Tuesday’s season finale of Australian Survivor saw an extremely close final showdown between former Champion tribe members Sharn Coombes and Shane Gould. After claiming victory in the Final Immunity Challenge, earning her a record-tieing fourth immunity win, Sharn had all the power to choose who to sit next to at the Final Tribal Council. While Brian Lake tried his best to persuade the Criminal Barrister to take him to the end, Sharn ultimately chose to stay loyal to her Sssh alliance partner, bringing Shane to the Final 2. It was a move that cost Sharn the $500k, as, after a tense round of Jury questioning, Sharn lost out to the Olympic Gold medallist in a nail-biting 5-4 vote.
Austin Smith caught up with Sharn to talk about that Final Tribal Council, how she felt about being blamed for Mat’s elimination, whether she considered taking Brian to the end, and how she feels about tieing the current women’s record for Immunity wins.
1. Sharn, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your awesome game and the whole Survivor experience! Coming into the Final Tribal Council, you had a strong resume to present to the Jury – up against Shane, how confident were you in your chances to win out? Did that change during the course of Tribal, and how did you feel about your performance when all was said and done?
It’s an absolute pleasure to chat with you! Going into that final tribal council I felt confident in my chances of winning the title. I knew that I had played an amazing game, I did everything I could to keep myself and Shane in the game until the end, and I hoped that the jury would recognise and acknowledge that with their votes. I was happy with my final pitch, but once those questions started coming, particularly from Mat, I knew that I had an uphill battle on my hands. I felt that there was a lot of focus and attention on me, and not so much for Shane. At the time I tried to answer them as honestly as I could, but at the end of the day, I don’t think there was anything I could have said or done to have changed Mat’s mind in particular. I gathered that he essentially blamed me for his own demise in the game, and couldn’t move past it on that final vote. I had hoped that he would recognise that I tried to save him playing my idol for him, and that I was in a difficult situation when Benji put me on the spot at that tribal. Particularly in circumstances where he had his own idol to play, that I was unaware of, that he had not told me about. I had also hoped that the jury would recognise my gameplay, and the fact that I had been able to defy the odds and survive the game. Overall though, I am happy with what I said and did at that final tribal council.
2. It appeared as though your biggest obstacle at Final Tribal was the matter of loyalty, and particularly with regard to your actions surrounding Mat’s elimination. Did you expect your mistake with the Idol at the vote to come back to vote you, and do you think the characterisation of the scenario as an act of disloyalty was the dealbreaker for you when it came to the Jury vote?
It seems ironic to me that ‘loyalty’ became my biggest obstacle, in circumstances where I showed and clearly demonstrated to the jury that I was loyal to Shane, and my alliance by taking Shane to the Final 2. I could have chosen Brian, yet I didn’t, I honoured my friendship and word to Shane, and my alliance, and took her to the Final 2 – which I am super proud of. I also showed my loyalty to Mat by playing my idol for him – trying to save him in the game, in circumstances where he didn’t tell me he had an idol himself. I also think it is a tad hypocritical to suggest that I was disloyal in circumstances where Mat and Shane were not ‘loyal’ to our original alliance by orchestrating the ‘Lydia’ vote. Something that both Sam and I were not happy about, but couldn’t do anything about as that vote already had momentum and the numbers. So in answer to your question, I did not expect that my mistake with the idol would come back to haunt me, given I played such a strong, overall game, strategically, physically and socially. That is 50 days of work out there. It’s a huge effort. I thought all of my hard work would have been acknowledged at that final vote, but the jury had other ideas.
3. In hindsight, and knowing it was such a close vote, do you think you could have done anything differently to sway a vote or two in your favour?
You know what, I have obviously thought about this, but at the end of the day I don’t think there is anything I could have said to have swayed one or two votes my way. I think those who voted against me were always going to vote that way, for whatever reason they had. Perhaps things were said at that Jury Villa to persuade others in voting a particular way. I couldn’t do anything about that. The greatest surprise I got from the votes was the vote from Monika. Moni and I were extremely close out there on the beach, and I thought we had a genuine relationship. I slept next to her every night, supported her, we were super close. After she hurt herself in that ‘bellyflop’ incident, I checked on her every hour that night throughout the night to see that she was okay and not suffering any form of concussion. Moni told me in the game how amazing she thought I was and that we were good mates. When she was given the tweezers from Mat at the Day Spa, I plucked her eyebrows for her on the beach. We spent so many moments together. She gave me a bouquet of flowers on Mother’s Day. Perhaps that was all a charade? So for me, seeing her vote Shane was tough, given our history and relationship, and that is not truly reflective of what I perceived of in the game Monika. In saying that – I respect and accept each of their votes and understand that they had their reasons for voting the way that they did.
4. After winning the Final Immunity Challenge, how did you arrive at your decision to go to the end with Shane? Did you seriously consider taking Brian instead?
