The second episode of Australian Survivor saw the elimination of digital marketing manager Laura Choong, whose paranoid scrambling put her in the crosshairs of Harry the ice-cream scooper, who was able to gather the numbers to send her packing.
Inside Survivor’s Austin Smith caught up with Laura to talk about her brief time on the island, her thoughts on Harry, and what we missed during those early days on the Contenders beach.
1) Laura, thanks for taking the time to chat to us about your all-too-brief time on the Island! First of all, what drew you to playing Survivor, and how did the actual experience compare to what you’d expected?
I absolutely love a challenge, and Survivor is certainly the ultimate challenge! I’m also the type of personality that is more encouraged to give something a go if people think I can’t do it. I love having a point to prove, and plenty of family and friends thought I wouldn’t handle facing the elements in Survivor.
To be honest, the experience was so much more intense than I was expecting. As a fan of the show, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but no amount of preparation can get you ready for the “mind eff” that is playing the game. Sleeping on bamboo and dealing with bugs was not great but ultimately fine to deal with. Feeling what it is like to be 24/7 paranoid and having no one to trust is a next-level experience!
2) In your final words, you said you were 90% sure that the vote was going to be for Baden. From your perspective, what do you think changed that plan?
I definitely think it was some people in the tribe feeling like I was more of a long term strategic threat than Baden. That being said, Baden is not as weak gameplay-wise as the show is currently making out. He was ensuring people saw him as an easy number to get on their side. That is smart – he is playing his cards well. I was making enemies too early in response to feeling threatened by Harry’s strong and obvious early gameplay. I had intended to play the game very differently, but in the end, just couldn’t hide my true control-freak personality.
3) Harry looked to be the driving force behind targeting you, saying that he didn’t feel like he could trust you. Where do you think that distrust stemmed from? Was that feeling mutual from the start, or were you surprised that he came after you?
Feeling was 100% mutual! Harry is the reason I started having conversations with people about the “weaker” ones being at risk of being picked off one-by-one. Harry jumped into having conversations with absolutely everyone very early on, and his conversations between different people didn’t line up; we were all talking about it. It was a big red flag, and I put my guard up very quickly. If I had been able to go with the flow and just pretend to be a number for Harry, like Baden did, I probably would have been safe. Unfortunately, I have never been a personality to just go with the flow, my little woman syndrome shines through hard.
4) When Harry told you that Baden had been fed Sarah’s name as a decoy, you sensed the lie and surmised that you might be in danger. How did that gut feeling influence your gameplay from that point on the beach or at Tribal? Did you consider trying to turn the tables against Harry?
I wish I could have turned the tables against Harry, but it was just never going to be possible. The whole tribe was feeling defeated about the 3 out of 4 challenge losses to the Champions. We were just too out-gunned in terms of overall size and weight for those challenges, and Harry is a very strong guy. Even though we were all aware he was a strategic threat, the Contenders tribe knew we needed him and all the other physically strong players for now. My only hope would have been to convince to vote out Baden, and I was just too trusting of a couple of people in the tribe to know how much the tide had turned against me.
5) In hindsight, what do you think you could have done differently to avoid becoming the first one out of the Contenders tribe?
I could have asked more questions of the people I had built some relationship with, realised how seriously at risk I was – which I really didn’t realise until Tribal – and then spoken up more at tribal council to call Baden out. You missed a fairly important conversation in what was aired, where half of the tribe talked about us “weaker” ones being picked off one-by-one. We were all worried, for good reason, but knew we just couldn’t get the numbers together to pull something off. Baden was actually the only one in the conversation who outright said he was keen to try and make that move, and then he went and told everyone I was the leader in the conversation. I should have spoken up in Tribal Council, it could have turned the tide!
6) Earlier in the episode, you formed the “Not Wanting To Go” alliance with Casey & Hannah – how real or strong was this alliance at the time? Who else were you working to align with?
Unfortunately, that alliance was not strong at all. It was a conversation that came off the back of us both being worried about being at the bottom of the pecking order, but Casey was smart and was playing into Harry’s hand as she knew it was a safer bet. Hannah and I got along really well and were each other’s emotional support there for a bit. But at the end of the day, Hannah needed to do what was right for her gameplay and go with the majority. I would have done the same in her position. She just had zero power to swing any votes in my favour as much as she probably would have liked to.
7) We didn’t get to see much of the Contenders through the early days, so what was the start of the game like for you? What didn’t we get to see about your tribe?
You’ve missed a lot! Here’s what I wish was shown more and what I don’t think you’ve had the chance to see:
-The Contenders shelter building was a serious saga that didn’t get the airtime it deserved. John was very frustrated and started calling Casey “The Foreman,” which was hilarious, and the fact that it collapsed in the middle of the night was the icing on the cake. Andy was the one who took charge the next day, and our shelter ended up pretty great!
-Hannah trying to pretend to be a hairdresser and braiding people’s hair very poorly, yet we still didn’t realise the lie.
-John’s hilarious antics around camp including – just to name a few – his crab-catching antics, eating live cockroaches and impersonating Harry (and Harry also impersonating John).
-You haven’t got to see much of them yet, but Shaun and Casey were called an early potential power-couple having formed a close bond very quickly – I’m keen to see how that unfolds.
-The fact that Sarah and Casey’s pole pushing round went for OVER 40 MINUTES! It was an EPIC battle that they did not get enough credit on air.
8) Let’s say you survived this vote and Baden went home as you expected. What was your gameplan moving forward? Who were you aligning with or who would you have tried to target at the next vote?
I think the show put me down as having a stronger social gameplay than I really did. I’m the type of personality that doesn’t trust easy, and who takes a while to feel people out and start to form proper connections. Given more time, I would have been able to come out of my shell more and get to know people properly and improve my social gameplay. If the Contenders were able to see more wins and therefore be less concerned about physical strength in challenges, I’m sure I would have started trying to turn the tables on Harry and get him out as early as possible.
9) You seemed frustrated that the physical challenges of brute force weren’t highlighting your individual strengths like agility. Were there other skills or secret weapons in your arsenal that you didn’t get the chance to show in-game?
Aside from agility, I’ve got great balance (comes with a low centre of gravity), I’m actually quite good at puzzles (but its always risky putting your hand up for those), and – let’s face it – I’m easily carried and tossed! Would have loved to get more obstacle course challenges, that’s for sure.
10) It’s unfortunate to lose a fighter like yourself so early in the season, but what did you take away from the whole experience? We’re there any particularly memorable moments that stand out to you?
The A-frame ladder in the first immunity challenge is my Survivor moment of glory – I nailed that thing! Also, getting a mud-covered hug from Janine Allis post the second immunity challenge was a moment for the fan-girl in me. But the number one thing I have taken away is new gratitude for how important it is to have people in your life you trust and can be honest with. It is impossible to understand until you’ve lived; the insane constant paranoia that is the game of Survivor. It is truly unsettling to your core. It doesn’t surprise me that some people walk out of the game really hurt, with a serious chip on their shoulder they carry for some time to come. Thankfully, I wasn’t in there long enough to be bitter and scarred long-term, but I’ve certainly heard stories that it happens to contestants!