With Brains and Brawn pitted against each other for the 2021 season of Australian Survivor, the battle began with one of the show’s most powerful advantages making its debut, before idol hijinks and unsuccessful blindsides rounded out Week 1.
As 24 Australians headed to Cloncurry for a clash in the outback, strategic favourites, macho boys clubs and epic challenges returned to screen. With the Brains tribe as the underdogs, all eyes were on Brawn when they began the season with a shaky first week and lost two tribe members compared to their opponents’ one. Before we review the week, let’s take a quick recap.
WEEK 1 RECAP
During the show’s premiere, both tribes settled into their outback camp struggling to achieve one of the fundamentals of living in isolation – making fire. The Brawn tribe started off well with an early Reward Challenge win, with Queensland carpenter Simon emerging as a de-facto leader both in challenges and at camp. Meanwhile on the Brains, high-IQ doctor Mitch immediately established an authoritative position – much to the dismay of fellow campmate George, Bankstown’s Labor Party President.
When the Brawn tribe won the first Immunity Challenge, Mitch rounded up the tribe to collectively target their perceived weakest link – children’s author Wai. But when George found a secret advantage which could save him and five other tribe members at Tribal Council, a spanner was thrown into the Brains’ plans when he played it at Tribal Council, sparing Wai and four ‘people with life experience’ (ex-pro cyclist Baden, 2020 Queensland Australian of the Year Rachel, real estate agent Cara, and forensic psychologist Georgia). With six remaining at Tribal Council, a new target was easily shifted to the next ‘weakest’ tribe member: crochet artist Phil, who was the first person voted out in a 5-1 vote, with Phil voting against superfan and pain researcher Hayley.
As the remaining few Brains return to camp, not everyone is as happy with George saving half the tribe as some would expect. The move failed to collate allies for George, who is now established as the tribe’s number one target. Over on Brawn, plant-based Superman Emmett manages to make fire, boosting the tribe’s spirits. And the positive energy doesn’t waiver quickly either when the Brawn tribe picks up a third challenge win by winning the Reward Challenge.
Despite the win, cleaner Janelle isn’t impressed with Emmett’s antics at the challenge, which nearly cost the tribe the reward. More notably, a boys club trio is starting to develop between Emmett, Simon and AFL legend Gavin, and Janelle hopes to round up the rest of the tribe to take it down. Over on Brains, Baden and George clash over the decisions made at the Reward Challenge, with the tribe unconvinced George’s input could have overturned the result, despite his declarations otherwise.
With a chance to prove themselves and take home their first win, the Brains tribe manage to scoop up their first victory by winning the Immunity Challenge, sending Brawn to their first Tribal Council of the season. The tribe is in collective agreement Janelle, the tribe’s weakest member, is firmly on the chopping block of elimination. As Janelle rallies up the numbers to take out Emmett, Simon has an entirely different plan altogether. With his primary allies Emmett and Gavin, Simon hopes to join forces with three women: champion surfer Flick, corrections officer Dani, and MMA fighter Chelsea. The alliance of six is instead targeting model and fitness advocate Shannon. As Janelle’s numbers look unlikely to accumulate, Flick is sat on the fence between voting for Janelle or Shannon, certain whoever she chooses will draw a line in the sand. At Tribal Council, Flick defies Simon and his alliance to vote out Janelle, who is eliminated in a 7-4-1 vote.
With Simon’s plan unsuccessful, Gavin reveals to us in a confessional he accidentally voted out Janelle instead of Shannon, unaware the target had changed. The tribes, now even at 11 apiece, face off in another physical Reward Challenge which sees the Brawn tribe work together harmoniously to regain the victory they were otherwise used to tasting, claiming biscuits, coffee, and tea.
When Brawn returns to camp, they are treated to some photos from home, with each player talking about their featured love from home and becoming emotional at the reminder of how removed they are from family – even if only six days in. Bodybuilder Kez keeps here eyes peeled for something more though, nabbing a clue to the hidden immunity idol, tucked away somewhere secret at camp.
