Australian Survivor Episode 15 Recap – The Real Merge

Alice Barelli is back to recap the bidding, merging and scrambling of Australian Survivor episode fifteen. 

I LOVE Survivor Auctions. I think they are awesome. If I were ever on Survivor, I would cry when I got to the merge, but I would cry even harder if I got to the Survivor Auction.

I am so pleased production chose to include the auction in the Australian version. I remember the original auction (which coincidentally was in Survivor: Australia) where the castaways bid for things like a handful of French fries with mayo and the biggest item was a hamburger. Scenes come to mind like castaways trading $20 for a bite of mashed potatoes, Big Tom running across Africa shrieking ‘He’s a jew! He won’t eat the ham!’, Survivors paying hundreds of dollars for showers and the incredible amount of value people put in peanut butter.

Back in Samoa’s auction Jaison first asked what happened if two people had $500 and were happy to bid that much then who would get the prize – and Jeff saying it would be the first person who bid that much. I remember when Abi-Maria faked Jeff out saying she wanted just to keep her money then threw out $500 as soon as an advantage came out. I recall the rock draw when this rule changed so that Tony and Spencer both had to draw rocks for the idol clue with as much tension as the first time I ever saw it. I was so glad that the Survivor Auction happened to fall in an episode that I was recapping.

So going into this episode, I was about a thousand times more excited for the auction than the merge. The actual merge this time too, not the fake-merge-actually-a-tribe-swap that we saw a few weeks ago. Vavau has been decimated. Kristie tells Kate she has lost more weight over the past three days, and Conner is emaciated. I had noticed this over the episodes as is the case with any Survivor season – Craig, in particular, looked like he was fading away more each episode. Given this season has only just reached the merge it makes me worried about the condition the castaways will be in by the end. There isn’t much weight left to lose for some – Jennah-Louise is roughly the size of a match stick.

Kristie, Kate, and Conner know they’ve got it bad, though, and we see Conner pipe up to say he won’t go down with a fight. The foreshadowing by producers is breaking my heart. Honestly, as soon as Conner said that I started hunting down a pack of tissues because he is a castaway I have emotionally invested myself in.

Nick might be the super fan but Conner is the one that is more similar to my love of Survivor – having grown up with it I remember different parts of my life and which seasons of Survivor were airing, and it really is a dream beyond dreams for someone like me to play Survivor. I think Conner has that emotional connection to Survivor too.

Saanapu watches the ‘new’ Vavau come in. Surprised gasps rocket out of mouths because for some reason the consensus over at Saanapu was that Phoebe was ‘the one person’ who was safe. I’m not sure where those calculations came from, but she did play phenomenally, and it would not have surprised me if she pulled another rabbit (or idol) out of nowhere.


Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

Kate says Vavau feel like they’ve been dragged through glass. It’s a pretty succinct way to get the feeling of pain across. JLP makes a winding speech about working as a tribe for 32 days and as many castaways shriek “say it say it” JLP finally utters the words synonymous with a merging tribe all over the world: “Drop your buffs.” Nick practically explodes with happiness stating it is his ‘most impossible dream…to make the Survivor merge’. He starts prattling on about the merge changing things physically, mentally, economically, spiritually. To complete the celebrations, JLP starts up the auction.

The first item is chips and soft drinks which go to Conner for $60. As a twist Conner also has three soft drinks to give away which could be used strategically but as soon as I heard it I knew mateship would come into play and Conner would give it to his former tribemates who had been suffering without rewards. The fourth drink was up for grabs, and Conner could’ve been very clever giving it out – his choices were trying to curry favour with a former tribemate (someone like Sam) or trying to throw out a red herring and confuse people by giving it to someone like El. I suppose he could’ve also used it as a peace offering to Flick, but I’m not sure anything would appease her.

The next item is chocolate cake and chocolate milk which Conner snaps up for $440. For a minute I pulled my ‘stupid idiot’ face, but I really think the effect of eating so little for so long can make people a little crazy around food. These people still have two weeks of the game to play, and a sugar rush needs to come at a premium. Nick, who played an early bid, is about to start crying.

Sam outbids Nick for a plate of nachos (Nick: Oh I love nachos) then Sue outbids Nick for steak and chips (Nick: Oh I just want the chips). Brooke wins a bubble bath. JLP zooms in on Matt who says he is waiting for something in particular. The little lightbulb in my head went off signalling ‘idol clue! Advantage!’ and Matt certainly looked interested in the rolled up piece of paper that JLP pulled out next. It’s an advantage that Lee snaps up. (Matt later tweeted that he was hoping to see letters from home).


Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

Kate wins Spaghetti Bolognese and Nick finally scoops up a covered item only to find that it is an advantage. Instead of saying ‘thanks’ as is polite, Nick gets his angry face on and taps it aggressively against JLP’s auction desk saying he doesn’t want it since it will make him a target. He tells the audience that the perception that he had an idol got him voted out on day 12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but being sneaky and promising everyone the same things is what got Nick voted out on day 12.

