Australian Survivor: Brains vs Brawn Week 1: Episodes 1-3 Recap


silhouettes of players

Howdy International Survivor friends. It’s that time of year again, when we throw ourselves into watching Survivor 3 times a week for the summer. Myself (Kemper Boyd), Assistant Dragon Slayer, Something Quirky and Barbara Anderson will be recapping this season and we hope you are pumped as we are.

Australian Survivor is here and this year instead of successful people vs scrubs we have Brains vs Brawn, Smart vs Thickos, Weak vs Strong. And after  the dumping of beauty as a tribe we must prepare ourselves for a season of uggos.
This season was filmed in Australia and we here at the Purple Rock Podcast also acknowledge the Mitakoodi as the the traditional custodians of the land and pay respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging.

I have done literally no preparation for this season, I do not know anything about the cast not even names so this is going to be a fun premiere for us all.


  • Australia loves a hyperbolic season intro. The season is 48 days instead of 50 but it’s still too damn long for sustainable game play. Apart from the All Stars winner no Australian Survivor winner has played from the front.
  • Brawn enter on big trucks blowing through the sand. The first Brawn we meet is Dani, a correctional officer, so far boo. Next up is the Australian Survivor favourite type, an ex-professional athlete, Gavin, who wants to be the first Indigenous contestant to win Australian Survivor. Then Flick, a big wave surfer.
  • Brains are in little off road vehicles, the first we have political operative George, it is good to note George is a member of the sister party of the British Labour Party, of which I am a member and ex-staff member, but knowing some of the people I knew in politics he might be a bit annoying. Cara is a business owner, her shoes are sparkly, she says she is an empath, that frankly seems like nonsense and then an ex-pro cyclist Baden, and winning the Green Jersey in the Tour de France is no joke.
  • The full tribes are as follows:
    Brains: Andrew, Baden, Cara, George, Georgia, Hayley, Joey, Laura, Mitch, Phil, Rachel and Wai.
    Brawn: Benny, Chelsea, Daini, Dani, Emmett, Flick, Gavin, Gerald, Janelle, Kex, Shannon and Simon.
  • The first challenge is a an interesting combo that allows tribes to chose a physical task or a puzzle to get to the final big puzzle. The prize is food, tarp or a flame. For Brawn the big farmer Gerald chops the log very quickly, Cara is less quick on the slide puzzle. Simon the Brawn caller is not great on his instructions at the beginning but gets enough of a lead to start sorting it out. Cara has to tap out, not great for an older woman to do hero challenge and fail so badly early on. Mitch changed to the log chop  but Brawns were 2 of puzzle arms ahead and the Brains do not listen to their caller Wai. Once they start she speeds through getting even with the Brawns. Brawn manage to hang on and win.
  • It turns out Gerald is the world wood chop champion, a little bit of a stacked challenge unless Cara was slide puzzle world champ.
  • Shannon says “my body is my brand”. And I am reminded of Cece on New Girl saying “my face is my job”.
  • There is an ominous close up of a large stone by the Brain tribe well, guessing an idol is under there then.
  • Simon said he could make fire and decided they’d take the tarp and stuff and then he fails to make fire. It’s freezing at night and they can’t sleep. Simon was probably right in the long run, you will get flint either after the first immunity challenge or tribal.
  • Some people have legit jackets and Kez only has a vest and short shorts. Survivor, cloth your women!
  • Mitch is a very smart doctor who seems to really think highly of himself and he has picked Wai as a weak link. But George and Wai chat at the well and George has noticed Mitch giving orders around camp.
    Mitch then send George out to pick up wood and George went out and found an advantage under that obvious rock. George’s advantage allows him to save himself and 5 other tribemates at the first tribal. He and 5 others will leave tribal before the vote.
  • The Immunity Challenge has a cool cart ride into a pile of dirt. Brains have a lead at the last stage, Joey is getting his eye in on the sling shot and Mitch is shouting he should have a break and George argues with Mitch that he shouldn’t come out when he’s got it. George was completely right, on a learning curve tool like a slingshot the shooter should stay in if they’ve got one in. Joey comes out and the Brains lose.
  • Mitch has decided the weakest most go and that is Wai. Hayley also mentions that Mitch is dictating to the tribe.
  • At Tribal it’s very normal first tribal questions and answers until George pipes up and says “why should it be the strong?” and “who decides it all?”, this is awful play from George, just play your advantage, leave and don’t make it obvious to Mitch it’s you v him.
  • George plays his advantage and saves Rachel, Baden, Cara, Georgia and Wai.
  • Mitch says that his plan A was Wai, his plan b was George and now he doesn’t know what to do. Mitch is also completely right that George has probably angered some of those he “saved” by taking their agency in the game away. He has certainly created 5 huge enemies and that means they only need to flip one of those who left and I feel Baden or Cara would flip on him immediately.
  • In the end Phil is voted out 5-1. It’s a real shame, they seemed very fun.
  • In conclusion George went way way too hard too soon. I hate to say someone cannot win but he has a 0% chance to win this season now. All he had to do was sit back, deal with Mitch being controlling and let his tribemates notice. There is no way Mitch isn’t going to piss off his camp mates.


