Australian Survivor 2021 – “This Isn’t MacGyver, It’s Survivor”

Idols seemed to be the theme this week in the Brains vs Brawn season, as four entered play in just three episodes. But as the tribes forged friendships and pulled off blindsides, it’s the game’s revolving door of twists which prove to be the biggest blindside of them all.

After a spectacular idol play by Kez, Brawn was sent to rethink strategies while the Brains still kept their eye on public enemy number one. Before we dive into the review of everything that happened, let’s briefly take a look back at the week that was.

WEEK 2 RECAP

Episode 4

With Kez’s idol play sealing the fate of one of the macho trio, the alliance of Simon, Emmett, Dani and Chelsea were left in the minority, 6-4. Meanwhile on the Brains, George remained as everybody’s preferred target, still reeling from the poor decision he made in the first Tribal Council, to save the older ‘life experienced’ folk and tribe target Wai.

At the Reward Challenge, the tribes battled each other in pairs to throw a ball into a hoop and score a point. Simon’s dirty yet strategic tactics caused a stir, and it ultimately paid off when the tribe went on to continue their Reward Challenge dominance, and win their fourth in a row. Standing out as a lone wolf, Brains tribe member Baden heads out to find his only tool of guaranteed safety: a hidden immunity idol. While he manages to scoop up a clue, his rookie hunting skills are no match for everybody’s not-so-favourite George, who instead finds the idol right when it appears he needs it most. He tells his closest ally Wai of the find, but Wai isn’t so convinced she should keep this information secret.

After a hilarious Immunity Challenge which saw the Brawn tribe attempt to spell out Survivor as, “Surviver”, the Brains managed to claim yet another victory, thanks to a puzzle. This left the majority alliance of six on the Brawn tribe to target the leader of the minority crew: Simon. But Simon isn’t going down without a fight, instead counter targeting Benny for frequent poor performances in challenges. The plan appeals to Daini, who appears to vote however he prefers, instead of solidifying loyalty with the majority. A 5-5 split won’t be enough however, so Simon instead appeals to the majority leader, Shannon, hoping to call a truce for the good of physical strength, ensuring she would still hold the majority with a 5-4 lead.

At Tribal Council, hesitancy to vote out Benny is clear when only Daini flips to cause a 5-5 split on Benny and Simon. At the revote however, Shannon and Kez complete the counter plan and vote out one of their own, sending Benny home in a 6-2 vote.

Episode 5

After escaping elimination by the skin of his teeth, Simon returns to the Brawn camp with one goal in mind: find the idol. After searching for some time and using an opportune window of time, Simon snags the idol, hoping to use it and see better days in the game. Over on Brains, Joey leads a continued charge against George with his four-person alliance, including Laura, Georgia and Andrew.

At the Reward Challenge, a toasties reward is on the line and for the fifth-straight time, Brawn manages to claim the win in another one-on-one match up challenge. When the toasties arrive back to camp, it’s Simon who happens to stumble upon… not just an idol clue… but an actual hidden immunity idol tucked away in one of the bags. After almost being sent home the day prior, Simon now has TWO units of safety which puts him in good stead moving forward (except for the fact Gerald saw him grab the second idol and told his majority alliance). Back on Brains, George confesses to Baden he found the idol that Baden was looking for, bringing the two together as Baden sides with him and the idol in the event the tribe needs to return to Tribal Council.

After Brawn wins the Immunity Challenge, George’s army of Baden, Wai and Cara is a counter foursome to the Joey/Laura/Georgia/Andrew faction. Aware his name is still high on the chopping block with the rest of the tribe, George chooses to parade his idol around the camp, showcasing his new jewellery and potential safety at Tribal. Needing to switch targets, Joey’s group decides to flip their vote to Mitch, and attempt to sway swing votes Rachel and Hayley to their direction. George’s crew also appeals to Rachel and Hayley, instead pitching Laura to weaken the alliance’s numbers.

At Tribal Council, questions over whether George will play his idol are risen, and on cue, he does so. But it’s a wasted play when only Mitch casts a vote against George. Leaving the result up to Rachel and Hayley, Joey wins out and Mitch is voted out 6-4-1. Shocking George and friends, and firmly running a line in the sand between the six in majority, and four in minority.

Episode 6

Now that the Brains have tested loyalties, George is furious his plan didn’t work out, and accuses Rachel and the rest of the majority of playing dirty for lying about their vote, with Rachel labelled a villain for her actions. But words are only that, perhaps more concerning for George is Joey’s now head strong attack on George, now idol-less and vulnerable at the next Tribal Council.

