Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor SA: Philippines recaps
Fun in the Philippines
SurvivorSA: Philippines Episodes 1-16 recap/ analysis

Fun in the Philippines

With the recent announcement of a Survivor South Africa returnee season, Return of the Outcasts, and having nothing but amazing things to say about last summer’s Immunity Island, I decided to smash an hourglass and take myself back in time to 2018 for Survivor SA’s sixth season set in the Philippines – and what a trip to the good old days it was! I felt like I went back much farther than just 3 years in Survivor history because of how old-school this season felt – I absolutely loved it. There must be something in the air in the Philippines because when Survivor goes there, it rarely goes wrong. Philippines, Blood vs. Water, Cagayan – all spectacular seasons of the show (we don’t talk about Bruno Caramoan), and Survivor SA’s visit turned out the same.

Tribal dragon

I mean, when I saw the full-ass dragon for the first time at tribal council, I screamed.

No gimmicks, no game-breaking twists, no egotistical host trying to make himself the star of the show – just Survivor.  I have to assume Probst has given SA and other international seasons some attention, so he has to have seen how when you trust the players to put on a good show, you get one. You don’t need a bunch of stupid, scripted shit to create drama. Idols, advantages, and other twists hardly had a major impact in SA’s Philippines, and as a result, it was one of the best seasons I’ve watched in years.

I won’t attempt to commentate on all 16 episodes of the season here, but I wanted to publish more than a few final tweets about this tremendous season of Survivor. I’ll touch on some of my favorite highlights, favorite players, and why my new favorite insult is, “You are worse than Marthunis!”

Season spoilers ahead, obviously…


Unlucky Luzon

If you are ever cast on a season of Survivor filmed in the Philippines and your buff says “Luzon” on it, run. Just run. That, or prepare for many messy tribal councils and pray you receive no visit from the rice fairy.

Immediately, Luzon lived up to its name by starting out on a losing streak and just being a general shitshow. Ace was an early outsider but rather than going with an easy vote, strategic mastermind Seamus sought to make a big move at the first one by targeting a tribe asset but who was a physical and social threat, Tom. Talk about a “what if” when the winner was almost the first boot.

Initially, the numbers fell in favor of Seamus, but after some deliberation and consideration of how hard he was playing so soon, Annalize and Chané spilled Seamus’s plan to Tom and in the spirit of Kass, chaos ensued. Seamus was so excited to lose his Survivor virginity that he forgot that “hard and fast” isn’t the best approach. With the tribe in disarray, the once-outsider Ace found himself in the “Dolly” spot of having to choose between two alliances and two alpha males. He took Tom’s side, so thus, Seamus’s Survivor legacy became that of a one-pump chump.


What a shame.

One would assume that the new numbers of 5 vs. 3 would then stick, but Ace had a trick up his sleeve and forced his tribe to draw rocks at just the second tribal council of the game!  That’s correct. ROCKS!


I still cannot wrap my head around how as early Day 6, eight people were desperate enough to leave their game in the hands of chance. Annalize and Josie had less to lose, as they were the initial targets of the tie vote, but if I’m any of the other six, I’m biting the bullet and letting an ally go rather than potentially have my Survivor dream cut short when there are seventeen still in the game. It was this tribal council that really let me know this season was going to be something special. This cast was all in.

With the swap, Ace’s flip-floppery caught up to him and he was voted out after landing on a new Luzon tribe where Mindanao had the majority. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of Ace even though he was responsible for a lot of what made me love watching Luzon. He seemed a little too “chaos for the sake of chaos” rather than calculated chaos. I don’t understand what his long-term strategy was or why he felt the need to flip on the one or two people who wanted to work with him at the start. I think he would’ve continued causing trouble, but it may have been at the expense of other players I was supporting, so while I appreciate what he did at Luzon, I was content with him being cut when he was.

