In the aftermath of the unanimous Felix re-vote, Phil and Dino watch a beautiful dawn over the sand dunes. Phil asks for an apology from Dino. “How could he not trust him?” If they are going to Final 2 together, there must be trust. In confessional, Phil says he is pissed off and irritated. Dino’s distrust was a gut punch. But Phil is boxing up his emotions in his drive to Final 2 and the win.
Dino is also in a confessional mood. In his mind, Phil must go, so he must not win immunity. So is the No BS alliance still strong or not?
Survivor SA has many sponsors, and good for them! There’s usually a playful insertion of the branding, but the Lotto Star Word Scramble is a bold and bald logo to the face. Each castaway gets a pouch with a word puzzle and a pencil. They must unscramble the puzzle to find a clue to the location of an advantage for the next Immunity Challenge. Shane is a word puzzle fanatic, so it’s his time to shine. He gets to the “Large Rock Second Dune” mere steps before Dino.
At the challenge, the final five learn they must count things (knots, locks, logs, and branches) to find the combination to a lock. Shane’s advantage gives the count of the most difficult item—the euphorbia plant with 31 branches. Despite sharing his advantage with Dino and Marian, plus the three of them working together and pulling in Killarney, Phil continues his winning streak. Amid genuine congratulations and admiration for the challenge BEAST, the plan to vote Phil out comes crashing down.
Dino wants Killarney to go home but for Phil to be left out of it. Dino’s plan is that he, Shane, and Marian vote for Killarney, while allowing Phil to think that Shane and Marian are voting for Dino. Dino wants to “starve Phil strategically,” knocking him down a few pegs in the jury’s eyes by voting incorrectly at Final 5.
While Shane and Dino harvest shellfish, Phil and Marian eat Phil’s hotdog reward and plot the vote. Phil wants Dino out. He proposes Marian and Shane band with him to get it done. Marian bangs the gong about “goats,” saying that at Masu it was agreed that if someone brings a goat to the end, they will vote for the goat. Phil has no such reservations. If he gets to the final with a goat, he made all the running to get there.
Marian says in confessional that she wants Killarney out. Not only because of the “no goat” policy, but also to be the last woman standing. And that’s enough talk about goats.
Back at camp, Killarney pitches a Marian vote to Shane. When Dino joins them in cleaning a bounty of mussels, he agrees to vote with them to boot Marian.
However, Marian has a plan of her own. It’s a hat on a hat. She wants to stick to the Killarney vote. But! Phil trusts her, and she wants to keep it that way. So, she proposes, what if the Save The Date gave Dino not only an extra vote but also a steal-a-vote good to Final 5? She’ll vote for Killarney but mimic Dino’s writing style with the symbol in the lower-left corner of the parchment. When she returns to her seat, she will say her vote stolen. This way, Phil returns to camp thinking Marian is still on his side.
Dino is in on the plan. Is it silly? Yes. Is it fun? Hell yes! The threesome is expecting Phil to vote for Dino and Killarney to vote for either Shane or Marian as they head into Tribal Council.
What? Tribal Council with 20 minutes of the episode still to go? Excitement rises.
“Are you just that good?” Nico asks Phil, pointing out all his challenge wins. However, Dino notes that you need the social and strategic sides of the game, as well as the physical. Dino also realizes he’s the only one of the Final 5 not from Season 5 Champions. There is much talk of fluidity, the desire to move where the votes are moving.
Although there are two votes in the urn for Dino (we imagine a slightly terrifying moment for him waiting for the final vote to be revealed), it’s three votes for Killarney in the end, and she is gone. She says she’s disappointed and feels it will be a tough one for her to swallow. But she has the strength. Even when she is down, she can still find the strength. She played with an unimaginable emotional burden and that is to be commended.
Marian now has some acting to do. She is supposed to be down because Dino “stole her vote,” but she is actually stoked to be the last woman standing. Dino defends his “play” of the imaginary steal-a-vote. His two closest allies were voting for him. Phil completely buys the ruse and crows that Marian is in his pocket because she’s now divided from Shane and Dino.
During another beautiful dawn on the sand dunes, Phil and Dino meet to laugh and hug and admire each other’s game. Phil says he will work with Dino but will also vote him out if he can. He drips in Dino’s ear that there are a lot of women on the jury, and they would vote for Marian. They agree that it would be “clinically insane” to take Marian to the end.
This scene is everything, from the beautiful setting to the two players with different game styles, strongly and warmly aligned, ready to cut each other as soon as the chance arises. This is Survivor.
Back in the shelter, Shane asks Marian if Phil “knows who he is playing against?” We have waited all season for Shane, and he is undiminished by time, unfazed by “the new style of play’.” And Marian is exactly where she wants to be.
As they sit together at the campfire, this incredible Final 4. But as they themselves say, looking across at the jury, what a group of players sitting over there as well.
Keep On Rolling
At the Reward Challenge, the final four must work in pairs to roll wooden spools down a track, adding more spools at various intervals. Don’t drop the spool! The reward is a helicopter flight to Mantis Collection Founder’s Lodge in the Shamwari Game Reserve, a game drive, a sumptuous meal, an overnight stay in 5-star accommodation, plus a morning’s work with the rhino conservationists.
They draw rocks to see who will pick their partner and, therefore, the opposing team. Lucky Phil gets the black rock and picks Dino. The episode leaves us dangling with four spools rolling on each track, the castaways slogging up and down two flights of stairs and dragging through sticky, slippery mud.
What a great start to Finale Week! This episode was such a narratively satisfying break from the usual layout (from the aftermath of the boot to the next vote). Here we got camaraderie, strategy, Final 5 to Final 4, a moment to contemplate who is on the jury and to consider that one of these four people will be the Sole Survivor.
This has been an outstanding season, a gift to fans and players alike from the show’s producer Leroux Botha and his creative and technical teams and from all the returning castaways.