Heath Chick is back to talk about the action, or lack of action, from episode thirteen of Australian Survivor.
Over 16 years of the US edition of Survivor, the program has followed a simple formula of challenges followed by snuffed torches, and you would have to say that over 33 seasons, that method has worked pretty well. Very well in fact!
So when this season of Australian Survivor kicked off, one thing I was concerned about was whether it would follow the proven formula of success that has already been carved out in the US. I was worried about such a big cast and a long season, but the early signs were good. The production was solid as the show felt a lot like the US version, and while it’s impossible to fill the shoes of Jeff Probst, our Aussie host Jonathan LaPaglia was slowly finding his feet.
However, the Australian Survivor producers clearly thought that the season wouldn’t hold enough interest without injecting a few of their own surprises along the way. I enjoyed when the tribes were switched up earlier in the season, and I’ve enjoyed some of the idol gameplay. However, tonight, on Episode 13 of the season, there was a new twist, and it was one that just didn’t work.
We start off the episode at Vavau after the beautiful blindside by Phoebe who played her hidden immunity idol to remove another powerhouse player in Craig. The Vavau tribe are part in shock but part impressed by Phoebe’s ability to survive as they grill her and Kristie about the idol. Kristie tries hard not to lie about knowing that Phoebe had the idol by saying that she “never saw it, but she had an inkling she had it.” No one is buying that story.
Meanwhile, Saanapu is celebrating Day 28 which means they have crossed the half-way point of the season. Their bellies are full as the winning streak continues.
By contrast over at Vavau, Phoebe walks up on Kristie who is fishing using Rohan’s pants as a net. “I’m hoping that the fish swim into it,” explains Kristie. Oh, Lord.
While Kristie is bringing innovation to the fishing world, Sue grabs Kate to let rip with her frustrations over the former Aganoa duo. “She’s a snake! She has to go!” says Sue referring to Phoebe, before throwing a few jabs at Kristie as well calling her “Miss Weepy Head” for her acting performance when she knew all about Phoebe’s hidden idol.
The tribes head into a reward challenge where Saanapu get their first look at the new Vavau tribe minus Craig. Saanapu giggle like school children. “I thought Craig was calling the shots,” remarks Brooke. “The last Tribal Council proves that anyone can go home,” says Conner before pleading, “Please no more!”
The reward challenge is a classic team memory challenge where contestants get a look at a line up of objects before racing to reconstruct the order before their opponent. The winner will enjoy the spoils of a Samoan feast back at their camp. Flick, Lee, El and Kylie will sit this one out for Saanapu. You would think that a mental rather than physical challenge would suit Vavau, but it doesn’t seem to matter as Saanapu continue their dominance with yet another victory.
Saanapu head back to camp and see a glorious feast of lobster, suckling pig, crab, fish and all the trimmings as they dig in like cavemen and stuff themselves full. “This is like actual, legit food,” ponders Matt.
Over at Vavau, Kristie is planning a feast of her own as she gathers some sea snails from around the rocky foreshore. She shares the catch with Phoebe and Conner, and the consensus is that snails are actually not too bad. “It’s probably the best meal I’ve had out here!” declares Kristie.
If only she knew about the food coma that has set in over as Saanapu as apparently gorging one’s face full of lobster has come with a price tag. Most of the tribe are keeled over with pain in their stomachs and we even get a rather unnecessary shot of a hyper-coloured regurgitation from Sam. Lovely.
Time for some girl power as a vulnerable, but always enthusiastic, Kylie pulls Flick, JL, and El aside to try and talk some intense strategy. The best idea she can come up with is an all-girl alliance. Hmmm. Her pitch isn’t exactly convincing, and the others barely seem even to acknowledge the thought. It seems pretty clear that Kylie is on the bottom, and no one has any interest in working with her at the moment.
Over at Vavau, both Kate and Sue proudly claim that they are an honest, open book. They never lie, and they are mortified at the thought of someone lying. Arrrghhh! This is Survivor people! It’s a game of deception! Kristie again tries to play innocent over the hidden idol, but Phoebe makes sure that the others know for sure that Kristie knew exactly what was going on.
The pre-game hype about this episode was Phoebe throwing Kristie “under the bus” but the reality is that Phoebe is playing a great game and is simply prepared to do whatever it takes to avoid being stuck on the bottom. She needs to make her tribe feel that she is more valuable than Kristie.
Phoebe continues to work Conner like a young puppy dog, and it seems like she has him eating out of her hand. Conner agrees that Kristie is the next to go as they head off to their next immunity challenge.
