One of the biggest takeaways I have from my hours of watching Survivor then listening to podcasts and reading countless articles is that you do not have a huge amount of control in this game. Gameplay? You can’t control when a tribe swap or merge happens or when a twist might flip your game upside down. Alliances? You might have lots of trust in your allies, but you have no way to control exactly how they vote. Don’t even get me started on the weather! One of the only things you can properly control in Survivor is information and in particular information that nobody else has. Once you share info with somebody else, you have no way of controlling where it ends up.
For example, when you are the only one with an idol clue (or an idol itself) you have a huge advantage above every other castaway. Once you share knowledge of that idol, you are handing over control. In a game of strategy information is currency. The more you sell, the less power you have so if you’re giving out information you better hope you’re getting something in return for it. This episode of Australian Survivor showed some examples of what to do with information and some examples of what not to do.
The game opens up in the post-AK era with Tara and Luke crowing over his elimination. Tara may as well change her name to “I blindsided AK” since it’s the only thing we hear come out of her mouth this episode. Over at Samatau, the sun is shining, happy music is playing, and we see a trio of mermaids swimming in the ocean. It’s Ziggy, Locky, and Henry who talk about being physically dominant and for that reason want to make a final three deal to protect each other throughout the remainder of the game. In the midst of this happy scene, Ziggy spills that she has an immunity idol. She points out to the viewers at home that there “wasn’t a handshake” but that she feels good about their final three deal.
In this particular situation, I’m not sure why Ziggy has decided to spill her secret to somebody she flipped on not that long ago (Locky) and someone she has known for nine days in the game (Henry). Ziggy is already a strong player (she’s a physical, mental and social threat) and the idol is the cherry on the top of making her too dangerous to keep. Immediately the episode cuts to Locky and Henry saying Ziggy needs to go and this is before they know about her super idol. That is the only good idea I think Ziggy had was keeping her super idol a secret. This gives her a little something to play with later in the game if her final three deal falls through (which it already seems to be doing).
Over at Asaga Luke is pointing out that Peter needs to go before he wiggles his way in with an Asaga member and gets any further in the game. Luke says that his game style is to make his own decisions and any allies need to go along with his choice or will get voted out. Luke has been playing a highly entertaining game but, in my opinion, a very lucky one too. So far Luke has only voted incorrectly once (when Mark W went home), but sometimes I wonder how he keeps trust with anyone when he is seemingly able to flip at a moment’s notice. I love Luke’s chaotic style, but sometimes I think he is one move away from exploding his (and his allies’) game. Meanwhile, the more low-key Sarah, aware of Luke’s intentions to vote out Peter, wants to keep him in order to cultivate a relationship and a connection with the other tribe.
At Samatau Locky and Henry have recruited Anneliese to replace mega threat Ziggy in their final three deal. Anneliese has gathered information about Henry during her stint at Asaga and wants to “test” him to see if he is trustworthy. Anneliese is using her game currency wisely – she doesn’t need to accuse Henry, but she wants to use what she knows to see if she can trust any bond she makes with him. Initially, Henry denies, denies, denies. No, he did not give Jericho an idol clue. No, he does not have an idol. In the night vision camera, Henry looks a little like a deer-in-headlights, but his denial must be echoing in Anneliese’s ears. Henry has a quick change of heart, and under the guise of meditation, he lets Anneliese know that he has an idol. It’s a human moment when Henry decides “I’ve got to trust someone” and Anneliese immediately rewards him by telling him about her idol.
This is an example of how using information can be powerful. Anneliese had the information she wanted, and she was going to use it to decide if she can have Henry as an ally or not. Anneliese took Henry sharing his “secret” as a “token of trust” and should form a basis of confidence rather than waiting for Henry to prove loyalty. To solidify the trust, Anneliese shared that she has her own idol and then both shared this info with Locky to really lock in a triangle of trust. At this point, there are three idols (plus a super idol) in place, and all of them are at Samatau. There could be some interesting tribal councils to come.
Immunity is up for grabs in another simple but entertaining endurance challenge. It gives off shades of the individual immunity challenge seen in Survivor Africa and Survivor Fans vs. Favourites, but instead of keeping your hand up to outlast the other tribe the castaways need to keep 5kg sandbags above their head. If someone gets tired, they can hand their 5kg weight off to someone else, but all sandbags must remain in play. The challenge is a total blow out as Michelle and Jarrad drop out early, while Asaga doesn’t seem to be struggling at all. Powerhouse Locky has two sandbags but is shaking from almost the beginning. Henry and Locky are passing sandbags back and forth while Ziggy and Tessa seem to be holding up their sandbags with ease. Samatau tribe get dunked after just twenty minutes of challenge and Asaga have never looked stronger.
Back at Samatau beach, a Ben vs. Michelle showdown is brewing. Michelle seems to the defending champ in these battles (most recently we saw her take down Kent). She has been crafting her attack strategy since she arrived on her new beach and drew some information out of Ben which she intends to use against him now. Despite Michelle putting in a lackluster challenge performance (again), she is willing to talk up a tornado to take down any target in her way.
The majority alliance (Locky, Henry, Ziggy, Tessa, Jarrad, and Anneliese) see Michelle as a danger because she has strong allies on her original Asaga tribe. Michelle identifies Locky as the leader of the alliance and the person who would be able to change the vote to her favour. Michelle lets Locky know that Ben is targeting him. This really stirs Locky up, but the group decides to keep the target on Michelle. Jarrad really has Ben’s back here (in a way) by pointing out that Michelle can corral votes in a way that Ben never could. Ben is trying to lay low saying “I don’t need to be the most trustworthy person in the world, I just need to be seen as more trustworthy than Michelle.”
Tribal council is a showdown with Michelle at the helm. As soon as Ziggy confirms that Michelle and Ben are on the block, Michelle is locked and loaded, ready to take aim. Michelle unleashes a stream of arguments designed to undermine everyone else’s trust in Ben. She points out the information that Ben shared with her days ago about Ziggy’s advantage demonstrates his disloyalty. Michelle also brings up how he has flipped his vote at tribal council and that he always says what he thinks the others want to hear. She culminates her attack by saying being part of an alliance of six at Samatau is better than an alliance of three that she has at Asaga.
There is plenty of skirmish going on during tribal with whispers and a seeming desire from Locky to flip the vote over to Ben. The votes come out 5-3 and Ben is sent home. Surprisingly two of the votes for Michelle come from Locky and Tessa. With Locky the most spooked about Ben coming after him, I’m surprised he wasn’t the first to switch his vote over.
I didn’t think much of Michelle before and really thought she had survived so far in the game by being on the right side of the numbers. But she is able to talk Ben underneath a bus during this tribal council and set herself up well for this by taking steps to gain intel before the tribe even lost the immunity challenge. Her ability to get herself off the bottom of the tribe either speaks volumes of how good her social game is or how poor Ben’s was.
OTHER #SURVIVORAU COVERAGE ON INSIDE SURVIVOR
Australian Survivor will be back next Sunday at 7.30pm AEST – and Austin Smith will be on hand to recap everything that goes down, down under.