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.
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: https://www.facebook.com/insidesurvivor/. The first two come from here: http://www.dailymotion.com/drew-johnson, 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.
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.
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.
- 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?
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.