Australian Survivor: Brains vs Brawn: Season Finale

48 days, 24 people, four recappers, ONE Survivor! Let’s get to it, shall we?

Episode 24 (Assistant Dragon Slayer)

  • We open with a very quick montage of the season, set to pounding music, that includes shots of most if not all of the pre-merge boots, and ends with Flick, George, and Hayley’s most fist-pumpy quotes. The soundtrack calms down and we get extended confessionals from our Final 3 that sounds like them workshopping their Final Tribal Council opening statements.
  • Final immunity challenge: There are three terrifying-looking apparatuses, with a grid of pegs on the bottom and grid of spikes on the top. They have to stand on the pegs and hold onto the spikes, which will drop at regular intervals. So I guess they’ll go from standing upright to having to do something like a Chair Pose, to full squatting. Brutal.
  • As is Australian Survivor custom, the loved ones are brought out to watch the final immunity challenge. First up are Hayley’s boyfriend and best mate. Next are George’s mum and sister. JLP asks George how much he’s missed his mother, and as he answers there’s a quick shot of Flick, and man, that got me. Finally, out come Flick’s partner and friend of over 20 years (who absolutely does not look like she’s 20 yet). Flick runs out what seems like 100 meters to greet them. She talks about how difficult it’s been to lose her mum and not have the people she’s closest to around for support.
  • Time for the challenge. Hayley is stronger than George but has less mass than Flick, so she would seem to have the advantage. Not to mention that she’s a pain-management expert. 30 minutes pass and everybody seems to be doing well, but then JLP lowers the spikes a level, and nobody can stand upright anymore, immediately making it much more difficult. After two hours the spikes come down another level, forcing everyone down lower. The sun goes down, the stars come out, they reach the 3:30 mark. The loved ones are now in jackets. After more than 4:30, George gives up. At 5:00, the spikes drop to their lowest level (I was wondering if they would just keep going until Hayley and Flick were impaled). There’s no room to do anything but squat. Flick really struggles while Hayley’s a statue. Hayley’s body starts shaking, but at 5:17, Flick asks for some help down. Hayley wins final immunity.
  • Tribal council: After some rote preliminary questions, JLP asks Flick why Hayley should take her to the Final 2. She talks up what a threat George is and how good he is with words. JLP asks George why Hayley shouldn’t take Flick. He says that if Hayley wants to win the AUD500,000, she should try and beat him. This gets a laugh from the jury, like they’re all thinking “maybe it was worth losing Survivor to not have to listen to George’s bluster all day”. But what he means is that Flick has locked-in votes on the jury, making the path to victory narrow.
  • This is something we discussed in comments last week. While it would seem obvious to get rid of Flick for that reason, what George doesn’t say is that Hayley, as the sole Brain left, would also have locked-in votes, so she could concentrate her appeal at FTC solely on the live votes (which I believe to be Baden, Laura, and Andrew). In a Final 2 with George, on the other hand, there might be more votes up for grabs, and thus more moving parts to manage. Flick pooh-poohs the idea of locked-in votes. But after a post-merge full of highly counter-intuitive moves, Hayley does the obvious thing and votes out Flick.
  • As the Final 2 enjoy the Day 48 breakfast, Hayley says that while George has played an incredible strategic game, his physical and social games were basically non-existent. She says that “I have a winning game, because it encompasses all aspects of Survivor”, citing her four individual immunity wins, her strategic moves, and her social bonds. I think that if she says something like this at FTC she’ll win. George says that he’s had a target on his back the entire game, and he’s still standing because of sheer hard work, that he outwitted and outplayed people to outlast them. He says that he needs to tell the jury “You don’t need to like me to vote for me, you just need to acknowledge that what I’ve done is worthy of the title”. I think that if he says something like this at FTC he’ll lose.
  • Over to Barbara Anderson for coverage of Final Tribal Council

Final Tribal Council (Barbara Anderson)

  • We are here! We witness the jury walk in and see Flick looking good. It also may be a cooler night with Wai bringing in a blanket and Flick wearing a leather coat over her two-piece outfit. JLP explains how FTC will go, starting with opening statements.
  • George stresses that he came here as a political operative, but he had no experience in camping, so he was shocked that he was able to do as well in the outdoors. He then stresses that his game had three phases.
    • Control: At the start of the game, he noticed that the weaker Brains were going to be picked off first, so he decided to turn the tables and control the game (even though he really didn’t do that past the first tribal council and even then, he didn’t get his way).
    • Maintenance: In the post-swap, he had to rely on his social game and was able to be deemed a “Honorary Brawn” through his connection with Cara.
    • Dynasty: At the merge, he decided to go back to the Brains because he was always going to be loyal to them, but still served as a double agent.
      After this, he stresses that everyone was a threat to him, so that is why they are on the jury. He then wraps up by saying that it is election day for his crown, which shocked me because I wouldn’t expect him to be a fan of elective monarchy. Maybe he was a fan of Padme Amidala’s reign in the Star Wars prequels? JLP praises his pitch.


