Previously on Australian Survivor… a hurricane of gameplay swept through the merged Asatoa tribe sending three castaways home in back-to-back-to-back blindsides. The merge was like pushing Asatoa up the steep climb to the top of a rollercoaster and watching it race down picking up speed as we get nearer and nearer the final tribal council. Most notably Henry, the strategist with interesting ideas and definitely not a yoga instructor, was sent home in the final of three episodes last week leaving Tara, Locky, and Ziggy in the dark against the reigning Champagne Alliance.
Tara explains the accelerating game to the viewers at home as soon as the sun is up on Day 42. Tara talks about needing to step up to the other castaways level of gameplay although this episode shows when strategy intensifies beyond big moves and becomes big meltdown. As the game draws to a close (and it’s not even nearly over yet), every moment is critical, and there is less ability for a bad choice in ally or game move to be smoothed over and put behind you.
Since Henry’s departure, many castaways are claiming credit for his demise. Luke, Michelle, Jericho and Sarah all have something to say about Henry’s blindside (despite being some of his closest allies previously), and one could guess Tessa holds some responsibility for sparking the flames that built the Champagne Alliance fire. There’s a fine line when it comes to claiming responsibility for a big move in Survivor. On the one hand, you are building and adding to your “resume” or the perceived list of moves you will be required to present in order to win the game. In the big moves era of Survivor a strong social game, competent physical performance and willingness to strategise can no longer win you the crown: a big move (or preferably multiple) is needed to signify your deservingness to win. If your handiwork saw the end of a threat, then you have executed a move appropriate to add to your resume. On the other hand, claiming credit can make you a bigger target and somebody others are less willing to work with.
Some players across numerous reality competition shows discuss having “blood on your hands, ” and that is a result of making a move such as getting out a threat or flipping to a new alliance. Making too many moves makes you untrustworthy, and someone others don’t want to play with in case the blood somehow gets off your hands and begins to stick to them. Making too many moves can also paint you as a threat and instead of voting someone out with their massive target they leave and you end up with the target on your own back. When a group of people individually claim credit the brilliance of the move becomes somewhat tarnished – getting to final tribal council and taking credit for something a juror believes was their own move can cause disdain rather than the appreciation you want to take the Australian Survivor title.
In this case, voting Henry out was a mutually beneficial move (thanks for the term Peter) for every other castaway since he was a threat to win over just about every other person. Henry was recognised as a target early in the game and had been on thin ice ever since he (voluntarily) swapped over to Samatau pre-merge. It was only a matter of time before he was taken out. The interest now lies in who stands to gain the most from Henry’s absence and strategically move forward.
Even though the Champagne Alliance seem to be strong, there are bubbles escaping in terms of the trust between allies dissolving. Michelle and Sarah, a pair from the early days on Asaga beach, are not quite as tight as they have been. Michelle thinks Sarah is playing in a superficial way and is willing to lie or create fake alliances to keep good relationships. Sarah’s gameplay is also being looked down upon by Ziggy. There’s some irony in this as Ziggy, who has flipped alliances twice already and seemingly has her finger in lots of pies, has a somewhat similar game to Sarah who has been featured in multiple layers of alliances throughout the season so far.
The difference between Sarah and Ziggy is that Ziggy seems to be cutting off relationships as she flips (saying she has “not that many strong relationships left”) whilst Sarah is trying to salvage allies as she goes. Tessa, a founding member of the Champagne Alliance, is caught by Luke in his spy shack discussing strategy with none other than Olympian Ziggy at the well.
Over to the challenge and the task at hand is to balance an idol on top of an ever-lengthening pole. The last idol to fall wins the challenge. Factors at play include the nasty weather that worsens throughout the challenge (wind and drizzle turn into blowing a gale and horizontal rain) and the use of a “live transition” when the idol is still at peril while castaways add more length to their pole. The poles get to be 3m long before idols start dropping. In rapid succession most of the castaways watch their idols fall leaving Luke, Peter, and Ziggy fighting for immunity.
For those playing at home, I think Peter is an up-and-coming challenge beast. His slim frame doesn’t suggest he would be a threat to take home individual comps, but he is getting to the top half of challenges more often than not and regularly outlasts self-proclaimed macho man Locky. The challenge comes down to Luke versus Ziggy, and all it takes is for Luke to claim the challenge is “too easy” for him to drop out of contention and hand the beaded green sash-like necklace to Ziggy.