The new tribe heads to their ‘new’ camp (which is the old Vavau camp) and begin to settle in. Sue tells the new chickens not to fight before placing one of them on the ground (only to be attacked by the other chicken) which pretty much sets up how this new tribe merge is going to go down.

Conner, Kate, and Sue know they are on the outs and certainly, don’t need pretty pink friendship bracelets to prove it. Conner thinks he can draw in Kylie, and their early conversation looks promising. Conner’s focus is on getting to Sam and worrying about the meaning of Kristie sporting a friendship bracelet.

Lee wanders off to look at this advantage which turns out being the ability to stop one person voting at any tribal council up until the final five. Nick gets an idol clue and takes the opportunity to impersonate a poorly trained Jack Russell puppy hurtling around the beach trying to climb trees and sniff the idol out. Lee spots Nick up a palm tree looking ‘like a ferret’ and Nick spills the chickpeas about what he is trying to do. Nick and Lee find the idol and Nick plans to tell other people about it.

The tribe go off to the immunity challenge and let JLP know their new tribe name is ‘Fia Fia,’ the Samoan word for happy. I thought Sam said ‘Fear Fear’ at first which struck me as a horrible name for a tribe but probably appropriate for how ex-Vavau is feeling as this challenge begins.


Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

We have our first individual endurance comp! These endurance competitions can naturally be suited to one type of body build or weight, and this one looks like it will favour the small, lean castaways. Conner may be in with a chance!

Castaways quickly get whittled away until Kylie, Nick, Kristie, Kate and Brooke remain. I expected to see Kylie and Kate here but Brooke getting this far really surprised me. She’s been mainly a pretty face so far, and I’m glad to see her showing her challenge chops. She ends up winning handily.

Back at camp Flick is concerned that Conner will flip people to his side. I’m not sure Conner would do this from a strategic point of view – his method has been approaching people he’s built relationships with and hoping they will stick with him out of shared loyalty.

Nick is laying out a strategy for original Saanapu (without Sue) so that there is a 5-4 split between Conner and Kate making it a sure thing that one of the two will go home. Matt, Lee, and Sam feel a bit uncomfortable putting their trust in Nick but don’t seem to understand how they can get out of going with his plan. Sam, in particular, wants to keep Conner – someone he trusts – instead of Nick who he deems as ‘a snake in the grass.’ If I were playing, I’d want a loyal ally like Conner, but these things are easy to say with a bit of context.

Once Kate, Sue and Conner get wind of the split they realise they only need six people (just three more!) to have the majority vote. Things start getting exciting here – with Kylie a likely option and Sam having just said he doesn’t want to vote Conner out I’m thinking we might be seeing a good ol’ tribal flip and blindside. Conner still needs to get to Sam though, but the Saanapu Surveillance bodyguards (aka Brooke and Flick) are out in force and follow Sam to prevent any top secret strategy talk.


Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

It’s a good strategy, one that worked particularly well in Redemption Island and is certainly a straight forward way to stop unwanted conversations proceeding. Kate approaches Kristie about staying with them for the vote and Kristie sums up the problem many people are having – feeling as if she is “torn between maintaining my values and ensuring my survival in this game.”

Tribal Council is upon us. Flick brings up something about ‘teams’ and JLP immediately jumps on the idea that alliances are resting within the tribe. The others do the equivalent of smiling awkwardly while Conner expounds on voting out threats. Nick reminds everyone that Survivor is about more than just ‘outwit’ which is funny because he is scraping through based on a solid immunity run and the not-actually-voted-out twist rather than Outwit Outplay Outlast.

Lee points out that mateship and honesty are the foundations of his Survivor game. JLP asks about the pink friendship bracelets, and Flick tells the same lies about it being a coincidence who has/haven’t got a bracelet – JLP shuts her down when he says ‘friendship in Survivor means alliance.’

Time to vote. I’m getting serious Borneo merge flashbacks with the assortment of votes JLP starts reading out. I hoped that ex-Vavau were corralling people to vote the same way, not a bunch of different ways. Matt, Nick, and Kylie get one vote each, Kate gets four votes, and we bid adieu to Conner with five votes.

Conner exits gracefully. JLP tells them to wake up and start playing or risk being played out of the game altogether. In a voting flashback, we see Kylie, Kristie and Sam kept with the majority. It will be interesting to see what happens with that in the episodes to come.

Alice is a 28-year-old living in rural Victoria, Australia. Working as a nurse and midwife catching babies by day, she spends her evenings catching Survivor and other reality TV shows. After being a fan of Survivor since its premiere in 2000, she is excited to see the return of a local version.