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Australian Survivor: Champions vs. Contenders Fenella McGowan Exit Interview: “I Had Suspicions That Grubs Was Up To Something”


Inside Survivor catches up with Australian Survivor’s latest boot.

Photo: Tenplay

Monday night’s episode saw the power couple of Shonella torn apart, as Fenella McGowan was eliminated in a shocking Tribal Council. Even after Sharn found an idol, a split vote was orchestrated by the majority alliance of four to preserve their numbers. But in an unexpected move that was either a total blunder or a calculated betrayal, Brian switched his vote at the last minute, opening the door for Sharn to play her idol and send Fenella home.

I caught up with Fenella to talk about what happened with Grubby’s vote, the Shonella origin story, and whether she would have gone all the way to the end with her bestie.

1. Fenella, thanks for taking the time to chat about your Survivor journey!  First of all, what drew you to playing Survivor – and did it live up to your expectations?

Thanks for having me guys! I’ve always wanted to play Survivor – I watched quite a bit during the Boston Rob era and then became addicted once the Australian version came in to play! It certainly surpassed any expectations I had – you’re pushed to the limit in every way shape and form, but that’s the challenge you signed up for. I adored every minute – right down to my exit!

2. It’s a shame that we’re talking now because the split vote should have meant you made it to at least the Final 5! Why do you think Brian switched his vote? Did he give any reasoning behind his thinking when he approached you and Shonee to change the plan?

Ahhh, good ol’ Grubby Bum! I certainly had suspicions that Grubs was up to something other than our plan. I was starting to get an inkling that he was desperate to take Shane to the end, I just thought I had one more vote in me before I had to flip!

3. Let’s play the hypothetical game where Sharn or Shane went home instead of you – what was your plan for getting to the end? Do you think you and Shonee would have been able to make the Final 2 together?

Haha! Shon and I never really wanted to sit at the end together, we played a very similar game and felt it was too much of a gamble! You could really feel from the Jury the disdain they were holding for Brian, so he was who I was ultimately wanting to sit next to. My plan was to drag that Grub right on through to the final tribal, but unfortunately, he and I were sharing different plans! Obvi!

4. Shonella was the name on everybody’s lips by this point, but what was the origin story for your connection with Shonee?  How did you come to work so closely together and be in so in sync?

Shon and I connected from the very first day! Who knew eating some termites would turn in to such a love story?! Haha!! I feel really lucky that we were able to turn this solo sport into a team effort. We share the same humour and were keen to play the game in the same manner – with no preconceived ideas and to be as adaptable as we possibly could be. And to be the final two standing Contenders; I’d say that wasn’t the worst gameplay idea?!

5. At the merge, you built a rapport with Grubby that helped lead to the formation of the Mighty Ducks – how was it that you and Brian forged that alliance?

I noticed that Grubs was on the outer when I was able to watch his tribal council before we merged. This is where I thought it would be a great move to really exercise his nickname. He was on the bottom and an easy target to bring over. It was my way to build a rapport and bring more numbers over to Shon and I. It was a subtle move but ultimately one that afforded me to get as far as I did!

6. Meanwhile, you seemed to clash with the Champions, particularly Sharn and Shane. What gave rise to that conflict?

Haha! I have the utmost respect for everyone who played the game; its tough out there! Having said that; it’s far easier to focus on peoples’ idiosyncrasies in order to separate yourself when writing their name down. Tribal is hard – especially as you get to the prickly end of the game! I could see that Shane and Sharn were very ‘Champion Strong’ so it felt more natural for me to focus on my relationships with Mon & Brian.

7. Going back to the Contenders, you seemed to have particular issue with Zach in the pre-merge and were vocal about getting him out early. How did it feel to outlast him in the game? And what was your relationship like with the other Contender boys, particularly Benji & Robbie who made the merge with you?

Haha, Zach! Thank goodness for players like Zach! He certainly made the game interesting. With Survivor being such a social game you really have to watch how your comments are coming across to the tribe. Anything can put a target on your back out there and Zach was certainly putting a few noses out of whack. I’m very impressed that Shon and I were the last two Contenders standing. And I have a feeling Zach would not have voted with me should he of made it to merge, so I’m happy a potential threat went home when he did! I adore the pants off of Rob & Benj – but that certainly wasn’t the case in the game! I had a feeling from the get-go that I couldn’t trust Benj, which in turn also meant Rob. I saw them both as huge threats so whilst I’m ecstatic I was able to hang out with them in the Jury; I’m glad they left when they did. Hahah! Sorry Guys!!

8. Although we didn’t see much of your strategy throughout the season, we did catch glimpses of you playing a great game, naming targets, splitting votes, and swinging alliances. Can you tell us some more about your strategy? Were there any moves you made that you were particularly proud of?

My strategy was to just get as close to that half a mil as I possibly could! I always knew I was going to play the quieter game – I think people get caught up in this idea of the ‘Big Move’ but that’s rarely your ticket to the end. I was more concerned with making successful moves. Back when the Contenders were eating each other alive Shon and I found ourselves controlling two alliances – and subsequently having the final say on who would go home. So those days were certainly ones of celebration for the Shonella Power Couple! Aside from that, I’m quite pleased with how I managed to pull Grubs in; it’s the reason I made it as far as I did. And ultimately the reason I went home. How poetic!

9. You put yourself in a great position to where it took an Idol and a flub by an ally to take you down – if you had made it to the end, how do you think you would have fared against the Jury?

I was really looking forward to pleading my case to the Jury. Aside from Shon, I’d been to the most tribal councils, my name had been thrown around loads, I’d proven myself in challenges, and dictated moves. Having said that, everyone out there is playing a game. It all comes down to how good you are at selling yourself! And with years of retail training up my sleeve, I was certainly looking forward to pulling off the biggest sale of my life!


Austin is a 26-year-old hailing from Canberra, Australia. By day, he works by the light of office fluorescence. By night, he can be found swing dancing to Top ‘40s tracks (1940s, that is), playing board games, and enjoying life with his wonderful wife. His pedigree as a long-time Survivor superfan is evidenced by his Survivor-themed 11th birthday party featuring a gross food challenge comprising Brussel sprouts.