Coming off the heels of a mind-blowing Tevin blindside, Return of the Outcasts proved its players are hungry for big targets even on the tribe with far less game experience. One of the best parts of any season like this is that you never feel like anyone is safe. The votes could just magically manifest on them in the span of a five-minute conversation based on a social faux pas, poorly hidden if not arrogant control of the tribe, or one piece of information entering the wrong set of ears. And this episode was no different.
Waking up on Yontau beach with one less ally and his spot blown up, Seamus feels the heat. And it’s not just from the roaring campfire. Working to assess his shaky situation, he gets to work on finding a crack in the new power structure, settling on Dino as his new nemesis. Believing Dino’s goofy, bumbling, puppy-dog personality is a clever cover for a great strategist (which isn’t an awful read), Seamus isn’t about to settle for just letting the votes fall on an easy target. He wants to take back his power position with brute force or lose his flame trying.
But the true mastermind on Yontau, as far as organizing votes is concerned, is Phil. The firefighter snuffed a blazing torch last night with Tevin’s shocking elimination, cementing his spot as a power player and key member of the new majority alliance. Leaving Shona, Killarney, and Seamus out to dry, he’s set himself up very well with three easy pickings. And to make the deal sweeter than sugarcane, not everyone on the bottom is on the same page.
Shona, emerging from her unfortunately under-the-radar edit, gives us some insight into her game. It’s all about underestimation a la Nicole Wilmans. People might think she’s a clumsy, ditzy player who dances around in the sun without a strategic thought in her head, but there’s a serious sleeper threat lurking under that sweet exterior. And she proves so by immediately ratting out Seamus and his anti-Dino plan once she’s brought into the scheme, feeling as though Seamus is playing too selfishly and has become a sinking ship.
Seamus’ other bottom-feeding ally Killarney is down for whatever gets her another few days. If Seamus tells her the plan is Dino, great. If someone, like Shona, for example, blows up said plan and the target suddenly switches to Seamus, so be it. While Killarney’s confusion over what the plan actually is doesn’t give me good vibes for her chances long-term, at least it’s amusing to watch and gives her the chance to clue us in on her Sandra-esque strategy after a quiet beginning. And given her downfall in Champions came at the end of a massive campaign to control the votes and eliminate her target (for righteous reasons, of course), it shows she’s learned from past mistakes to some degree.
While Masu will ultimately avoid Tribal Council again, it’s still another chaotic, messy episode for them. Fearing a swap, Dante cuts the mysterious idol symbols off their trees to keep potential idols in Masu hands only. And fearing Toni’s blatant disloyalty to the Masus, he tries his best to hug it out with her just in case her vote becomes a must-have. Toni won’t buy it, though, immediately clocking how suspicious his timing is and writing him off even harder.
But there will not be a swap just yet. Instead, we have a reward challenge for a chance to spin one of the coolest product placement gimmicks I’ve ever seen: the LottoStar Reward Wheel. Random chance will determine what the victors receive, ranging from another bag of lentils to a challenge advantage to full-on feasts. Masu’s horrible communication skills set them back yet again, and Dino’s puzzle prowess proves impossible to overcome, netting Yontau a decisive victory. Though their first spin earns them a disappointingly basic bag of lentils, Nico throws them a bone and reveals a twist. Yontau can choose two people from Masu to join them, and as an added bonus, they get another spin.
Unsurprisingly, Yontau drags Toni and Tejan away from Masu, hoping to feast on not just mac and cheese but juicy enemy secrets as well. And if we’ve learned anything about Toni so far, it’s that she’s more than willing to sell Masu out for the lowest price if it means a taste of revenge. And sell them out she does, spilling every bit of information she can at the feast and spending most of her time dragging Dante’s name through the mud to a helpless Tejan’s dismay.