Luzon’s remaining original members, though, would carry that torch for Ace on their new tribes, especially on Visayas which came into existence as a result of the tribe swap/expansion. Here, the brewing rivalry between Tom and Palesa boiled over and set up a season-long arc of the two going to blows. At first, I was disappointed that Murishca declined the silver platter she was handed as the swing vote after getting swapfucked, but it made for one of my favorite tribal councils of the season where two people who hated each other put their differences aside to let the person who wanted to leave actually leave. Tom and Palesa still hated each other, but their love for the game made them make the “right” move to vote out Murishca. This almost felt like fan service – the two knowing they had more fights for us to feast upon.

Tom and Palesa

From there, Visayas was like a ticking time bomb. I wanted to witness the explosion, but I knew as soon as it happened, a lot the fun would be over, so I was happy to see these former Luzons win their way to the merge, at which point old Luzon was all back together and ready to tear each other apart.

Annalize by then was just pretending she had always been Mindanao to avoid the red bloodshed as Luzon lashed out against itself. All Mindanao had to do was sit and watch, scooping up Tom as an extra vote to secure their majority after watching the way he was mistreated by Palesa, Vusi, and even his former friend and ally, Chané. I did feel a little bad that Tom took so many hits, but he definitely seemed insufferable to live with at times. I’m sure a lot more went on during those early days at Luzon and later days at Visayas than we saw.

Mindanao remained mostly calm, cool, and collective throughout, so its main alliance dominated the game which admittedly made the merge just a little less exciting than it could have been had Palesa played her idols more effectively, but by some miracle, the losing Luzon ended up giving us the winner of the season.  That’s a fun story itself even if Tom wasn’t the Luzon I wanted to win. I think of the last two Luzons, Annalize would’ve been more satisfying, but more on that later.

100% of the Luzon lunacy was driven simply by personality conflict which, again, goes back to just letting the people play and allowing drama to unfold naturally. Casting’s job is to assemble a group of strong personalities who will oppose one another and create fireworks as they attempt to build a “society.” Just like real society, it’s going to crack. You don’t need all kinds of advantages or twists – all you need is time. This all isn’t to say that Mindanao didn’t have moments of its own, but between the two tribes, Luzon was by far the bigger mess throughout the season, and I love them for it. Most of the time, myself and Mindanao just had the pleasure of looking at Luzon like this:


J’Tia would be very proud.


Tom vs Palesa

A few more words on two who were at the heart of a lot of Luzon drama and stole my heart as one of Survivor’s greatest rivalries.

The story of Tom vs. Palesa sort of began after the first vote when Palesa was put in the minority thanks to Ace, but she found an idol clue which seemed would be her saving grace.  However, as fate would have it, Tom claimed the idol intended for Palesa instead which created some hilarious irony. As predecessor to Santoni the Idol Whisperer, though, Palesa found a clue to another idol during the tribe expansion whose location was revealed to be at tribal council, so with Tom and Palesa now both equipped with idol power, I waited to watch them fight fire with fire as either Chané or Vusi would be the unfortunate burn victims.

The best part about Tom and Palesa hating each other is that they both knew it, so they didn’t hide it. After the tribe expansion, Tom laid out two options for the old Luzons: stick together and vote out Murishca, the lone Mindanao, or fight over her as the swing vote. Palesa matched Tom’s openness with a simple answer of, “I don’t know,” basically telling Tom that she had not yet decided whether she wanted to vote him off yet or not. You have to just love and respect this kind of brutal honesty between the two. In Survivor, it never makes sense to flat-out tell someone “no” when they approach you for an alliance, but rather than bullshit Tom, Palesa just said she’d get back to him on it – maybe have a drink or two as she plotted her next move.

Queen Palesa

Like the queen she is.

Queen Cersei

Ultimately, Tom and Palesa landed on working against each other rather than with each other, so they fought for Murishca’s vote. Murishca was equally turned off by Tom as the rest of the camp, so it seemed obvious he’d need to play his idol in order to survive, and he even threatened that he would play it. However, in the eleventh hour, Murishca said she wanted to tap out. Vusi still insisted they take a shot at Tom by voting out his ally Chané, but in a totally boss move on both their ends, Tom and Palesa looked each other in the eyes and said:

Syrio Forel: Not today

Too many people would kill to be on Survivor, and while Tom and Palesa had nothing pleasant to say about the other, they respected the game and saw they both had fight left in them. In a very respectful and honorable move, a rare sight on the show, they left that fight for another day and instead voted out the person who, while critical to their game as a number, had given up the fight. They hated each other, but they respected each other, and this was just such powerful tribal council that cemented theirs as one of my favorite rivalries ever on the show.