Back at camp, it seems like everybody has a plan. Tessa is looking at Henry’s right-hand man Locky as a threat and is desperate for him to go. Michelle agrees and steers the helm of the Champagne Alliance to split the vote between Locky and Tara in case of an idol. Luke, who has fizzled out on the Champagne Alliance, wants to go for Tessa after witnessing her “betrayal” from his spy shack. Luke’s loyal minion Jericho is on board, and all they need to is to gather enough numbers to get Tessa out. Also on the block is Sarah, the target of old Samatau for being too much of a social threat.
In the simplest terms possible, the scrambling for votes and multiple targets make the vote far too messy. The Champagne Alliance is planning to split their votes 3-3. Given there are three other castaways, who could band together to form a third block of three votes, the plan seems risky. Nobody mentions it on screen, but I assume in the case of a tie vote (with or without an idol) the group can then get Locky or Tara out on the revote.
Meanwhile, Luke and Jericho try to recruit Sarah to vote out Tessa by saying that she is old Samatau’s target and she will be at risk of going home if she doesn’t vote their way. They also decide not to involve Michelle at this point due to her perceived closeness to Tessa. Nine people remaining in a tribe is a tricky number. The vote needs to be simple enough that a majority is easily achieved whilst making room for any unexpected flippers or idols. The possibility of a tie at final nine is high and as such a tie vote needs to be actively planned for.
The ability to engineer a change in the vote outcome is also simpler as instead of having to draw in two or more votes, the whole result of the tribal council can be modified with recruiting just one person to flip. The tribe has ended up with way too many cooks in the kitchen and a strange situation where everyone is confident while almost half the tribe is in danger.
Tribal council is a mish-mash of Jonathan LaPaglia posing questions to estimate the general mood of the tribe. Nearly all players raise their hands to say they still trust someone in the game. Jericho is someone who does not raise his hand despite seeming to have a watertight bond with Luke. In a vote which is balancing very precariously on alliance boundaries I would say it is imperative to demonstrate trust in others – even if you have zero trust, it is still important that your allies believe you do.
Peter discusses a mutually beneficial move that he hopes the tribe will be voting for. Jericho says they need to “assassinate a threat.” From my calculations, with nine castaways left four people are at risk of being sent home. At this point, I drew a diagram in my notebook trying to sort out where exactly alliances were and how the potential votes may fall.
Without being sure of Ziggy or Sarah’s votes it was clear that Locky would most likely be making it through the episode leaving Tessa, Tara or Sarah as the victim depending quite a bit on how Sarah voted. The votes come out 2-2-2-3 with Tessa going home at the hands of Luke, Jericho, and Sarah.
The Champagne Alliance is officially over with clusters of old Samatau, old Asaga and some drifting individuals remaining to pick up the pieces of the game and move on. Following Tessa’s exit, we can assume that Peter will become a bit of a free agent – his bond to the Champagne Alliance was through ally Tessa and, given they just voted off his closest friend, he is unlikely to trust them in the future.
Ziggy, who was in an alliance with Locky at the start of the episode, voted for him to leave but whether this is revealed to him or not remains to be seen. Finally (as we see in the next episode’s preview) Michelle, an emotional player at the best of times, is ready to send a hurricane out to destroy her previous core alliance of Luke, Jericho, and Sarah after they left her out of the Tessa vote.
As someone whose remaining Australian Survivor draft players survived the episode, I was thrilled with the outcome. As a lover of the game and the show, I was disappointed to see Tessa go. Tessa wasn’t flashy or outgoing with her gameplay but had an admirable tenacity throughout her time on the island. As an underdog from the beginning, Tessa remained calm, clear-headed and clever as she watched her allies go home around her until the numbers were in her favour and she was able to begin pulling strings. Even though Luke targeted Tessa as a ‘backstabber’ and it was ultimately what caused her to be eliminated, Tessa seemed like a loyal player to me and the kind of person I would want on my side if we were playing together. Similarly to Malcolm when he left Survivor: Philippines, I didn’t realise how much I was rooting for Tessa until she left. With a heavy heart, I bid Tessa goodbye and look forward to seeing her on the jury.