Monday is here for another week and that means it’s feature time, and one of our ‘originals’ Noah Groves is back to give you something a little different today! Noah is a man of the World and in being that man he likes to check out other versions of the show we know and love, including one from the Rainbow Nation of South Africa! Why should you watch it? Well Mr.Groves sits you down and explains just why you you need to check it out and just why it’s such a good season!
Survivor South Africa: Champions is the fifth season of the South African franchise and aired earlier this year. To my absolute surprise, this season was particularly strong and a delight to watch. Here are thirteen points which I think are the strengths of the season in an attempt to convince whoever is reading to track down and view it. The season should be accessible on YouTube or by other particular means that won’t be mentioned here.
Please note that as I wish for people to fully enjoy the season only minor spoilers will appear in this article. Nobody’s finishing position or names will be discussed in regards to these thirteen points.
Close Final Three
This is one thing that the US version of Survivor lacks that has led to so many fans disapproving of a final three. Enter South Africa: Champions where we have a final three with the results being five to three to two. Instead of the blowouts that we see in America, this final three was extremely tense and dramatic when the realisation that any of these three could be the winner. Although I personally think the results should have been ten to zero to zero, the close final three is a perfect way to end the season on a high note and makes it all the more better!
For those of you who don’t know already, this season is essentially titled ‘Champions’ based on the fact that two South African sports captains are ‘leaders’ to each tribe. These captains can’t actually vote at tribal council but can compete in the challenges and do have a vote at the final tribal to decide the winner. Admittedly I hadn’t actually heard of captains Corne Krige or Mark Fish before I watched the season but both are valued and entertaining characters. They start the game with the mindset that the fit alpha males and loyal players are the best and quickly learn, when the players hide info from the captains, just how the game is played and that they aren’t necessarily the ‘leaders’ they were initially positioned as. Eventually the captains do gain some power as they compete in duals for the Salvation Cup and attempt to switch up the game.
Ex Springboks captain Corne Krige and ex Bofana Bofana footballer Mark Fish were the captains of this season.
The Salvation Cup, as far as I know, is unique to this season. It certainly hasn’t been used in any English speaking seasons before anyway. To summarise the twist, the Salvation Cup came in to play beginning with the merge. Essentially the two sports captains now lived on a different beach (Pondersoa…ahem) and would come together before each tribal council to compete in a Redemption Island style dual. The captain who won the dual would then take the cup to tribal council where they would assign it to one contestant after the votes have been cast. That contestant would then have one of their votes abolished if they were voted for. This twist is by no means amazing but does supply some good moments. Of course we get a lot of the “this player deserves it because they are loyal” shtick from the captains but we also see some players who received multiple votes obtaining the cup and giving us some seriously entertaining tribal councils! All in all an interesting and sometimes entertaining twist.
US Survivor could seriously learn from this season when it comes to episode lengths! Every episode of Champions runs for 67 minutes along with a total of eighteen episodes. While it is true that some of the episodes drag on a bit too much, mainly the two or three that don’t have a tribal council, the overall extended run is a net positive. We are given more time for character development, strategies and random fun scenes. The scene in which the contestants play island cricket springs to mind… no seriously, them taking a break from the game and playing cricket is far more entertaining than it sounds. I have always held the opinion that US Survivor should run for sixty minutes plus commercials and these extended episodes are a perfect example of this working.
Shane is by far my favourite contestant in the South African franchise and actually holds his own in the entire world of Survivor. I was rooting for Shane the entire game and was thoroughly impressed with his game. Shane mentioned Russell Hantz as an inspiration during the game and it wouldn’t be too far off to say that Shane is very Hantz esque with a social game added on top. Shane was most certainly a villain and was definitely the most strategic friendly player in the game. Perhaps my favourite Shane moment is when he (spoiler alert!) announces to the camp that someone had stolen his hidden immunity idol when in fact no one had. It surprises me that this tactic hasn’t been used on the US version but with the idol stealing being allowed it is a much more accessible move for South Africa. This causes some speculation around camp as to whether or not Shane is telling the truth or even had an idol in the first place. Shane is so damn awesome and entertaining that it is almost worth watching the season just to see his game. If South Africa does ever do an All Stars season then Shane needn’t worry about getting a call, he can just fly straight out to the island and get back on with the wheeling and dealing!
