While the full cast for the upcoming Australian Survivor All Stars still hasn’t been officially revealed, it hasn’t stopped the Inside Survivor team from getting together to draft these 24 returning players ahead of the premiere on Monday, February 3!
Taking turns in a snake draft, Austin Smith, Alice Barelli, Dylan Vidal, and Martin Holmes picked their winner candidates, big characters and personal favourites to assemble their teams. Read on to hear their thoughts on all twenty-four castaways…
AUSTIN’S FIRST PICK
SEASON 4 – CHAMPIONS VS. CONTENDERS II
This is certainly an unconventional place to start, but with the first pick, it’s hard to pass up my winner pick. Abbey is in a fantastic spot coming into this season as a player who is relatively low-key and massively underestimated for her jack-of-all-trades skillset. Physically, she’s a powerhouse, but compared to the likes of Lydia Lassila, she’s not standing out as the big dog. Socially, we saw that she excelled in building strong bonds throughout her first season, giving her plenty of options to work with. And strategically, she’s a much better player than I think the rest of the cast will recognise. She was the critical swing vote at two crucial points in Season 4—taking out the Athlete’s Alliance on the Champions tribe and turning against the Champs again to pick off Simon & Janine. Had it not been for Luke Toki’s expert control of the unconventional Final Five Tribal where Abbey ultimately met her fate, there’s a non-zero chance she could have made her way to the end with a compelling argument.
On the other hand, there is the question of how proactive Abbey will be with her gameplay. Although she made the call in choosing to flip against her alliances in favour of a better option, it often seemed like others were the architects of the plan. However, after learning the game firsthand from some of the best in a myriad of playstyles, I think Abbey will be able to patch over some of the weaker parts of her game. Going into All-Stars fresh off of CvC II means her head is in the game, and I’m optimistic that she can be one of the big sleeper hits of the season, potentially even to the very end.
ALICE’S FIRST PICK
My first draft pick, and overall second pick of the draft, was for season one juror Nick Iadanza. Nick is a known superfan of Survivor and has podcasted on the topic since his appearance in 2016. His initial game was a bit messy—he was saved by a twist where the voted off castaway swapped to a new tribe and earned the mantle of the OG “snake” with his constant strategizing and playing of all sides (making up a fake idol clue? Really?). But for all of his shenanigans, I think Nick had good instincts about the game, and moreover, he has had the gift of time. In the intervening period since 2016, Nick has made friends with his castmates (including Brooke, who attended his wedding) and has had the opportunity to analyse what he did the first time around. Being able to remember his thought processes and reflect on how he could’ve played differently will massively aid Nick.
While he is known as a “snake,” several other reptilian castaways are joining him this season who were far more deceptive and crafty than he ever was and should wear a larger target in the initial days of the game. Nick is returning to a season of savvy players, which are probably closer to what he expected the first time out. The new calibre of players should also help Nick find some allies who are a better fit with his own game and who can contribute to his aggressive strategizing rather than treating it as a disease.
Nick’s also had some major life changes which might change his mindset going in. He has commented publically that he left his wife with a baby in a half-renovated home when he went out to play this time, and I feel this could be a motivating factor for Nick. Instead of playing for himself, this time, Nick is playing for his family and making his time on the island worthwhile.
DYLAN’S FIRST PICK
SEASON 4 – CHAMPIONS VS. CONTENDERS II
The Golden God is back for All Stars to the surprise of absolutely nobody. With the memory of being blindsided with an idol in his pocket still burning at the forefront of his mind, it will be interesting to see if David approaches the game any different this time around. Having found multiple idols, blindsiding countless players, fighting from the bottom against a majority alliance, and winning individual Immunity challenges, it’s safe to say that going into All Stars, David is definitely not short on experience or the tools to succeed in the game.
It is perhaps a bold choice for the first pick of my Survivor draft team, but David is an elusive unicorn who overstayed his welcome last season through a flurry of chaotic and strategically savvy gameplay. He can bro down with the alpha males, geek out with the strategic superfans, and flirt with the women. If David can keep his ego in check, then this chaotic force can wreak havoc for another season once more.