Returning to camp, Toni swears no secrets were spilled. The rest of the tribe reacts accordingly… by heading off in groups to talk some trash, Tejan included. Meryl doesn’t buy it. Marian doesn’t buy it. Shane doesn’t buy it and refuses to even look at her. And while Toni is Tejan’s only solid connection in the cast to speak of, he’s already been burned working with fiery, emotional players in his first season and doesn’t want to see his second chance go down the same path. So off the sinking ship he jumps, leaving Toni for the sharks.
Meanwhile, Steffi decides upon a risky play and tells Marian about her newfound idol. With the Full Package trio having both an idol and diplomatic immunity, they’re set to run the table in the swap phase. But first, they have to actually get there in one piece. And in a nail-biting immunity challenge, Masu overcomes their communication issues to snag victory. But not without Dante making a fool of himself by screaming commands at Toni after they’d already won. If his weak attempt at burying the hatchet had any chance of working before, it’s now been dug up and hung out for everyone to see.
With Yontau attending their third Tribal in a row, the schemers get to work. Shona plots with Phil and Killarney to take Seamus down. While Phil is disappointed the vote will take effort to orchestrate, he’s more than happy to send the former first boot packing pre-merge a second time, following his buddy Tevin out the door.
Seamus himself is less than aware of what’s coming. Believing Killarney and Shona are on board to boot Dino, he recruits Pinty and Thoriso to his crew, intending to pull a Dante (in the strategic sense, not the social sense) by gathering the women to his side. Now, his pitches here aren’t bad at all. Dino is a big threat and has pre-game connections on Masu, so keeping him around for puzzles and letting him control Yontau might backfire when the swap could just make him an asset to a different group and let him carve a path deep into the game. Valid arguments all around.
The problem? Thoriso’s trying not to laugh in his face, assuming Seamus would cut her way sooner than her new majority would. And thus, Seamus’ plans unravel when Thoriso links up with Pinty, and both women agree he’s not worth the trouble.
All the pieces fall into place. Dino’s long-term relationship building pays dividends as the tribe rallies behind him, organizing a landslide Seamus vote with a stray Killarney vote thrown out in the event of an idol play. And just like that, Seamus went from running the tribe with Tevin, being blindsided by his ally’s elimination, and then being blindsided himself just two days later.
So, where did Seamus go wrong? It’s hard to point to a single mistake that blew up his game, but there was a mounting tide of anti-Seamus sentiment building in Yontau from the early days. Thoriso pointed out his poor negotiation skills at the Outpost. Phil and Felix caught onto his game and stopped trusting him several days earlier. Even people who joined him on the bottom at Tevin’s elimination knew when to jump ship and let him sink to his grave.
In the end, his lack of social connections, mixed with a dose of overconfidence and a lack of experience, cost him his second chance. Once he and Tevin were pinpointed as the tribe’s ringleaders, it was a target he couldn’t shake even with Tevin out of the game. And attempting to gun for a secure social player in Dino over a fellow bottom feeder like Killarney or Shona didn’t boost his odds.
But I’m glad we got a few more episodes of Seamus. It’s so rare to see a first boot return, let alone survive multiple Tribals with a full Survivor experience under their belt. The guy found his first idol, hid a fake one at Tribal Council, won several challenges, beat his previous placement, controlled a tribe, lost said control, and scrambled to save himself in the span of 11 days. And as a bonus, and perhaps as his greatest achievement, he found a bit of personal closure on some dark times in his life.
We have a few threads to untangle heading into a swap at the final fifteen. Dante has his sights set on knocking Dino out of the game before he’s too well-insulated and makes a deep run. Toni is ready to flip on Masu and send her enemies packing. Palesa, Tejan, and Killarney have also been in desperate need of a new home. Steffi and Marian have two advantages at their disposal, including the powerful diplomatic immunity saved up for this very occasion. Phil’s emerged as the power player of the pre-mergers, who all share that feisty underdog spirit against a post-merge tribe who can’t put egos aside. And Pinty… Well, I assume she’ll continue being a tour de force of raw conflict no matter which buff she draws, and you know it’ll be great TV.