Australian Survivor All-Stars Season Preview, Part 1: The FAQs

If you like to watch Survivor, and when 39 ends,
You really wanna get the stink off with like-minded friends,
It might just seem impossible, but there’s another hemisphere,
Check out the Purple Rock Australian Survivor All-Stars Season Preview Podcast and this is what you’ll hear:

“Phoebe likes to scheme and plot, Locky and Brooke are super-hot,
Sharn has got a poop idol, a yoga guru Henry is not,
Lydia’s a challenge beast, John Eastoe’s a larrikin,
Nobody knows why Zach Kozyrski’s on the show again.”

It’s the Purple Rock Australian Survivor All-Stars Season Preview Podcast
(Don’t fuck with Shane Gould!)

Welcome to the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast’s coverage of Australian Survivor All-Stars! This post is for the Australian Survivor-curious, in the form of an FAQ. Veteran Australian Survivor fans should check back later this week for a fantasy draft/cast assessment by me, Kemper Boyd, and Blurry Denzel.

This FAQ was written in part by Kemper Boyd. Also, before proceeding, be sure to click on the SoundCloud link above and marvel at the new theme song. Thank you, Mike Hirsch!

So what’s all this about some hipster Australian version of Survivor that’s supposedly better than the original?

TV networks in a number of countries have their own versions of Survivor, including a bonkers version in Greece with over 30 castaways and almost 120 episodes per season. But for English speakers, there’s Australian Survivor and the also-great Survivor South Africa.

There were two seasons of Australian Survivor in the early 2000s, but the current iteration, hosted by Jonathan LaPaglia, debuted in 2016, with one season airing in each of the three subsequent years. So technically there have been six seasons, but when most people talk about Australian Survivor they’re referring to the four seasons of the reboot.

In my opinion, of the four seasons, one would be above the median of the Survivor season ranking, one is well above average, and two are top 10 seasons (although this is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, for reasons we’ll get to).

Season 5 is an All-Stars season, and premieres Monday, February 3.

So Australian Survivor is just Survivor with funny accents?

No! There are some key differences. Australian Survivor is a longer game, with 24 castaways competing over 50-55 days, which necessitates a different game plan than regular Survivor. Well, not different, just way longer term. Moves need to be more carefully planned and the view of what constitutes danger changes more than in regular Survivor. Because of the length of the game we also get around 24 episodes a season, and you get much longer with players to fall in love with them. Phoebe Timmins of season 1 was a pre-merge boot, but she appeared in 14 episodes, and that is why she can be an All Star.

55 days, 24 people, 1 survivor!

Also, not for nothing, the kinds of players who don’t, or “can’t”, win the US version of Survivor have won each of Australian Survivor’s four seasons: a Noura Salman, a brown Todd Herzog, a Janet Carbin, and a Lisa Welchel.

Moreover, the extended running time (excluding commercials, the running time of a season of Australian Survivor is well over 20 hours, versus around 12 hours for a season of US Survivor) helps to defeat the kind of “winner’s edit” sleuthing that many fans find a real buzz-kill if not downright spoiler-y. Almost everybody gets plenty of “visibility” (although paradoxically, one player in season 4 went home on Day 16 without a single confessional all season), almost everybody gets a heroic helicopter shot eventually, almost every gets clowned in the edit at some point, etc.

Also, the way the season airs, with episodes broadcast on two or three consecutive nights per week, allows for mini-arcs in a way that’s less possible on US Survivor. More than one three-episode arc has shown someone gain power, make a Big Move™, then immediately get blindsided. This also makes the end-game more enjoyabe to watch, because three eliminations and FTC don’t all have to be crammed into the finale.

Wait, what?!?! Three episodes per week?

Yeah. And unfortunately, while Australian Survivor typically airs during the (North Hemisphere) summer, in between US Survivor seasons, Australian Survivor All-Stars will largely overlap with Survivor: Winners at War (there’s a second, all-newbies season of Australian Survivor coming this summer). It’s a lot, but it’s worth it, I assure you. Imagine what it’s like to recap it!

OK, so it’s more Survivor, but is it really better Survivor? Isn’t it just old-school Survivor?

Not really. It’s true that every season has been a Final 2, with the final immunity challenge being a pure endurance test, and also that Australian Survivor is free some of the less-welcome innovations of recent US Survivor, like Edge of Extinction or Final 4 fire-making. However, Australian Survivor has all-new twists of its own, not all of them great: non-elimination episodes, a super-idol even more absurdly overpowered than in US Survivor (a combination idol and idol-nullifier), random use of Exile Island, etc.

I think there are two factors that help make Australian Survivor consistently great. The first is the length of the season. As I noted earlier, it stymies edit reading and allows you to really get to know the cast. But that wouldn’t matter if it weren’t for the second factor: casting, casting, casting.

Because Australian Survivor has only been on for four seasons, while the US version has been on for 40, Australian Survivor casts are a very interesting mix of old-school honesty-and-integrity types, those who are there for the outdoor adventure, and superfans who have watched and re-watched every episode of the US version. It’s often as if you could combine the casts of Survivor: Marquesas and Survivor: David vs. Goliath.

And while the length of the season would seem to incentivize floating along as invisibly as possible until it’s time to make one or two Big Movez™ right at the end, the creators of Australian Survivor somehow consistently manage to find people who are intent on leaving as big a mark as possible (much more about this in the cast assessment post).

Another notable aspect of Australian Survivor is the challenges. For the most part, they’re quite inventive, and some are starting to get reverse-imported into US Survivor (the strangely hypnotic spin-the-ball-in-a-hoop challenge is one example). And the pre-merge challenges are quite physically grueling in a way that US Survivor has largely backed away from ever since Kaoh Rong, or are just massive in scale. Case in point:

Worth playing for? No!

If you’re interested in Big Movez™, idol plays, in big personalities, in physically dominating players, or in strategically interesting players then Australian Survivor is for you. But most of all it is full of emergent gameplay.

OK, I’ll give it a shot. How can I watch Australian Survivor if I’m not in Australia?

Content creators should get paid for their work. If there were a way to pay Network Ten for Australian Survivor content (e.g., episode downloads on iTunes or paid streams on YouTube), we would heartily endorse it. But there isn’t.

Network Ten streams Australian Survivor on their website after they air, but it’s geo-restricted. If you’re a sophisticated computer user, there are ways to make it appear that your computer is located in Australia. Alternatively, there are sites that will allow you to transfer video files from other computers to your computer, and other sites that host streaming videos but don’t police copyright as rigorously as YouTube.

One of the latter sites is I’ve created a playlist of videos uploaded by other users, which I will add episodes to in as timely a manner as I can ( Bookmark it! Note that you’ll have to create a Dailymotion account to access the playlist. If you don’t want to do that, search for “Australian Survivor All-Stars”, or for a particular episode, “Australian Survivor s07eXX”, substituting the episode number for the XX.

When will episodes be available?

Episodes air at 7:30pm in Australia, and are generally up on Dailymotion from around noon the same day US Eastern Time (funny how time zones and the International Date Line work).