The Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts jury decided tonight during the final tribal council that one-time pre-merge boot Dino Paulo had played the best game this season, earning him R2 million, the coveted sole Survivor title – and redemption. He had also won a brand-new Mahindra XUV300 in week four and picked up a luxurious boat cruise holiday on the Zambezi Queen, worth R80 000, during his Outpost visit on day 32.
Dino saw off the challenge of post-merge player Shane Hattingh in the final two, successfully pleading his case after 39 days of intense gameplay on the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast – and was awarded his title with his fiancé Kirsten by his side as Nico broke Survivor SA tradition and read out the votes directly after they had been cast. As it turned out, majority of the jury members (Danté, Toni, Meryl, Marian, Phil, Tejan and Felix) voted for him, with only Killarney and Steffi voting for Shane.
In his pitch to the jury, Dino had sketched his personal journey through this season – from entering the game with the same self-doubt that saw him eliminated in season eight and seeing it grow exponentially – to the point where he was able to turn it into confidence and assert himself in the game.
He had focused on building social capital and being fluid and collaborative at the start of the game before the tribe swap separated him from his alliance partners. He forged new relationships, mitigated the idols and advantages everyone knew he had and played strategically and logically, rather than being flashy.
Dino, Killarney, Marian, Phil and Shane had entered the final week of the game with everything to play for. On Monday’s episode, Phil picked up his third consecutive individual immunity challenge win – despite having the others working together in an attempt to stop him – and the resulting vote saw Killarney join the Jury. Phil led during the exhausting physical individual immunity challenge on Tuesday but was pipped as Shane solved the intricate puzzle to win his first-ever immunity challenge. With Phil and Dino having agreed to vote for each other and letting fate decide, Phil tried valiantly to sway the vote at tribal council, but saw himself eliminated.
On Wednesday, with Dino wearing the individual immunity necklace to guarantee himself a spot in the final two after possibly the most gruelling endurance challenge ever on Survivor SA he made the decision that Shane was easier to beat in the final two than Marian and voted to make her the final member of the jury.
On Tuesday and Wednesday’s episodes, the castaways were paired up by a rock draw for the reward challenge, which ultimately saw Shane and Marian win a once-in-a-lifetime experience of a helicopter trip to the five-star Founder's Lodge by Mantis Collection for a game drive, delicious meal and overnight stay, before participating in the darting, tagging and checking the vitals of a young male rhino with conservationists from the Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA).
After finding the winner announcement, we headed back to reality with Shane and Dino:
The toughest-ever season of Survivor SA saw the castaways fighting for every advantage, with food scarcer than ever and luxuries for their camps, at a premium. So tough was the fight for food that the castaways collectively lost 109kg, with Shane’s 18kg loss the greatest by an individual.
The winner wasn’t alone in redeeming himself after his previous season, many other Castaways felt that they’d left the game during Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts with personal victories. While Seamus, Felix, Killarney and Danté were proud of being their authentic selves, Tania felt that she hadn’t learned her lesson and saw the same foibles send her home the second time around. That said, she brought the concept of humanity to this game season, which gave many of the castaways' pause for thought. Steffi and Shane had noticeably softened their gameplay this season, while Dino had ultimately toughened up significantly – which undoubtedly contributed to his win.
Find out what he had to say about the win:
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Images: Charlie Sperring and Peter Russell
There’s an omnibus broadcast of Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts on M-Net on Saturday, 15:30-19:30 and, of course, every episode is available on DStv CatchUp. For more about Survivor SS, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For interviews with the winner, please contact [email protected] to book a slot for 26 August.