Holding hands

When the merge hit, Tom could not have moved faster into the arms of Mindanao, at that point also losing Chané’s loyalty and trust because of his brash behavior. The blues were happy to take Tom in and effectively seal the fates of Vusi, Chané, and Palesa. I wanted to see Palesa make a power play with an idol and be the one to take out Tom, but she used her first when she didn’t need it and then held on to her second when she shouldn’t have. It wasn’t as explosive an end as I imagined for this rivalry, but I love that in their last few days together, Palesa pulled off a blindside on the audience by taking Tom on a date night filled with wine, cheese, bread, and sharing a bed.

Given how much she hated Tom in the game, I was surprised Palesa didn’t roast him a little more at final tribal council, but I think this goes back to the mutual respect they had for one another as rivals. Tom ultimately outplayed Palesa and rather than hold a grudge, she voted for him to win. I wonder if roles were reversed whether Tom would do the same – I suppose he probably would, given his character.  It’s a shame that the upcoming returnee season won’t be “All-Stars” but rather more of a “Second Chance,” so we won’t be seeing more of the Tom vs. Palesa story, but if Palesa returns, I have high hopes for her so long as she doesn’t end up in another losing tribe and losing side of the numbers. The only way this story could get better for me is if one day Tom and Palesa toast as two winners of the Survivor South Africa franchise.

Tom and Palesa



The other rivalry I appreciated this season? Marthunis vs. everyone. Literally the second he flashed on screen, standing there like a total douchebag in that suit as to let everyone know he was rich and powerful, I immediately thought of a favorite line from Survivor: Tocantins by Erinn who contemplated, “who is this jackass?” referring to the legendary Benjamin “Coach” Wade. It’s not all the time that someone just screams, “DOUUUUUUUUUUUCHE” from the moment we first meet them, but both Coach and Marthunis shared that impression on me. I’d later fall in love with Coach, but Marthunis? Not so much.

Marthunis was instantly a menace at camp, bossing everyone around and alienating his entire tribe on Day 1, quicky prompting Jeanne to announce her loathing of alpha males while outing herself as a possible “man-hater” throughout the season. If Marthunis wasn’t going to be the first boot, then he had amazing potential as one of the greatest “love to hate” characters of all time. 

High opinion of himself? Check. Disregard for anyone else’s opinions? Check. Zero self-awareness? Check.

How bad of a first impression does it take to make your tribe search your bag mere hours into the game to see if you’re already hiding something? While they didn’t find an idol, what they found instead was far greater than anything I could have hoped would be in there:

Marthunis's speech


Who does that?


Okay, fair.  But even Coach didn’t actually do that.

I’m all about going into Survivor with confidence – if you don’t think you’re going to win, then you won’t. I do believe in that, but there is so much that happens in the 39 days of Survivor that to pre-plan your pitch to the jury is go in disregarding all of them, almost like saying “I already had this game on lock on Day 0, so what do Days 1 through 39 matter?”

In a way, this probably shrunk the enormous target on Marthunis since no one in their right mind would have taken the guy seriously as a threat after seeing this speech he had tucked away in his bag. This level of delusion made him an easy dummy for Tevin and PK to drag along, so despite doing everything wrong, Marthunis had soon found himself on the right side of Mindanao. With Stacey-Lee later wanting to leave, he even skated through his first tribal council without any votes; however, he wasn’t completely unscathed.

In an attempt to still make the vote a blindside, some members of Mindanao laid into Marthunis to make it sound like he was the target.  Admittedly, their harsh words, while in an effort to fool the real target, probably came from a real place, so Marthunis took them personally and returned to camp with his feelings very hurt.