It’s pouring with rain as immunity is back up for grabs!
A tribe member will swim out to a pontoon while the remaining tribe mates paddle a boat that is attached to the pontoon by a rope. Once the swimmer reaches the pontoon, they grab the rope and haul in the opposing team’s boat which contains a bag of puzzle pieces. That same person will then scamper back to shore and reconstruct the puzzle to win immunity.
This seems like a very odd choice for an immunity challenge. One person is required to do 95% of the challenge solo, while everyone else just paddles in a boat for a short period. That one person also has to be both physically and mentally strong, so it just doesn’t feel like a good challenge that incorporates the strengths of the entire team.
Saanapu again has to sit out four players with Brooke, Matt, Sam and JL left shivering in the cold on the bench. Nick will be doing the lion’s share of this challenge for Saanapu, up against Kate for Vavau.
Nick grabs a quick lead as the boats get into a bit of a tangle. Those guys only had one job to do! Nick reels in the boat in no time and heads back to shore, and as expected, this challenge basically comes down to the puzzle. Nick has a handy lead, but this looks a tricky puzzle. Kate isn’t without a chance but Nick eventually finds a rhythm. Kate can’t get anything going at all with the puzzle and Nick goes on to claim yet another immunity for Saanapu leaving Vavau to head to Tribal Council for the fifth time in a row.
In addition to immunity, Saanapu has also won an advantage which JPL explains is the opportunity for one of their tribe to sit in on tonight’s Tribal Council!
Back at camp and Phoebe is quick to get around the Vavau tribe and align them against Kristie. It seems that her magic is working. “I don’t trust Phoebe, but keep your friends close and your enemies closer right?” says Kate.
Phoebe massages Conner again and asks that he tells Kristie that they are aligning to vote off Sue. The proposed misdirection is a basic Survivor move, but even that seems too hard for Conner who doesn’t want to have to lie. Good Lord, who cast this bunch of honest do-gooders?
It’s left to Phoebe to do the dirty work and explain the cover story to Kristie who seems happy enough just to go along with whatever Phoebe says. So Kristie thinks they are voting for Sue, while everyone else looks set to vote for Kristie as Vavau head off to Tribal Council.
As they arrive, we see that Brooke has been chosen as the Saanapu representative to sit in at tonight’s Tribal Council.
JPL fires a couple of questions at Sue and Kristie about why they should not be voted out tonight before turning his attention to Phoebe. Clearly, Phoebe would rather keep her strong game and her idol play away from the ears of Saanapu, but JPL is quick to blow her cover as Brooke learns that Phoebe had the most votes at the previous Tribal Council but survived thanks to her idol.
Kristie again makes a horrible attempt at pretending not to know about the hidden idol. Upon further scrutiny, Kristie clarifies that although she was told about it, she had never physically seen the idol for herself. On the defensive, Kristie talks about her struggles through the game up until this point and that she nearly had a breakdown. She says she’s been working on it every day, but it’s been really hard.
A despondent Kristie looks like her head is on the chopping block, but JPL reveals yet another Tribal Council twist. There will be no vote off tonight! Instead, Brooke gets to decide who she wants to poach from Vavau and bring them over to the Saanapu tribe! What the hell?
Brooke says that there are two she’s tossing up between. She wanted to take Phoebe but she’s worried about how well she is doing, and her strong gameplay makes her nervous. So instead she takes Sue. The yellow buff of Vavau is tossed into the fire by Sue as she is now officially Saanapu. Sue grabs her torch and wanders off into the distance with Brooke. Vavau is left with just four gobsmacked tribe members while the viewing public is also left totally confused.
In a season that has produced largely one-sided results, why on Earth would the producers devise a twist that further weakens the weakest tribe? Why would they create a situation that leaves one tribe with ten players and the other with four? How is Saanapu supposed to sit out six players at a challenge when they can’t sit out the same people in back-to-back challenges?
It just makes no sense and has further drawn out the season during a time when things really need a shake up. We should’ve seen another tribe swap to even the playing field. Some of those getting a free ride at Saanapu need to come under scrutiny at Tribal. Get rid of some dead wood! And Phoebe, who has been the standout player this season, needs a fair chance to make a run deep into the merge!
As the episode draws to a close, JPL clears things up with some final words of inspiration: “What matters is that it’s not the size of the tribe in the fight, but the size of the fight in the tribe!”
I wonder if the producers say the same thing about TV ratings.
So much has happened so far, yet somehow we’re only just half-way through the season! Hopefully, a merge or at least a tribe shake-up is on the way, and let’s hope we never, ever have a Tribal without elimination again!