At the Immunity Challenge, an early puzzle sees the Brawn completely lose their way as the Brains tribe easily takes home another win, sending Brawn back to Tribal Council. With the boys club trio still threatening the tribe strategically, those who voted out Janelle rally together to target Gavin, willing to sacrifice a somewhat stronger tribe member for the good of the game. Still reeling from a failed attack on Shannon, Simon plots to once again strike against the model and finish the job. Needing a sixth person to join his alliance, personal trainer Daini (or ‘Big D’) is brought into the fold to pull off the blindside. Holding all the cards, Daini instead pivots the alliance’s target to Kez, and they oblige. Threatening the plan however is Kez’s idol clue, and when she enlists the help of Flick, she manages to find the idol and whisks it away unnoticed. At Tribal, the unsuccessful blindside Shannon is discussed, as is the possibility of an idol play. When the tribe votes, Kez plays her idol on herself to secure her safety. But Daini didn’t waiver from the original plan, and Gavin is voted out in a 6-
5 vote, with Kez negating Simon, Emmett, Gavin, Dani, and Chelsea’s votes against her.
WEEK 1 REVIEW
This was a really strong start for Australian Survivor, and I think it only improved episode on episode. The Australian outback has added an interesting tone to the season, and I appreciate the temperature checks when we cut to different camps, just for added understanding of the conditions the players are subjected to. There’s a few different things I want to cover this week, and I’ll start technical and production value before I look at the tribes.
There seems to be an improvement with this season’s editing compared to that of All-Stars. We’ve seen from 22/24 of this season’s competitors in confessionals, with only Benny and Georgia getting snubbed in first week editing. Of those we have seen, many were only featured prominently in one episode, maybe two if lucky, with central players emerging quite rapidly when they’re a focus in each episode thus far. Uses of frankenbiting (where audio is chopped from other sentences to make one full sentence for television) is still quite prevalent, but it is pretty expected in Australian Survivor, and so far – at least as far as I can tell – doesn’t seem too different to the intention of what the person was originally saying.
I like that we have seen several intro packages, although I’m not a huge fan of them being spread out over multiple episodes, they are quite nice to watch and understand the cast. I hope it only lasts for Week 2 and then ceases, but something tells me we shouldn’t quite expect that. They certainly serve a purpose and deliver on their intention.
Looking at the challenges, they haven’t been half bad to be honest. Still very physical, but that’s the theme of Australian Survivor, brutal physicality. So far only one match up challenge, so if that’s a sign that the production team has relaxed those one-on-one battles then I’m liking it. We don’t need that for every Reward Challenge, just a few. The Immunity Challenges have all incorporated a puzzle which seems to be the deciding factor in who wins. In Episode 2, Brawn was winning until the puzzle where Brains caught up and won, and in Episode 3, Brawn struggled in the puzzle at the beginning, unable to catch up to the Brains who won in the physical portion. If that’s the equaliser EVERY time, it’ll get old fast. And it’ll put a lot of pressure on Brawn to ace the puzzle side. Brains are capable of the physical portion of the challenge, but it lands on Brawn in deciding who wins. If they can solve the puzzle, they’ll scoop up victory… if not, they won’t. So I’m hoping to see a bit of a mix up in the future just to test some other skills on both camps, rather than relying on the puzzle to give the Brains a chance. Because as we have seen, they aren’t much of a match against Brawn when it’s brute physical force. I mean, MMA fighters, bodybuilders, and personal trainers aren’t just your run of the mill physical opponents. But, it’s one week, maybe we will see Brains demolish Brawn on the physical side. I’m hoping so.
The advantage in Episode 1 was bizarre. That much safety, for that many people, for that early in the game. It’s certainly a great choice to make for an impactful premiere episode. Although I’m not too sure whether it’s right for the game. I get why it was included, it spiced up an otherwise average episode with not much action going on. So I give it points for making the first episode a pretty fine watch by the end of it, and landing in George’s hands, certainly made it pretty neat. But it totally screwed poor Phil over before he even had a chance. So if this was the first and only time we see it come up in the series, I’ll be happy. Let’s not make it permanent.
Turning our focus over to Kez’s idol play specifically, there’s clearly so much more we missed out on in the edited episode. Kez just happens to find the idol before that Tribal (valid), and then Daini and friends target her, and then she catches a whiff of it enough to play the idol immediately at the first chance she gets (and not on Shannon who seemed more likely of a blindside target), only for Daini not to vote against her at all. Is this an act of Daini genius? Did he see Kez with the idol, pivot the votes in her direction to make her play it, flush it out, eliminate Gavin and then come off looking scott free? Seems like an amazing timeline to live in, but I don’t believe it’s a real one. If this was the case, or there was a variation to it, I’d imagine the audience would be privy to it. So we ARE missing something, there’s a central puzzle piece that connects Kez feeling worried about her own safety AND feeling as if her group of six wouldn’t stick together. Perhaps it’s a safety measure, with Simon and co confident in their new plan, maybe Kez was fearful of their confidence in having a majority, and was covering her own life by playing it. Either way, it’s a technical waste. She was safe anyway. But it certainly made for an exciting episode and blindside, by far the stand out moment of the week.