Episode 2 Recap (Barbara Anderson)

Before we get started with the recap proper, I just want to say how excited I am to watch an international season live with all of my online international Survivor crew. This is my first international season period, so I hope that I don’t make a real mess out of all of this recap with my lack of knowledge. Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about this episode!

  • After the Previously On, we head to Brains to deal with the aftermath of George’s big move that led to Phil being “collateral damage”. The five who weren’t saved by George discuss what happened…with George seemingly sleeping right next to them. That doesn’t stop them from saying that while they applaud George for making a big move, they just don’t think it was a good move as it has made the whole tribe turn against him and it doesn’t stop them from their plans A and B-taking out Wei and George.
  • From George’s perspective, he thinks it was the best move because he now has a massive alliance of people who must be loyal to him because he saved them. He explains to us that he saved the oldest, weakest, and most vulnerable members of his tribe. Oh, I forgot that he also explained that to some of his tribemates which caused this reaction from Rachel.
This scene is the hardest I have laughed at Survivor since Adam tried to play the podium as an Immunity Idol.
  • Meanwhile, on Brawn, they still do not have fire despite multiple efforts. Morale is low until we get officially introduced to the plant-based Emmett who apparently is the second person on Australian Survivor to start fire without flint or fire from Tribal Council. This will be the only time I will say this in this recap, but good job, Emmett!
  • Onto the Reward Challenge! It is a remix of the wrestling for sandbags and dragging people challenges but with a small forced crawling tunnel at the start to equalize any major physical differences between the tribes (it is really hard to describe right now). The tribe that wins the best of 5 earns a fishing kit along with a loaf of bread and honey. Janelle sits out for Brawn, which becomes important as the episode progresses, and the challenge starts. It is a fun challenge with good rounds throughout along with an official introduction to Chelsea, but I will focus on two incidents that are important for the storylines of this episode. In a round where  Gavin steps up for Brawn,  Baden volunteers just before George raises his hand to go but is told no. That is good because Baden is able to beat Gavin in what I called “Probst’s dream round”. In the last round, where the tribes are tied, Emmett gets an early lead on Joey after Joey trips right before the crawling tunnel. Instead of just going to his spot to earn the win for Brawn, Emmett decides to hotdog it and taunt Joey…before Joey tackles him and almost wins it for Brains. But Emmett is able to maintain the bag for victory!
  • However, his cockiness doesn’t sit well with some people on Brawn back at camp, specifically Janelle. She is officially introduced as a cleaner, mom, and field hockey player who is not going to sit quietly while Emmett almost loses reward. She tries to get some momentum started about how Emmett, Simon, and Gavin are already too strong of a trio and this would be a great time to take them down by getting rid of Emmett.
  • Back on Brains, Hayley clocks George’s last minute volunteering at the challenge as a thing that he could use as evidence for his argument from last tribal that the tribe doesn’t listen to him and let him do tasks in challenges. George also rustles Baden’s feathers by claiming that he could have beat Gavin out of the climbing tunnel and potentially beat him in the round period. This sets off an argument between the two. Some highlights include Baden’s frustration that George didn’t recognize Gavin as an AFL legend, the tribe seemingly slowly circling  them to watch, and Baden calling out George for wanting the opportunity to improve his game, not the tribe’s. After this, George realizes that he has only lost Baden as a potential ally, but he has also lost most of the tribe (and I am using lose here very loosely).