Shane Hattingh, 42 from Johannesburg was the entertaining villain of the season.
Sneaky and Shocking Moments
One of the strengths of this season is the shocking lengths and ideas that the players come up with to leverage themselves or create conflict in the game. Examples of this include one contestant stealing the tribe’s flint and taking it to tribal where they would further give the flint to their ally as a makeshift hidden immunity idol. The idea being that if the player with the flint was voted out then the tribe would also lose fire. This was all put in to place so the initial player who stole the flint would be voted out and not the ally. No, I did not make that up, it really is that crazy! On a separate occasion one player had the option of taking a reward or obtaining more rice for the tribe, naturally, as always, he took the rice. It is what happens next that perhaps puts both Brandon and J’Tia to shame. After the player who won the rice believes he is being bullied by the rest of the tribe, he continues to make it known that it is ‘his’ rice. Later at tribal council, literally right before the vote, the player in a fit of rage, pours out all of ‘his’ rice in front of the jury, the captains, the host and the remaining players.
If you are fan of blindsides in Survivor then South Africa: Champions certainly has you covered! So many of the vote outs in this season are blindsides that even as a viewer I didn’t see coming. The contestants are clearly there to play and don’t hesitate to make big moves, as opposed to several earlier South African seasons. The peak of these blindsides, without naming names but with minor spoilers (alert!) certainly comes later in to the game. Picture a James Clement situation, ala two idols in hand. Now picture James Clement as one of the biggest strategic players of the season. This said player went through a turbulent time in the game but built their selves up to be the kingpin. Two idols in hand and an almost sure fire win at the end. Shockingly James esque blindside dethroned the player and created one of the best moments of the game. That’s just an example of one of the many blindsides in the season.
Many contestants in Survivor claim they are going to play the game similar to Parvati, few actually live up to the feistiness and strategic prowess. Marian is one of those few. Marian is a proud villainess who has the mixture of beauty, brains and brawn. The weakest point of this season is by far the female casting but Marian shines through this to be one of the most entertaining characters in the season. Her partnership with Shane is an unlikely dynamic duo that schemed and plotted against their entire tribe. Evidence of Marians villain traits include her stealing a fellow tribe members shorts who was annoying the rest of the tribe and then managing to completely convince him it wasn’t her. On top of all this, Marian played a huge part of one of the best tribal councils in Survivor history that will have your jaw dropping. If Survivor South Africa ever does an all stars season then Marian is a sure fire contender for inclusion.
Marian de Vos played a memorable and impactful part in ‘Champions.’
I will firstly point out that I don’t think this is a rule that should be in the US version of Survivor but is still fun to watch in a season that may not be seen as ‘canon’ towards the franchise. Basically in Champions, there is absolutely no rule against stealing hidden immunity idols from other people. The only time an idol is officially yours is when it is literally in your hands. With this rule in place let’s just say that idol stealing does occur in this season…more than once…more than twice… The takeaway of this ‘twist’ (can you call it a twist?) is that many an idol are stolen during the course of the season. It is just fascinating to watch who attempts to steal idols and the carelessness of people losing their idols. The highlight of the idol stealing is when one player who is the only one to know about her ally having an idol, try’s to vote the ally out so that she can have the idol. Realising the plan may not work, she steals the idol and is eventually outed for it. This is only one example of the utter madness that comes from this allowance of stealing another’s hidden immunity idol.
