It may have been touted as the battle between the Fake and the Snake, but this episode of Australian Survivor was all about the Little Rascals and their rise up the ranks. She might’ve been seen as the personal assistant of her Mokuta alliance, but her actions here proved that Shonee is indeed the CEO of this game. It was a sweet, sweet victory for the Little Rascals, who used all their artillery to eliminate a massive wildcard.
We began the episode with the aftershocks of the previous vote, which saw Michelle leave the game at a Tribal Council where the votes were split alongside Henry. With a line in the sand drawn firmly and deeply into the ground, Henry was unsurprisingly panicked by the thought that he had no real allies left in the game. His unstable and combustible style of gameplay during the first 10 days was too intense even for trigger hungry strategists like Harry and Nick and was enough for them to be repelled from working with him.
Nick was in a difficult situation himself having to deal with the repercussions of having turned on Henry after pandering to him and stringing him along. The season one strategist described Henry has a “nuclear weapon,” so it was understandable to see him react so uncomfortably to having to now carefully handle Henry socially and strategically around camp. Otherwise, Henry might blow up everyone’s game. To add insult to injury, Nick felt ignored and strongarmed by the sporty people in his alliance (Abbey, Lydia, Lee, Zach, and John) as they forced himself, Shonee and Harry, to split the votes between Michelle and Henry. Nick was left in a situation where all his cards were exposed and thrown on the table, leaving him no other option but to double down on his plan to eliminate the not-so-Zen Hen.
With the knowledge that his tribe was against him, Henry decided that the best way to slowly ingrain himself back into the majority was to present himself as a strong physical asset for his tribe. Doing so, he aimed to appeal to the sporty contestants enough that they would be more amenable to his plans to work with him and vote out Shonee. As we saw in the last episode, the incredibly physical nature of the challenges in Australian Survivor, in combination with the fact that there are actual athletes on the tribe, dictated the social dynamics and strategy of Mokuta. And Henry’s perfect opportunity to demonstrate his skills came quickly at the next reward challenge.
We saw the return of a challenge that we’ve seen almost every season now—the old “knock your opponent’s totem from their hand” challenge. I must say, if this challenge wasn’t prefaced by Henry’s desire to prove himself to his tribe, then it would have been a complete snooze fest. With that said, the challenge came down to a final matchup between David and Henry, which saw a nail-biting finish where Henry bounced his falling totem back into the air with enough height that it gave him enough time to knock David’s totem onto the sand first.
The reward of an all you can eat soft serve ice cream ended up being enough to tempt Locky and Phoebe into using their advantage to join in on Mokuta’s reward. When Locky announced to Jonathan that he intended on using his advantage, JLP reiterated to the contestants that this power could be used on any two contestants from Vakama, not just on himself and Phoebe, going against the lie they told. There wasn’t much of a fuss made by any of the contestants by way of confessionals, but there were many shifty-eyed camera shots of David and Mat that implied suspicion.
When the players arrived for their reward, I, for one, was happy it wasn’t another DIY reward. I don’t believe it would have been riveting television to see the contestants churn their own ice cream—or milk a cow to create the soft serve for that matter. While everyone was nose-deep in ice-cream, and Locky was trying to squeeze the Mokuta tribe for information, it was the Dairy Queen Shonee who had located a clue to the hidden immunity idol peeking out from a log at camp. This clue revealed that there was an idol hidden underneath the water well—the well is actually just a barrel that Shonee had to physically move to get the idol from beneath. Shonee decided to share this knowledge with her “chicken-legged” closest ally Nick, who jumped up and down in celebration. Now with an idol in her pocket and the self-proclaimed CEO of the tribe, Shonee had every intention of holding onto the idol for as long as possible.
Heading into the immunity challenge, there were two plans at play—Henry’s plan to use his physicality to make himself an asset while targeting Shonee as a challenge liability, and the Little Rascal alliance’s plan to remove an unpredictable player in the game. I do want to note that even though we have seen the plan to vote out Henry predominately from Nick’s eyes (because he is a great narrator), I hesitate to give him complete credit for this vote. Each member of the Little Rascal alliance had their own personal reason to vote Henry out, and each played a great part in making it happen.
Considering that Shonee now had an idol in her pocket, surely that meant that Henry’s fate was written unless the Mokuta tribe were able to win the immunity challenge. Of course, to nobody’s surprise, the Mokuta tribe did not win the challenge and were headed right back to Tribal Council for their third time. Ironically enough, the challenge came down to Henry not being able to catapult a ball into a net from a distance, which basically made him the reason that the tribe lost. Having now lost two immunity challenges in a row, we saw the Mokuta tribe pick up where the left off by looking to target the weakest performer in the challenge (in their eyes) Shonee—mind you having completely ignored Henry’s poor performance.
