Australian Survivor 2019 – “I’m A Snake Charmer”

Australian Survivor continued this week with three stellar episodes full of extraordinary gameplay. Let’s unpack it all!

SPOILER ALERT! This review contains spoilers on this week’s episodes of Australian Survivor!

EPISODE 3 RECAP

Bananas are laid out on a log, one for each Champions tribe member.
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The episode opened with John on the Contenders, bearing it all and finding a sea cucumber for the camp to eat, much to the dismay of his tribe mates. John says that, in regards to food, he’s “willing to give anything a crack”, and that for sure was proven on his endeavour to eat the sea creature. Oh John, you’re made for this game. AFL player Shaun also gets a chance to reveal his story, including his marriage to model Megan Gale. But Shaun isn’t here to add to the family fortune, he expresses his Survivor experience as one to fulfil a void left when he retired from the AFL.

Ross sneakily steals a banana in the night to share between himself and Luke.
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Over on the Champions, Janine, the self-described ‘work horse’, is prepared to use her business experience to infiltrate the sporting alliance formed by Steven Bradbury last week. Elsewhere, banana etiquette is in full swing at Nova’s kitchen, as each tribe member is only allowed up to one banana per day. This infuriates Ross and Luke, who bond when they both to decide to eat an extra banana during the night. For Luke, it’s a perfect opportunity to swing Ross to his side of the numbers.

At the Reward Challenge, it is once again a one-on-one series of match-ups to determine who wins a box of mystery luxury items. Both tribes have to run towards each other and battle to reach a bell on the opposite side. It’s first to 5, and while some match-ups are left unaired, the Contenders manage to score 4 points when Daisy, Shaun, John and surprisingly Baden win their respective rounds. Shaun then competes again for the game-winning point and succeeds, granting the Contenders their first Reward victory and Shaun a small, yet personal, tick on his Survivor resume.

Luke and Shaun prepare to battle in the Reward Challenge.
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John is selected to give one luxury item to each tribe member on the Contenders tribe, a twist to the reward.
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The Contenders return from camp with their box of goodies which comes with a twist, they must select a tribe mate to deal out one luxury item to each member of the tribe. Mullet man John takes it on with much excitement. For the courtesy of the viewers, Andy lays out the make-up of the tribe and where everyone sits strategically. Daisy, Shaun, Matty and John are near the top for their physical prowess and likeability. Baden, Sarah and Hannah are at the bottom, while Casey, Sam, Harry, and ultra fan Andy float firmly in the middle.

David and Luke celebrate finding an immunity idol with a victory dance.
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In a much more clear-cut situation than the Contenders, on the Champions, David explains that Abbey and Ross are the pivotal swing votes to keep himself, Luke, Pia and Janine in the game. Using his charm as an international model, David is not-so-quietly confident he’ll be able to make it work. To add to his confidence, Luke confides in David about the idol clue and together they find the first hidden immunity idol of the season, granting the boys a chance to save themselves at Tribal Council if played correctly.

Before the third Immunity Challenge which involves digging under a bundle of logs to transport each tribe member through, Janine proposes a strategy that fails to succeed giving the Contenders a significant and early advantage. In typical Australian Survivor fashion, the last stage of the challenge involves throwing sand bags to land on top of tall polls. The Champions manage to catch up but the extra time practising assisted the Contenders in winning immunity, sending the Champions to tribal council.

The Contenders win the Immunity Challenge keeping them all safe from being voted out.
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After suffering two losses in a row, the sporting alliance is looking towards Janine to be the target of the night after proposing the strategy that put the Champions behind in the Immunity Challenge. Nova takes it to another level however by explaining it as stupid and ultimately letting the team down. I must add that it was at this moment my head nearly blew off because while Janine offered an idea that failed, it was the entire tribe that agreed to implement it believing it would succeed. Janine shouldn’t be punished for attempting to assist the tribe in winning a challenge. If this is how players think, then you better bet that if I get on the show I won’t be coming up with any strategies. I’m not risking my game over it. Anyhow, Abbey is put out of place because her alliance is run like a dictatorship where she lacks having a voice in the decision. Janine senses the tension, and aims to pounce on eliminating Susie for being the weakest tribe member.

