Australian Survivor, week 1. 55 days, 24 people, one survivor.

Welcome to the Purple Rock’s coverage of Australian Survivor, brought back from the dead after a 15 year hiatus. John has generously handed the keys to this place over to me so that we can have somewhere to talk about the show without him having to do any additional work.

survivor australia week 1

I’ll be doing weekly write-ups on what’s happening, but the fact that we’re getting multiple episodes a week makes that a little wonky, so check the end for a breakdown of how that’s going to work if you don’t want to miss anything.

If you live in a place where Australian Survivor doesn’t air and want to get in on the fun, Inside Survivor is posting links to streaming sources on its Facebook page: The first two come from here:, so I’m assuming that’s the source we’re going with.

(Disclaimer: The Purple Rock Podcast is not affiliated with any of the above sites.)

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s get on with the show.

Episode 1”

So that was fun, wasn’t it? The revived Autstralian Survivor started out with a solid pair of episodes that maybe bordered on predictable but were still exciting.

The first thing you notice is just how happy these people are to be here. We’re used to seeing one or two people on Survivor portrayed as huge fans, not always to their benefit, but this is a whole cast, or at least close to one, of people who have been dreaming of this for years without believing it would ever happen. The joy is infectious.

Host Jonathan LaPaglia welcomes them and hands out their buffs. (Sue: “I’ve been waiting years to do this.” Awwww.) The grinning, jokey LaPaglia hearkens back to the kindlier Probst of yore, and it will be interesting to see if he changes over the course of the season. He asks a couple people why they’ll be the winner, and adorably tousled-haired law student Conner comes up with the answer of the day when says he doesn’t know if he can, because there are too many skills and too much luck in Survivor for anything to be certain.

Introductions out of the way, it’s on to the first challenge, a fun twist on the marooning from Cambodia. The survivors wade out to a platform stocked with food and pile as much as they can into a canoe before untying it, at which point it’s a race to a farther platform with a torch. Winner keeps the torch; everyone keeps their food. Saanapu (blue) are first off the block, and beefy alpha male Sam immediately dives in for a lead that nobody can catch. Aganoa (red), meanwhile, manage to fill their canoe with water and eventually just give up on untying it in favor of stockpiling extra food, in a foreshadowing of the dumpster fire yet to come.

All Survivor premiers share the same problem – they’re the episode where you have to spend the most time on the boring but necessary survival stuff. This one comes with an additional problem – in between all the scenes of people chopping down trees and weaving palm fronds, we have 24 people to meet. And that turns out to be too many. Between laying out the dynamics of the tribes and highlighting people who will matter in the short term, a lot of players end up basically invisible.

Sanaapu, we learn, is a well-oiled machine. With the help of their torch they quickly have a fire going, and a shelter is up soon after. Sam, on the strength of his challenge win, muscles, and general handsomeness, is their de facto leader and camp life narrator. Conner gets a few confessionals, and manages to burn his palm on a hot stick, leading to a long sequence of him sitting by himself in the ocean. This doesn’t seem to have any effect on the story, which means it’s mostly there to underscore that Conner is awesome. (I’m not disagreeing.) Also he makes an alliance with Flick that will pay off next episode. And Bianca is pretending to be in insurance but is really a private investigator. She plans to run the game by sneaking around and knowing what everyone is up to. My immediate reaction: the last person who thought that skillset would win Survivor was Kyle Jason, so good luck with that.

Vavau (yellow), on the other hand, is the fun tribe, the guys who would rather play in the ocean than have a functioning camp. They also end up the tribe we know the least about because all of the oxygen is sucked up by semi-professional Rob Cesternino impersonator Nick. Craig and Austin get confessionals, too, but it’s mostly about Nick. After rallying the troops for a fruitless hour spent trying to build a fire he realizes he’s accidentally become their leader against his better judgment. When firemaking fails they at least get a shelter built, but it breaks when the try to lie down on it. Everyone laughs because life is a party when you’re a Vavau! It’s silly stuff, but these kinds of silly scenes make for great filler.

