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Survivor New Zealand Episode 17 Recap – Beginning of the End


Chuck Cunningham recaps the seventeenth episode of Survivor New Zealand.

It’s been a long journey, but we’ve made it to finals week. The Sunday night episode was jam packed full of content, so it’s going to be an intense fight to the finish.

We open on Redemption Island, the boys welcome Shay to their humble abode and sit round the fire to gossip. Shay tells them about the immunity challenge and Mike and Jak comment on how Avi is always the first out. He really is terrible. They all pile on Avi for his lack of gameplay and for betraying Shay at the last tribal council. “Aside from being a nice guy he’s literally done nothing in this game,” says Jak.

We find out later Shay was playing up how hurt she was that Avi voted her out and that her bad mouthing him was all a ploy to help him get further. “I started spinning stories to Mike and Jak almost to try and convince them that Avi’s worth keeping around if either of them get back into the game,” she admits. That’s a very dangerous plan with a high probability of it backfiring. You’re poisoning two potential jury members which in a jury of seven isn’t the brightest idea. I’d like to note here that’s another person playing on behalf of Avi. That boy was blessed with the perfect cast to propel him to the win, oh my god.

We check in on Casar and Avi is a bit down in the dumps the morning after his great betrayal. We find out he had “abandonment dreams,” I would joke here that Avi is the type of guy that has a dream journal but that’s probably a reality. I know casting picked him to be the hero the audience could all get behind, but I don’t see it. In fact, I think the ninth circle of hell is being stuck on an island with Avi. He gives a confessional with sweeping music where he says he’s disappointed with himself that he actually had to start playing the game.

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Photo: Scott McCaulay.

I love how these localized versions of Survivor start at square one, trying to push loyalty and honor as admirable traits for a Survivor player. I’m sorry, I love players that are ruthless, lying at the drop of a hat, and willing to write anyone’s name down (including their own mom). I’ve seen driftwood with more personality and gameplay than Avi, and they float a hell of a lot better than he is doing now. He’s lasted thirty-something days by being carried by everyone else. At the moment, he’s hoping Barbs and Tom stay true to their word giving him an easy path to the final three. It’s getting down to the wire so everyone left should be relying on more than hope. I think watching Avi over the past couple months has given me ulcers and shortened my life dramatically.

For the reward challenge, the four remaining castaways are divided into two teams of two. Each team has three colored drums, one in each circle. One from each team goes head to head to flip over the drums and get three of the same colour. They’re playing for fruits and nuts provided by Alison’s Pantry. Nate and Avi win – helped out by a mistake from Tom. Everyone is bending over backwards to help Avi win aren’t they? The winning pair get to stuff a ziplock bag full of assorted nuts and fruit of their choosing. Avi apparently has an obsession with cashews as 2/3 of his bag is filled with them. Nate and Avi then get to enjoy their spoils in a picnic spot down on the beach. Neither of them use the time to strategize as I’m not sure if Avi knows how to and Nate’s the only one that doesn’t want Avi to get to the end.

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Barbs is still all in on helping the boys get to the end. She’s close with Avi because who wouldn’t be (Eliza Orlins eye roll) and devises a plan almost to ensure an Avi win over Tom. They all believe Mike will be the one to return from Redemption and Barb thinks if Mike reaches the final three with the boys, he will split the votes Tom would have received, possibly tipping the scales in Avi’s favor. Barb is brilliant! Even when she’s given up on her own chances, she’s still playing a lot bloody harder than Avi.

I get a schadenfreude sadistic pleasure listening to Avi describe his game. “Tom and I have played pretty similar games. We’ve both been on the chopping block, we both won challenges, we both had to really kinda scramble to save ourselves.” Umm no, pumpkin, no.

Barbs spent the morning pulling her puppet strings and I think has convinced Avi that the plan she came up with was his. Avi goes to Tom trying to convince him it’s in their best interest to take Mike to the final three. His pitch is along the lines of, “You know, the only threat to you winning….yeah, he’s kinda stick aye.” Avi’s acting is so poor he’s guaranteed a part in Shortland Street when this is all over.

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Photo: Scott McCaulay.

We return to Redemption Island, possibly for the last time. Jak and Mike tear up the camp, excited they’ll never have to spend another night there. “It’s our last day so just ruin the place,” says Mike. The three rejects from Redemption then head to the duel arena. Jak enters wearing war paint and sporting a painted on six pack. That’s so Jak. Shay seems to be in full Gura mode embarrassed to be surrounded by such imbeciles.

The “truel” is an endurance challenge where the competitors have their arms outstretched, balancing poles up against an overhead board. The lead into the commercial break is misleading, making the battle look closer than it really is. Deceptive editing? See, Kiwis can do reality TV too.

Shay is the first one out, making her the fourth member of the jury. She gives an emotional speech on her way out that almost had me moved until she said, “I know my worth, and it’s not measured on the amount of challenges I’ve won, which is zero by the way.” I saw it as more manipulation of those that remain; planting her Shay seeds trying to improve Avi’s chances in a final vote. Shay wasn’t my favorite player this season, but I admired that she was always playing. Even with one foot out the door, she was still influencing the game.

Having not anticipated Rredemption Island continuing the boys are slightly peeved and all out of food. “Can I get two servings of hungry and tired because I’m loving it right now,” Jak quips.

Back on Casar, Nate weaves an epic yarn about the time he got rugby tickets. It’s mind numbing for me and I’m only listening to it for 30 seconds. Two things are stopping me from applying for Survivor New Zealand: I have no interest in being forced into doing yoga and I would throw myself into the fire to get out of listening to footy talk.

We get a very Lost moment when a majestic horse appears out of the bush near their camp. Maybe this is the editor’s way of telling us there will be a disappointing ending.

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Photo: Scott McCaulay.

The Immunity Challenge looks similar to the one Troyzan mucked up in Game Changers. You balance a ball on a pole while making your way through obstacles and balance beams and when you reach the end you throw sandbags at pins. Not only is immunity up for grabs the winner also gets a video message from home. It’s one of the most nail-biting challenges I’ve seen in Survivor.

Tom leads from the start but when he makes it to the final station Barbs and Avi catch up. There’s not much in the challenge and the lead shifts as each of them knock off more pins. Tom is one pin away from winning, and I’m on the edge of my seat. I’m never really interested in challenges, yet when people join that exclusive five challenges wins club I gush almost as much as Jeff Probst. Tom, however, has a Troyzan moment allowing Barbs to come from behind and snatch the immunity necklace out of his hands. That’s how Barbs has been playing the entire game, underestimated, always on the back foot, and still managing to come out on top.

Winning immunity and being fueled by love from home has altered Barbs’ perspective. The sleeping giant might awaken once more. I’m really excited to see Barbs start playing again and wonder if she’s heartless enough to turn on the boys. I’ve never been this pumped to go to tribal council! Despite my GG quote, we don’t end up going to tribal, and the credits roll. I don’t know what to do with my Survivor load.

This current set of events has me optimistic for the final few days. Bowing out is no way for Barbs’ journey to end. I want her to go down swinging. Barbs has her groove back and will hopefully believe in herself enough to make the moves needed in this final stretch.


Chuck Cunningham hails from the lackluster country known as New Zealand. He was an aspiring writer until the harshness of reality crushed his soul. When he's not picking up the pieces of his shattered dreams, he spends his time far too concerned with the trivial goings on of reality TV. A super duper fan of Survivor that would most likely be the first one voted out for his awkwardness, lack of fitness and being too "real"