Marthunis and Werner

Coach and Tyson

Hardest game of “spot the difference” ever.

You’d think this would make Marthunis turn a new leaf, but nah, at Mindanao 2.0, he was just as much of an ass as he’d been from the start. At one point, he even told Katinka that no one would care if she died – people back home would miss him but she had no one who would miss her. Like, he actually told this nineteen-year-old woman that if she dropped dead, the world wouldn’t notice. For a man so sensitive to criticism, he sure has zero sensitivity when it comes to telling people how he feels about them.

It was obvious that the high and mighty Marthunis would one day take a great fall and it would be glorious. However, his exit completely changed my impression of him … for the worse.  When Mindanao lost an immunity challenge, despite Marthunis’s best efforts to distract and antagonize the other tribes, Marthunis sensed that his time was up. Rather than putting up a fight to stay, he told his tribe that he’d instead quit before letting them vote him out, and this is where the line is distinctly drawn between Marthunis and Coach. Coach would never wimp out like Marthunis did.

His was very much “you can’t fire me – I quit!” energy and it just completely soured me on an otherwise amazing character up until the end. I just can’t respect someone who quits the game unless extreme circumstances exist.  Here, there was nothing extreme – Marthunis just knew he wasn’t going to win, so he didn’t want to play anymore.  I loved the way Nico made him leave too.  No vote, no torch, just get the fuck out.

Marthunis leaves

I do wish, though, that we could’ve seen the tribe write “anus” on the parchments like they planned.

Marthunis is still worth mentioning for being the big character that he was, but I can’t get over how he just walked. Had he fought, or had he at least just been blindsided out of the game, then I’d call this man a lock for Return of the Outcasts, but if you quit the game, you don’t get to return, in my opinion. The story of Marthunis was great for all the wrong reasons, but sadly, the story’s end was the worst. It pains me to think about what he could’ve continued as, the cockroach that couldn’t die, and what a dream it would’ve have been to actually witness Marthunis delivering his long-awaited FTC speech only to receive a whopping 0 votes, a blindside only to himself.  He could have been a legend, the South African coming of Coach, but alas, there can only be one dragon-slayer in Survivor lore. Marthunis is, at best, dragon dung.


Idols, advantages

The big twist of Survivor South Africa: Philippines? THERE WAS NO BIG TWIST!

And I fucking loved it. Two tribes. Two beaches. Two idols (because I guess we have to at this point). That was it. The rest was up to the cast, and they took that and ran with it. A tribe swap really isn’t a twist anymore, but the tribal council switcheroo was mostly a pleasant surprise. I can’t gloss over the fact that this it teetered on Production lying to the players, though – I don’t recall if Nico ever said someone was being “voted out of the game” or just “voted out,” so maybe it’s a grey area that I can live with.

Other than the latter, the game was straightforward from a logistics standpoint. It was only complicated by the conflict between players, as it should be. The idols and an advantage (notably singular, not plural) entered the game to stir up a little trouble but without breaking it.  To me, idols are as much of a staple as immunity, so players are reasonably expected to play around the possibility of them popping up throughout the game. I appreciate, though, that Survivor SA doesn’t replace idols 1:1. When Tom played his idol, it didn’t automatically re-enter. When 3 were played at the second merge vote, only 1 re-entered, and when that left in Palesa’s pocket, that was it. The only other idol was held on to by Werner for 30-something days.

Another small “twist” that I loved, if we’d even call this a twist, was the way the final seven vote was handled. The combined reward/immunity challenge resulted in 3 people going on the reward trip, 2 returning to camp (becoming “Patinka Island” for the day), and 2 went to a one-day-only Exile Island. This forced people to scramble for tribal potentially with people they may not have otherwise scrambled with. The vote was still a decisive 5-2 as nods and glances were confirmed at tribal council, but the more players get split into small groups, the more interesting the conversation. My favorite moment that came from this episode was watching Annalize work when, had the tribe all went back to the same camp, we probably wouldn’t have heard from her specifically about the Toni vote. Give us twists like this that give us more focus on players, not less!