Janine discusses voting out Susie because she is the weaker tribe member, compared to herself.
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Abbey is worried about betraying her alliance because of the loyalty she’s gained and effort to show allegiance. But in the same token doesn’t want to revisit Tribal Council because of keeping weaker tribe members. David and Susie converse and David lets her know that he is voting for her at Tribal Council, which upsets Susie only slightly, believing her alliance is still firmly intact. Tribal Council looks to be one of the biggest decisions yet, as the lines are sure to be drawn in the sand.

The Champions discuss the vote with Jonathan at Tribal Council.
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At Tribal Council, Janine expresses her frustration with the thought of her going home, perceiving her to be a valuable tribe member in various assets. She’s perplexed at the idea that the Champions are not choosing to keep the tribe strong. Steven is asked by Jonathan about disloyalty, and the Olympian says he isn’t a fan of the ‘outwit’ factor of Survivor (then why are you on the show Steve?). It’s clear at the end of discussion that strength vs loyalty transcends into Janine vs Susie. So who got the boot?

When Jonathan reads the votes to the tribe, Janine and Susie both receive 5 votes each with 1 left to decide both ladies’ fate. As the final vote flips, Susie is blindsided in a massive move by Ross and Abbey, which sees the sporting alliance fractured and Steven, Nova, ET and Simon the new four on the bottom.

Jonathan prepares to snuff Susie’s torch as she is voted out of Australian Survivor.
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EPISODE 4 RECAP

John tries to convince tsunami survivor Sarah to complete the Reward Challenge.
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Abbey sits with her new allies, former minority group: David, Pia, Luke and Janine, on the Champions tribe.
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Episode 4 opens on the Champions with the tribal alliance harmony of the non sporting four and Abbey and Ross who have now jumped ship to form a majority six. Nova, now on the bottom, is furious at Ross for flipping, so much so that Nova’s kitchen might soon need a visit from Gordon Ramsey! While she understands it’s a game, she doesn’t understand that the decision made by Ross and Abbey was in the tribe’s best interest in challenge strength. But Nova had no problem sending Anastasia home to her benefit. Regardless, Steven is feeling the most heat because he initiated the alliance that self destructed only soon after. There’s a clear division between the two sides.

The morale of the Contenders tribe is really positive however, even with Island Studio 10 making an appearance with Harry, Daisy and John in the journalist’s seat. Sarah is also finding the environment more comfortable to live in, with her video package about surviving a tsunami resurfacing from the premiere. It’s an extraordinary situation for Sarah, and I applaud her for not only using it as a tool to help her sanity in the game but also for being open about it especially when it comes to challenges (spoiler alert!).

The Reward Challenge offers a chance for Sarah to face her fears and dive into the water in an Australian Survivor classic. It also gives Sam (one of four yet to have a confessional) some screen time in answering one of Jonathan’s pre-challenge questions. Many contestants struggle with the challenge but it’s Sarah who is unable to bring her legs into the dive motion giving the Champions an easy win for hot chocolate. They also are given the opportunity to bring another tribe member from the Contenders with them, choosing John after he attempted to assist Sarah with jumping into the water.

John holds out his hand to Sarah who struggles with the thought of jumping into the water from stories above in the Reward Challenge.
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Janine finds the Contenders idol hidden at the Champions camp.
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The Champions return to camp to find their reward overflowing on a table with delicious treats for them and John. Janine seizes the opportunity to look for an advantage or idol clue amongst the items, and successfully finds an idol clue (albeit caught by David). Janine then manages to find the second hidden immunity idol hidden on the Champions beach, but it comes with a twist. It is actually the Contenders idol and there is one in the same location at their beach that opens the door the master negotiator to pull off an incredible move with her newfound power.

As John returns to the Contenders, he smuggles a marshmallow for Sarah as a kind gesture, the latter thankful but also owning her inability to perform in front of both the tribe and the audience in a confessional. It’s a setback, but likely not one to spell the end of Sarah’s game.

