Australian Survivor seems to be keen on leaving its audience in Purgatory. After kicking off the new non-elimination twist at the end of the previous episode, the show has ramped up the stakes by sending not one but two castaways there in the latest episode.
We’ve been following an arc that pits Jordie against Sam these past few episodes. It kicked off when Jordie schemed to blindside fellow majority member Josh. The move was discovered, and Jordie became the secret target of those he was trying to betray. Alas, Jordie won individual immunity, and Jesse took the bullet in his place. But before he was voted out, Jesse found an idol. Sam conveniently caught him during his celebrations. With nowhere to hide the idol, Jesse gave it to Sam to hold on to. That night at Tribal, the Jesse plan saw him voted off, although he filled Jordie in on Sam’s idol theft as he left.
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Flashforward: Jordie is now telling anything that moves how Sam stole Jesse’s idol. In the previous episode, he started telling others as an act of desperation—he wanted to use this piece of information to help convince people to vote off Mark. I interpreted the responses he was getting as a reflection of Jordie’s chaotic gameplay. Any trust people had in him was wearing thin, if not totally worn away, and even if Jordie was telling the truth, people weren’t willing to pivot a big move on someone they considered a bit shaky and sketchy.
In this episode, Jordie continued his “battle to get them to believe me.” Despite the frenetic tone as he darted around camp, Jordie seemed to be making more in-roads with the idol story. Both Michelle and Juicy Dave seemed a lot more concerned about the duo of Mark and Sam holding two idols. Chrissy seemed flustered by the idea that Sam would be lying to her. But Jordie’s active scheming, which began before the reward challenge and continued all the way through Tribal Council, may have had an unintended consequence on his resume.
Jordie has been actively building a case in front of the jury at each Tribal Council and has his biggest cheerleader as one of its members. A reward win for a brand new car, making it his fourth challenge win in a row, also didn’t help his threat level. A brief conversation seen between Sam, Dave, and Jordan saw them discuss how Jordie is the number one threat to win. To his credit, Jordie seems insightful that his gameplay is on a track to spiral out of control and out of the game, but so long as Sam is taken out first, he really doesn’t care.
On the flip side, Sam was beginning to fall apart. She’s outwardly in the stronger spot: she has her duo with Mark, she has her majority alliance, and (until now) she has had strong relationships with most of the tribe. Also, not only does her husband Mark have an idol but she has one too. Sam is smart enough to recognise that the idols being public knowledge is a death sentence. Luckily for her, the idol is a way to avoid that death sentence if she can play it at the right moment.
The real turning point of this episode happened when Jordan took out individual immunity. As thrilled as I was for Jordan, my heart broke for Jordie. The challenge itself looked brutal, and my arms began to ache just watching. If Jordie was a storm before the challenge, he was now a fully-grown tornado. He seemed to have swung Dave, Michelle, and KJ onto his side. Dave thought the double idols of Sam and Mark were too powerful. Michelle thought Sam crossed an ethical line when she stole Jesse’s idol. And KJ was looking for a way to take revenge against whoever had been casting a single vote for her.
Josh and Jordan were the unknowns. Josh talked with Mark about the importance of them sticking together further but was also happy to chat with Jordie about their options. And even though Jordan got a home video and decent feed from Jordie just the day before, a pile of nachos and a spoken promise of loyalty may not stack up against Jordie’s attempt to blindside his cousin only a couple of rounds earlier.
While the strategizing was happening, Sam’s paranoia began to put her allies offside. While I’m sure that Sam was being skittish and anxious, it seems a little rich to be calling it paranoia. Yes, Sam was edgy, but she was also being targeted as the vote. Is it really paranoia if you have cause to be suspicious and wary? If anything, I would think Sam’s paranoia was a big red warning light to those who believed she had an idol. If someone is paranoid and they’re getting votes, then wouldn’t the next logical step be that they’ll play an idol? It’s almost like they were trying to execute an idol flush rather than a genuine vote out.
Rather than trying to reassure or soothe Sam, the castaways voting against her excluded her from conversations (Dave and Michelle) or flat out shut down any possibility of working with her (KJ and Jordie). The bonus for Dave, Michelle, and KJ was that they were not putting themselves at risk. They knew that frontman Jordie would be getting the votes and would go home if Sam had played an idol. Even so, I would’ve thought that keeping Sam calm then blindsiding her with an idol in her pocket would put them on better footing going forward.
What none of them knew (yet!) was that it didn’t matter who got voted out. Rather than heading off to Jury Villa, a decent meal and a hot shower, the voted-out castaway would be joining Shay in the desolate landscape that is Purgatory. At Tribal, Shay’s absence from the jury was acknowledged by Mark but never explained by Jonathan. If Shay wasn’t there due to medical reasons, I feel like JLP would have explained the situation. Instead, JLP didn’t respond to Mark’s comment and immediately began his questioning.
The rivalry between Sam and Jordie came to a temporary end when Jordie was voted out unanimously. But then, in a total blindside on the players and viewers, JLP announced that a second castaway would be leaving. The very short-lived final eight voted out KJ for reasons I can only guess at. She’s not the closest with any of the remaining group but is more likely to win a challenge than Michelle? She refused to help Sam in the creek earlier? She buddied up to Jordie a little too much? In any case, she quickly followed Jordie out of Tribal and into Purgatory.
Australian Survivor has had offshoots before where castaways are voted out of the tribe but not out of the game. Last year’s champion Hayley survived such a situation, came back and won the game. The little trio at Purgatory is waiting for the chance to bring their game back to life. And the previews for the next episode suggest that Jordie is trying to rally the group to work together when they get back into the game. I was expecting a return challenge by now, but nothing like that was shown in the preview.
Similar to Hayley, I could see Shay profiting from this kind of twist. She has a good chance at winning a physical competition to re-enter the game. While the game has hurtled on back at camp, she’s been able to keep some blood off her hands and could go back to camp when the others are desperate for a new ally. She could have her pick of alliances.
Meanwhile, Jordie could also fare well in a physical challenge to return, but he’s burned some bridges already in the game. His laser focus on Mark and Sam may help him survive a few rounds, but all in all, I think Jordie could quickly end up on the wrong side of votes again.
And lastly, KJ has been the kind of character I desperately want to see more of, as she seems strategic and social. But she’s been mainly kept to the background with little insight into her thoughts and feelings.
How long is Australian Survivor going to be in Purgatory? Who knows. The game seems to idle while nobody is truly being voted out, so hopefully not for too much longer. Having question marks over three players makes it feel like the game is continuing but getting no closer to a winner. While I’m sure there will be entertainment in Jordie’s uprising, I’d much prefer to see the game happening all in one place.