Sticking with the Brawn tribe as we take a look into everyone, I’m really enjoying this tribe. I thought the Brains were going to be pretty strategy heavy with their votes but it seems Brawn is doing a number on them. We’ve got some players, namely Flick, Daini and Simon. Flick‘s impressive ability to go against the grain, choose her own destiny and allies, and really be a powerful figure for both Tribal Council’s is truly refreshing and fun to watch. I expected Flick to be a follower, but she’s so much more than I gave her credit for, and I’m absolutely enjoying her gameplay. She’s a great strategic asset to the tribe. Equally, I’m loving Daini‘s early gameplay and ability to ride the middle for a little bit. Something was calling on the other side to come to Daini for a pitch to swing him to their side, so Daini must be playing better than the others (in retrospect) to be seen as approachable by everyone. And rather than just going with the plan to take out Shannon, he shifts the target to Kez. Totally recognising his power, he tells the other side you’re either jumping on what I want to do or it’s not happening. An incredible power move. And to not even do it anyway and stick with the original alliance against Gavin! YOU BEAUTY! What a blindside. My only concern now is if Simon and allies turn to Kez and tell her that it was Daini’s idea to target her. Does throwing out a name of someone on your side do more damage down the road? Time will tell.
I do LOVE Simon. Dude came to play and it’s clear he’ll be around for a while. He’s got a great strategic mind and recognises how the game should be played, but I’m thinking he might be a little too trigger happy. Simon WANTS a blindside, but when you’ve been duped twice, it’s clear the numbers aren’t on your side. I think Simon has the best chance of emerging out of his remaining four alive, but he’s gonna have to chill for a little bit and start making more friends than enemies. There may be an ego there, but I don’t blame Simon for coming in red hot. It’s just a strategy that hasn’t really paid off thus far. With a much larger ego to his name, Emmett is almost a mirror effect of Zach from 2018 and All-Stars. He likes having fun, toying with the tribe and opponents. It just comes across as cocky, but that personality adds an underrated touch to the show. Who have we got to root against if it isn’t the guy that thinks he can do it all and more? Jokes aside, Emmett’s the first one of the alliance to find trouble with Janelle targeting him. Luckily that didn’t remain and shifted to Gavin, but much like Simon, Emmett needs to make some friends before he secures too many enemies. He’s an asset in challenges, but that can only last so long. If he reigns it in, he can stand a chance. Finishing up with that alliance, I’d love to see more from both Dani and Chelsea. They look like strong characters, but it’s unclear why they sided with the boys club and not aligned with those on the outer. I’d love to know how they got put with that group, whether by choice or by default. Needless to say, we need more from the girls on this side. They’re just as much in trouble as Simon and Emmett are.
I am loving our other lesser seen characters that have seen themselves in the majority on Brawn. Shannon is a pretty strong character in the game who I think is copping a lot of attention that isn’t really warranted. Is Simon afraid of Parvati 2.0? Maybe. But other than being anyone’s bet she’s the physically weakest on the tribe, I think Shannon has a lot more to give and even more to prove. I can see her sticking around for a lot longer if she can somehow shake off this target currently on her back. I enjoy watching her, and it was great seeing her at least entertain the idea of taking out Emmett (even if she went Janelle). I’m excited for more. Gerald is a fun guy, I like what he’s put on offer so far. Definitely need more from him. Same goes for Benny too. I would have thought he would have been an easy pick to join the boys trio, but clearly not. What are we missing there? Rounding out the Brawn tribe is Kez, who really shined in Episode 3 with an epic idol find and play. I am very excited to see what more we are going to get from Kez. Her reaction to Tribal is what I’m looking forward to most, and how she navigates her future in the game will be at peak interest for me. I think she’s got a lot of strategic chops that we’re not seeing, clearly she’s not one to mess with and her making tight allies with Flick proves she’s doing something right. She might be in behind some other Brawn tribe members in the edit, but I think Kez might be doing more damage then we are privy to. Let’s see it out on the screen!
