The Final Seven regularly results in a dramatic episode. It’s often due to some combination of an odd-numbered tribe (making flips and big moves easier to coordinate), hunger for building a winning resume and desperation to just make it to that Final Tribal Council as the game enters the home stretch. Last year, Flick flipped on her Saanapu alliance at Final 7 to vote out Brooke, her Day One ally. On the most recent US season, an advantage snafu resulted in a chaotic exit. This week, the outcome of the Final 7 Tribal Council was certainly monumental – and will signal a dynamic shift as we head into the last five episodes.
In spite of the result of the vote, however, this was one of the more sedate episodes of the season. It felt more like a table-setting episode, rearranging the pieces on the board, rather than a blockbuster set-piece of an instalment. At first, it almost felt like a let-down as arguably the biggest character of Australian Survivor’s second season was voted out with little fanfare. For such a huge character and strong player who had run rampant through the game, you’d expect a blaze of glory.
But as Peter articulated in the minutes before Tribal, “It’s not about the biggest moves. I think it’s about the best moves.” Even when the target is the biggest on the board, the move to take them out doesn’t have to be flashy. Tonight, all it took was five ordinary votes – and someone saying a name. Sometimes, in Survivor, that’s all it takes.
LOCKY, THE CHALLENGE BEAST
Tonight, four out of seven names were floated as targets, and it started with the biggest (literally). Locky has always been an imposing figure physically, and despite his repeated bad luck in the game, he’s managed to scrape by into the Final 7. Although the Samatau-based trio of Locky, Tara, and Ziggy were in an ostensible minority, the marriage of convenience between the Luke/Jericho bromance and the new Michelle/Peter tag team was not carved in stone.
He’s not been shown to have a lot of strategic acumen, but Locky isn’t dense either. Even when it’s an obvious Hail Mary like trying to get his tribe to vote for him to get the Ultimate Advantage or convince Anneliese to give him her Idol, Locky’s hare-brained schemes show that he goes down swinging. We didn’t get the details of his elaborate plan to gain the numbers this time, but it was so “hectic” and presented with so much authoritative confidence that it caused his own iron-clad coupling with Tara to rust.
After her feud with A.K. subsided in the pre-merge, Tara’s game has faded into the background as the big moves of the merge came to the foreground. It was back with a vengeance tonight, though, as Tara devised her own attack against her ally. Correctly ascertaining that Locky only wanted to work with her to the end because he was confident he could beat her, and growing frustrated with his arrogant leadership, Tara realised that she needed to flip the tables on him. It was not a move I would have anticipated given their long-term friendship, but given Tara’s impulsive gameplay and willingness to cut allies she deems to be bad for her own game dates all the way back to her flip against Adam.
With smooth success, she rallied the troops. She approached Luke and Jericho, calling upon her bond built with them during their Asaga trials, who eagerly supported her move and pulled Michelle and Peter on board. Her decision to rope Ziggy in on the plan was risky, but if the move worked, Tara would need a new partner to replace Locky – and a floater like Ziggy was a perfect candidate.
Naturally, physical threat Ziggy was wary of targeting her only meat-shield Locky, but Tara managed to get her on-side with a bit of sugar and spice – but mostly sugar. In a pleasantly surprising reprise of the moral dilemma, Tara encountered a choice between blankets and a ginormous jar of lollies and made the sensible (but not dentist-approved) selection of the lolly jar. Her secret candy stash enabled her to get Ziggy on side by sharing the secret over strawberries-and-creams, and the plan was set.
Tara has not shown herself to be the most strategically savvy player, but as her moves here showed, she’s learning as she goes – and good on her! There’s a gritty determination in the barrel-racing mum that’s crystallised over the course of the game, particularly after she was voted out once only to get a second chance which she has no intention of wasting. The fact that she recognised the danger of going to the end with a strong player like Locky and managed to cobble together a plan to do something about it is admirable. She’s playing the game to win, and if everything went smoothly, it should have been 6-1 against Locky.
But naturally, it didn’t go to plan as Locky won his second consecutive Immunity – and in a non-physical memory challenge, at that! With no clear back-up plan in place, Tara’s scheme fell by the wayside, and new names had to be put on the table.
MICHELLE, THE WEAK & ZIGGY, THE STRONG
First on the block: non-threat Michelle. After burning bridges after the Tessa vote, culminating in her elimination of her once-ally Sarah, Michelle found herself in the hot seat. However, she clambered out of a dangerous position, first by building a new partnership with Peter and then rekindling her Asaga connections with Jericho & Luke. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a restored coalition appeared to be growing – but after Locky’s Immunity win, Michelle’s social isolation and physical weakness put her back in the crosshairs.
The strategic thinking behind the plan made sense. Particularly for strong competitors like Ziggy and Luke, it was logical to vote out a weaker player like Michelle. Unusually for a merged tribe, it was about keeping the tribe strong, as the more tough competitors in the mix, the more likely it would be that Locky would be beaten in an Immunity challenge to open the door for his elimination. Michelle brought little to the table in that department – and the emotional fallout after the Tessa vote left her as easily disposable baggage for Luke and Jericho.
On the flip side of the coin, Ziggy was also a viable option. After burning both halves of her Super Idol, she found herself in a vulnerable position. Without a partner to trust, Ziggy’s tactic of glomming onto the nearest alliance intensified. Although she wanted other physical threats like Locky in the game to take the heat off of her, she was willing to vote him out if it meant she would be on the right side of the numbers.