Philippines was light on twists and turns driven by Production, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the season was so spectacular and hit me in all the feels with all of its “classic” vibes. Like I said, it felt even earlier than 2018 to me because in that year in the US, we got Ghost Island, a season with a literal island dedicated to new and old twists and advantages.  Even when Survivor SA took a similar swing with Immunity Island, it didn’t lose the essence of what makes the game so brilliant. Less is more with Survivor – let the cast shine, and it will.


The cast

On that note, this cast as a whole delivered much like my first SA season.  With the exception of maybe Neil and Stacey-Lee who had early departures, I can plot out almost everyone else’s storyline from start to finish.  At every point, I knew where they were in the game, who they were there with, where they wanted to go, and who they wanted to go there with. Some had smaller starts like Vusi, Annalize, and Katinka, but not everyone can be a “5” in visibility every episode. Every season is going to have its star and supporting characters, but in a great season, I’m going to care for all of them, and in this season, I felt like I mostly did.

Since the inspiration for my Survivor SA watch was to familiarize myself with faces I may soon see on Return of the Outcasts, I’m of course going to give spiels for some I hope will be on the next season, starting with who is an absolute must:


Werner was appropriately called The Godfather and based on first impressions, he’s way more worthy of that name than Boston Rob was in Marquesas. There was never a day when Werner wasn’t in complete control until his last day.  He was impressive to watch from beginning to end, and his only mistake was making himself too perfect of a player. Once at the final four, without an idol or the immunity necklace, even a final plea to pull at Tom’s heartstrings over integrity and loyalty couldn’t save the masterful manipulator and move-maker. For as great as Werner was, it’s important to remember that just as important as managing what goes on in the game is managing one’s threat level. It’s a tricky balance, but this is the only “flaw” I’d say Werner had. Physically, strategically, and socially he had it all, but he was unable to downplay it enough to reach the end any other way than by winning the final immunity challenges.

Not often do I root for Werner’s archetype – a pastor, no less, which can end up a little preachy on the show – but I was an instant fan of his in the premiere. As soon as he ate his idol clue so that no one would find it, I went, “Okay, I am all in on this absolute madman.” I thought he’d be a little off his rocker with that being Werner’s first “move” I witnessed, but he quickly became the man with the plan and the don of Mindanao – later, Luzon and Araw. I’ve only seen two seasons of Survivor SA but it’s hard to imagine many topping Werner on the list of “best to never win.” I’d be thrilled to see him again and a big part of the reason why is because I don’t think he can play like he did his first time and get away with it. He may even be an early target, so I’d be excited to watch him have to claw a little more than he was ride it out at the top of the totem pole in the Philippines. I know there will be more than one, but if there had to only be one from this season to return, Werner’s got the strongest case.


Taking so much heat for riding Werner’s coattail, it’s only fitting that he’s followed by Jeanne, right? Jeanne impressed me more than her 6-1 loss to Tom would suggest and I’m still scratching my head over exactly how that happened. Regardless, Jeanne was another star of this season. From the moment I met her, I was in love. When she said she’d probably come across as a man-hater? And then she actually tried to work with an all-women’s alliance? My heart exploded. Jeanne is just fun. She’s the first to joke about herself and laugh because she’s confident in who she is, and while perhaps that confidence may have rubbed some the wrong way which contributed to her loss of the game, she’s a winner by my standard.

Jeanne’s confessionals were always gold whether she was going for laughs or giving us solid insight and strategy. She was a little rough and rocky in the game at times, but no one’s perfect, and even if they were, they could just wind up in Werner’s shoes. Jeanne loves Survivor and I hope that a tough blow at the end didn’t sour any of that fandom – I think it’s compelling when we see a runner-up return to try and right the wrongs that cost them the win after going as far as they could go in the game. Out of everyone, I could see Jeanne learning the most from this first experience and come back to kick ass again, only next time avoid being called a coattail rider. Plus, a season where Santoni and Jeanne could possibly be on the same tribe together? I don’t know what the current exchange rate is between dollars and rand, but I’ll do whatever I have to do to pay a lot to see that show.