But the real action of the episode is over at Aganoa, where a feud almost instantly forms between Kat, who is approaching Survivor with the same misplaced enthusiasm she probably applies to her office’s party planning committee, and Des, who just wants to lie in the ocean as far away from these young people as possible. Kat gets everyone going on building a shelter, but Des, the only person who knows what he’s doing, refuses to do more than listlessly sort through their food supply. The result is a shoddy, last minute shelter on the edge of the beach that gets destroyed when the tide comes in, leaving Aganoa to spend their first night on Survivor cold and miserable.

The next day is an immunity challenge. Aganoa lamely try to lie about making fire and are caught when they have to explain how they did it. Oh, Aganoa, you are bad at everything. Including this challenge. All three tribes do well on the obstacle course section, and Conner’s hand doesn’t seem to be giving him problems. But Saanapu slams through the puzzle with ease, leaving Vavau and Aganoa to battle it out, and at this point it’s dawning on Aganoa that putting Des and Kat together on the puzzle was a terrible idea. Kat notices there’s a clear border to the puzzle and wants to work it out, but Des ignores her in favor of slamming pieces together. It almost seems to get less complete as they go. Finally, Vavau puts them out of their misery and Aganoa is headed to tribal council.

Back at camp it’s clearly between Kat and Des, or as male model but “totally not one of the dumb ones, I promise” Rohan puts it, between a quieter camp and a more peaceful camp. Kat huddles up with the other women and suggests pulling in one guy for an alliance; Des tries to do some last minute damage control by teaching his tribe how to build a real shelter, while also trying to peel Kristie off from the budding woman’s alliance. But it’s too little, too late for Des, and after a tense tribal council where he flat out tells Kat to her face he doesn’t like her, he’s gone 7-1.

Episode 2”

We jump right back to Aganoa camp, where Kristie has decided to go crazy. From the look on her face at the end of tribal council, I get the sense that she wasn’t really keen on keeping Kat over Des. So, logically, she decided the proper response is to skulk in the bushes and accuse people of hiding her things, as if Abi-Maria were in her ear whispering that the nasty Aganoases stole her precious. El eventually talks her down, and we learn that Kristie is just freaking out because she wants to make good on a claim she made to her dad years ago that one day she was going to win Survivor. (Sidenote: I don’t think Kristie is going to win Survivor.) It’s a weird scene, but too weird not to include.

No reward challenge this episode, so we get to spend more time learning about the tribes. Two of them anyway, because Vavau is still the Nick show. This episode he keeps at it with the flint they won last time until the tribe finally gets a fire going. (As far as I can tell, at the end of this episode, Aganoa, despite having flint, still does not have a fire. Get it together, Aganoa.) Austin and Craig talk again, we learn that Sue is the fun kind of grandma, and Barry gets to say something, so progress? I still couldn’t tell you the difference between Kate, Tegan, and Jennah-Louise, though.

Over at Aganoa, Evan is on the offensive, and also just offensive. In case you missed it, he had a hilariously douchey quote in the premier about how he’s not telling anyone he’s a high school drama teacher because he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s a good actor. Evan… buddy, high school drama teacher is the job you take when you’ve accepted that you’re not a good actor. So, anyway, Evan goes on his charm offensive and cobbles together an alliance of five. He brags to the camera about how he’s running things, and we cut immediately to multiple people talking about how they see through him. Dude is going down hard and it’s going to be hilarious.

This episode, though, is all about Saanapu. Bianca has decided to commence Operation: My Post-Merge Game Starts on Day 3. She’s identified that Flick is close with one of either Kylie or Brooke (seriously, there are too many people here for me to keep track of), and that those two spend a lot of time with Sam and Matt the Magician. It’s the kind of deep insight that you can only get from someone who has mastered the arcane skill of “pay attention to who is friends with whom because you are in a social game.” Like Evan, she brags to the camera about how soon she’ll be running things, then scurries of to report her findings to the tall, older guy you see in the background of the Saanapu scenes, who we learn is named Peter. At this point there may as well be a graphic at the top of the screen that says “Saanapu loses the challenge; one of these people is going home.”

