The first week of Australian Survivor Season 3 has come and gone in spectacular fashion with two strategically aggressive gameplayers in Matt Dyson and Russell Hantz seeing their games unceremoniously ended in a self-implosion resulting from an explosion of paranoia and arrogance that was a sight to behold.
The first two episodes were filled with so much drama and tension that this episode felt flat in comparison. The editing made it very apparent from the get-go that it was between Damien and Jackie. Maybe it was because I didn’t have much of a rooting interest in either of them so this episode felt the antithesis of Sophie’s Choice. No, this episode might not have had big moves, but instead, we are starting to see the foundations of the game slowly build up in front of our eyes. But hey, at the end of the day it wasn’t the vote where all the tension hid but rather in the clue to two hidden immunity idols. But let’s start from the beginning.
Two Big Happy Families
Damien said it best when he said that everyone is getting along. Even though the past two episodes have seen split votes and blindsides, there doesn’t seem to be much dissension at either of the camps. Not yet at least. On the Champions tribe, the contestants celebrate the elimination of Russell and bond over their mutual dislike of him and his gameplay. Afterward, the tribe is struck by a guest visitor in the form of a stray chicken – which at this point has become a staple of Australian Survivor.
Wandering around the plush Fijian bushes, an eager and wide-eyed Samuel acknowledges the opportunity to puff his chest and prove his worth on the tribe and leaps towards the stranded chicken like a primitive Neanderthal and chases him around the trees in a circle. In the end, Sam’s efforts are thwarted by the nimble chicken and the tribe decides to name it Jonathan and feed it until it is plump enough for them to feast on. When I come to think of it, that seems to be a pretty good metaphor for the game. You feed the contestants food in the form of little bits of information about the game and your life in order to form a strong social bond. Then, when once you’ve made them comfortable enough you wring their neck and end their game and feast on them to get stronger.
Over on the Contenders beach, Robbie gives a rundown of his tribe and talks about how strong they are as underdogs and how confident they are going into subsequent challenges.
An Army is Formed
This episode has been a major coming out party for Moana as a character, gameplayer, and upholder of justice. Mo appears to be the type of player who values trust and loyalty but will not hesitate to step on a few toes to get to the end of the game. Even though she might be a vegetarian, I suspect that she will develop a taste for blood the closer she gets to the end.
At the tender age of 30, Moana is more mature than her age suggests. She reveals that she is the fulltime carer of her younger sister who struggles with a mental disability. At this point, there is no doubt that her lived experiences of growing up in a poor family with 12 other brothers and sisters and being a fulltime caretaker have allowed her the opportunity to bond with the older people in the game. We see this in her interactions with Sharn and Mat (and to a lesser extent the Commando) who she gets into a strong alliance with. She even goes so far as saying that she has every intention of taking Sharn all the way to the end. I think that this pairing is perfect as they complement each other so well. Sharn brings the strategy and logic whereas Mo brings her physical and social strengths. Moana’s social game has got to be one of the best so far, she seems to have developed a strong relationship with everyone in her tribe and isn’t on anybody’s radar either.
Meanwhile, Jackie is paranoid and has a gut feeling that she is going to be the next person voted out of her tribe. Quite frankly, she should have every right to be paranoid! She associated herself with Russell, the most hated tribe member on the Champion’s side. There isn’t much to say about Jackie or her game. She acknowledges the fact that she is on the bottom of her tribe but doesn’t do much about it other than reveal to us that she wants to vote Damien out because he is a liability in challenges and threat in the end. Considering that she witnessed first-hand how negatively the tribe reacted to Russell’s aggressive gameplay, it should have prompted her to play more socially and emotionally to try and ingratiate herself in a different way. At this moment it becomes crystal clear that Jackie’s fate is not in her own hands but those around her.
Revenge of the Vegetarian
For this reward challenge, Australian Survivor is taking us back to a primary school playground favourite. It’s a penalty shootout that will determine the winner of a cooked fish large enough to feed the entire tribe. Once again, we have a challenge designed to pit the Challengers and the Contenders against one another head-to-head. In other words, it was a new opportunity for Robbie to restore his bruised masculinity and bring pride back to his name. Much to his chagrin (and much to my grin), he managed to do neither of those things. Ultimately, the Champions tribe snatch the victory and along with it, the delicious fish reward.