  • Hayley stresses in her opening statement that she is proud of her game. During the pre-merge, she was part of the majority, but she knew that she had a swing vote for the brains. She claims that being in the middle has the power, which she proved when she was able to take out Joey Amazing. She then got to the tribe swap and had to rely on luck and her public Immunity Idol to take her to the post-merge.
    • During the Shannon vote, she told the Brawn that she would flip a coin to use it on Baden or her and they fell for it.
    • During the Simon vote, she held on to the idol and trusted in her relationships. She also knew that if she played her idol, then Simon would play one of his.
    • During the Kez vote, George did tell her how to vote, but she was able to take the credit for knowing to play the idol to sav Laura.
      Despite this, no one plays a perfect game and Hayley ended up on Redemption Rock. After proving that she could be a physical threat by beating Baden, she knew that she had to adapt to survive to the endgame. She then won Individual Immunity 4 times and she is just proud of the physical and overall game she played.


  • Questions!
  • Laura congratulates both finalists for getting there and notes that her vote is not locked in. She then asks George what he learned about himself. He responds by saying that he was able to figure out that he could do anything that he put his mind to after doing nightly self-reflection. He then talks about the times that he was able to survive by spying on people to gain secret intelligence, which is a weird way to answer this question and a surefire way to piss off jurors.
  • Cara steps up and asks Hayley if she came into the game planning on lying or was that an organic decision. This is the kind of question that someone not aware of this game would ask and a weird question for an empath to ask. Hayley responds that she is a big fan of the game, so she knew that lying, deceiving, and misdirecting were parts of this game. It also happens to be a natural part of her job as a pain researcher who uses placebos in her studies. I also noticed an interesting thing throughout the rest of FTC: Hayley will use misdirecting as often as she can instead of lying and deceiving, which is a subtle shift of her rhetoric. Maybe she figured out by Cara’s question that the rest of the jury would have a similar hang-up to lying, so if she changes is to misdirection, then it makes it seem not as severe as lying.
  • Andrew proclaims that he knew six weeks ago that George and Hayley were the most dangerous people out there and now look at them. He then asks a deceptively simple but revealing question, which is what regret they have about the game and what could they do differently. George has no regrets because everything he did led to him getting here. Hayley notes regret when she threw George under the bus to Emmett who then blew up her game. She notes that she should have just told Dani.
  • Dani jumps in and talks about how Hayley said she was game to vote out George during the spa reward. Hayley says that she knew she had to misdirect Dani and Flick because if she didn’t agree with them, then they would have targeted her instead (which they probably should have). Dani wants them both to own their lies and gameplay.
  • Gerald asks if the season restarted, then who would the finalists work with from the jury. George says none of them because they know how he plays the game, which is an awful answer. He even had a gimme answer in Cara and he couldn’t say that.  Hayley notes that she will take an opposite approach and says all of them because they had trust in her, even after they voted her out and probably shouldn’t have trusted her.
  • Baden congrats Hayley on returning from Redemption Rock and adapting her game. That’s really all we get verbally from Baden. We do get a lot of proud dad shots when Hayley talks though.
  • Dani tells George that she is someone who values challenge strength. As someone who calls himself a student of the game, why did George not put his all in the challenges? George knows his strengths and weaknesses. His major weakness out there was his challenge prowess, so he papered over that with his strength as a political operative. This feels like a partial answer at best and definitely not the answer Dani was looking for.
  • Flick then asks Hayley why she didn’t want to work with her. Hayley responds rightfully that she wanted to work with her, but Flick flipped back over to Brawn at the merge for some reason. Hayley then notes while she was a flipper, she flipped at the right times. There is then a discussion about why Hayley didn’t join up with Flick, Dani, and Emmett and she notes correctly that she would be the weakest one of the four and an easy target at four, while she would be the strongest one of the Brains. Flick then asks George how much he relied on lying and manipulation. George gives another partial answer by imploring the jury to look at the intent of his actions. He thinks that he threaded a very fine line.
  • Emmett wraps up FTC by calling George a cockroach. He respects him as a player, but he says that he burnt bridges in an abrasive way unlike Hayley. Once again, if Emmett is thinking your social game is lacking, then yikes. Emmett asks George that if he returns, would he play this exact gameplay again. This is a strange question, especially coming from Emmett. It also feels a bit redundant and almost feels like Production fed him this because they knew that George would be making a return outing. Maybe this question will be the start of his second season journey. Anyway, George gives another partial answer by saying that there is a fine line between strategy and an interpreted lie and everyone is on the jury because of him except for Baden. Emmett then calls him out for beating around the bush. George says that he deserves the title. Emmett once again repeats the question. George finally says that he doesn’t think so, but that he has the best resume of the two. If George hadn’t lost most of his votes by now, then I think this interaction is the nail in the coffin. If the question was Brenda in Caramoan levels of nasty, I would get George’s evasive response to the question, but it’s not. Emmett then asks Hayley how she sees her game in comparison to George’s and she responds that she does not have a resume, but her game is rounded in all aspects. She knew she took a risk by taking George instead of Flick because he is a formidable speaker, but she is proud to be there with him. She then goes through some of the other highlights of her season including beating Chelsea in wrestling and Flick in balance. She also notes that she tried to cover some of her moves and threat level after she got voted out.
  • Wai doesn’t get a chance to ask questions, but she mentioned on Twitter what she asked.
    I think the question for George would have been an interesting one to maybe give him a chance to talk about his social game or lack thereof.
  • Time to vote! Laura votes for George because he played a mastermind game, which I suspected she might do because she seems to be one of the few strategically minded people on the jury. Dani votes for Hayley because she played the best. Cara votes for George because obviously she does. We hear Flick voting for a strategic player, but we don’t see it. After votes are cast, George and Hayley wish each other good luck and JLP brings out the loved ones. We get some interaction with all six about how much they/their loved one want/wants the title.
  • The votes are revealed. 1 for Hayley, 1 for George, 1 for Hayley, 1 for George, and 3 more for Hayley. Hayley is the Sole Survivor! During her post-win confessional, Hayley is shocked but proud of her physical and social game. We also see all jury votes (including Dani again for some reason). Wai’s sweet voting confessional got me a little bit. Once again, I am happy that she found Hayley as an ally after leaving George. I am happy for Hayley. Her FTC performance was good because she clearly paid attention to what this jury valued-owning your game, challenge ability, and being sociable. I hope she gets to live a happy life with nerdy Golden God.
  • Meanwhile, George’s FTC performance is just not great, but then again, he has been indicating what his performance would be like for a few tribal councils. now If he had owned his game more, he could have made this a tighter race at the end, but he just couldn’t. That shouldn’t diminish his strategic moves throughout this season, but it should be a reminder that you can’t always rely on one particular strength. In fact, his FTC reminded me a lot of Stephen’s in Tocantins where they were hoping that the jury would value their strength when they clearly weren’t going to, no matter what.
  • The AU offseason will not be long, with the new season starting in February 2022. It is filming currently in Australia and using a theme from American Survivor. Based on the promo, I am leaning towards a Blood vs. Water season, which could be interesting to see. Will this be the season to actually do Blood vs. Water as the tribe divisions?