Said challenge is a replay of the course from Vanuatu where the tribes had to lead their “sacrificial lambs,” who are handcuffed to a rope line, through a series of obstacles. This time you have to lead two lambs through, then break two bars to drop a chest full of bags and knock over a series of bricks. Saanapu does the first part with alacrity, but Conner struggles on the bags, leaving Vavau room to overtake them for the win and a full set of fisting gear. Aganoa is trailing for most of the race, after going with the, shall we say, unorthodox strategy of putting ex-cricketer Lee, their biggest, strongest guy, in the lamb position. It works well at the start, where, even handcuffed, he’s able to flip himself over the hitching posts, but costs time when they have to weave him between a series of narrow bars. But it’s all a wash when Lee manages to knock out their bricks with an efficiency that would make Reynold Toepfer jealous and secures Aganoa a come-from-behind  second place.

Back at Saanapu beach, nobody blames Conner. Peter admits that he’s run out of gas and asks to be voted out, to a collective reaction of “sure, why not.” But Bianca has other plans in mind. After perfunctorily yes-ing  the Peter vote, she heads off to recruit people for her plan to blindside Flick. Unfortunately, she starts with Conner because, apparently, her master investigatory skills didn’t clue her in to the fact that Conner and Flick are allies. Conner tells Flick, Flick tells Sam, and suddenly Bianca’s on the chopping block. At some point Bianca realizes her scheme isn’t catching hold and tacks back to voting off Peter, but it’s too late, and after an uneventful tribal council she’s out 5-2-1.

It’s a pretty obvious result, and the editors make no attempt to hide the fact that Bianca is going down in flames. But sometimes watching a plan fall apart can be fun. It’s not on the epic scale of the Drewchebagging, but then again, what is? It’s also about as perfect a lesson as you can get in the art of not making your move too early, as Bianca slides from “that’s a person on our tribe, right?” to “we have to get rid of her,” in the span of maybe two hours.

Australian Survivor is starting with, if not a bang, at least an extremely loud pop, and I’m excited to see what happens next. Let me know what you guys think.

Discussion questions:

  • I’ve made it clear I think 24 people is too many, but how do y’all feel?
  • I agree that Des was the right choice in episode 1, but I question Saanapu’s decision. Yes, Bianca is a schemer, but she’s an ineffectual schemer, and while there’s a possibility she screws you over post-swap or post-merge, there is a certainty Peter is a drag on your team going forward.
  • What the hell, Evan?
  • How hard do you think Probst hit the gym after he saw Jonathan LaPaglia?
  • Not really a discussion question but hopefully someone knows the answer: Australia is like the UK when it comes to legal education, right? So calling Conner a law student means he’s an undergrad?

Format notice:

So here’s how this is gonna work, going forward. Putting 2-3 posts a week on the front page is unreasonable, so we’re doing this week by week. I expect some of you will watch each episode as it airs and want to comment immediately, while others will wait until the full week is posted. To accommodate both styles, I’m going to do a write-up after I watch the first episode of a given week and post it, then update it as future episodes air, and we’ll start over the next week.



Sharculese first saw Survivor when his roommate wanted to watch Cagayan. He has now seen every season because he has a skewed sense of priorities.
  • sharculese

    Fun fact: When John made this account for me he set that picture of Tarzan lounging in his banana hammock as the avatar, and I briefly considered keeping it.

    • I am so happy for you! Now, I just need to watch Australian Survivor.

      • sharculese

        Thanks! And you should. Despite my complaints about the size of the cast, it really is starting off well.

      • Alycia Swift

        Me too. I read the synopsis and thought I should watch. I just have not had time.