I did consider taking Brian to the end because, of course, it would have been an easier challenge for me at that last tribal council. I weighed up both options. But, I wanted to play this game in a certain way, I wanted to maintain my integrity, and ultimately I knew that it was going to be Shane that was coming to Final 2 with me. Shane and I had a great relationship from the start, and we were loyal to one another. I had to honour her gameplay, because it mirrored mine, and in my mind, she deserved to be in that position, to be one of the Final 2, given everything she had done in the game. She and I defied the odds! Both of us thought we were going home – but we managed to survive, right to the very end. I’m so happy that it was Shane and I together at the Final 2. Two strong, independent women, rocking it out there on the beach for 50 days!
5. Regardless of the outcome of the season, you played an undeniably fantastic – and record-breaking! – game. You (and Brian) set a new Australian Survivor record of 4 Immunity wins, which incidentally also equals you for the current women’s record for the US franchise. Did you expect the physical side of Survivor to play such a crucial role in your game, and how do you feel about officially being a challenge beast?
Thank you! I am so proud of my game, and I completely surprised myself in the physical side of the game. I am super competitive, and I love a challenge, but I’m not an elite athlete! Here I am, a lawyer, a Mum of 4 kids, an everyday person going against Olympic champions, footy stars, some players nearly half my age, and now I am holding these records which is amazing. I am particularly proud of the fact that I have tied the current women’s record for the US franchise. That is 18 years worth of Survivor right there – so I’m super proud of now being officially a ‘challenge beast.’ It may not be half a mil – but it is Survivor history, and being a fan, that actually means something to me.
6. You also became the first player in Australian Survivor to find and play two Idols! You played your second Idol perfectly to blindside Fenella, and your subsequent moves to eliminate Monika and Shonee we’re equally brilliant. What do you consider to be your best moves of the endgame?
Thanks again! I agree with your statement; I think the greatest moves in my endgame were definitely those three. Sensing that Brian had an idol, and putting the votes on Monika, I’m so glad my intuition and ability to read Brian was right. Using my idol to vote Fenella out, again very proud of that one, and then being in the position to have the power to vote Shonee out – I think that move was arguably my best move. The Final 4 vote is perhaps the most difficult one in the game, so to have lost immunity, to have Brian gunning for me, but in the position to have Shonee on side with me and Shane and then able to choose who went home – super cool. I lost immunity and still managed to make Final 3 as the biggest threat in the game!
7. Right from the beginning, your game was built on loyalty to your alliance, but how did you come to work with Mat, Steve and ultimately Shane so closely?
My first alliance in the game was with Moana. I was going to go to the end with her, but once she got sick and got voted out, I had to regroup and find a new alliance. Obviously, Mo had been close with Mat, and before she left the game, I started to get close with Mat too. Then the day after she was voted out I formed a new alliance with Mat and Steve. It was actually after I did the ‘fire dance.’ I think the tribe saw me in a new light after that crazy night! I had been working with Shane from the start but not in an official ‘alliance.’ My real alliance with Shane started once the tribes merged and Mat had brought her into that alliance. Mat, Steve and Shane are all awesome people, and I loved my time out there on the beach with them all.
8. Your relationship with Benji, meanwhile, had its ups and downs! What drew you to align with Benji after swapping to the Contenders, and why did you want to continue to protect the Sharnji Alliance at merge, once you were reunited with the Champions?
My relationship with Benji did have its ups and downs, that’s for sure! When I went to Contenders all I wanted to do was survive, and to ensure that Lydia and Monika survived too. I could see that Benji was an ‘operator’ and thought that he would be the best person to get on side and work with, as I felt he was a real ‘game player’ and that I would be able to utilise that relationship to help me further in the game. I wanted to protect the Sharnji alliance post-merge as Benji continually gave me lots of good, truthful information as to what other tribemates were thinking about me, as to whether the votes were going to be on me, etc. For example, Benji had told me that Sam had been suggesting that I should be voted out, which was true. He had my back out there – right up until that fateful tribal council that is……
9. What appealed to you about playing Survivor in the first place, and how did the reality of the experience compare to your expectations?
I have always been a fan of Survivor, ever since the US series started back in 2000. The game appealed to me on so many levels. I loved the physical component, the strategy, the social side. There are so many layers to this game – and it is, in my opinion, the greatest and the toughest game on Earth. The reality of the experience actually exceeded my expectations. I had a complete ball out there on that beach. 50 days! So amazing. And meeting JLP too – super cool!!!
10. Finally, what stands out to you most about your whole Survivor journey? Are there any memorable moments that didn’t make it onto the show that will stick with you?
There are two things that stand out. Firstly, the incredible new friendships I’ve made, they will be lifelong, and I will treasure my memories of my time out on the beach with all of those amazing people. Secondly, my ability to hang in there, and to thrive in harsh conditions. To be stripped of every comfort, of your family, but to go out there, face adversity and to triumph – to rise above it. I will always remember that I had the ability to bounce back – after being knocked down, I could get back up, dust myself off, and fight again. In terms of memorable moments that didn’t make the show that will stick with me –firstly, all of my time fishing and chatting with Lydia (I caught lots of fish!), and secondly making everyone laugh with my crazy antics and bloopers. They will all understand that! There was more than just the idol drop! Just ask Benj about his size 12 shoe!!!….. 😉