MARTIN’S FIRST PICK
SEASON 3 – CHAMPIONS VS. CONTENDERS
Despite the shameful lack of Shontent in Channel 10’s pre-season press coverage, it wasn’t enough to deter me from selecting Shonee Fairfax as my number one draft pick. There is something about Shonee that is unassuming, or unexpected even. In Champions vs. Contenders, her tribemates initially viewed her as the glamour girl, with her long blonde hair, flowery sundress, and pearly white teeth. Shonee played up to this perception early on to avoid the snuffer, stroking egos, playing dumb, and keeping her cutting remarks for the private confessionals. Little did they know there was a shrewd strategic force hiding behind the beaming smile.
Shonee’s post-merge game in CvC was truly exceptional, working alongside her BFF Fenella McGowan, she maneuvered her way from the minority to the majority with her social charm and strategic precision. Her reads on the game were almost flawless, able to see an opening where others often couldn’t. Whether it was teaming up with Brian Lake and Monika Radulovic or forming the Sssh alliance, Shonee knew it was all about timing. It was an impressive game that almost took her to the Final Tribal, though she was ultimately voted out at the final four as the last Contender standing.
While she won’t be coming into All Stars as an unknown entity, I still think many of her fellow castaways will underestimate her in the beginning. There are other more flashy strategic players such as David Genat, Harry Hills, AK, Nick, and Phoebe, who I think will take the limelight. This should allow Shonee to work her social game in the background and form solid alliances. And if they let her get to the merge again, I fully expect Shonee to take Shontrol.
MARTIN’S SECOND PICK
SEASON 3 – CHAMPIONS VS. CONTENDERS
Sticking with the Sssh alliance, my second pick is Sharn Coombes, the Champions vs. Contenders runner-up. Sharn is an interesting one because I could see her All Stars game going one of two ways. Either her runner-up status will paint as her an immediate target, or her opponents will see her as beatable and therefore let her skate by. I’m obviously hoping for the latter because if Sharn is allowed to get her footing in this game, she is very capable of making another deep run.
Sharn’s first time out on Survivor was a real seesaw of a season. Her pre-merge game was great; she built strong relationships with the likes of Mat Rogers and worked her way into a comfortable majority. This continued into the early post-merge, where she remained in the numbers, showing herself to be a smart and capable player. Then the threads came loose at the Mat vote, where Benji Wilson tricked Sharn into misplaying her idol. This moment was a jolt to Sharn’s confidence and perhaps highlighted her flaws as been too trusting or even naive at times. However, Sharn survived her time on the bottom with some clutch Immunity wins and strategic savvy, ultimately breaking apart the newly formed majority and taking herself to the Final 2.
I think because Sharn experienced both the highs and lows of Survivor in her first season, it will make her a stronger, more well-rounded player coming into All Stars. Her loss at the end (in a close 5-4- vote) should also make her aware of her mistakes. I think last time Sharn lost votes by trying to claim she played a loyal game when that wasn’t always the case. I imagine All Stars will be a cutthroat, backstabbing kind of season, and if Sharn can lean into that, it’ll serve her well. Also, I still think people might underestimate Sharn’s challenge strength, which is another trick she has in her back pocket (where hopefully she also has her idol held safely this time).
DYLAN’S SECOND PICK
Despite being one of the biggest targets, it’s hard not to pass up the opportunity to have Phoebe on my team. For Phoebe to do well this season, she will have to battle against the reputation of being one of the best strategists in Australian Survivor history. To have created such an enormous legacy for herself that has stood the test of time is impressive, given that she was pre-merge boot in the first season.
Phoebe found immunity idols, got given idols, blindsided players, and consistently fought from the bottom of the tribe. There isn’t much Phoebe hasn’t been through during her time on Survivor. Given how strategic forward this cast appears to be, if there is ever an opportunity for Phoebe to blend in with likeminded people, then this could be the season to do it. There is no doubt that she has the social and strategic skills to win this game, but if she is going to make it deep into the season, she is going to need something she didn’t have the first time around—a tribe that can win challenges… and luck!
ALICE’S SECOND PICK
If you’d told me before the 2017 season that Michelle would ever be on a returning All Stars cast or that I’d be eager to have her on my draft team, I’d have laughed in your face. On paper, Michelle seemed like a typical wannabe celeb who was using reality television to climb the social ladder, but I could not have been more wrong. Michelle acknowledged on screen that she was a fish out of water when it came to outdoor living and the physical survival aspect of the show. But her shining strength was her social ability.