This is a very minor point in the grand scheme of things but the tribe swap in this season is unique and fun all the same. The tribe swap takes place as a challenge in which both tribes compete in a quiz about fellow tribe mates. Once the individual player completes five questions correctly they alternate one by one to move to a mat. Players in tune with this realised it was in fact a tribe swap. This is where the interesting part comes in as players purposely fail questions (one person even answers a captain as the player most likely to win) to be on the tribe that they desired most. It reveals the mindset and strategies of some of the contestants and also sets targets on some player’s backs. It is always fun to see new versions of old twists and it is certainly an episode to look forward to when watching the season.
David is by far the funniest and one of the most entertaining characters in the South African franchise. Everybody identified him as a goat that would be great to take to the end. This didn’t stop him from still strategizing and refusing to ride coattails to anyone. If you treat David poorly then you will be guaranteed to lose his allegiance. He is a contestant who most people would have thought would go first, a typical first boot, but…spoiler alert, he makes it at least further than the first tribal. David would always have something hilarious, nutty or downright confusing to say at tribal council that would be followed with his brilliant laugh. David is definitely the comic relief of the season and as a huge part in making the show so watchable.
David de Wet was the comic relief and oldest contestant of the season.
Character Development and Story Arcs
This really is one of the strengths of the season. Of course we have our major characters and our ‘purple’ characters but so many players go through changes and have their own personal development that is only strengthened by the extended eighteen episode season. One player came into the game thinking that they knew exactly how to play and that they would cruise through the game, while initially that came true, the player soon found themselves at the very bottom of the tribe. The rest of their story arc is about trying to work their way up in the pecking order and slowly learning just how to play. Another player continually said that they were playing as a hero and that they wouldn’t lie, cheat or steal. For most of their game this stayed true but eventually due to circumstances they would go on to become one of the major villains of the season with an epic ending to their story. One particularly good story arc is a player who took life in the game relatively seriously, that is until they were voted out. Enter an epiphany where the player realises he was ok with nearly being voted out and that; semi ironically, causes him to actually play a better and riskier game than previously.
Other international versions of Survivor suffer from; let’s face it, a terrible host. It is amazing how a host can affect the quality of a season and luckily this isn’t the case for Champions. Niko Panagio has been the host of the South African franchise since season three and does a fine job at it. If we are being real, he is by no means at all as good of a host as Jeff Probst, not even by a mile. But he is good! Niko’s hosting doesn’t bring this season down and that is perhaps something that is overlooked by some people. So if you are worried about watching this season because of a different, non Probst host, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Niko ‘Faux Probst’ Pangio does a fine job at hosting Survivor: South Africa.
Merge Episode Tribal Council
If this article still hasn’t convinced you to go and watch Survivor South Africa: Champions, then I beg you to at least watch the second merge episode, in particular the tribal council. You won’t regret the decision at all; this tribal council really is that great. I remember my jaw almost dropping after the tribal council was over and was devastated by the whole thing. Think about some of the craziest tribal councils in US Survivor, this one could easily slip in to the top 10 of all time. I may be sounding vague but I don’t wish to spoil it for anyone who does wish to actually watch the season as this is by far the defining moment of the season. It wasn’t until I watched this episode that I realised this season was more than just a semi entertaining knock off of the US version. This tribal council also set off a string of great tribal’s to follow in the post merge phase of the game. If you like crazily entertaining tribal councils then this one is definitely and most certainly for you!
So there we have it. Thirteen reasons why you should stop reading this article now and go and track down Survivor South Africa Season 5: Champions. Even if I haven’t quite convinced you to watch the season then I hope that some insight was given in to a foreign version of Survivor that few people out of South Africa have probably watched. Not including the US version, there are nine different English speaking Survivor seasons and of the six I have seen, Champions is by far the strongest. Here’s to hoping that South Africa produce a sixth season based on the quality of this year. So go forth now and watch more Survivor! Be it American, South African or any of the other multitudes of foreign seasons. The South African tribe has spoken!
What do you think of Noah’s assessment? Have you seen the South African version but don’t agree? Comment below to let us know your thoughts!
ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE COPYRIGHT M-NET. IF YOU WISH TO READ OUR DISCLAIMER IN REGARDS TO THE USE OF IMAGES PLEASE CLICK HERE