Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor SA: RotO recaps
Week 3: Who are you with, and how many are there?
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: August 5, 2022
SurvivorSA: Return of the Outcasts Episodes 9-12 recap/ analysis

Who are you with, and how many are there?

I must be a masochist for how much I love this season of Survivor SA despite it sucking the soul of me episode after episode. I’m Purple Kelly over here crying, “I have nothing left to suck!” Most of my Santoni Stan Stars for Week 3 are covered in tears because of this brutal, brutal boot order, but there is still plenty to love with half the game left to go! Somehow, I’m still very excited!

Thoriso yelling

^Me “loving” this season.


I am NOT loving this pattern of the last boot of each week being my favorite player of the week. I’m going to have to just tweet next Monday thru Wednesday all kinds of love and praise for Dante in hopes that that pattern continues.

Palesa went out the way she entered — an icon, a legend, a queen. I stanned her more and more each episode this week, up until Episode 12 in which we got a little bit less from Palesa but a lot more from everyone else over just how OBSESSED they were with her. Episode 9 showcased Palesa’s powerful double agent game. She had turned on Dante and co. at new Yontau’s first tribal council, but because of the botched idol blunder, her cover wasn’t blown, so she was able to keep her original alliance’s trust while winning big points in new allies Dino and Phil.

Further, she had me stanning the way she spotted Toni and Dino’s idol exchange in Episode 10 and proceeded to confront Dino with, “You know I saw…” — I was LIVING! Then she was shamed Shane for being a terrible double agent, obviously in the middle of a masterclass on how do that herself. My favorite moment of the week, by far, was yet another private investigator Palesa confrontation, cornering Dino in Episode 11 asking, “Who are you with and how many are there?” as she tried to get information on what allegiances he had on the other side. So direct. So fierce. So Palesa.

Palesa was an icon in Philippines, but she wasn’t always the smoothest operator. This season, she did a phenomenal job at that, but the downside to that was that her improved social game was noticed by others. Palesa didn’t initially need to be in a core alliance to survive in the game, but finally, it came to a point where Palesa was the only one without anyone really going to bat for her. I didn’t like the big twist of the week for exactly this reason.

Palesa would not have been the boot if Yontau had just voted normally — it would have been Phil, most likely (another hard loss, but the less painful of the two). Further, Palesa had no time to actually work her magic on the other half of the tribe that was voting. She should have at LEAST had that opportunity to talk to Marian, talk to Steffi, meet Felix and Killarney for the first time — we saw Palesa proving herself powerful in those one-on-one conversations, and talks like those before a vote are critical. I think her boot was a case of everyone being scared about advantages or what the other tribe was talking about, so it was just easy to vote out the scariest player left in the game: Palesa. Had they not, the throne at the end would have been hers. I know it.

Palesa drinking

She drinks and she knows things.


Toni was my other top-stanned of the week whose game also came crashing apart by the fourth episode (she only didn’t suffer the torch snuff), but in Episodes 9-11 Toni was TRIUMPHANT. Much like Palesa, I was super impressed with Toni’s double-agent game, balancing between the two divisions at Masu. Unfortunately, she had to draw a line quickly, showing that her truer allegiance was to the Steffi side. However, Toni remained a strategic force to be reckoned with, even after revealing her cards. In Episode 10, she convinced Tejan to give his idol to her friend, Dino, in hopes of influencing the vote on Yontau (which I thought was going to have a bigger immediate impact … ), and in Episode 11, she dominated the Outpost strategy and set all the plans in motion for what would have been an AMAZING cross-tribal collusion … if only for Marian not working it slightly better.

Toni’s going to have her work cut out for her now, losing a lot of leverage since Steffi can go back to Marian and Meryl, definitely bringing Killarney along for the ride and potentially Felix too. Toni started off in trouble pre-swap, climbed to the top of her tribe during the swap, but she perhaps became a little too much of a tyrant after the Outpost, and in an all-star cast with even more type-As — those who don’t like being told what to do — than usual, that was bound to blow up in her face. I think she’ll regret voting out Thoriso. Thoriso could have kept Felix tightly tied to the Shane vote and between them, Tejan, Dino, Phil, and Palesa, they’d have had a 7-5 majority over the Breakfast Club. I want to live in a world where Pinty, Killarney, and Dante were the boots this week, but even in the superior SA franchise, the show can never please me perfectly.