The Reward Challenge offers a different pace, instead of one-on-one, the tribe gets to compete together against the other. This brings Brains chances to a dramatic increase, almost pulling off a come-from-behind victory. However, such is luck, as Brawn claims victory and wins a staggering six Reward Challenges in a row. Devastated with the loss, it’s not all bad for one Brains tribe member, as Joey is selected to join the Brawn on their reward win of lamingtons and chocolate milk. This proves to be a great move for Brawn, who get all the inside details of the Brains tribe after a careful inquisition at camp.

When Brawn win the Immunity Challenge (and a puzzle after Brains sit out their puzzle beast Wai), the Brains are headed back to Tribal and thinks are looking grim for standout character George. George hunts for the rehidden idol all over camp, but it’s not him who finds it. Instead, ally Cara claims the idol and the minority four work on a plan to ensure they play it correctly and can send their target Georgia home. On the other side of camp, the majority six alliance set their sights on George, now certain they’ll be able to take him out. But with the minority’s idol hunting becoming all too scary their plan may fail, they work on ensuring a failsafe, which involves flipping over Wai to split the vote 4-3 on George and Cara, ensuring one is sent home. When Wai informs George she’s likely flipping over to the majority to make seven, George is furious and scrambles with Baden and Cara to work out a new plan.

At Tribal Council, Baden, Cara and George play hot potato with their idol, revealing it to the tribe and hoping to instil some paranoia into the majority so some votes are cast incorrectly. When Jonathan calls for idols, Cara selflessly gives up her idol for George, protecting him and leaving herself vulnerable. Hot potato fails to pan out, so when four votes against George are negated, Cara and Georgia tie 3-3. As expected, Cara is then voted out 6-2, with a tearful George grateful for Cara’s heroic act. When Cara’s torch is snuffed, she is secretly offered a lifeline when she finds a post that informs her she is not in fact voted out, but instead will be switching over to the Brawn tribe overnight, now giving Brawn a 10-9 numbers advantage.

IMAGE: NETWORK 10

WEEK 2 REVIEW

I really enjoyed Week 2 of Australian Survivor, the characters that are evolving and opening up are becoming more entertaining and the show’s varying personalities are making for an enjoyable hour and half of screen time. My biggest gripes happen to be on the production side, as both tribes are really standing out strategically.

Let’s first look at the challenges. Whereas the American original split of Brawn vs Brains (vs Beauty) was quite fairly matched in challenges due to an equal array of physical strength, the Brawn tribe is severely more stacked physically over Brains. Hell the only person in the 20’s on the Brains was Phil, and he got the boot first. The only three challenges Brains managed to win were when they were able to defy their otherwise expected loss by beasting a puzzle. Brawn win every other challenge due to sheer strength. Yes, Brains can get close, but every Reward Challenge has been pretty physical and it’s no surprise Brains just fail to seal the deal every time. And then when we look at the three Immunity Challenges Brawn has won, only one of them had a puzzle and Brains sat out Wai who could have brought home the win if she was able to assist in solving it. I think there’s just a pretty unfair imbalance at play here, and I question the decision to make the Brawn tribe so stacked physically. Maybe with Cara on their tribe now, they might even fair better at puzzles and can perhaps become unstoppable. Regardless, I’m hoping for some improvement in Week 3, and for the Brains to actually have a decent chance at winning something that isn’t puzzle related.

Episode 5 was the worst episode thus far, the primary targets for being voted out were Mitch and Laura, and yet neither offered insight into their game through a confessional. Instead, we were just swapping pow-wows with George and Joey, who pretty much spoke the entire episode about what they were cooking up on their side. At least Rachel got some words in as a swing, but even Hayley didn’t get some talking time despite holding just as much of an important vote as Rachel. I think the editing here was just dreadful, and I can’t understand how we completely go from that kind of packaged episode to Episode 6, which in contrast, brought us perspective from just about everyone on Brains. We got Laura, Wai, Rachel, Cara, Baden, Georgia (finally). Where was this for Episode 5? Look Joey, I love ya man, but there were three other alliance members we could have heard from! Moving forward, let’s keep the Episode 6 quality as standard for the remaining episodes. I don’t like the chances though.

I liked the kidnap twist at the Reward Challenge, it is a common twist on the Australian version, and one that isn’t too disruptive to the game that makes it pretty great to watch, especially when the tribe just grills whoever they bring over for whatever intel they can get on their opponents. I also appreciate the vote out swap of Cara at the end of the week. With a large episode order, these nil-episodes are bound to happen during the season. We’ll never just get an episode that ends with an elimination every time unless something changes. And while the series has seen some wild and downright disastrous non-elimination twists (um, six people sent to Exile Beach or Dead Man Walking, anyone?) this twist isn’t half bad and I’m pretty happy with it. Cara is on the receiving end of it, which was nice because I was very impressed with her selfless act with the idol. Out of everyone voted out so far, I certainly think she has been most deserving of a second chance. So I’m looking forward to seeing how it impacts the rest of the game.