  • Onto the Immunity Challenge! It is a classic swimming obstacle course that ends with a puzzle (of the hanging fish variety) but with a couple of twists. Instead of jumping off a ladder and sliding down a slide, they roll over a spinning wheel that is guaranteed to land you on your back in the water 90 percent of the time. Two tribemates also have to tread water and hit balls out of a net that will then be stacked into a tub to release the key to the box holding the puzzle pieces. There are some close calls in the water where tribemates almost land on top of each other in the water, but everyone seems unscathed from the spinning wheel of potential injury. The challenge is pretty close the whole way, but Brains pulls away at the stacking balls portion of the challenge. Thanks to Wei and George’s teamwork and communication and despite Janelle claiming that she is good at puzzles, Brains win!
  • What follows the Immunity challenge is some of the most interesting post-challenge scrambling I have seen in a while. There is a lot of talk about lines being drawn in the sand, which is going to be real funny by the end of the episode, but we’ll get there.
    • We start by hearing that Daini is going the route of self-preservation by throwing his fellow puzzle-solver under the bus.
    • After seeing him talk to seemingly every tribe mate, Janelle decides to bring more people into her plan to get out Emmett. Benny immediately points out the trio of “strong boys” could go with another trio and have at least half of the tribe to vote the other half off. While Janelle is fixing Shannon’s hair and telling some others about her plan, Shannon immediately points out that if they can get rid of a guy here, then the women could run the table.
    • Unfortunately for her, Simon was peeking at her through a bush (?) and decides to turn against her because she is apparently super strong and knows the game. While I don’t doubt this, we have no real evidence for this on the show besides this observation that a guy needs to go so the women can have the numbers. It was just giving me a lot of vibes to Wentworth in SJDS. In fact Simon and Emmett this episode were giving me a lot of Drewchebag vibes. Anyway, the strong boys decide to go to Dani, Chelsea, and Flick with their plan on blindside Shannon. We immediately get an extremely cocky Emmett confessional about how they have the numbers and he doesn’t even need to know the names of the tribemates that aren’t in his majority alliance.
    • We end the segment with an extended (and super stitched together) Flick confessional about how she is the flip vote in this situation and how both options look good, but she needs to make the best decision for her own game.
  • Tribal Council Time! After some banal Tribal Council banter, JLP asks Janelle how she is feeling about her choice to do the puzzle. Janelle is upset that she let the team down, which leads to Simon making a smartass remark about how Janelle said that she could do the puzzle. Janelle responds that if this is his reaction now, no one else on the tribe is going to want to step up to the plate. She then explains how everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Gerald can’t sit out another water challenge because he can’t swim. There may be another challenge where they need a small and fast person to crawl through a small space quickly. Emmett calls out that they won the reward challenge that had a small crawling space, which causes Janelle to respond that some people almost lost that challenge in the loudest subtweet I have ever heard. This begins a back and forth between them about how Emmett could have lost them that challenge, how Gavin/Simon/Emmett are so clearly an unit, and how Janelle (and other unnamed people) were talking about getting out Emmett at camp. After that, we get to the usual coded talk about plans and alliances and which plan and/or alliance will succeed.
  • As the votes are revealed, we get four votes for Janelle immediately. Then, we get one vote Emmett. After that, we get four votes Shannon. Finally, we get two votes for Janelle making her the second boot. What a convoluted way to get an unfortunately expected second boot. At least she went down swinging. I do think that if she was going after that trio, then she picked the right one to target because it seemed like Simon and Gavin had more social connections with the tribe than Emmett. Unfortunately, I think she went after him a little too soon. We all know that Emmett’s ego is bound to flare up again sooner rather than later.
  • As the credits roll, we get the vote reveal. Flick and Gavin both went against the Shannon blindside, which should be interesting for the other strong boys and gals. However, I do not think this will cause the line in the sand that was predicted in the post-immunity challenge sequence. I just think some alliances will get shuffled around.  All in all, a fun and complicated episode of Survivor!


Episode 3 Recap (Something Quirky)