When the contestants come back from the challenge, we follow Heath as he finds a clue to a hidden immunity idol inside a glass bottle floating in the drinking well. The clue states that the idol is inside the voting urn at Tribal Council, meaning that his tribe would have to lose the challenge for him to attain it. Upon leaving the well, Heath failed to successfully hide the bottle containing the clue in his back pocket allowing Robbie and Benji to discover that he has it. Unsurprisingly, subtly isn’t the 7-foot goliath’s strong suit.
Similarly, there was also a clue to the same idol hidden within the reward at the Champions’ camp that fell to the floor in plain sight. A food-induced “mouth orgasm,” as Damien called it, must’ve impaired the tribe’s vision (that’s a strong orgasm!) because NOBODY was able to find the clue that was hiding under their toes. The person who found the idol was none other than Moana, the only person who was laying down in the shelter and not eating with the tribe because she is a vegetarian.
With one person from each tribe having found the idol we head into the immunity challenge with the prospect of each team trying to “out-throw” one another in the challenge. Lucky for Moana, Shane and Damien’s inability to perform well in the challenge put the Contenders tribe in a lead that they couldn’t come back from. As a result, the Contenders win the immunity challenge, leaving the Champions tribe to go to tribal council and Moana the opportunity to grab an immunity idol.
As I think about it, I believe that this is probably the best-case scenario for both Moana and Heath. Mo gets to have an idol in her possession without painting a target on her back or burning any social bonds by trying to throw the challenge. In Heath’s case, getting the idol would’ve only caused Benji and Robbie to become suspicious of him and would’ve risked the possibility of the two boys telling the tribe of his secret.
A Hero Fallen
Following their loss at the immunity challenge, Jackie decides it’s time to turn on the waterworks and start crying to her tribe about how bad she feels for costing them the challenge. She then does the rounds by taking Monika, Sharn and Moana aside and individually confirming that they would be targeting Damien at tribal council. Mo, however, doesn’t have an ounce of trust in Jackie and doesn’t want to keep her in the game.
Although the true kingpin seems to be Sharn, whose conversations with Lydia and Moana appear to have dictated their votes to ultimately vote out Damien. She pushes the argument that Damien is a liability in challenges and that he would be very difficult to beat at the end of the game in front of a jury. Basically, everything that Jackie was saying except… everybody trusts Sharn. It’s insane what a good social game can do for you, right?
At tribal council, the votes ended up pretty unanimous with only Mat and the Commando being the only two people to fight for Damien’s safety. There wasn’t much drama to be had with the only source of excitement stemming from Moana’s retrieval of the idol. At the end of the episode, Samuel reveals in his voting confessional that he wanted to keep Damien but couldn’t get the numbers on his side.
Damien was a true inspiration in the game who definitely deserved his spot on the Champions tribe. His game might not have lasted long, and he may not have brought anything strategically to the table, but his tenacity and desire to prove himself was genuinely wonderful. The most challenging part for Damien’s game was that he quickly became someone whose story transcended the game. Sam said it best when he said that “Damo was the heart and soul” of the tribe. If the Champions let Damien slide for long enough, then there was no saying how far he could go in this game.
I give massive props to the Champions tribe for being able to make this move as early as they did regardless of what the optics may be from an outsider’s perspective. Now that he is gone – and the Commando red with fury – it will be interesting to see if this vote somehow starts to expose some more cracks in the tribe.
OTHER #SURVIVORAU COVERAGE on INSIDE SURVIVOR
Australian Survivor will be back tomorrow Tuesday 7 August at 7.30pm AEST – and Austin Smith will be on hand to recap everything that goes down, down under. In the meantime, check out the Power Rankings from Season 2’s Sarah Tilleke, Luke Toki and Tess O’Halloran.
Header Photo: Nigel Wright, Network Ten.