Even though she made it all the way to 8th place, Palesa still had plenty of game left in her to play, and I’m still not over her not playing that damn idol.  Sometimes all someone needs in Survivor is another 3 days, and while it may be easy to assume if she saved herself at 8, she’d have gone out at 7, we can never be so sure. Most of Palesa’s game was scratching and clawing from the bottom. Her only time at the top was at Visayas when they weren’t even having to vote, so I feel like I was constantly in a state of waiting for Palesa’s big power play to take the game by storm, and it just never came since numbers weren’t there.

Palesa is a boss bitch, and she 100% had that energy, but she just didn’t have the formal status of HBIC (like Werner). Add her to the dream alliance of Santoni and Jeanne that dominates Return of the Outcasts. Watching Palesa in the driver’s seat for a change would be absolutely wild, and I know she’s capable of running the show if she could only get her hands on the reins (reign?). I know Palesa has a son, so leaving him again may give her some pause, but she’s a necessary returnee. Not only was she an impressive player and an entertaining character, but she has the story that needs redemption. There are several women I’d want to see with the crown, so it would be tough to choose just one, but Palesa would undoubtedly wear it well.


Toni had a little slower start in terms of screentime compared to the three names above, but when she emerged, she shone just as much. We saw some tears from Toni, both good and bad, which only shows how much heart she has, and that’s always good TV. The Tevin boot episode launched her high up on my list of favorites with how she took that risk in order to place her higher on that Mindanao totem pole. Ultimately, she went into the merge without both Tevin and Josie, but had she not voted out Tevin first, she’d have had to rely on PK at the next vote. Instead, by convincing PK to vote out Tevin, Toni put herself in the position of power, so while the outcome by merge was the same, Toni took the smarter of the two roads to get there.

I don’t mean to call Toni an “emotional player” but when someone does factor in their emotions to the way the play, or at least lets them show in the game, the game is better for it. If everyone played like a game-bot, the game would blow. Toni’s willingness to take risks and go against the grain is why I want to see her return (and join the women’s alliance I apparently have building). I also love women who scare men in challenges, so for many reasons, I’d like to see Toni on my TV again.


My first and maybe my only pre-merger with a strong case to return. Tevin was always destined to be taken out for being a social/strategic threat – probably a physical one too. He was like Werner in many ways but lacked perhaps some of the natural charm that Werner has that makes people melt in his presence. Tevin had an incredible grasp of the game but was just a little too much of a “gamer.” Letting slip a tight ally like PK speaks to Tevin’s shortcomings in the social game. Had he held on tighter and made the merge, though, it would have been fascinating to see him eventually vie with Werner for power.

Tevin’s a sharp guy and is one who I’m sure has learned from his first-time mistakes. I wouldn’t place him super high on the list of potential returnee winners because I think he’s someone who will always have trouble escaping the label of “threat” whether he’s playing hard or not, but Tevin would definitely come back with something to prove, and I’d like for him to get that chance. Any returnee will be hungry for a win, but I could see Tevin being even hungrier than most – I’m sure it kills him that he’s not yet “datable.”


Along the lines of Toni, Annalize’s game picked up later in the season, and while I have no idea what the general fanbase thinks of her, I could see her being underrated. Werner may have Annalize beat for best social game of the season, but I think it’s closer than one may think. Annalize was beloved by everyone, and one of the most impressive “moves” of the game was the way she blended herself into the blue-blooded Mindanao, jumping ship as she watched Luzon sink to the bottom of the South China Sea. Annalize wasn’t as flashy as other players may have been, but her finesse at relationship-building could make her a killer if given the opportunity to play again. While other players could go deep or go early upon return, I think Annalize would almost be guaranteed to go deep. She’d be a good person to balance out some of the alpha strategic players with her smooth, solid, social reputation. I always find myself a champion of underrated social games, so if Annalize falls in that category, I’m here to defend.