Over on Brains, the tribe of my people, there’s still a lot more characters that need to flesh out. And no doubt they will once they visit another Tribal or two. George is our main guy at this tribe, and it’s clear why. He’s entertaining to watch but also pretty central to what’s happening at camp. He’s in a lot of trouble but I don’t think he’s an easy out. If he’s one of the more abrasive strategic players on the tribe, he’s got a good chance at rounding up a few allies to take out a common target. But right now, it certainly looks shaky for George. No one on the tribe is really wanting to keep him around, so he’s gonna have to act fast to secure some friends. If he manages to do so, I think George might be on a good track to last a while, but he’ll always be at the forefront of whatever alliance he can create, so it’s a matter of time before his number is up, in my opinion. What’s going for George is his clutch ability in the puzzle for Episode 3’s Immunity Challenge, maybe his tribe will start to see he’s pretty useful. Either way, I’m rooting for the chaos! I was quite surprised by Mitch‘s attitude in the premiere. He really was pretty authoritative and was calling the shots on the tribe, it’s no wonder why George had his sights set on him, you never want to enter the game with an overbearing personality that makes the orders around camp. It’s a recipe for disaster. Still, Mitch looks covered in the tribe. It’s not clear exactly who his main allies are, but I think he’s got a good chance to stick around… unless he goes back to being the main guy at camp. Siding with George and at the top of Mitch’s hit list is Wai, who I am really loving this season! I think she’s underestimated in the challenges, she pretty much won a puzzle for the Brains this week. She’s easy to pick on for the physical portion but just surviving a Tribal or two will keep that at bay. Wai has needed a chance to prove herself, and perhaps she’s already done that. We’re not really seeing what Wai is thinking game wise. Is she WITH George, or just working with George because it’s to her benefit? I feel like Wai would be pretty quick to cut George if she had to. But hopefully we’ll see more into her strategy as the episodes unfold.
We’re seeing a fair bit of Hayley too, who so far I think is playing the best winning game. She’s flying under the radar, yet prevalent in conversation around camp. Her egging on Baden to say something to George about the Reward Challenge in Episode 2 was hilarious! Yes Hayley stir the pot. She’s been featured in at least one confessional in every episode, so she’s pretty central to the story that’s unfolding this season. I see a lot of longevity in Hayley both because of this and because of her gameplay. She’s got a clear path forward, and I’m interested to see where she falls at her next Tribal. Will she want to keep the tribe strong and side with Mitch? Or stick her hand in the more interesting and strategic pot with George? Regardless, I think she’ll set herself up in prime position no matter what she does. She’s playing very smart right now. I think Baden is pretty fun too, I hope we see his strategy develop more. Taking on George at camp was a great watch, and I think he’ll be one to not be messed around with. Baden could take over from Mitch if he gets the chop, and I can see Baden holding power quite nicely. We definitely need to see more! I’m loving Joey as my out of the box pick after Week 1! While he hasn’t made much of an impact strategically or at camp, it’s probably a good side of how his strategy is unfolding. He’s a vocal member at challenges, yet lying in the background at camp – perhaps that’s the perfect spot to be in. Him hyping up the tribe at each challenge to defeat Brawn is delightful and admirable to see, it makes Joey a fun character and someone who I definitely want to see go deep into the game.
We haven’t really seen much else from anyone left on the Brains, purely because their first Tribal was during a premiere, and they haven’t visited since. I do love what we see from Rachel, Laura and Andrew – the few soundbites and moments we’ve gotten from them were nice. They just have to be fleshed out more as characters, and we’ll get that in time. I like Andrew’s presence around camp, he’ll be extremely useful to the tribe for a while, I don’t see him going anytime soon. Rachel’s pretty funny too, might I add, I enjoyed her confessionals in Episode 2. I like Cara, although we’ve really only seen her in the premiere so she’s another one that needs to be brought out more. I think she could be quite a strategic threat in an upcoming episode, just from what we have seen. And of course we need to see something of Georgia. She has such a great bio and promises a lot just pre-season, so I’m looking forward to the big reveal of her character and seeing it come out in great force.
That’s it for the review this week, and now to reveal our top five for Week 1…
THE TOP FIVE
Flick and Daini have shown some incredible strategic thinking in Week 1, earning them a solid spot in the Top Five. Kez’s entertaining idol play elevated the season as a whole, earning her a top five position. Hayley’s under the radar gameplay and prominence on the Brains tribe gets her in there as well, as does Joey’s positive attitude and likable character.
Honourable mentions go out to Simon, George, Wai, Shannon, and Baden, all strong contenders to be great characters for Week 2 and possibly make the Top Five next week.
If you missed out on viewing the Fantasy League update, make sure you check that out today. We’ll be back next week for another weekly review when Australian Survivor returns.
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Australian Survivor: Brains vs Brawn continues 7:30pm, Sunday, on Channel 10!
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