Australian Survivor: Champions vs. Contenders Episode 23 & Finale: “If You Value Loyalty…”

That was simply stupendous. What a Final 2! What a final tribal council! What a winner!

Episode 23

  • When the game started, 47 days and 20 players ago, Shonee wouldn’t have been too upset to be “evicted” around 5. Girl, what show did you sign up for?
  • Grubby and Shane are neck and neck in the immunity challenge, with Sharn and Shonee far behind. Amazingly, Grubby’s completed stack collapses during the 3-2-1 countdown, and the exact same thing happens to Shane just seconds later. But Sharn and Shonee both fail to capitalize, and Brian wins immunity. Needless to say, this is a disaster for everybody else.
  • Purely from a game-botty, who-can/can’t-I-beat perspective, Brian should vote for Sharn, Shane and Sharn should vote for each other, and Shonee should be exclusively concerned with preventing a 2-2 tie involving herself. Accordingly, Sharn ought to get voted out 3-1, if personal loyalties and animuses didn’t matter, and people weren’t trying to guess what the jury will reward. But they do, and they are.
  • Shane reassures Brian that she’s definitely voting for Sharn. This fools Brian, but at the same time it awakens the suspicion in Shonee that Sharn and Shane are conspiring to engineer a 2-2 tie. Shonee vows to “go rogue”, but if she’s right, what can she do?
  • We see Shonee and Shane vote for each other, and we know Brian voted for Sharn, so essentially Sharn gets to break a 1-1-1 tie.
  • Did Shonee make a mistake? I think so. There were only four ways Shane+Sharn could have voted: Shonee/Shane, Sharn/Shane, Shonee/Sharn, and Shonee/Shonee. In every permutation, voting for Sharn is Shonee’s best move, assuming Grubby is the rock-solid Sharn vote he’s presented as. Sharn goes home 2-1-1 in the first permutation and 3-1 in the second and third, and Sharn and Shonee go to fire in the third (which Shonee is almost certain to lose, but still).
  • And so, after spending most of the season doing not much more than snarking and floating with Fenella, Shonee got voted out because she over-thought things.
  • The jury is momentarily stunned, then realizes (seemingly with admiration) that Shane and Sharn both chose to stay loyal rather than drag Shonee to the end. Looks like their hunch about what the jury will reward was right (plus they’re probably in an anybody-but-Brian mood). Fenella remains stunned.
  • Just as we expected since before the merge, the Contenders have been wiped out, and it’s an all-Champions Final 3. We were just completely wrong about which three, and how they got to the end.


  • We get a nice montage of all of the ousted castaways, then they yada-yada the Rites of Passage. This seemed strange until I realized that the Final 3 are all Champions, and most of the pre-merge boots were Contenders, so they probably had nothing to say about most of them.
  • Wow, the final immunity challenge isn’t the one from Borneo this time, but the one that’s perhaps even more iconic: the one from Palau. Only made more difficult so that it doesn’t go 12 hours.
  • Sharn would seem to have a big advantage, given how she dominated the pole challenge that enabled the blindside of Lydia. And in fact she does. Shane drops out after more than an hour, and Brian tries to alternately cajol Sharn into not taking Shane and into taking him. But he doesn’t make the actual offer (“I’ll give up now if you take me” or “You drop out now and I’ll take you”), possibly because Sharn clearly isn’t suffering as much as Brian, if at all.
  • Brian’s hat goes askew and he takes it off, necessarily letting go of the pole. I’m sure it’s an editing trick, but it looks like JLP didn’t notice, and Brian might have gotten away with it except his wife pointed out his mistake.
  • I like the purity of the game ending with a Final 2, but watching this tribal reminds me that the Final 3 vote can be pretty tedious. There are only so many variations on “don’t take someone just because they’re easy to beat” or “take me because I’m easy to beat”. And how often is the Final 3 challenge winner truly undecided about who to bring, anyway? But whatever Brian thinks he’s doing here, he’s doing a terrible job.
  • I’m glad Sharn took Shane, but man I wanted to hear Steve’s question for Brian.
  • At final tribal council, both Shane and Sharn give very effective opening statements. But Sharn is the professional at speaking to a jury, and she’s soon outperforming Shane, if only by a bit.
  • Sam asks Shane to explain how she was active in the game, rather than passive (all but coaching her in how to win the jury’s votes). Shane really has no good answer. Now more than ever, it’s Sharn’s game to lose.
  • Brian asks Sharn why, if she was so loyal to her core alliance, she didn’t warn Mat his name was being floated in his boot episode. I have to confess I don’t remember the details from that episode, all I really remember is that Sharn was totally owned by Benji at that tribal council. But the question causes Sharn to fall apart (she probably wants to avoid discussion of that tribal council altogether). The other jurors pile on, and Sharn alternates between apologizing to Mat, arguing with everybody else, begging the jury for forgiveness, and telling them they’re wrong to focus so much on her “one mistake”. It’s a really bad look.
  • Sharn’s right though. They shouldn’t be focusing so exclusively on her disloyalty to Mat when there are so many ways in which she legitimately outplayed Shane. But Sharn dug the hole she’s now stuck in.
  • Meanwhile, Shane aces Shonee’s “I’ll bet you don’t even know where I live” question, and that seems to revitalize her. Unprompted, she pivots from Shonee to Fenella and tells her exactly what she needs to hear. Then she circles back to Sam’s question and says that for her, having strong social ties (and thus gaining information) and surrounding herself with meat shields was an active game.
  • Back in Australia (via the Outback for some reason; did JLP land in Darwin?), the votes come in Shane, Shane, Sharn, Sharn, Sharn, Sharn, Shane, Shane, SHANE!
  • This final tribal council truly had everything. A mostly undecided jury, asking mostly pertinent questions (I think they were expecting to destroy Brian in a Sharn-Brian Final 2, and had to abandon their pre-planned questions and grandstanding). The new final tribal council format without the forced “outwit, outplay, outlast” framework. A comeback. A collapse. I would have been perfectly happy with a Sharn win, of course, and I feel bad for her, but this outcome is so much more interesting.
  • So did Sharn make a mistake taking Shane instead of Brian? Obviously yes, if you’re being results oriented, but her fundamental mistake was leaning too heavily on the loyalty argument. I think the jury was willing to accept a certain amount of ruthlessness from Sharn (as long as she owned it), so playing the loyalty card so heavily didn’t really do her any good and made her vulnerable to Brian’s attack. If Sharn had simply presented herself as a badass who did what she had to to win, and Brian had raised the issue of disloyalty to Mat, it would have just made him look silly.
  • It’s easy to think Sharn would have won in a landslide if she had taken Brian, but I think that if anything, she would have been tempted into making her argument even more about loyalty. And if Brian the jury member could find the weak spot in that argument, you can bet Brian the finalist would.
  • I didn’t watch the reunion. Was there anything worth noting?
  • I can’t say I like Champions vs. Contenders better than last season (a very high bar), but it was a very fine season in its own right, and it built and built to a fantastic finish where last season sort of limped to the end.
  • Thanks for watching this season along with me (virtually). It’s been a lot of fun. The show’s been renewed for another season, and if anybody wants to co-recap, or even take over completely, be my guest.