It’s the dilemma that has plagued Survivor contestants since its inception. Do you vote someone off for being weak or for being untrustworthy? Tonight, we found out it can be both. The Champions strike back; demonstrating that their determination and strength transcends their higher than average median age. This power struggle between the Champions and the Contenders is an exciting, fresh twist on last season’s one-sided demolition by the Champions.
However, there did seem to be a few unanswered questions about the vote that were glazed over by the edit. For example, why did there have to be a vote split? Was there even a vote split to begin with? There were a few inconsistencies between what the edit showed and the final vote. Regardless, the vote to send Laura home was pretty straightforward and predictable in hindsight, only made more complicated by the actions of a few overzealous players.
Unlike last night with the Champions, where the vote bounced back and forth between the three women, the vote at the Contenders’ beach remained consistently between the two targets: Baden and Laura. In regard to storytelling, it was a blessing to see the Contenders go to tribal council, as it was a great way to introduce us to more of the contestants. Tonight, we added Harry, Laura, Matt, and Baden to the list of intro packages. This showed us more personal background of these new players, all of which played a big role in the story of this episode’s vote.
Let’s begin with the man who stole the hearts of many Australians and nearly broke them all by almost getting voted out – Baden. He is a fascinating player because the “nerd” on Survivor is often associated with the superfan archetype, which Baden doesn’t appear to be. Cochran, Ryan Ulrich, Christian Hubicki, and Hannah Shapiro, are all examples of this archetype, where intelligence, social awkwardness and Survivor superfandom are combined and seen as equal and interchangeable. In Baden’s case, it doesn’t seem like he has much strategic acumen or knowledge of the game at all.
Baden appears to have all the social awkwardness with none of the strategic knowledge to negate it. Andy said it best when he pointed out that Baden’s skillset bares no relevance to the game of Survivor. Tonight, Baden scraped by through by the skin of his teeth and the grace of those around him. He’s clearly a smart guy, so I have no doubt he’ll pick the game up quickly, but if he can’t get over the hump that is the social elements of Survivor, then I worry for Baden’s chances long term. Although, judging by how his heartfelt speech at Tribal Council touched his tribe, I get the sense that he is slowly ingraining himself slowly but surely.
Moving on, we need to discuss the man responsible for turning the vote in his favour, Harry the ice-cream maker. Despite his dopey and chill exterior, Harry is a superfan who wants to be a mover and shaker in the game. But his eagerness to start playing might’ve gotten the better of him in this episode, as we saw that Harry’s vote rallying managed to lose him a little bit of social capital and put him on the radar of players like Matt.
Let’s be real, it’s the first vote for the tribe and Harry really stuck his neck out for… Baden? As lovable and incredibly sweet as the socially awkward nerd is, it seemed very premature for Harry to go SO out of his way to control the Contenders’ first vote. He might have secured Baden as a number in his back pocket, but it might have come at the expense of Matt, the sure headed jock that seems to be having none of the strategy this game has to offer whatsoever. Matt seems physically repulsed by anyone that even says the word strategy.; his game is so entrenched in the theme of retribution against the Champions that he can’t see beyond it.
Nevertheless, Harry is already a point of conversation and a perceived catalyst of paranoia around camp. If he isn’t able to rein in his urge to play the game, then he might be quickly used as a scapegoat by the rest of the tribe.
The victim of Harry’s meddling was Laura, the pint-sized pocket rocket that set out to prove she is more than her 4′ 9″ frame. Feeling ostracised and overlooked after being sat out during the reward challenge, Laura overcompensated for her lack of physical strength through her social interactions and strategic maneuvering. She was seen taking the majority of her tribe out for individual conversations, touching base, and having a feel for who she can work with and build a strong working relationship with in the game. As a marketing manager, Laura’s managerial tone of conversation definitely seeped through and was brought up during Harry’s conversation with Daisy. Laura’s chip on her shoulder was quickly recognised by the likes of Harry, which was more than enough ammunition to start targeting her.