    • Not gonna lie, I clicked on this post just hoping that you hadn’t figured out how to change the avatar.

      • sharculese

        If it’s any consolation, “sharculese” is already the proprietor account for a bunch of five year old joke blogs that are tied to my old law school e-mail, which means I can’t get in to change anything about the main account (that’s also probably why you couldn’t send me the notification.)

        So, as long as I’m logged in to the system, I see a tiny Tarzan in the top right of the screen.

  • Saturday Night Palsy

    Whaaaat?? Sharculese is famous?!!

  • Assistant Dragon Slayer

    I really like what I’ve seen so far. 24 survivors (and by extension, 50+ days) has long been on my “they’ll never do it, but I wish they’d try it” list. Yes there are way too many people to keep track of, but that might not be as much of a problem with a more ethnically diverse American cast. It helps that the episodes are 55 minutes rather than an overstuffed 42. It all could backfire, though–55 minutes might seem much too long when we’re watching eight people near death on Day 49.

    I wonder if there are regional stereotypes that we’re not clued into. I thought I saw a couple of people exchange “well that explains it” glances when Kat said she’s from Perth.

    Rob C and Stephen had the exact same debate about whether voting out Bianca was the right call. Rob made your argument, while Stephen said it was a good idea to get rid of a small problem before it turns into a big problem, and that Peter is always an easy boot later on. But they both agreed either decision is defensible.

    My winner pick in the early going is El. She seems intelligent and level-headed, sociable enough, and has relevant military experience (humanitarian missions, by the looks of her cast bio) but mostly I’m picking her because she looks like Kim Spradlin.

    • sharculese

      Yeah, the counter-argument to what I said is “okay, so they lose again. They vote out Peter. Problem solved.” It’s a marginal call and I agree that both make sense, but I threw it out there because otherwise all their really is to discuss is how Des and Bianca both played it so so wrong by ignoring the social game.

      Also, there’s definitely cultural stuff we’re missing. Kemper Boyd is apparently more clued into Australian reality tv than we are, so hopefully she can explain it. One thing she told me is that the reason we’re seeing so much of Conner is that he fits the mold for a kind of plucky underdog story that’s really popular on Australian reality shows.

      • Kemper Boyd

        You raaaaang?
        I too like El and also have the same feeling about military people who claim to have good leadership when in reality they had a structure that meant their orders where obeyed and never questioned, they tend to not deal with personal conflict well.

      • Assistant Dragon Slayer

        Des wasn’t ignoring the social game because he was too focused on strategy, he was ignoring the social game because he couldn’t stand these soft-handed brats with their sideburns and hippity-hop music. Textbook first boot.

        I also roll my eyes when the “military experience* card is transparently a bunch of macho posturing designed to establish tribe dominance. But there is something to be said for having the past experience of being thrown together with a random set of people, under harsh physical conditions far from home, and (theoretically) having to keep your mouth shut if you can’t stand somebody.

        • sharculese

          It’s buried but he says early in the episode that he doesn’t care about any of the survival stuff and is just there for the strategy game. He just doesn’t seem to realize that requires people to like you.

          ” But there is something to be said for having the past experience of being thrown together with a random set of people, under harsh physical conditions far from home, and (theoretically) having to keep your mouth shut if you can’t stand somebody.”

          Oh agreed, it’s just that a lot of the people who talk up that part tend to fair poorly. See, eg: Shamar.

          And, funnily enough, you know what job requires a lot of those same skills and has consistently outperformed veteran on Survivor: flight attendant.

    • Kemper Boyd

      I am interested in the 24 survivor game too, I need a little more info on a lot of them to keep them straight though.

      • Ms_Woozah

        What is a bogan? I think we should include an Australian slang guide in these recaps, haha.