In the minority on a swapped tribe, Michelle sweet-talked her tribe to get the piece of information she needed to flip the vote off of herself. Later, she was instrumental in ousting major threat Henry as part of the Champagne Alliance. Michelle was always important enough to be kept as an ally but never so threatening that she would be voted off. She received votes here and there (almost always by the castaway who actually went home) and wasn’t earnestly in trouble until the final six. She responded by winning individual Immunity at the final five but was eventually taken out by a fire-making challenge as the final jury member.
Michelle has the most incredible gift of the gab—when she begins talking, it’s impossible to stop listening. There were Tribal Councils I watched where I found myself nodding along with Michelle even when I hoped her target wouldn’t be voted off! She coaxed pieces of strategy out of unassuming castaways. What’s more, I think many people have forgotten just how good Michelle was during her season. In the battle of social games, many eyes are firmly planted on Shonee.
I’m excited to see Michelle back. I think she can integrate with just about any person and could get herself into a majority alliance as a launchpad for the remainder of the season. I think she’ll talk herself into and out of any situation. She may be seen as a weaker tribe member if challenge ability is in question early. Michelle isn’t weak physically, but she is not a former Olympian either. All in all, I feel great about Michelle’s chances and her ability to get herself far in the game. She was a solid pick for me in the second round, and I don’t believe she would’ve fallen much further if I didn’t take her.
AUSTIN’S SECOND PICK
Brooke comes into All Stars in a fascinating position. Her blindside was one of the hallmark moments of the inaugural season. With strong physical, social, and strategic capabilities, she was the ostensible head of her alliance, so betrayal at the hands of her closest ally was a moment that satiated the fans salivating for more aggressive gameplay in a predictable post-merge and a massive and defining shock for the casual and unfamiliar audience. I’m thrilled to see Brooke get a second chance to play, and against tougher and more ruthless competition, especially with the sting of her first defeat driving her. She strikes me as a player who can thrive in a more advanced Survivor game—capable of managing a faster game but skilled in governing social bonds, which are essential for success in Australian Survivor.
The trick for Brooke comes back around to her friend-turned-nemesis. Not only is Flick back for All Stars too, but the two women will begin the game on the same tribe. How Brooke handles the drive for revenge—and how Flick perceives Brooke’s intentions—will be critical, and I hope that Brooke does not become fixated on retribution. If her game gets sidelined by bad blood in the early days, it not only threatens her own survival in the game but could impact her game ahead if she can survive it, especially if she’s seen as the one leading a successful charge against Flick. I think Brooke will be smart enough to avoid bringing the past into her second chance, and if she can survive the early blood bath, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the endgame once again.
AUSTIN’S THIRD PICK
SEASON 4 – CHAMPIONS VS. CONTENDERS
The ice cream man is back! Harry has been my most successful winner pick thus far, so I couldn’t leave him on the board. And honestly, I’m hopeful for his chances. I know, I know, Harry was such a wildcard that he decided to invent a fake son, and the lie fell apart incredibly quickly and painted him as a pariah that he barely survived thanks to a couple idols. But given he went from that (delightfully entertaining) catastrophe to a third-place finish with a legitimate chance to win suggests that there is a lot more to his game than his bravado presents.
Harry is a cunning strategist, and despite his gaffes along the way, his social game wasn’t a complete disaster, to the point where even his nemesis Janine came to see him as a potential—if short-term—ally. Harry had to adapt in his first season, figuring out how to play from the bottom, and ultimately, the top and that kind of fresh experience could serve him very well in his second outing.
Then again, the freshness of his first game could also be his detriment. All Stars began filming part-way through the airing of Season 4, so the rest of the cast would have just seen him at his most ostentatious Dirty Harry in his pre-merge feud with Janine and the Oscar fib. That reputation could loom large and paint him as an easy threat out of the gate, and with not a whole lot of time to reflect on his first game and natural personal growth that comes with time, Harry runs the risk of leaning into the dastardly persona and character. If he does, he could easily crash and burn, but then again, he’s among the most proven and successful underdogs in Australian Survivor’s short history, so maybe even that couldn’t keep him down.
