Australian Survivor: Titans vs. Rebels

Episode 1 Recap – Strength In Numbers

What went down in Episode 1?

Like karma, Survivor drives a big bus and knows everyone’s address. In this outstanding episode of the latest season of Australian Survivor, Titans v Rebels, many of the castaways discover who is in charge of the game. And it’s the game itself.

But before the cogs and gears begin to grind, let us pause to admire the stunning setting of this season, “back in the home of Australian Survivor,” as host Jonathan LaPaglia says, Samoa. With this fourth season there, Samoa has now hosted the most seasons, pulling ahead of Fiji with three. The glorious cinematography makes this look like a feature film, and we know cinema manager Eden at least will appreciate it.

The theme for the ninth season of Australian Survivor is Titans v Rebels, “pitting those at the top of their game against those who play their own game” as JLP says. If, like me, you don’t see a huge difference between those two definitions, don’t worry; JLP will spend much of this episode continuing to define the two.

On the high seas, a sinister container ship powers the Titans towards the island while dinghies from Mad Max: Fury Road sweep around it, transporting the Rebels.

The first castaway to speak is powerlifter Viola, a Titan, of course, instantly cementing her pre-season throne as fan favourite. She tells us she’s “more than just a girl.” Absolutely no argument from us. Supermodel Valeria tells us, “If you smile for no reason in Russia, it is assumed you are an idiot or a crazy person,” and “the sleeping bear is inside me ready to fight. ” This is a foreshadowing of an iconic duo to rival Shonella: Vi-leria.

JLP lets us know that Rebels are rule breakers, mavericks, thrill seekers (and other words that also describe the Titans). We hear from Garrick, the loss prevention officer, Peta the bar manager, and Kelli the psychologist. She tells us, “They call me the no-bullshit psychologist.” Do they, Kelli? I suspect that’s just you. She is going to hide the fact that she is a psychologist. There’s no reason why, just a Rebel, I guess.

Then the screen expands in an attempt to contain Feras, not a “big, dumb Arab” (his words) but a genius. The sheer wattage of his charisma tripped my circuit breakers.

A sneak charm attack by Raymond the Retailer, and his “unorthodoxity” leads into a shot of posts on a raging cliff, the iconic final challenge all of this is leading to.

But let’s get to the first challenge: make a fire that burns a totemic person made of sticks and ignites the tribe flag. It’s giving Wicker Man. After the camera lingers lovingly on sculpted abs, arms and thighs, and tattoos, they are off. The Rebels move through the challenge like an experienced team, while the Titans are immediately at cross purposes. JLP is delighted as he can quip, “Perhaps there are too many captains.”

The Rebels win. At Rebels beach, there are cheerful introductions and the making of a fire. Alex, the maths teacher, and Kelli, the undercover psych, argue about whether the fire is going or not, babes. Kelli refers to herself in the third person. Alex manfully restrains himself from rolling his eyes. In the united happiness of a tribe on a winning streak, is this a promise of a crack to come?

At Titans beach, there are also introductions. Despite the loss, the mood is high. And then, we meet Eden, a cinema manager whose pop culture knowledge is Yoda-level. Although he doesn’t possess the impressive guns of many on the tribe, his muscles are of a different sort. It is hard for Survivor editors in any franchise to show a social game. But Eden’s is palpable as he sets about making connections within the tribe. And yes, it may be his strategy, but his natural friendliness is a feel-good formula that his tribemates drink like water.

Several castaways are weaving palm fronds. Of course, everyone knows that isn’t necessary, but when the tribe is weaving fronds, you weave fronds. While they weave, some big, strong men – “man mountains,” according to Eden – stand around doing nothing. They then comment to each other that they are standing around doing nothing. Okay then.

While Nathan, the football agent, is preoccupied with the whereabouts of Valeria, “the hot Russian,” Valeria has found the love of her life. Viola. The fan base is ecstatic.

Frankie, the cross-fit hairdresser, and Nathan confer and plan out the entire game to the end. “How do you feel about grabbing some of the weak people?” Frankie is amazed that Nathan knows their tribemates’ names/

Day 2, and Feras greets us. In fact, he makes the sun come up. He tells us his first night was horrible, worse than not having food. Apparently, the sleeping arrangements in the Rebels’ rather marvelous shelter disturbed him. Sarah, the firefighter, and Tobias, the construction manager, had a little sandwich, while Alex and Peta, the bar manager, had a very naughty sandwich, a “comfortable” sandwich. According to Feras, a first-day sandwich should be an innocent sandwich. Is he sure he isn’t obsessing over food??