Tom will not be returning, obviously given the theme of this next season and the fact that he won, but I felt this an appropriate place to talk about Tom among the other standouts of the season. Initially, I had high regards for Tom. I didn’t like that he was a first boot target and I felt that Ace made the right call for the tribe in keeping him. However, Tom lost me lot during his days on Visayas. I just said above that I’ll always champion social games, usually even more than strong strategic games, so I can’t speak as highly anymore of Tom with just how abysmal his social game was. He did something right, of course, to get the jury votes to win, but I just … don’t get it.

Tom displayed too often a total disregard for how to treat people in a game where treating people well is critical to winning the game. I don’t think his case at the end was any more compelling than Jeanne’s, but Jeanne at least tried to cover all aspects of the game. Tom just bulldozed his way to the end with sheer willpower, and while there’s something to be said about all that, I don’t agree with the jury’s final decision. Tom created his own obstacles with the messy way he played, so to me, overcoming those obstacles wasn’t impressive. His only “strategy” was offering up himself to Werner as a goat, and he was close to making the biggest strategic blunder in the game by almost keeping Werner at four, so Tom’s game highlights are mostly physical. He fished and won challenges.

I think the edit could have easily made Tom this undeniably lovable underdog, and US Survivor totally would have, so I’m glad the show was honest in showing Tom’s less-than-flattering moments. I’m just still stuck on how even if I were to agree Jeanne and Tom played similar coattail games with Werner, Jeanne was far less of an ass to people so if all else was equal, I feel like her social game should have prevailed over Tom’s. The one loose end that I could argue wasn’t tied up by the show is why Chané and Palesa voted for Tom to win. “He made it there in spite of himself, so congratulations,” or something like that. Who knows? I do wonder what the live reaction to the finale was, as I could very well just be a blinded Jeanne stan, or once Werner was out, was any outcome disappointing to the fans? I genuinely would have been satisfied with Annalize or Jeanne winning. Tom winning doesn’t ruin the great season of Survivor I experienced, but it would have been a better ending for me if he didn’t.

Honorable Mentions: Two more who I wouldn’t be confused by seeing again are PK and Josie, for two different reasons. PK was a strong player but spiraled out of control at the merge when he tried to take over too much. He’d have had more success playing the middle a bit more rather than hopping aboard the, again, sinking Luzon ship. Josie survived an impressive 5 tribal councils before the merge and showed to have a promising social game, but it just didn’t matter with the way the numbers landed for her. As for returnees from Philippines, PK and Josie have a case for me, but when I inevitably make a list of ~20 with a few more SA seasons under my belt, I don’t see them making that final cut.  Katinka could be someone the show asks back as a “fan favorite” but she doesn’t make my list either.  Sorry not sorry.

Player of the season

This may be controversial?  Who knows, who cares. I LOVED Jeanne and everything she brought to this season. I mentioned she gave us confessional gold, I think she played a strong game, but she also gave us growth. She came out of the gates strong and was almost voted out for it – she would’ve been had it not been for Stacey-Lee bowing out. The swap saved Jeanne when she needed it to and she was then given the time to recover and repair her reputation, becoming a critical member of the mighty Mindanao (or I guess, post-swap Luzon) alliance for the rest of the game. Socially and strategically, Jeanne knew she was capable, but she’d be the first to admit that she wouldn’t be relying on her physical game to win which makes this full circle moment one of the best of the season for me:

Jeanne struggling

Jeanne winning IC

As with Santoni, I became a fast fan who soon had to worry about Jeanne’s longevity in the game looking at the early tribal council potential, but watching both women bounce back and make close contentions for the win made their seasons very fun for me. I loved both Santoni and Jeanne’s journeys from early outcasts to end-gamers which is why I hope to see both in Return of the Outcasts. Jeanne said at the reunion how she had to dial back being a “character” when she saw who she was up against, but she was a 10/10 for me, so I can only imagine what more she’s capable of bringing to the show.

I clearly have a type when it comes to Survivor SA, so I’m excited to see who steps into that slot in Island of Secrets – now conveniently on Paramount+!  YAY BUDDY!



Ryan KaiserRyan 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