The problem for Ziggy was that her constantly changing stripes left her as an unreliable – and disposable – ally, and that target only grew due to her physical strength. With Locky immune and on a two-Immunity winning streak, it was hard to ignore the Olympian beside him, with two physical Immunity wins under her own belt.
LUKE, THE KINGPIN
Yet it was a different type of strength that emerged as the real threat. Why waste a vote on a non-threat like Michelle or the physically capable but strategically inoffensive Ziggy, when you could go after the brains of the operation?
With the Jury Villa stacked with big game players, the few remaining strategists left in the wild were fetching a high price for the big game hunters on Asatoa beach. Luke had been mounting heads in his trophy room for a while, and it was only a matter of time before the castaways came for his own. As a competent physical player (the last two Immunities came down to Locky and Luke), a charming social player and a significant contributor to the camp life, Luke was an enormous threat – and it was unsurprising that Locky set his sights on his biggest adversary.
It really came down to Peter and Michelle as the swing votes – to side Asaga-strong with Jericho & Luke to take out Ziggy or to join up with the Samatau Three and pick off Luke. The pair was split, with Peter emphatic that they should take an easy shot at Luke while they had a chance, and Michelle feeling similarly about a Ziggy elimination. Both targets were threats – and both choices would have repercussions. In the end, it came down to one thing: “Say a name.” As Jonathan LaPaglia questioned the tribe at Tribal, Michelle turned to Peter and whispered to him, giving him the final decision and the nail in Luke’s coffin.
In the end, it was simply a numbers game – a routine rearrangement of votes based on the two names on the board. Luke’s aggressive gameplay had managed to slide under the radar for weeks, offset by his larrikin cheekiness. Nobody took him seriously for much of the pre-merge, and even at the merge vote, Jarrad and Tessa’s alliance viewed Luke as an easy target. It wasn’t until Luke made the splashy move against Tessa in the historic 3-2-2-2 vote that he showed his hand, alienated allies and lost his grip on the game.
However, there’s an ironic poetry in it. For all the scheming and creeping, bold plays and sneaky manipulations and madness he brought to the game, Luke wasn’t voted out due to a massive flip or a hashtag-big-move or an Idol or Advantage. All it took was five ordinary votes – and someone saying a name.
LUKE, THE LEGEND
I don’t always eulogise the eliminated castaway, but given the simplicity of his exit lay in stark contrast to his goofy season-long character, it seems only right to take a paragraph or two to reflect on the breakout personality of Season 2.
It took me a long time to warm up to Luke. Going into the season, my worst fears about him seemed to be realised. His silly schtick grated during the early episodes, as he constantly talked himself up as the Boss or the King or the Prince or what-have-you whilst he bungled the erratic moves he casually tossed on the table, such as the tied vote between Joan & Kent or his uprising against Jacqui & Henry. Even his blatant replication of the Spy Shack, forever the hallmark of Cagayan’s Tony Vlachos, reeked of off-putting arrogance.
Yet happily, he won me over. As it slowly became apparent that Luke actually was an intelligent player, putting his money where his mouth was, his cheekiness became endearing. Although his gameplay remained reckless and impulsive, it clarified that he was someone who was willing to mix it up if he foresaw a benefit to his chance at the half-million. He was charming and disarming, readily amassing allies through chaotic swaps and an ever-changing merge, all while playing dumb enough that he was overlooked by the castaways on the beach but smart enough to be recognised as a contender by those getting their torch snuffed. Despite coming into the merge in a grim minority, he even managed to gain the upper hand to take out the biggest threat in Henry – only to immediately undo that good work with a premature betrayal of the Champagne Alliance at the next.
But the best part about Luke’s character is that we saw him as a three-dimensional person. He wasn’t just an endlessly quotable goof or a chaotic neutral wildcard. He showed plenty of heart, both in his intense love for his young family and in his genuine friendship with fellow mischief-maker Jericho. For all his talk of leaving the cat to drown in the rip or threatening a fateful end to anyone who switched off the kiddie lock to dive from his speeding car, Jericho’s decision to stick by Luke even when he knew the tide was turning against them served as a bittersweet button to their narrative. Together, they had a “mad story” after all.
For 46 days, Luke was the King of the Jungle. I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be a Legend of Australian Survivor for much longer than that.
SIX NAMES IN THE HAT
With Luke out of the game, the field is open as we charge into the last five episodes. It really is anybody’s game. Jericho, Locky, Michelle, Peter, Tara, and Ziggy. None of these castaways have played a flawless game, and none of them would have been in my Top 3 winner predictions heading into the season – or even the merge! And yet one of these six is going to be crowned our second Sole Survivor and walk away with half a million dollars.
There is no straight path to the end. It’s going to be a dogfight, and for any of these players to win, it’s going to take some strong gameplay down this final stretch. Here’s hoping to an end worthy of this phenomenal season.
OTHER #SURVIVORAU COVERAGE on INSIDE SURVIVOR
Australian Survivor will be back with another three episodes next week, starting Sunday at 7.30pm AEST. Be sure to come back to Inside Survivor where Alice, Dylan and I will be back to recap everything that goes down, down under.