Despite getting little sleep, the Rebels eat brekkie and agree that this will set them up for the challenge. Meanwhile, apparently, it’s raining only on Titans beach. Jess, the academic, is on Struggle Street. It’s not easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. It’s stress, depress, lemon zest. She says in confessional, “I’m one of the best university lecturers in all of Australia.” I didn’t know there had been a competition to decide that, but go off, sis.

Jess throws out Frankie’s name to Nathan, who runs straight to Frankie with the news. “If we go to tribal tonight, we’re voting Jess.” And so the lines are drawn.

At the challenge, JLP reveals the tribe immunity idol. It’s a double-handled sports trophy you might have got for your school’s tennis team. Or perhaps the Cup that Jess competed for in the Best University Lecturer comp.

As this is Australian Survivor, the challenge requires a large amount of brute strength. Both tribes set to with lusty cries of “pull!.” The very muscly Titans quickly fall behind the Rebels, who are working as a team, working strategically. When the tribe must divide in two to complete the task, the Titans make the fatal mistake of taking most of their man mountains out of the positions where a lot of “pulling” is required. They lose.

But Nathan is excited to go to tribal council. Jess is “a bit of an easy kill.” No one is interested in Jess’s proposed team chat postmortem on their change loss. There are other fish to fry.

Jess is “on the scrap heap,” according to Nathan, and Frankie agrees. Now, they just have to tell everybody else. They divide and conquer, making the rounds of the rest of the tribe. Nathan generously offers to “carry” business owner Kitty and Caroline, the midwife, if they stick with him. You can tell by their faces how impressed they are. Having used this nuanced strategy of telling people what to do, they go for a swim with strongman Jaden. After all, Survivor is a set-and-forget game, isn’t it? Isn’t it??

I won’t keep you in suspense. It’s not.

Eden clocks the “strong people dismissing others as weak.” He wants to set the tone. He pulls aside Mark, the diplomat, and his earlier social inroads pay dividends. He also knows to ask Mark what he thinks. And so begins a beautiful Survivor ballet, as eight of the Titans form and reform pairs and threes and fours in the bush to strat chat, while the “tight brawny three” hang out together in the water.

The rebellious Titans feel each other out: What do you think? Would you be open to something else? What name do you have in mind? Although orchestrated by Eden and Mark (who thinks orchestras are conducted with a wand rather than a baton), there is a shared ownership of the move to vote out Frankie.

At Tribal Council, JLP wonders aloud, “Is this tribe of Titans a titanic mess?” He wants to know if there is a leader in the tribe. Mark says you’d be foolish to think you know how this game works. Frankie says she’s confident “the game’s about to start.” But all twelve Titans are just marking time. They want to get into the voting hut. Especially Nathan, who cannot suppress his delighted smile at the coming-to-fruition of his plan to vote out Jess – the “nothing.” Even an ignorance of what ‘dichotomy’ means cannot dim his smile.

As he votes for Frankie, Eden says, “You’re an absolute terminator, but tonight it’s hasta la vista, baby.” If this is the calibre of pop culture quotes we are going to be treated to this season, that alone will be worth the price of admission.

As JLP says he’ll count the votes, Jaden whispers, “It’s just like the show.”
The first vote is for Frankie. She nods confidently; she expected it. Followed by four votes for Jess (Frankie, Nathan, Jaden, and Winna, the competitive eater). Then, the slow avalanche of ‘Frankie’ votes and the rising confusion and panic plain on the faces of Frankie and Nathan.

There are no editing shenanigans to leave us in any doubt as to the vote. We were given the sweeping narrative of how the vote came about in a gorgeous 87-minute symphony. What a stupendous, one might almost say ‘titanic,’ start to this highly anticipated season of 24 new castaways.

Written by

Sarah Carradine

Sarah is a writer, director, editor and podcaster living on Gadigal land in Sydney, Australia. Her plays and her opera have been produced throughout Australia, New Zealand, and in the US. She podcasts about reality and scripted TV. She co-hosts a true crime review podcast for RHAP called Crime Seen.

2 responses to “Episode 1 Recap – Strength In Numbers”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.