oh how the mighty fell back-to-back between Tevin’s and Seamus’s torch snuffs. I really thought Seamus would be going the distance, but that blindside really left him bloodied and beaten. I think his attempt to recover was as strong as it could have been, and that’s why he gets a stan star from me in his boot episode. The case of “Dino is running the tribe” was the same case made against Seamus and Tevin just the round before, so it made sense to try it again with the same people. Unfortunately, the five-strong that voted out Tevin weren’t breaking, and Shona and Killarney quickly abandoned ship on Seamus to save themselves. All in all, it didn’t work out for Seamus but I appreciated his positive attitude and growth this season. Third time’s the charm, maybe?
Toni didn’t get quite the big week I was expecting from her with the swap, but I gave her a small nod with a stan star in Episode 6 for clearly initiating cross-tribal collusion with her spilling of the tea when she was taken on the reward with Yontau. I wish we’d have seen more of it, especially if it involved a lot more trashing of Dante. She’s so fed up with him and I feel that energy — I really wanted her to land with him at the swap and be the reason he was sent packing, but I suppose there’s still a chance it could happen later. That means I’d have to root for Dante to last a little longer though, and I don’t want to do that. There’s no one else from original Masu that I really dislike either, so while I’m excited for Toni’s shake to be the troublemaker and maybe flip-flopper at the merge, I’m not sure I’m so excited for what that ends up harming (besides Dante). Still, I appreciate the eagerness and fire she has to raise some hell!
Almost everyone has at least 1 stan star after this week, and for Tejan, his breakout (or closest thing to it) was Episode 7 with his journey to the Outpost and interactions with Dante. I was excited to see him finally get to play the game a bit and get some focus, but really the bigger reason why I gave him a stan star is because he pinned Dante down in the mud and was dominating him for a bit there during the mud challenge.
I think this earns credit as the first person to take Dante down this season, so for that, I have to stan.
If it was Seamus last week, this week Marian may have emerged as my new winner pick. She’s been so impressive to watch strategically and on an emotional level as well — she’s super well-connected, in all of the critical alliances while maintaining connections to those outside of them. Even she and Toni mended fences, but what really stood out as the stan-worthy Marian moment of the week was in Episode 7 where she talked about planning to hand Diplomatic Immunity over to Steffi should Masu lose. That’s a bold fucking play and will send a strong message that Marian means business, and I can’t wait to see it! That could put a target on her, but I still think there are bigger fish to fry, and I think Marian’s web of connections will keep her safe. I’m loving every minute of Marian and like with Shona, I’m excited to go back and watch her season to see the origin story of this Survivor SA legend!
Once again, a boot leads the board in stan stars! It’s kind of hard not to be iconic in your boot episode/week, especially with this cast, so I’m sure that those snuffed each week will likely earn a star or two on their way out the door. If I could give out more stars, Steffi would’ve also gotten one for her idol snag in Episode 5, but that night just had too many heavy hitters between all the shit that was happening at Yontau and Palesa’s unforgettable performance in its immunity challenge. Still, Steffi is highly on my radar as one to watch. Next week I’ll only award 3 per episode, so the players will have to give me even more (is that even possible?) if they want to secure a top spot and a stan star! On the opposite end of the stan spectrum, I’ve got one more shoutout to go to …
I can’t stan this man — or stand him — so much so that I had to make up a new title to give him just to give me a reason to talk about how much he sucks. So congrats, Dante, on being the first and hopefully only recipient of the Greedy Little Pig award for being just … a pig. Dante was dogshit on Island of Secrets, and for like 30 seconds here, I thought he maybe wouldn’t be so bad this time around, but then he went after Chappies and all hope for that was lost. Dante is playing like a Hantz: aggressive, delusional, socially oblivious, and thinks he’s running the show. He’s not totally wrong about the latter, but he’s being let to run the show and I think it’s because everyone knows he’s no serious threat to win.
However, he can make many lives in the game miserable for as long as he lasts, and that’s one thing he’s surely successful at. Dante’s definitely been a big character this season, but for all the wrong reasons for me and with no redeeming qualities. Pinty’s at least made me laugh a few times, but Dante? Every second of airtime is a second too long and the day that he gets his ass handed to him (I pray those hands are still Toni’s) cannot come soon enough. We were SO FUCKING CLOSE this week! I HATE IT! What do we need to make his ass grass? Tania working her hippie stoner magic and casting a spell?
Not even she would smoke that grass.
OUSTED OUTCASTS – WEEK 2
Most of the boots this season are just really going to suck, huh? I loved all three of these people. Tevin would have fared better if the tribes had been shuffled sooner or from the start — being the player he is on a tribe of pre-mergers was never going to do him many favors, and while Seamus started off strong, he hitched his wagon to Tevin and together they took themselves down. Shona’s boot was just … tragic in every possible way. The fake out med-evac was cruel, but I literally was on the verge of tears when she made her triumphant return only to have me in tears again a short while later, absolutely dumbfounded and distraught over Nico reading the deciding “Shona” vote. It pains me so much to see these great players and characters have only a short stay twice. That said, it’s a testament to SA casting to still give us such compelling characters to root for and come to love in such a short amount of time. We’re only a third of the way through the season and I’m already at emotional capacity. All I can say is …. I’m obsessed with Return of the Outcasts and I probably look like this with how loudly I can’t stop screaming about it:
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter:@Ryan__Kaiser