I was UNWELL after Episode 10, to say the least. Thoriso’s edit was so strong and showcased such an improvement over her first season, earning her two (final T_T) stan stars for the first two episodes of the week. Watching her drive so much strategy (and strategy that made sense!) was a major joy for me, being a big Thoriso fan since minute 1 of Immunity Island. She hit the Masu beach hard last week and continued to push for her agenda with Toni and Tejan — I thought Thoriso’s strategy of wanting to be the only outsider was brilliant. If she could eliminate all the other “goats” she could be seen as one, or at least as a free agent. Getting dragged to the end as a goat isn’t a strategy, but I think Thoriso was on the right track to intentionally appear as one and turn it into a valid strategy. She was clearly much more calculated and conniving this season, so I had high hopes she’d be able to make that pitch well at Final Tribal Council.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I was the only one who picked up on Thoriso’s improved positioning power. Even had she not decided to play with Pinty and was instead included on that vote, I still think we would’ve seen the same result in the proceeding tribal council. During that second episode, though, Thoriso had set the stage for what I thought was going to be a major, masterful move. Tejan let slip the split vote plan, and all Thoriso had to do was go against her moral conscious and vote for Felix. She delivered an amazing confessional too, describing how Tejan had just made a critical error by informing Thoriso of what she needed to do. It’s funny because last week I was mad at Phil for not sticking to the established plan, and this week I was mad that Thoriso did. UGH. Had Thoriso voted for Felix, she’d have single-handedly accomplished a rare 3-2-1 vote and presumably a spot in the merge. My brain could not comprehend why she decided to trust that Tejan would flip instead ….

Thoriso glowering

Still, I’m a Thoriso stan always and forever, and this season only cemented that. I’m super proud of her stepped-up game, only wishing it would have lasted much longer like I thought it was going to…


Tejan had the opportunity to be the big hero of the week when it came to Thoriso’s boot in Episode 10, and while he didn’t end up going through with it … I’ll still give him a star for at least considering keeping her. I appreciate a player exploring their own options and not just sticking with their alliance for the sole sake of loyalty. I thought that he’d be a 1-star stannee this week, but then he surprisingly spoke up at the next tribal council too and called out that same alliance for wavering when he was 100% committed to the plan. I was ready to scream (out of happiness) if he was able to switch the vote back, but alas … still, I liked the initiative! I didn’t expect Tejan to be someone who would be a big talker at tribal, nor the rest of the game, but this gives me hope that maybe we’ll see Tejan turn it up a few notches in this second half of the game. He’s let two votes now go the way that weren’t the most ideal for him, so I think he’s seen enough to realize he can’t play so passively. I’m excited for what could be Tejan 2.0 in this game!


Dino would’ve earned 4 stan stars from me had he played his idol for Palesa at that last vote of the week. There was zero indication he was even considering that, but some irrational part of me held onto hope that maybe we were in for a big editing blindside — the Palesa vote seemed too straightforward! Unfortunately, Dino didn’t deliver there, understandably, I suppose, because he didn’t want to go against an otherwise unanimous decision right before the merge. That would have been dumb, and Dino is not dumb. Dino is smart — and that’s why he earned a star from me this week! I LOVED his move in the Episode 9 immunity challenge to lead Toni and Killarney astray to secure him more time on the puzzle, ultimately leading himself and his tribe to victory. I really can’t love this man more, and he’s unquestionably been killing it this season. A lot of eyes are on him, but he’s one crafty mofo, so I wouldn’t count Dino down and out just yet. There’s still plenty more hearts to manipulate with those deceptively dreamy puppy dog eyes.

Sad Dino


I like Felix much more as an underdog than a cocky player padded with numbers. I was not a fan in Island of Secrets, and he hasn’t done much for me this season, but I finally appreciated him enough to hand out his first stan star in Episode 11 following the Thoriso boot. He was kind of a bully the first time around, so seeing him in that episode have to squirm was satisfying, but he wasn’t bitter about it; that instead lit a fire under him, and I obviously can’t hate someone if they were the one who stuck by Thoriso’s side until the end. I also laughed at Felix’s comment in the episode before about how Masu was being hypocrites for saying Yontau played “dirty” in that blindfolded immunity challenges when Masu was nearly killing Yontaus left and right in the mud pit. THANK YOU for calling out that this is Survivor and “playing dirty” is just playing the game — the mental aspect at least.


Steffi came out of the gates strong in Week 1, took a bit more of a backseat in Week 2, but I saw the fire starting to flare up again as we ended Week 3. Her standout episode for me was Episode 11 where she talked about not wanting to play someone else’s game and how Marian coming over to Masu made a mess of things when Steffi thought she had been running the show just fine on her own. It’s this exact attitude that gives me hope that we won’t see a straight slaughter of Toni, Dino, Phil, and Tejan in some order. I’m not sure I see Steffi working with those four immediately, but maybe after a few of them leave, she’ll be the one to turn the tables and make a bigger name for Steffi instead of making moves Meryl and Marian want to make. Steffi was so much about loyalty her first time around — nauseatingly so — so I’m excited she’s talking more about wanting to play more of her own game. I know she made this face when Killarney pledged herself to Steffi, but this may just be Steffi’s two-million-rand ride-or-die.