What I’m not so into is the abundance of idols thrown into the game. Sure, one each for the tribe to start, and then their rehidden counterparts once played, that makes sense for the Kez-Simon and George-Cara finds. I mean, it’s not the production crew’s fault for having these early idol plays. What I’m not liking is the fact an EXTRA idol was thrown into the Brawn reward. And not even a clue, it was a full damn idol just for anyone to grab. Will Simon having two make for a great Tribal Council? Probably. But damn it’s so much power early on and I wish it could have been incorporated differently and later on. I’m having some idol fatigue, that’s all every episode has been about in Week 2. So it’d be nice to cool off. But with an idol revealed to be hidden at a challenge in the next episode, that’s potentially two entering play again if one is hidden on the challenge course per tribe. Yawn. Can we move onto some social strategy or, anything else, please?

IMAGE: NETWORK 10

Both tribes are really pulling the big guns in a lot of ways, there’s no one I’m NOT liking, everyone provides something and it’s a fun product to watch each night. But let’s look at everyone heading into Week 3.

Starting with Brawn, standout performer is Simon. Some very impressive social and strategic chops in Episode 4 to sway Daini and Shannon into siding with him, targeting a clear weak link in Benny. He put in the work to make sure he survived and it paid off. He didn’t even have an idol like the mess that’s happening at the Brains camp. Simon played old school Survivor and it was a really fun watch. His character’s evolution just thus far has been solid and I’m looking forward to more. I also give him props for finding that idol in the tree, and sneakily grabbing it without notice. No points for the second idol though, that was a gimme, and he was caught. But nevertheless, if there’s anyone I want to see with two idols in hand it’s Simon. We’re in for an entertaining run with this guy, I hope it doesn’t go to his head. We also saw a bit from Gerald who I’m really impressed with. Catching Benny out on exposing Simon as the target to Dani, catching Simon finding the idol and then running to tell his alliance – he’s a loyal guy with very good perceptive skills. I think he’s an underrated dark horse to take this game pretty far. I am worried for his longevity with the current group however. Daini has proven he’s not necessarily loyal to the majority, which puts Gerald in with the girls threesome of Flick, Kez and Shannon. Those three are clearly tight and are often seen together or in at least a pair, so Gerald might be an easy fourth picking here. I hope he’s got a plan to climb to the top spot and isn’t fooled into thinking he might rank above one of the girls. Shannon appears to be on top with this side, she was pretty vocal at the Brawn Tribal Council (maybe even TOO vocal), and it’s clear she’s got a great handling on the game and her alliance. Was switching the vote from Simon to Benny a good move? I don’t think so. Benny was weak and pretty invaluable to the tribe, but he was a solid number for Shannon when Simon clearly is not. I think there’s more we didn’t get to see of Benny’s relationship wit his alliance that really added to the list of reasons to take him out, so I’m sure the decision makes sense at the moment. I just feel like we’ll get to a moment where Simon takes down Shannon, and hindsight will for sure be 20/20. I am enjoying Shannon though, and I hope she doesn’t go on a power trip. The same goes for Kez and Flick, who equally could fall through on a power trip when their position isn’t solid in the game. Both have great strategic thinking skills however, but they kind of don’t differ out of Week 2, so I don’t have much to differentiate them in this article.

I still appreciate Daini‘s “I’ll do what suits me” game, still, no one kind of counts him out of their numbers and he remains a solid figure in the middle. Something is working for him, and personally I appreciate the change of pace with his gameplay, it’s very different to what we usually see and provides an exciting element for each Brawn Tribal Council. We do need to see more from Emmett, Dani and Chelsea, who were very underedited this week. The good news? The focus isn’t on them because they aren’t being targeted, so it’s a win for now. Eventually though, one will go, and I’m gonna be wanting more if we don’t see much of them leading up to the eventual elimination. With Cara joining the fold this week, I can’t wait to see what side scoops her up and I tend to think she’ll join Simon’s half of the tribe because I don’t see her fitting in well with Shannon/Flick/Kez. That’s just my 50/50 crap shoot on where Cara lands, and I doubt she’ll fall to the bottom. She’s a free ally up for grabs and will certainly change up the Brawn strategy for the better.