At the Immunity Challenge, a giant obstacle course puts both tribes tethered to a rope navigating through in duos. Both tribes do well, until Luke and Pia make a mistake and lose a significant amount of time for the Champions. Once again, the Contenders gain a sizeable lead in the Immunity Challenge and despite the Champions effort to catch up, the Contenders win immunity sending the Champions back to Tribal for the second time in a row.

Harry rolls a ball in an attempt to win immunity for the Contenders at the Immunity Challenge.
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After the mistake in the Immunity Challenge, Pia returns to camp with the Champions feeling uneasy about her place in the tribe and whether she will be voted out. But Steven, the guy on the chopping block has a different idea, taking revenge on the two people who reneged on his alliance. While discussing the decision to flip, Steven says that Abbey’s move was “weak”. This blew up at camp as Abbey’s newfound allies defend her when she’s crying on the beach, but Nova defends Steven saying there was never an issue. Any chance Steven had of getting out Abbey is squandered but before heading to Tribal Council, Luke notes that a bigger threat might be the better option to send home.

The four minority members of the Champions tribe, Steven, Simon, Nova and ET, sit at Tribal Council discussing the tribal politics with Jonathan.
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Tribal Council surrounds the blow up at camp only hours prior, as well as the new majority alliance holding the power over ET, Steven, Simon and Nova. Steven admits that he’s likely to be the one going home. Despite apologising to Abbey, actions speak louder than words and Steven showed that his reactions to blindsides aren’t favourable for those orchestrating said blindsides. Nova continues to defend Steven quite aggressively, rather than accepting his fate and continues to position herself as Steven’s loyal, right-hand woman.

As the votes are read, Nova and Steven stick together and vote Abbey. Simon and ET presume Steven’s elimination is imminent and place 2 votes on him. But the majority alliance votes out the bigger threat in Nova, sparing Steven for at least one more Tribal Council.

Nova is blindsided and has her torch snuffed by Jonathan at Tribal Council.
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EPISODE 5 RECAP

Abbey prepares to kick a ball, reminiscent of her AFL career, at the Reward Challenge.
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Nova’s kitchen is closed! And now Ross takes over as the master for all things food and cooking. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ross was the king pin for Nova’s blindside based on the pure fact he wanted to take over. Elsewhere, Janine reveals the information about her new idol to David after he caught her finding the clue in the previous episode. This is great news for David who is set to take over Janine’s game and the idol for himself.

Shaun finds the Champions idol at the Contenders camp in front of his close ally Daisy.
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On the Contenders, the most dynamic duo of the tribe are physical beasts Daisy and Shaun. They aren’t overly secretive of the attachment, which I can see costing them down the road, maybe landing on Andy’s blindside resume. While at the well however, Shaun finds the Champions idol, setting up a potential exchange between him and Janine to grant both full safety at a future Tribal Council.

A food-filled reward at the Reward Challenge puts the best kickers to the test in a popular Australian Survivor challenge favourite. If only there were some footballers stacked on one tribe that could steam roll that tribe to the win! Simon, ET and Abbey manage to score consistently and ultimately win yet another reward for the Champions tribe. But perhaps most interestingly, David somehow plucks Shaun out of the abundance of Contenders to tip him off about “having something” for him, Shaun agrees and says he equally has something to exchange. David planted the seed, his ultimate plan is in motion.

Abbey kicks a goal to score a point for the Champions in the Reward Challenge.
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The Champions toast to their victory at the ‘Fish and Chip Shack’ reward.
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The Champions make their way to the ‘Fish and Chip Shack’ reward and indulge in typical Australian dining favourites. The Champions also receive newspaper front pages designed to highlight their greatest achievements and why they are Champions. This includes Luke’s story for why he’s back for another chance at $500, 000 and how his family has challenges to overcome after the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis for his new baby girl. The money would be life changing for Luke, and I truly hope that, regardless of the outcome, Luke enjoys this experience and goes home to the loving family he helped create.