        • Kemper Boyd

          Sort of the Australian version of a Chav…

          • Come On In Here


          • Kemper Boyd

            Sorry I did tat on purpose. Sort of like a redneck but doesn’t have to be from the country. Chav is a term in the UK for basically uncultured poor white people and as far as I am aware bogan is similar . But you can be a rich chav, new money can be very uncouth.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            lol I was wondering if that was on purpose.

      • Assistant Dragon Slayer

        Yeah, I lived in Perth for a year, but I was seven and thus blissfully unaware of any regional or ethnic stereotypes.

    • tocantins

      I think Bianca was the natural choice. If you are Flick, you surely want to take out someone that is talking about you as soon as possible, lest people start wondering if what she is saying actually makes some sense. But if Flick *really* wants her out, then her close allies have much more to lose by making her angry than by taking Bianca instead of Pete, and as soon as they have a number, other people are not willing to put their neck out to go against the flow.

    • Come On In Here

      El sits down – “Hey look, It’s Australian Kim Spradlin!”

  • Kemper Boyd

    I enjoyed it. There are a lot of people who could be fodder currently but I feel like we’ve got to see a greater proportion of people than we do when there are 18 contestants on the American game.

    The Bianca question is a tough one, had they kept her they have a better chance of winning the next challenge and if Peter quits then they are fucked but if they lose the next one and vote him out it made sense. It 100% made sense for Flick because if Bianca is gunning for her so obviously now you don’t’ want get stuck with her if you win the next 3 immunities and go into a tribe swap or merge.

    I like Kylie on a personality level but she’s doomed I don’t think she has a nose for the game at all which is a shame because 30 something female firefighter is an interesting prospect.

    The one thing is for sure the Bianca vote means this will not be a show about mateship and the best man winning. There will be no laying down and those who believe they can do it with integrity (Lee) will not win, in fact my money is on Lee being the post merge boot.

    • sharculese

      “The one thing is for sure the Bianca vote means this will not be a show about mateship and the best man winning. There will be no laying down and those who believe they can do it with integrity (Lee) will not win.”

      I had only seen episode 1 the first time I brought this up, but episode 2 confirmed my fears that, if anything, we’re going to go to far in the opposite direction. I feel like a lot of these people have been thinking for so long about how they would play Survivor that it’s now rigidly baked into their brains and it’s hard to change that.

      I see the potential for a lot of the more interesting players to take their shot too early and miss, leaving the post-merge a parade of the also there’s. I’m not even up to 50% that this happens, but the potential for it worries me.

      • Kemper Boyd

        You make a good point but I think the next couple of votes will set the stage.

      • Assistant Dragon Slayer

        As always with a blindside, I wish they would just show us how the core votes recruited the tipping-point votes rather than make the reading of the votes suspenseful. Also, it’s interesting that Peter voted for Kylie. I wonder if there’s some beef there that they don’t have time to show and won’t ultimately have any bearing on the game.

  • Ms_Woozah

    Someone on Reddit called LaPaglia “Season 5 Jeff Probst” which I think is apt – I kind of like the slight nervousness he brings when saying these catchphrases and getting in the groove of commenting on challenges and such (in that great accent.)

    My favorites so far are Nick, Flick, Connor, all of the yellow tribe really. 24 people is definitely too much though, I know I won’t remember any of these pre-merge people after the season ends.

    • Kemper Boyd

      *Conner, please respect his parents’ inability to spell his name properly.

      • Other Scott

        For some reason, for me Connor is redlined.

        And Conner is not. So Conner might be the US way? I agree that Connor looks more correct to me.

        • Kemper Boyd

          Connor is how it’s spelt Conner is the misspelling that is sometimes used.

          • Other Scott

            You’re telling me my google spellchecker is wrong? How dare you defy the Google.

          • sharculese

            We’re like 5-10 years from that being a felony.

    • sharculese

      Did you notice how he’s saying things like “dig deep” but on the other hand, it’s not “come one in, guys” it’s “over here, guys.”

      • indescribable hat

        He also said immunity was “back in play,” not “back up for grabs.”