Talking about Cara, I’m so surprised with her character that’s opening up on the show, and she really was a stand out player in Episode 6. I’ve said it before that I’m glad she got a second chance, and I really thought it was extremely endearing and thoughtful of her to throw her game down for George. It’s not often I like this play, but it made sense in this situation and I’m glad it wasn’t all bad for her. I’m hoping she makes the most of her second opportunity and can catapult herself further into the game. Then we’ve got her buddy George. I’m on such a roller coaster ride with George. I don’t know if his frustrations with Rachel were genuine or a game approach. As such a superfan and long watcher of Survivor, I’d expect George to be very savvy with the gameplay that involves lying, backstabbing and choosing sides. I mean he’s in the political game too. But he absolutely tore apart Rachel and it wasn’t great to watch. It felt very… amateur… in strategic thinking. She chose a side, move on and try to flip it around. Calling someone out won’t buy allies, and we’re seeing the same thing happen with Wai. I think George is a very emotional player, and that’s what brings out his personality and style of play, so I’m not upset with this, but I think his reactions to game events are not helping his case, and will be to the detriment of his game. There’s no chance he makes it to the end. It will be game over. On the other hand, I do love George. He is very entertaining to watch because you never know what to expect with him. So my criticism is very much only limited to the emotional side that’s pouring out, which will impact his game longevity. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Wai flipped over to the majority. I mentioned last week that I was curious on just how much Wai felt loyal to George. I was never convinced his move was buying her as an ally, nor was she one to start with. I think George saw her as a chess piece that he could move, but Wai never gave off the vibe that she actually wanted to work with George. Instead, it’s clear she owed something to George for saving her. But favours run out in this game. Wai made a good move, in my opinion. There’s a lot of talk about her siding to the bottom of a six-person alliance. But I don’t see it that way. There’s a four faction in that alliance. Rachel and Hayley never made themselves in and amongst the group by siding with them. I actually thought they would side with George and co because it was clear Joey’s alliance was tight. They became fifth and six (if this logic is applied), and sure, Wai is in at seventh. But when it’s 4 vs 3, there’s only room for one person to flip over. Wai has a chance to work with Rachel and Hayley to make a new alliance form. But even if we discount that fact, Wai isn’t positioning herself to the bottom when she was never approached to join this alliance UNTIL they needed her. I think Joey’s budding relationship with Wai will improve her chances of joining the fold, and eventually the foursome will crack and look to Rach/Hayley/Wai for some direction in the game. Wai made a pretty good move in my opinion, jump from the sinking ship and spend some days building the bonds necessary to last. With Cara flipped over, George’s days numbered and Baden only to follow behind, Wai has secured time to make it count. So I applaud her move.

IMAGE: NETWORK 10

I love that Rachel and Hayley fell into the middle, they are extremely savvy players and hold clear agency in the game. I wish we saw more from Hayley’s perspective, because she seemed to come off scot free from siding with Joey’s alliance. Rachel copped heat. I don’t know why her more than Hayley. But we did get to hear from Rachel and it was clear she was very strategic in making her voting choice, equally listening to what both sides had to offer, and no siding with the mess that is George’s side and sticking with stability on Joey’s side. So I was very happy to watch that play out. Joey has also become a stand out character this week. Leading his group, yet not being targeted by George at all directly, he clearly is doing something right. His physicality pays dividends for sure, but he’s a much stronger strategic force on his alliance. That’s where the brains lie. I’m pretty impressed with what he’s been able to pull off and in switching over Hayley, Rachel and Wai to join his side despite holding a very obvious core four. And hyping up the Brains in every Immunity Challenge, god, you gotta love him. It’s great we got to hear from Georgia finally. I think she’s got a lot more to come because her analytical skills seem to be one of her strongest assets. I’m looking forward to more from her and am glad we’re seeing her perspective unfold on screen. But like Laura and Andrew, I’m gonna need some more. I also enjoyed watching Baden this week and was really hoping he’d find the idol after nabbing the clue early. I’m unsure why he hasn’t forged the relationships to build a solid alliance with the others, he seems pretty valuable physically and can be a great asset strategically. I do want to see more emerge from him, but with George front and centre of the tribe, it might not be the worst thing for him to hide in the shadows a little bit.

A pretty great and open week for both tribes , bringing us to the end of the review this week, and now to reveal our top five for Week 2…

THE TOP FIVE

Wai Chim, Simon Mee, Cara Atchison, Joey McCann, Rachel Downie.
IMAGES: NETWORK 10

Wai and Rachel’s very strategic decision to side with Joey’s side for equally authentic and realistic reasons this week see them make the Top Five this week. Some great moves there. Simon’s impressive social play and newfound power see him enter the top group, and I expect him to remain here for some time unless something drastic happens. Joey’s continued tribal cheerleading at challenges AND added strategic mindset for his side of the Brains tribe makes him the only player to carry over in the Top Five from Week 1. And Cara’s selfless good deed and great all around showing in Episode 6 sees her join the top group as well.

Pretty much everyone else has an honourable mention this week because I’m very impressed with the entire cast, but in particular, I also considered Hayley, Gerald, Shannon, George and Daini for the Top Five this 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.

Featured Image: Network 10

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Australian Survivor: Brains vs Brawn continues 7:30pm, tonight, on Channel 10!


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