Have you ever wondered to yourself, why bad things happen to good people? Some people call it fate, karma or destiny. Whether you’re religious or not, this episode we see one of the game’s most beloved players succumb to the sadistic cruelty of the Survivor gods. But before we get there, let’s recap the events that led us to yet another tear-jerking tribal council.
The Contenders have hit a bump in the road in regard to challenge wins. The alpha males in the tribe are indignant at the fact that they can’t manage to win a reward challenge to sustain the bodies that, according to Zach, carry the women through the game. Zach’s borderline misogynistic tirade against the women is bubbling to the surface yet again with him happily pointing out how weak the women on the Contender’s tribe are compared to the Champions. In Zach’s intellectually depraved mind, it’s the women that are bringing the tribe down in the challenges. He says that the ladies on the Champions tribe are elite athletes that have been training since they were young while the Contender women have only been doing F45 for five weeks.
Zach makes some valid points, but his continuous snarky, condescending remarks wrapped in a sarcastic delivery are undermining the women and slowly driving a wedge between himself and his tribe (and the viewers of Australia for that matter). I think Zach’s comments wouldn’t be as problematic if he, at the very least, was able to back up his abrasive comments with incredible performances in the challenge. That’s a lie; people would still hate him. Nevertheless, Zach seems to suck just as much as everyone else on his tribe and so tries to shift the blame to those who are physically weaker and smaller than he is when things don’t go his way.
Meanwhile, at the Champions tribe, Moana is sick and is struggling to keep any form of food and water down which has significantly impeded her ability to perform well in the challenges.
Today’s reward challenge is yet another opportunity for Robbie to finally get a victory over Mat in one of these head-to-head battles. Long story short, Robbie is 0-3 against Mat. The best way to describe this challenge is an individual tug-of-war on barrels. There appeared to be a learning curve and a strategy that the Champions tribe had down pat. This challenge was surprisingly entertaining due to the mental and strategic side you needed to succeed. Should you quickly pull the rope to your side and use brutal force to pull your opponent off their barrel? Or should you carefully watch your opponent and let go of the rope so that they are caught off guard and fall backwards? In the end, the Champions claim another victory over the Contenders earning them a bacon and egg breakfast feast.
But there is a twist!
The Contenders are given a chance to choose two contestants from the winning tribe to face off in a final duel that will determine the winner of a larger and even more gluttonous breakfast reward. The Contenders choose the Commando and Mat to face off in which Mat wins. But there is yet another twist! Mat has the opportunity to select someone from the losing tribe to go along with him. After a brief consultation with his tribe, he ultimately decides to choose Paige in an attempt to ensure dissension amongst the Contenders – spoiler, it worked, and Anita is NOT impressed. Anita goes as far as to say that it will be Paige’s last meal. Paige does everything that Anita was worried about and reveals to Mat that she is on the bottom of her tribe and she has every intention of rallying the women together to vote Zach out of the game.
Upon her arrival back from her little rendezvous with Mat, Anita does not believe a single word that comes out of Paige’s mouth and reiterates her distrust towards her. If I was to make an educated guess, Anita’s anger towards Paige seems to be stemming from some kind of jealousy as she appears to be using Paige’s conversation with the Champions at the last immunity challenge as an excuse to send out a vicious tirade against her.
Back on the Champions beach, we find out that Shane has become the laughing stock of the tribe due to her knack for running around looking for idols around camp after rewards. This time, her scavenging pays off as she finds an idol hidden under a barrel of Ice Break coffee. Unfortunately for Shane, she has zero game sense whatsoever, and as soon as she discovers the idol, she does absolutely nothing to disguise the fact. It is written all over her face. So much so that her tribe immediately begin to interrogate her and threaten her position in the game. They let her know quite firmly that her new-found idol will place a crystal-clear target on her back and she can expect to face the same fate as Russell did.
It is yet another gruelling obstacle course which requires the contestants to carry a variety of heavy objects (in this case, with contestants inside them) up and down a few steep wooden inclines. The winner is determined by who can break a series of round targets hanging by a rope in the air. Ultimately, the Contenders tribe are able to break their losing streak to win the challenge and send the Champions to their third tribal council.
When the Champions tribe come back to camp, the scene is immediately set for who is on the chopping block. It is between Jackie and Shane for their weakness in the challenges, and Moana, whose crippling illness is slowly making her more of a liability within the game. Samuel makes it clear throughout this episode that he does not like idols being in play and is determined to split the votes between Shane and Jackie so he can flush the idol that Shane has.
For the second night in a row, tribal council becomes less of a place of democracy and more of a Survivor hospice. A place where the contestants have to face the injured and weak and gracefully end their games as humanely as they can. Moana declares to Jonathan LaPaglia that she would like to quit before the vote as she doesn’t feel right staying in the game not being able to compete to the best of her ability. After a quick back and forth between the contestants, who try to convince her to stay, Jonathan lets Moana have the final decision, and she decides that she wants to let the tribe vote. An honourable decision that ultimately means nothing when the tribe decides to vote her out, allowing her to walk away from the game with dignity.
Shane’s idol is also flushed out, which adds another point to the list of things she did wrong in this episode, strategically at least. Discussions did turn to Shane’s idol and whether or not she has it. It was basically everyone telling Shane that they know she had the idol and Shane furiously denying it with a sheepish grin and a subtle chuckle. It’s as if she was a small child who thinks she managed to take a cookie out of the cookie jar without her mother knowing when, in actuality, her mother saw her do it, but she is just playing along so she doesn’t hurt her child’s feelings.
This tribal council was absolutely gut-wrenching. The elimination, although not a one-for-one comparison, reminded me of Neal Gottlieb and Aubry Bracco’s relationship in Koah Rong when Neil was medically evacuated. I believe that the way in which Moana was eliminated from the game will light a fire under Mat that will give him a new incentive to fight for the victory. Unlike Aubry, Mat got his idol from Moana which now nobody knows exists.
But back to Moana. Usually, on Survivor, you see the casual fans have their favourites and the super-fans happily rally behind someone else who they deem to be the better gameplayer. However, Moana was a rarity in the Survivor universe as she was one of those non-strategic players that everyone (fans and casuals alike) would happily root for to win. The flair, enthusiasm, wit and humour that she displayed during her stay made her an absolute pleasure to watch. It’s true, she wasn’t a great strategist, especially after she gave her immunity idol to Mat, but there is no doubt in my mind that Moana would have worked her way into becoming a great player who would make the big moves when she needed to.
Moana may not have had the fairy-tale ending she was after but sometimes people just aren’t made for Survivor, and you don’t know how your body will react until you are placed in that situation. Now, Moana’s Survivor experience will always remain a series of what if’s.
OTHER #SURVIVORAU COVERAGE on INSIDE SURVIVOR
Australian Survivor will be back Monday 13 August at 7.30pm AEST, and Austin Smith will be on hand to recap everything that goes down, down under.
Also be sure to check out our Power Rankings with AU Season 2 legends Luke Toki, Sarah Tilleke and Tessa O’Halloran, and keep an eye out for exit interviews with the Champions and Contenders after their torches are snuffed!