Laura really did seem like she had the odds stacked against her and was easy pickings for the vote. There wasn’t much she could’ve done unless she was able to team up with Baden and find a way to turn the tables against Harry – thus taking out the middle man in this vote flip. With that said, the vote was truly between the two physically weaker players in the game, which makes me think that the majority of the tribe was mostly unfazed by who was the target between the two.
I need to make a special mention for Andy, as he is such an interesting character. His confessionals are relentlessly hyping up how much he loves strategy and how eager he is to start making some moves. After all, he has been waiting for this moment for 20 years. The music takes a villainous turn every time he speaks, and b-roll footage of every kind of insect and reptilian creature living in Fiji are shown to further paint a picture of how we’re supposed to perceive him.
The season so far is being told from the perspective of Andy. In fact, despite the majority of this episode being primarily about Harry’s bizarre vendetta against Laura, the move is narrated by Andy in a way that gives him credit for a plan that he didn’t come up with. From where we stand at this moment, Andy seems to be all talk and nothing else. I suspect that he is either being set up for failure early on in the game or will indeed pull off a dramatic move later on. Despite not being a fan of him or his character, Andy’s narrative arc is shaping up to be the most interesting thus far.
Over at the Champions beach, the dynamic in the tribe remains split between the Sporty Seven alliance (or the senior citizen’s alliance if you ask Luke) and the non-athletes. Luke, most famous for copying an idea done many years before him, peruses the area around the water well in search for a new “spy shack.” However, the location that he decides on is more like a spy… hole in the wall? Spy coffin? It’s a tiny cave type of situation that allows Luke to stand in and hide like a vampire that was sleeping vertically.
I digress. Luke and David, who appear to be the two leaders of the minority alliance (which also includes Janine & Pia), recognised the need to secure two numbers to ensure the majority. The two people they had their eyes on were Abbey and Ross. David worked his supermodel flirt-game on the pair in hopes that he could flex and smile his way into a majority alliance. Whether or not this worked will probably be unveiled the next time the Champions go to tribal council.
From what we’ve seen, Luke and David have the capabilities to be one of the most charismatic and fun duos in this game; the second coming of Luke & Jericho. Luke has a serious knack of finding grown men who match his child-like upbeat disposition and making them his ride or die. Although, part of me thinks that Luke can bring out this childish and fun immaturity out of anyone. It’s hugely entertaining television to watch.
Luke is the star of the Champions tribe both in entertainment and strategic value. After the Champions come back from winning the reward of a raft and some fishing equipment, Luke immediately recognised the likelihood of a clue being hidden within the raft. Of course, this being Luke’s second rodeo, his gut instinct was correct, and he found a clue hidden snuggly inside one of the bamboo logs that made up the raft. The process of Luke finding this clue was truly an indication of how much of an advantage it can be to be the only returnee player in a season.
After reading the clue (which explained the idol is buried somewhere in the sand near the ocean), Luke realized that since the idol is buried and not exposed out in the open, he had no immediate rush to find the idol right away. He could take he time to calmly look for it when it is safe and appropriate. (Instead, he sat back and mimed “smoking” his rolled-up idol clue like a cigar.) This level headed and rational thinking should not be understated, since there would be A LOT of players that would freak out and immediately look for the idol in a fast and frantic frenzy that would tip off their tribemates and paint a target on their back. Luke is seriously impressing.
The season has had a cracking start, and the next three episodes coming up next week promise to be just as enthralling!
OTHER #SURVIVORAU COVERAGE on INSIDE SURVIVOR
Australian Survivor will be back to Sunday 28 July at 7.30pm AEST, and Alice Barelli will be on hand to recap everything that goes down, down under.
Also, be sure to tune in for this season’s Power Rankings as Season 2’s Tessa O’Halloran will take on Season 3’s Fenella McGowan!