Steffi hugging Killarney


I have not FORGOTTEN Phil’s big fuck-up last week, and I won’t FORGIVE it, but I’ll give him a break because of how much he makes me laugh. He was a great mood-lifter in a very depressing Episode 12, of course, and it was fun watching him almost succeed with the Shane vote. Speaking of Shane, Phil also has had to endure a lot of bullshit there by pretending to be playing the game with Shane. Phil had me rolling from his commentary during that strategy session with Shane and his wild ideas, so I’m hoping Phil can finally move out of the hotseat in this merge and stick around to keep the mood light. We need more laugh out loud moments like this:

Phil whispering with Nico

Unfortunately for Phil, Nico can’t actually count as a number for him.


It’s really hard to say I “stan” Meryl for doing Palesa as dirty as she did, but it was out of self-preservation, of course, and it was incredibly impressive to watch her and Marian orchestrate that vote without being able to communicate to each other from different camps, so begrudgingly, I’m giving Meryl a stan star for Episode 12. She deserves many more, though, to be honest, as she’s definitely played a stellar game so far (that cake search in Episode 9 was also just a smidge shy of another star if not for some bigger standouts) and is near the top of my list of ones to watch in the merge. The reason she’s not the top in that regard is because it finally came up in the last episode that everyone is aware of Meryl’s skills. This early merge will be make or break for her — if her side wins out, then I think she stands a strong chance at reaching the end and winning. Otherwise, I think she’s going to be an early target and maybe even be the merge boot again. She has great reads, though, and might be able to suss out when she needs to play her pass.


^I’m definitely buying into that fashion!

Last, but not least, I think my official winner pick at the halfway point. As with Meryl, I didn’t want to award Marian with a stan star for what she did to Palesa, but undeniably, she slayed a big target. Marian was such a boss for using her diplomatic immunity to jump over to Masu, not only making sure she wouldn’t be the vote, but to ensure she got her way when it came to who would. I know Steffi wasn’t loving Toni’s tone when after the Outpost visit, but I’m not sure Steffi would have been as confident to swing against the Shane/Meryl split plan had it not been for Marian making her comfortable and bringing Killarney and Felix on board. As much as I hated the result, Marian was really the king queen-pin in making it happen by ensuring both sides were on the same side. SHE DID THAT.

Marian’s set herself up extremely well, and looking at the numbers, Toni, Dino, Phil, and Tejan are probably more at risk as Steffi returns to the Breakfast Club who now will have Felix and Killarney. If Marian rides that out to seven (I hope next week isn’t as easy as that), then she can choose between whether to go with Steffi, Felix, and Killarney, or Shane, Dante, and Meryl. I don’t see the Toni/Dino side winning out this early part of the merge (another reason why that idol on Palesa could have been pivotal … ), but if they somehow flip things around, Marian still shouldn’t be the target and will have plenty of wiggle room to maneuver her way back into power. One way or another, I think Marian will be one of the biggest move-makers in this merge. She’s playing one of the best games right now but it hasn’t caught up to her yet. Will it? I don’t know. Marian may not have been the champion of Champions, but I think she’s well on her way to being the champion among outcasts.

Stan Stars chart

You know, I actually like that the early boots have received some big edits this season or at least a lot of standout moments for me. That’s when storytelling is at its best, making me care for (almost) everyone from beginning to end. The Survivor SA editing team is really knocking it out of the park, and they’re making me care by other means than just short packages of photos and videos from home that make an appearance only to never be heard from again. I look forward to more e-merging stars as we enter the latter stage of the game!





It’s been such a long, traumatizing week that I forgot Pinty finally got the boot at the beginning of it. A surprisingly small exit for a big character and a large instigator of a lot of the drama in the first few weeks. Not only did Pinty not improve at all, but I think she actually doubled down and played spectacularly worse; however, we needed that kind of non-strategic chaos for this season. Thoriso, of course, is another huge loss for me, and had she survived, I may have made her my winner pick at the merge. She was another whose chaos we needed, but she was satisfyingly sharper, less chaotic, and more calculated than I expected. Like I said, I think Toni and Tejan will regret letting her go when they did. And Palesa … there are few words left that I haven’t said, so I’ll just let Wendy Williams say them again:

Wendy Williams: Palesa IS the moment

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