Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts

Episode 12 Recap – Pledging Allegiance

What went down in Episode 12?

Photo: M-Net

It’s hard to put into words all of the emotions I experienced in this two-part episode. So, of course, this ended up being my longest recap of the season so far. But Survivor SA has done a brilliant job with the casting in their first returnee season, and it shows with the results of this episode.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as heartbroken as anyone to lose such a titan of the game right before the merge, but we must look at it as a testament to how strong this cast is. If this is the level of gameplay we’re receiving in the pre-merge, I’m unbelievably excited to see what we get in the next stage of the game.

So, About That Cliffhanger

For a player that dominated the pre-merge in his original season, Shane’s impact on this season has been noticeably quieter (not his confessionals, though, those are still as blunt as ever). The episode begins right where the last one left off, with Shane finding a hidden piece of red rope that presumably leads to some kind of advantage. We finally get the answer to where the rope leads here.

As it turns out, Shane found the Yontau counterpart to Marian’s Diplomatic Immunity that was used in the previous episode. Since Marian played hers (unbeknownst to them, the merge is right around the corner), Shane’s diplomatic immunity is useless. But leave it to Shane to turn lemons into lemonade because a useless trinket is still a trinket nonetheless. He takes this opportunity to parade his new find as a real idol, unknowingly throwing a spanner into the works of the already flimsy plan hatched by Toni and Phil.

All in all, it never really matters that Shane’s idol isn’t real, for the same reason that it doesn’t matter that Dante can’t use the idol that he found. In this round, with this twist, even some of the best players of this season seem to have lost their nerve in the name of self-preservation. Nobody wants to be the victim of a joint tribal council, especially one that appears to be the vote right before merge. This collective groupthink is what spurs the near-unanimous vote for one of the season’s best double agents and one of the very few that were confirmed to not have an extra form of protection.

Toni, Toni, Toni…

On Yontau, it takes very little convincing on Phil’s part to get Dino and Palesa to vote for Meryl, in part because she’s already proven herself to be a strong social and strategic player. In fact, this may be one of the only times the opportunity to take Meryl out will present itself to them, so why not take the shot when they can?

This move also serves Palesa’s needs, as she has been quietly playing double agent between Yontau’s two factions since the swap. She knows that with this vote, she is pledging her allegiance to one side, but it needs to be the side with the upper hand. Her plan is to side with Dino, Phil, and the current Masu’s majority, who will undoubtedly offer her a better winning chance than being The Breakfast Club’s reluctant plus one. Sending Meryl or Shane home will provide new opportunities to herself and others left outside of the post-merge alliance.

If this plan sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because it is. While Phil has an easier time convincing his side to vote for Meryl, it’s clear Toni overestimated her influence on Masu, especially now that Marian has also switched over. Her allies do not appreciate being told what to do without any discussion, which is essentially what happens. Her lack of tact rubs everyone the wrong way, especially players like Steffi, who is in The Breakfast Club, and Felix, who has been left out of the vote two rounds in a row. Combine this with Shane’s fake idol, and viewers at home can be pretty assured that Shane is safer than ever.

Toni’s loss turns out to be Steff’s gain, and she really shines here. She uses the connections she’s made with Killarney and Felix’s dissatisfaction with tribe dynamics to her advantage to pull them over to her side and team up for this vote. While I was worried for her initially from the tribe swap, it’s clear that this is the best thing to happen for her game. More than anyone, she has created many options for herself, not to mention that if all else fails, she still has an idol. I worry that people will pick up on what a threat she is soon, but for now, she is definitely the one to watch.

Everybody’s Got a Pouch

Back at Yontau, another player that has proven to be one to watch out for is Meryl. With the joint tribal hanging over their heads, Meryl is worried that she’ll be the one to catch votes due to the lack of safe options. With Dante and Shane’s useless idols, Dino’s real idol, and Phil’s Outpost visit, her and Palesa are the only ones left. If all else fails, she has her tribal council pass, but she has a plan to ensure it doesn’t come to that. She hopes to convince her alliance members and their connections on the other side to vote out Palesa. Not only is Palesa one of the only ones without an advantage, but her leaving weakens Dante’s side of The Breakfast Club.

When she first pitches her plan, not many people seem to be on board for one reason or another. Truthfully, Palesa leaving only serves The Breakfast Club’s interests, and convincing all of their members to go along with the plan is like pulling teeth. Not to mention that it’s completely unknown to them if Marian is successful or not in rallying the votes together on their side. Even as they’re getting ready to go to tribal council, the final decision is still up in the air.

Breakfast is Served

Normally, the votes have been decided by the time tribal begins. Here, you can tell many players remain uncertain. Everyone wants to be on the right side of the numbers. But more than anything, they just want to be safe. It doesn’t take too long for a live tribal to commence, and players try to get on the same page. I give a lot of credit to Marian’s decision to switch over to Masu before the vote, as her influence definitely pays off here. Combine this with Steffi’s connections and Meryl’s gift of persuasion, and The Full Package is proving to live up to their name.

Word gets around that the vote is landing on Palesa, and soon enough, everyone else is willing to comply. As one of the few people playing the middle ground, Palesa is an asset to many, but she’s not so necessary to anyone’s plans that they’re willing to throw out other names and risk an idol being played. Only Tejan openly resists, claiming it’s silly for their side to vote out one of their own. He’s right, but it doesn’t matter. Meryl’s plan succeeds, and Palesa is voted out 10-2, with only Toni voting to keep her.

As a superfan of the Survivor SA franchise, seeing Palesa voted out as the last pre-merger is devastating. Not even the round of applause she receives on her way out softens the blow. Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to be happy for the remaining players, who receive the official confirmation from Nico that they have reached the merge. In a season with so many stars, to see them taking a moment to simply celebrate how far they’ve come is a type of joy unmatched for Survivor players and fans alike. My advice that no one asked for is that we need more nighttime merges; it really added to the episode’s aesthetic.

What’s Next?

With Season 9 halfway done, we have officially reached the next phase of the game. As we head into the merge, the power presumably lies with the Breakfast Club. But will it stay that way? Possibly, but I’m not confident in that. The five members of this alliance all have distinct personalities with their own personal agendas, but one thing none of them are is complacent. With two million rand on the line, I think the bigger question is which one of them will have the upper hand when it matters most.

Written by

Gia Worthy

Gia Worthy is a Massachusetts native and a lifelong fan of Survivor. When she's not helping to run the Survivor Diversity Campaign Twitter page, you can find her on her own Twitter, letting everyone know that Survivor: Marquesas and Fiji are criminally underrated.

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