ALICE’S THIRD PICK
Ah, Henry, the labourer masquerading as a yoga instructor with flashy gameplay and luscious locks. Going into the 2017 season, Henry sought to pull every trick in the book, using everything up his sleeve, plus a few other tricks besides. Some of Henry’s methods included keeping up the façade of being a yoga instructor until he reached the Jury Villa, having an idol that he took home in his pocket, giving a clue to that idol to a fellow castaway knowing they would never find it, voluntarily switching tribes despite knowing he was in a great position on the initial one, and trying to throw challenges. Henry was constantly on the hunt for a new way to stir up the tribe, and eventually, the stirring created enough waves to pull him under.
So why choose him in the draft? Despite the constant chaos, Henry managed to stride through the game, winning allies and challenges in spades. Henry was charismatic and often knew just the right person to go to for a particular scheme. He joined forces with Jacqui as an unlikely power duo, he had a short bromance with Locky, and seemed to be liked by all who spent time with him. He seemed like a fun person to be around—he even made a trivia game on his swapped tribe beach to entertain everyone. However, it became common knowledge that Henry had an idol, and he was blindsided early in the merge.
Henry was a wildcard in his first season because he had so many tricks he wanted to perform. Henry will be a wildcard this season because I believe he will feel the need to up the ante and play an even more chaotic game. Unlike his first season, Henry will not have the benefit of anonymity, and other players might expect him to begin stirring the pot and be ready to grab the spoon when he does. Even though his reputation precedes him, I don’t think Henry will be the biggest threat on the island, particularly since he should help his tribe out with winning challenges. If Henry can use that charisma to get into an alliance, then he can also use that momentum to get further and further into the game. Henry has a lot of people who were affected by his gameplay out on the island with him again, and he will have some work to do to get back in their favour. I believe he can do it. They’ll be furious that they fell for it again, but they’ll work with him.
DYLAN’S THIRD PICK
SEASON 3 – CHAMPIONS VS. CONTENDERS
Moana was someone who had the game set up really well for her on Season 3 before she was basically medically evacuated via vote-off. She may not be the most dynamic player, but as the show’s previous winners have demonstrated, being dynamic all the time isn’t a great recipe for longevity. Moana is a loyal and strong woman who has overcome a lot in her life. If this season is as chaotic and unstable as this cast suggests it will be, then Moana could provide a reliable breath of fresh air that can be invaluable in a game full of unpredictability and paranoia. Unlike many players on the board, it is very easy to envision Moana’s path to the end of the game if she finds herself in a similar position as her last season.
MARTIN’S THIRD PICK
AARON “A.K.” KNIGHT
Of the six pre-merge boots returning to All Stars, Aaron “AK” Knight perhaps has the biggest target of them all—or at least a close second to season 1’s Phoebe Timmins. During season 2, AK’s game left me aghast and impressed in equal measure. He came in ultra-confident and hyper-aggressive, which didn’t exactly mesh with the more relaxed vibe of the rest of his tribemates. AK’s intrusive gameplay was unwanted, like a wedding DJ at a funeral, and it saw him as an early outcast on his tribe. However, to his credit, he used this outsider status to work himself into a swing position and joined forces with the underdog alliance to dismantle the majority.
AK’s blustering gameplay almost backfired spectacularly, but the fact he was able to calm himself and gain control of his tribe is a testament to his skill as a Survivor player. And let’s be honest, if not for an unfortunate tribe swap and a twist which saw his enemy Tara Pitt return to the game, AK might well have made the merge, and there’s no telling what damage he could have caused. Instead, he was a pre-merge boot and entered the Survivor history books under the “What if?” section.
In All Stars, AK might finally get to answer that “what if?” However, I think it will be an uphill battle. AK likes to talk a big game, and as a Survivor superfan, there is that part of him that is more interested in making a memorable, splashy move, rather than the more boring but smart move. I worry that he is going to charge into this season like Tony Vlachos in Game Changers and immediately draw the target onto himself. If he can resist that urge, though, AK could surprise a lot of people. He’s a risky choice, but I wanted at least one unpredictable male strategist on my team, and with David, Harry, Nick, and Henry already gone, AK seemed ripe for the picking.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our Australian Survivor All Stars draft.
Australian Survivor All Stars premieres Monday, February 3 on Network 10.