For those who rarely see a reward, the tribe members on the Contenders tribe return with yet another loss. Shaun reveals to Daisy that David hinted at having the idol and to bring it to the Immunity Challenge for a swap. Shaun weighs up the decision and whether it would be a smart move, but in the end realises that Survivor is about making moves and this one might just be a game-winning one for him down the road.

Back at the Champions camp, David works on pulling off a move never before seen on any edition of Survivor. He plans to exchange Shaun’s Champions idol with a fake idol, leaving Janine with the real Contenders idol. The only catch is that David must convince Janine, the master businesswoman and negotiator, to give him the paperwork that came with her idol to add to the ‘authenticity’ of his fake one. And what did Janine say to this? “Yeah, okay”. Whether she put up a fight that was edited out from the broadcast remains a mystery. But losing the paperwork in an individual game is never the best move. I hope she knows what she’s doing, she does still hold the Contenders idol after all.

It’s all eyes peeled at David and Shaun as they walk into the Immunity Challenge. Standing side by side, David pushes Shaun to pass the idol over before the challenge begins. And in a quick pass over, David becomes a giant strategic threat who now holds an idol for himself, sending Shaun back to camp unaware of the bate and switch. The challenge itself is yet again extremely physical. The tribes must navigate through a course collecting other locked tribe members as they go. In the final stage of, you guessed it, throwing sandbags, Andy, the resident Contenders thrower, gifts the tribe the third immunity win in a row.

The Contenders celebrate winning a third Immunity Challenge in a row.
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Simon and Steven attempt to flip Ross back to their side of the numbers moments before Tribal Council.
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With three idols (two valid) now situated at the Champions beach, David expresses pure elation at the success for himself and his alliance thus far in the game. Is he cocky? Yeah, a little. But right now there’s barely any heat on him so it’s no surprise. He creates a split vote plan between ET and Steven just in case Steven has an idol (he doesn’t). He also plans to tell ET and Simon to vote Steven, ensuring there are more votes on him and send him out. Neither ET or Simon are particularly happy with the aggressive approach, nor the female members of David’s alliance. That heat David didn’t have on him has now landed and power has led to overconfidence. ET realises a split vote plan might be in action, and plans to take the majority by pulling Ross back over to the remnants of the sporting alliance and vote out Pia. Steven is all ears if it means he’s able to stay in the game. But Pia catches wind of the plan, and attempts to get her alliance to place all the votes on Steven to keep the majority.

The majority alliance on the Champions tribe debates splitting the vote at Tribal Council.
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Tribal Council is like no other before seen this season. Whispers are ripe through the majority alliance as everyone debates what plan should be enacted to ensure everyone stays safe. Physical strength is also an issue as the Champions continue to lose Immunity Challenges. Steven tells Jonathan that Pia is the weakest because of the physicality required in the challenges. Pia defends herself perfectly saying that everyone matches up in different ways, and sometimes she’s able to beat Steven in certain parts of challenges.

When it comes time to vote, for the first time this season the Champions are united, and all plans are void when the majority, ET and Simon unanimously vote out Steven, 8-1, with Steven’s vote going to Pia. Bye, bye Steven Brad-berry (at least that’s what my Boost juice app sent me with an exclusive offer on Wednesday).

Steven Bradbury is the fifth person voted out of Australian Survivor, and his torch is snuffed out by Jonathan at Tribal Council.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

REVIEW

Australian Survivor has never failed to deliver excellent gameplay throughout the four seasons it has aired on Channel 10. This week was no exception. This week, the ‘weakest should go’ argument was still in play, but loyalty and allegiance was the main tune. My quote of the week has to go to Luke for managing to fly under the radar, and still see himself as, “a snake charmer”.

It’s unfortunate we didn’t see more of the Contenders even though they didn’t lose an Immunity Challenge. An occasional confessional to someone else would have been nice, especially Casey, Sam or Hannah who are all yet to receive efficient screen time for their participation. It’s one thing neglecting some tribe members entirely, but it has now become difficult to believe either of these three can win the game because they went two weeks without any notice at all.

