We all knew this day was coming. It was a fun pre-season, and the premiere of Return of the Outcasts was a beautiful trip down memory lane for the fans, but someone had to be the unfortunate first boot out of this incredible cast. So with the first blood finally spilled, the season is off with the biggest bang possible as this cast’s expected messiness came out in abundance.
But first, we must address the catalyst for basically every bit of drama this episode had: the Outpost. The premiere ends with Seamus, Thoriso, Shane, and Steffi debating which player to give the Outpost Idol to. Whoever gets it via a secret vote would either be safe should they lose tribal immunity, or if they win, would join the losing tribe as a figurative guardian angel for the player of their choice.
However, the two pairs can’t get on the same page whatsoever. Shane and Steffi want to negotiate by revealing each tribe’s outsider, throwing out Tejan’s name without hesitation. But Seamus is more tight-lipped, settling for a split vote and letting luck decide who gets the idol. Thoriso sees the missed opportunity to earn goodwill across tribal lines, but she won’t leave the Outpost without playing with a bit of self-interest. Voting for Tevin to get the idol, she hopes he’ll accept her as a loyal ally alongside Seamus.
And given Tevin seems to be the frontrunner to lead Yontau’s strategic developments and Thoriso’s biggest downfall last season was her apathy towards connecting with her tribemates, it’s a pretty solid plan to right some wrongs and makes me feel good about Thoriso’s game thus far. On the other side, Shane and Steffi go for the age-old strategy of protecting the perceived weak link of the other tribe: Tania. Ultimately, a rock draw gifts Tevin the idol, which will ripple through Masu’s plans and turn them upside down by the end of the episode.
But there’s not just one idol sending Masu spiraling into messy territory. Chappies, no stranger to late-night mischief, crawls out of the shelter to look for idols in the middle of camp. I’m sure everyone’s seen the carved symbol on that tree and knows what’s up, but everyone also knows that digging up the camp would be a game-ruining play if they failed to get the idol first. So it’s basically a Cold War unless someone can be masterfully sly about their search.
Without a spy shack or secret diner to hide his work, Chappies (along with Steffi) is busted in the middle of the night by Dante and Palesa, which only serves to create a rift in the Breakfast Club alliance once word gets out the following morning. As much fun as Chappies is to watch at home, staying up all night feeling paranoid about his every move is the last thing anyone on that beach wants to do.
At the immunity challenge, Yontau pulls off an upset win against Masu, sending them (and Tevin) to Tribal Council. But Yontau has some business of their own to handle, as Tevin wants to make a choice the tribe can agree on rather than hogging the idol’s powers for his own gain and that of his Masu allies. Most of the tribe throws out Palesa as a possible option, feeling like she’s Masu’s weakest link in the physical department. Tevin himself agrees with the plan, wanting the chance to play with the queen herself after missing the opportunity in Season 6.
Felix has another name in mind, though, his old ally Dante. If Tevin was to save Dante, they’d earn not only his loyalty but Meryl’s as well. And if you want to be cynical about it, Dante’s controversial hothead personality could cause friction within Masu’s ranks, continuing their streak of bad communication in challenges so Yontau could sneak through with clean cohesion. Both options are solid calls.
But Yontau isn’t without a taste of drama. Seamus, high off the feeling of not going home first again, puts his foot in his mouth once more and calls Tania the weakest player in front of the entire tribe, setting off a few complaints about his bluntness. Tania herself isn’t clueless. She knows she’s on the outs, would probably be the first boot, and was only in contention for the idol as a means of keeping around a so-called weak player. But she’ll take it in stride, enjoying whatever time she gets on the Sunshine Coast as her wacky lone wolf journey continues.
As for Masu… Well, we might as well embrace the meme and officially call them Messu because the entire evening before Tribal is non-stop chaos with so many big egos trying to outmaneuver one another right off the bat.
PK tried to be the hero in the challenge and cost them an early lead, and after all that ominous foreshadowing in the premiere, you’d expect him to be the frontrunner to go here. But by the grace of the Outpost twist, Tevin’s idol spooks everyone away from targeting PK or Toni as they fully expect one of them to be saved. And a six-person alliance can’t exactly split for an idol if the other four are united, so the path of least risk winds up being an anti-Chappies coalition with Shane, another big threat, as the backup target.
It only took two days, but the Breakfast Club has had its fill with each other and implodes in glorious fashion. Marian volunteers to write Shane’s name down to prove her loyalty and set up a free agent plan moving forward. Dante turns on Chappies, who was just his number one ally a couple days ago, because he doesn’t want to stay up at night playing security guard. Steffi and Chappies, none the wiser and feeling totally secure, assume Shane is being sacrificed.
And Shane, who admittedly has a good read here among a sea of questionable ones, senses Dante’s wavering loyalty to the six and goes wildly off the rails, trying to blindside him at the last second. So what should have been a simple Chappies vote with Shane as a contingency target turns into a chaotic, frantic, totally bonkers scramble with Shane digging his hole deeper and deeper with every conversation.
At Tribal, Nico delivers a poignant bit of wisdom. If you’re so focused on playing some sort of “Survivor 2.0” at the advanced level, you might forget Survivor 101 and make rookie mistakes. And if you want mistakes, this Tribal delivers. Tejan has to step in and shut some discussions down before too many beans are spilled into Tevin’s lap, but Tevin had enough ammo before Tribal even began.
When given a chance to ask questions himself, he immediately throws Shane and Steffi under the bus by exposing their Outpost chatter to Tejan, the one thing they didn’t relay to the rest of the tribe upon returning to camp. With that seed planted and watered with three days worth of paranoia, Steffi and Shane scramble to defend themselves against a scorned Toni as Palesa and Marian try their best to maintain what little unity remains heading into the first vote of the season.
Tevin plays it safe and protects Palesa, who receives no votes alongside the rest of her bottom-feeder allies who seemed to be doomed just yesterday. Instead, the votes land on the Breakfast Club men. By the slimmest of margins, Chappies is brutally blindsided in a 5-4-1 vote over Shane and Dante. But, disappointment aside, he’s all smiles about his immediate ouster and heads off with his legacy still intact.
Chappies came into the season as the biggest name, the biggest target, and maybe the biggest outcast of them all. Absolutely nothing about this season worked in his favor, so the battle would always be uphill. There weren’t any former winners or even finalists to hide behind. Without the likes of Santoni or Anesu to serve as a guaranteed ally on Masu, he was a lone wolf. He had big player Shane openly despising him on social media and during the pre-game press (though he ironically didn’t even vote for Chappies because he was so blinded by his distrust of Dante).
Also, his challenge prowess wasn’t exactly in high demand when Masu had other physically gifted players to rely on. And because the last thing anyone watched before playing this season was Chappies going home as the chaotic fallen angel of Immunity Island, he was the trophy everyone wanted on their wall. But Chappies still brought great TV in his two episodes, even if his late-night idol hunting didn’t do him many favors. And I’m sure he’ll be back for a hypothetical All-Stars season despite his early exit. And perhaps with less of a target on his back, too, Tony Vlachos style.
Return of the Outcasts kicked off with a bang, and if this two-part premiere is an indication of where this season may be heading, I’d buckle up and grab your biltong because this could be an absolute bloodbath all the way to the finish line.