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Second chance at redemption: Dino wins ‘Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts’

From having been sent packing in season 8 of Survivor South Africa earlier in the game, to now claiming the coveted 2022 'Sole Survivor' title, which earned him a whopping R2 million, Dino Paulo's ultimate victory will go down in history of TV as a case study that the possibility for doing things differently is within each one of us - when given a second chance at redemption.

As season 9 of ‘Survivor SA (Return of the Outcasts)’ and the subsequent victory of Dino Paulo as 2022 Sole Survivor has shown us, as long as we’re alive, we have every right to do things differently, to get a second chance to redeem ourselves. 

Likewise, the eagerly-awaited Thursday night finale concluded with the Jury deciding 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.

This persistent outcast from various seasons of Survivor SA – 9 (Immunity Island, 2021 finalist) and three brief auditioning stint in 2005, 2006 and 2007 – proved over and over again to be this season’s toughest and most devoted player, having previously won a brand-new Mahindra XUV300 in week 4 and picked up a luxurious boat cruise holiday on the Zambezi Queen, worth R80 000 during his Outpost visit on day 32. 

Dino Paulo was voted out in episode 6, Survivor SA: Immunity Island.

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 host Nico broke Survivor South Africa tradition and read out the votes directly after they had been cast. As it turned out, the majority of the Jury members (Dante, 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 8 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: episode 16, day 33.

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. On Tuesday, Phil lead during the exhausting physical Individual Immunity Challenge, 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. 

In the previous episode, with Dino wearing the Individual Immunity Necklace to guarantee himself a spot in the Final Two after one of the most gruelling endurance challenges ever on ‘Survivor South Africa‘, 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. 

Earlier on, 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). 

Dino with his girlfriend – now fiance – Kirsten.

The toughest-ever season of Survivor South Africa 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 loss – 18kg – 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 South Africa: Return of the Outcasts’ with personal victories. While Seamus, Felix, Killarney and Dante were proud of being their authentic selves, Tania felt that she hadn’t learned her lesson and saw the same foibles send her home, second time around.

That said, she did bring the concept of humanity to this season of the game, which gave many of the castaways pause for thought. Steffi and Shane had noticeably softened their game play this season, while Dino had ultimately toughened up significantly – which undoubtedly contributed to his win. 

Dino earlier in the show: episode 20.

Catch up: Survivor South Africa S9 Finale

In case you missed the finale, there’s an omnibus broadcast of ‘Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts‘ on M-Net (DStv 101) on Saturday ( August 27) from 3.30pm to 7.30pm. Alternatively, you can watch any of the previous episodes on DStv CatchUp.

For more about Survivor South Africa, visit the official website.

Editor's Desk
Editor's Desk
Curated by editor-in-chief, Tankiso Komane, this special collection of articles from the Editor's Desk unpacks topics of the day, including commentary, in-depth analysis and partner content.
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