Regardless of this, I’m still enjoying what is happening on the tribe. They are definitely unified and provide some key characters in Daisy, John and Andy. Shaun being placed with a fake idol will be difficult to navigate around. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to figure out the truth of the idol before he plays it, but if he does it’ll show some serious strategic ability. I say good luck to the Contenders heading into next week. It’s hard to say who to specifically with no targets evident.

Now that Abbey and Ross have flipped to the dark side after Susie’s demise, the gameplay has swung high for all members. ET and Simon sit firmly on the bottom but being a block of two might help them if someone from the majority plans to enact a blindside. Pia, Janine and Abbey are also very aware of the social connections within the tribe. They are great at analysing how the rest of the tribe is playing and remind me of former strong female players like Chrissy, Aubry and Sandra from the American Survivor (all former finalists in their original seasons). Luke and David’s alliance looks to be lasting for a while, if not their bond but the idols they both share between them.

In terms of challenges though, I’m not really sure if they’ll able to survive much longer as the Contenders begin to sit-out three weaker players to take on all eight of the Champions. I’m sensing a shake-up in Episode 6 that sees some of the Contenders and Champions switch tribes. If I’m correct, the crossing of tribal lines will pose a new threat to both challenge performance and strategic gameplay.

This season continues to impress me and I’m enjoying every moment that’s delivered on screen. There’s a lot going on but I’m extremely happy with writing about it all weekly.

MATTHEW’S TOP FIVE

In no particular order, each review I will reveal my top five players of the week, considering all factors like physicality, strategy, social game, likeability and visibility. We have a few changes from last week, so let’s see who made it.

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JANINE ALLIS is not a surprise to be on the list. She had a very impressive showing this week with finding an idol, surviving in a 6-5 vote, and gaining David’s trust and allegiance (for now). There are some small flaws like giving away the paperwork of her idol. But she’s still displaying a great social game and elements of a winning strategic game. I think she sits in a perfect position within the tribe to not be targeted and run every vote. I hope a twist doesn’t spell the end of her game too early though.

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DAVID GENAT has become the villain this season has needed to spice things up. He’s sneaky, crafty, perceptive and overall extremely entertaining. Managing to pull of an incredible move like exchanging an idol with a fake idol is genius and he sits firmly in the top bracket of strategic players this season. But confidence is key and unfortunately David is beginning to show signs of overconfidence which saw favourites Mat and Benji sent home with an idol in their pocket last season. He needs a reality check soon, and then I can see him staying out of the spotlight.

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ROSS CLARKE-JONES is hilarious! I was right about him playing in the moment pre-season. And it’s impressive watching every night. The move to betray his alliance and flip to a new majority was exciting and I think probably the better move as he seems to sit higher on the totem poll with his bond with Luke. He’s not an overtly strategic player, but I’m sure Ross is secretly thinking every decision over and making sure it benefits his game. I’m very impressed with his ability to stay under the radar and remain a key player others think they can swing over to their side.

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PIA MIRANDA is one of two to stay within the top five from last week. She is so great at this game and it’s a shame she doesn’t seem to realise it during her confessionals. She has much more pull than it initially appears and is the key central player with the women and an original alliance member of the new majority. Despite looking like the first boot in the premiere, she has quickly built solid social relationships with the entire tribe to the point where strength doesn’t matter and keeping her is a stronger asset to the tribe. Pia, I’m pulling for you!

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ANDY MELDRUM is the only Contender on the list this week, narrowly beating John. I cant help the fact the Contenders lacked in screen time, but Andy still has an incredible read on the tribe and is situated in the middle with so many cookie jars to potentially fill. I’m not sure where he goes but I know he’s planning a blindside to solidify being the most dominant player ever. He’s solid TV and while he may have faded in the background for the last two episodes, I have no doubt he’ll resurface again, bigger, badder, and blindside-ier than ever.

Honourable mentions missing out on the top spots go to: John, Abbey and Luke. I’m still liking Daisy and Shaun too. More screen time for the Contenders invisible girls and Simon is a must for next week.

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Australian Survivor continues tonight through to Tuesday on Channel 10 at 7:30pm!


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