    • tocantins

      I understand that he is beginning, so he is using the only template he has, but it is really starting to grate on me how he copies ad verbatim Probst. I really hope that lessens with time.

      • indescribable hat

        I’m really hoping he gets away from Probst’s set-phrase-for-everything thing. “n days, m people, one survivor” and “the tribe has spoken” are one thing, but I find the number of stock phrases really annoying.

  • Hornacek

    “I’ve made it clear I think 24 people is too many, but how do y’all feel?”

    Well, considering you got halfway through the second episode summary before mentioning there was someone on this season called “Matt the Magician”, I would agree.

    Please tell me his luxury item is a top-hat and a wand.

    • sharculese

      Matt is the kind of dude who ends up as the sidekick to the leader of his tribe, so he gets a decent amount of screen time but isn’t heavily featured. I only know he’s a magician because in the first episode they’re talking about how to build the shelter and he says “don’t ask me, I’m a magician.”

    • Other Scott

      Survivor doesn’t have a good history of dynamic magician characters.

      Guatamala Morgan didn’t exactly light the world on fire.

      • Alycia Swift

        Wasn’t she an assistant?

        I can’t believe I remember that (if I am right).

        • Assistant Dragon Slayer

          Assistant to the magician, not assistant magician.

          Yes, you’re right (I have an excuse–I watched Guatemala about six months ago).

    • tocantins

      Not only a Magician, but also a Mentalist. (I didn’t know that actually existed outside of CBS shows.)

      • Hornacek

        Is one of the players a criminal mind?

      • sharculese

        Mentalist is a catch-all term for people who put on psychic performances but are upfront about the fact that it’s mind-tricks done for fun.

  • Other Scott

    Oh good, I’m glad we have these discussions going.

    I thought these were very good episodes, not only on par with the American survivor but probably in a higher tier in terms of first couple of episodes.

    I really enjoyed Des in terms of first boots, the show managed to trick me as I really thought it was building a comeback story for him, but it wasn’t to be. Not really a surprise, but still it was fun.

    I think the blue tribe is a little dry for my tastes, especially with Bianca gone. I think it had to happen though, because Flick wants it and you’re better off not burning Flick on this if you are her tribemates. I’m not sure what to make of Kylie yet, voting in the minority isn’t good, but I also think it’s not something that’s ultimately going to matter much.

    Yellow tribe seems pretty fun, though they have a lot of people I know absolutely nothing about. Nick was way more enjoyable than he seemed early on.

  • Black Dynamite

    I enjoyed these first two episodes. There was a real air of enthusiasm in everything going on. Really refreshing to see. So many people though that it’s hard to get a grasp on a few people. Definitely going to stick around for more.

    BD’s Top 5 Winner Prospects after Week 1
    No one jumped out but a couple people have already put themselves in decent positions. Mostly going off first impressions here.

    1. Flick
    2. Sam
    3. Nick
    4. El
    5. Rohan

    • Max_Jets

      Flick was my winner pick after the first episode, but after the 2nd episode I think she might be a villain which I would love.

    • Other Scott

      No Conner on the list? That answer on the mat for whether he could win was really good and he pretty much narrated the blue tribe.

      • Black Dynamite

        I really dug his answer. He’s also someone I noticed early and has potential.

        • Come On In Here

          He’s also someone I noticed early because he burnt his hand and had to sit in oceanic time out.

      • sharculese

        I feel like Sam is more of the narrator for Saanapu. Conner is the narrator for Conner.

  • tocantins

    I am really liking the show. I feel it has the advantage over the US one of being new, so it has the freshness of Survivor’s earlier seasons. I just hope they would try to separate themselves from the American version more, starting by not copying every single Probst cliche in the book. (I do like the host, though.) In this sense I like the idea of making it longer and more people, it makes it feel more like a different (and new) show. I was even excited not knowing whether there would even be a Hidden Immunity Idol, although the scenes from next episode apparently already settle that.