A Bittersweet Aftertaste
This is probably a good time to highlight the innate gender biases that exist within the game. The great Shannon Guss noted recently in her podcast for RHAP that women have to work so much harder to survive the pre-merge because they are more likely to be targeted for being a challenge liability. We saw it with Michelle in the last episode, who was made to be a tribe pariah because she wasn’t as athletic as the other women who happen to be professional athletes. It perpetuates this message for players, men and women alike, that if a woman isn’t a professional athlete that she is a liability. Not only this, but it also highlights a series double standard when it comes to challenge performance. Shonee and Michelle were both targeted because of their challenge performances, whereas Lee and Henry both lost challenges for their tribe by not being able to complete the final obstacle. Obviously, this isn’t the case for every contestant, but it is a theme we are seeing more often as the challenges in Australian Survivor become more physical.
I bring this up because Henry made incredible inroads this episode when the Mokuta tribe came back from losing immunity by almost flipping the vote in his favour. In fact, he got half the tribe on his side! Henry managed to get all the athletic people to vote out Shonee aside from Lee. This meant that John, Zach, and Lydia had all sided with Henry against Nick, Harry, Shonee, Sharn, Abbey, and Lee. In other words, at the point where they came back from the challenge, Henry only needed one more vote to force a tie, which at that point, anything could happen in the midst of a chaotic Tribal. More than half of the work was already done for him shortly because he was able to present himself as a strong man who could save the tribe from losing. Despite the result not going his way, the door was certainly open for him to make some magic happen.
Henry kept on referring to confidence multiple times this episode, whether it was him losing confidence or him having the confidence to swing for the fences. When he realised he had new-found numbers on his side, he was inspired to devise a plan which consisted of him crafting a fake idol, planting it at Tribal, and then “finding” it in front of everyone. I will admit that this was an incredibly fun idea which utilised information that only he had in the game—that there were idols hidden at Tribal. The ultimate goal was to flip the one or two votes that he needed so that he could then get the majority. When the time came, and Henry had to put on an Oscar-worthy performance, he definitely erred on the side of the Razzies, and the pressure it put on the other players to make a quick judgement call on whether he was bluffing or not had a big impact.
The move was bold, it was creative, and most importantly, it worked! Henry managed to flip Lee’s vote (bless his soul) to push the vote to a 5-5 tie! The only wrench in this plan was that Shonee decided to play her idol on herself, which sent Henry home regardless. It was a fascinating series of events that could have led to some incredible drama had Shonee not played her idol. Just like that, Henry was voted out yet again with an idol in his pocket, albeit a fake idol this time. It adds to the poetic nature of this season thus far with Jericho being eliminated because of a cookie jar alliance and Shane, a winner, being voted out first.
It is safe to say that there have been more than a few cracks in the Mokuta tribe and possibly even more so with Henry’s elimination. Going into the episodes to come, it will be interesting to see if Nick’s strategy of creating a cohesive tribe will come to fruition now that the biggest and most combustible player is gone. I doubt it, though. There are some competitive players who really value athleticism (*cough* Abbey *cough*), so the narrative leaving this Tribal will be how much social capital has Nick used up trying to chase after his white whale—and was it enough to bond the athletes against the Little Rascals.
Over at the Vakama tribe, we saw the foundations of a potential showmance between Locky and Brooke begin to build. There was a montage of footage where Locky and Brooke are together, and in confessional, Locky tells us that he is very taken by Brooke. This showmance was only shown from the perspective of Locky in that we got zero confessionals from Brooke validating the relationship. Other than a confessional early in the season where she told us her main focus is winning, we have been given very little indication of where Brooke’s mind is at. Obviously, we know that Australian Survivor shows us things for a reason. Still, they often omit things for reasons as well, so I’m interested in finding out whether this could be something to bite Locky in the behind later on in the game.
We also didn’t hear or see comments from any of the other members of the alliance who are witnessing this potentially blossoming showmance. No doubt that this showmance would be at the forefront of everyone’s minds since Locky and Brooke aren’t doing anything to conceal their public displays of affection. While we didn’t see anybody outwardly express concern, I can’t imagine players like David or AK would be particularly thrilled to know that people are coupling up in the game, but that could be because there are already multiple couples forming. We have Moana and Mat, Locky and Brooke, and Phoebe and AK, that are already known and established couples on this tribe, leaving David, Flick, Tarzan, and Jacqui as the contestants that are technically on their lonesome. But even then, David and Flick appear to have well-established connections.
The giant elephant in the room, though, was the “hidden” immunity idol that Mat found in front of the entire tribe and was now wearing proudly around his neck as a constant reminder to all. Aside from the slowly blossoming showmance, the next biggest story on Vakama lied in Mat’s control over the game, with his idol around his neck and David around his finger. If knowledge is power, then Mat is packing some serious heat with the knowledge that David was the rat that sold out his tribe to vote Daisy out. The footage that we saw from the Vakama tribe shows them slowly bubbling away, and I can only hope that we can let this pressure cooker explode soon so that we don’t risk these dynamics fizzling out because of a tribe swap.
OTHER #SURVIVORAU COVERAGE on INSIDE SURVIVOR
Australian Survivor airs Monday through Wednesday at 7.30pm AEST.
Be sure to check back in on Inside Survivor as Alice Barelli, Austin Smith, and myself continue to review each episode and recap everything that goes down, down under.
Also, be sure to check back in for exit interviews with the All-Stars cast and other feature articles from the Inside Survivor family.