  • Yay, the temperature gauge is back! (Intermittently!)
  • After Tribal Council, Simon is unhappy his plan failed and Shannon is still around. He wants to know who flipped. It turns out Gavin was a bit overwhelmed by the voting strategies and accidentally betrayed his bro. He will not be telling Simon this.
    Flick was a little more strategic than Gavin, and decided not to work with Simon, as she sees him as the main threat and thus not a part of her long term plan.
  • Hello new confessional giver Laura from Brains!
  • George comes up with the innovative idea of conserving strength before the challenge by resting. He doesn’t need a nap, though!
    Is this the time to point out there will probably be a federal election in the next 12 months? I can’t see George swinging any votes…
  • Oh, the “SURVIVAL EXPERT” (Andrew) hasn’t been able to make fire thus far. This seems bad for business. But not to worry, he does eventually make fire! So now both teams have made fire without flint.
    (It’s interesting to note that both teams tried to make fire in the exact same way. Watching the same tutorials, perhaps?)
  • On to the Reward Challenge. The reward is milk, coffee, and a jar of biscuits (those pink ones on top are Iced Vo-Vos, or a generic imitation). The challenge is a variation of weigh your opponents down until they drop what they’re holding, which in this case is a water trough. Members of the opposing team have to throw buckets of water in to the trough, while two people defend it while tied together. Brawn have Gerald and Daini holding the trough, with Dani and Gavin defending it. Brains have Baden and Rachel (the person George called one of “the weakest” to her face!) holding the trough, with Laura and Cara defending it.
    Simon starts off by just throwing water over the girls, before remembering what the actual goal is, and Jonathan comments that the biggest tossers are doing a good job. Brains have the strategy of two people throwing buckets from opposite sides at once, so that both buckets can’t be defended, but we don’t see them consistently utilising that strategy. Baden and Rachel seem to be struggling pretty equally with the large amount of water in their trough and end up dropping it, securing a Brawn victory.
  • Brawn go back to their camp for their reward, and it’s loved one photos time already (this is Day 6).
    I can’t tell if the MMA story was sweet or troubling.
    This is terrible, but these musical cues seem to be suggesting that someone is going to be dead. The sister? Nope. The mum? Nope.
    Okay, so that was just inspirational music, got it.
  • Kez is collecting branches and stumbles across a clue tied to the tree with a ribbon. She takes the clue and leaves the ribbon. Will someone see the ribbon and wonder what’s gone on there?
  • Back to Brains, who manage to catch a bunch of small fish by de-oxygenating the water through splashing it. Andrew gains back some survival expert respect. George drops a fish.
  • It’s Immunity Challenge time!
    In the course of mentioning the loved ones aspect to the reward, Shannon says that she’s never seen big boys cry before, which is a sad indictment of society.
    The challenge starts with a weird puzzle of various pieces and some rope, followed by obstacles and knocking down a block tower that must be rebuilt on a see-saw.
    Both teams struggle with the puzzle, and George starts trying to convince the team working on the puzzle that he knows how to solve it. It’s a little sad to watch, but eventually the team listens to him and correctly solves the puzzle to build up a decent lead. They have now learnt the lesson not to swap someone out as soon as they get the hang of throwing things, and their lead extends. Brawn solve the puzzle, but by then Brains are well into stacking the blocks on to the see-saw, and they win Immunity.
  • Back at Brawn camp, Flick instigates the strategising and tries to get a majority of six against the three boys – Simon, Gavin, and Emmett.
  • Another thing Shannon has never done is tasted revenge.
  • It looks like Big D (Daini) could be the swing vote. I’m sure no jokes will be made.
  • Kez finds the person at camp who looks the most like her (Flick) to help her look for the idol, which is apparently buried under a rock that looks like a tombstone. They sit next to each other and Kez gets the idol. Then Flick leaves her.
    Kez has already made a comment about forgetting to pack a jacket, but what she also forgot (or what production didn’t allow her to have) was an item of clothing you can hide an idol in. So, due to the bulge in the back of her pants, Kez lays down to sunbake in 42 degree celcius heat and work out a plan. Flick could have bought over her hat or something, but instead Kez eventually moves over to Flick and asks if she wants to go swimming, and could she bring over her shoes and socks. The idol gets safely back to camp.
  • Simon’s alliance is talking to Daini, who pitches the idea of voting for Kez instead of Shannon. They agree to it as a way for Daini to prove himself to them.
  • The shots of dramatic fire and flaming animal skulls in this season so far have unsettled me, as our last major bushfire was less than six months ago, so I’m glad in this episode they’ve toned it down a little. They seem to have replaced fire with shots of snakes, and that’s fine. (Though I liked the lizard from the previous episode better.)
  • Tribal Council starts.
    Simon publicly admits that he was disappointed the plan to vote out Shannon didn’t work.
    Jonathan explains simple majority maths to the group.
    Idols are mentioned and Emmett asks (in what I’m sure he thought was a light-hearted manner) if anyone has the idol, which adds to the impression that one of his major weaknesses is that he struggles with not having control and security.
    Big D is still swinging in the voting booth (or at least the edit would like us to think he is).
    Kez plays her idol, and then we see several different variations of ‘Kerryn’ on voting slips, which is followed by Gavin being voted out.
    Sorry, Gavin.
    (Also, who throws a spanner at fireworks?!?)