Final Thoughts 


  • What a season! I cannot believe that George a man I said after week one was dead in the water got to the final 2, although I was correct that he couldn’t win. Our winner played the perfect mix of the three disciplines of Survivor, she was a physical threat who won 4 individual immunities, a strategic mastermind who made some utterly brilliant moves and a social gameplayer who made connections with those who she bested. Haley’s only flaw was obviously, getting voted out! I was rooting for Haley from the Joey move and was thrilled to see her win.
    Rarely do we see the best two players get to the final 2 in Survivor and it cannot be argued that any two players were better than Haley and George.
    Overall the season never lagged too badly, never had more than 2 episodes that were predictable and generally just got me through the summer. Jeff Probst’s show could never.

Barbara Anderson:

  • For a first full international season, this has been an interesting watch. I am not a big fan of the editing or the majority of the twists this season, but Hayley’s gameplay kept me enthralled. After a drought of women winning US Survivor, not only seeing one, but seeing one play an alpha game was so awesome. I have often compared this season to San Juan del Sur and I think the comparison still stands, especially now that we have Hayley as a worthy winner who was able to convince her largely recruit jury that she played a dominant game despite some mistakes.  If you are not convinced to watch this whole season, please just try to find the sequence of Hayley getting the Joey vote in action. It is worth it.

Assistant Dragon Slayer:

  • I co-sign everything Kemperboyd and Barbara Anderson wrote. My big worry going into the season was that Brawn would dominate the pre-merge challenges and have a simple numbers advantage in the post-merge. Instead, it was a fairly even match, and after a bit of Gabon-level gameplay by both tribes in the early going (George misplaying his advantage in the premiere, Daini getting voted out by mistake), the moves just got better and better (it helped a lot that there were strategy-minded people on the Brawn tribe like Dani and Simon). The post-merge in particular was full of mind-blowing moves, culminating in a Final 2 consisting of the best players in cast, something that the game is basically designed never to permit.
  • Going forward, I really hope Australian Survivor gets the memo on casting diversity (making matters worse, this season they did their first non-binary castaway dirty). And I hope they back off on the twists by maybe 25%, and really think through the ones they do go with (seriously, what would have happened if the SAVE scroll was in the fourth urn?).
  • All in all, quite a fine season. I maybe wouldn’t put it on the very top tier with 2017 and 2019, but it had the best end-game by far, and a great, great winner.