Australian Survivor Episode 17 Recap – There’s a Snake in My Tribe

Alice Barelli covers for Austin Smith once again to recap the seventeenth episode of Australian Survivor.

Every episode we hear JLP talking about how the women of Survivor are taking down the men, the Survivor women are unstoppable, the Survivor women are running the show. I love some girl power on a show like Survivor, but I’m getting a bit sick of the same group of people marching towards the finale. I am so accustomed to the U.S. version of Survivor that every time another poorly planned flip fails to come to fruition it makes me infuriated instead of impressed by the majority alliance’s ability to keep their block of votes together.

At the previous tribal council, Nick copped a serving from Sam and Lee. I’m glad people are willing to get their feelings out in the open, but I hardly think tribal council is the place to do it. Confessionals exist for a reason! Nick uses his to great effect! Everything you say in front of the tribe – be it at camp or a challenge or tribal council! – can be taken, blended up by someone’s brain and spit out to be used against you. You don’t have to like people on this show, but you do need to be able to work with them.

It’s possible the longer length of the game is working against Australian Survivor at this point – we open up to day 35, and for most seasons this means the end is in sight. There are still 20 days to go for this season and castaways are quickly running out of physical, mental and emotional strength.

Nick is taken aback that he was called a snake. He approaches Sam and Lee about it, and Lee can’t even be bothered talking it out with him.

What we see in each episode is a chopped up perspective, and we’re missing a lot of the context. Nick has become the castaway known for making the same promise to multiple people and for having the attitude of doing absolutely anything to stay in the game. I’m okay with that. I don’t think the way someone behaves on Survivor is necessarily how they are in real life and I admire people willing to sink their teeth into the game. This version of the show includes an interesting dimension – it is crucial for castaways to portray themselves as honourable, fair people and, to some extent, to represent themselves as they are in real life.

El and Flick are having pillow talk lying in the shelter first thing the next morning. They need to bring community and comfort and unicorns and rainbows back to the tribe before chaos erupts. They want to cheer Nick up; I assumed this was so he’d continue to be aligned with them but thinking it over perhaps it is because they don’t want him to be upset. I’ve been going through this season so far assuming all players are putting the strategic foot forward but perhaps I’ve had on my rose coloured glasses.

Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

Sam lets us know he’s happy with his choice to target Nick. El approaches Nick to provide some kind words (which make him cry) and urges him to make friendly with Sam so that the Saanapu family can get together again. If Saanapu didn’t steamroll their way to the merge I think we would have seen this showdown much earlier, so Nick should thank Vavau’s constant losses for getting him to the jury.

Brooke throws a curveball when she says her closest ally so far has been Sam – I thought she was closely linked to Flick and El so this revelation makes me wonder what we didn’t see behind the scenes. Brooke can’t get a straight answer out of Sam. I’d be reconsidering your alliances there Brooke.

The focus flits to everybody missing their families. I’ve never seen such an obvious clue that letters or visits from loved ones at home are coming. Nick misses his fiancé. Matt misses his fiancé. Do you have to be engaged to get cast on this show? We hear nothing from the castaways with young kids at home (Kylie, Lee, El).

The castaways are split into two mini-tribes to compete, and Kristie can win based on gambling correctly on which tribe wins. (I’d like to see how that tribe pick went down actually but why show us something that gives us clues to the pecking order of the tribes? Why wasn’t Kristie picked? I would’ve thought she’s just as good at challenges as Sue and I thought more valuable to the alliance than Sue too).

I think there’s a reason Survivor U.S. usually includes their letters from home at the auction and everyone has a chance to get their hands on one. There’s nothing happy about people missing out on love from home – some people are going to be devastated, and it’s going to be ugly.

Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

This challenge is exhausting some of the Survivors out on the course. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re 35 days deep but some of the castaways can barely walk to the beach. The challenge ends up being closer than I thought and the Yellow team wins! Since Kristie bet on them she, Nick, Sam, El, Lee, and Kylie are entitled to letters from home.

Sam asks if they can give letters up and JLP says they can swap with losing castaways. Kristie and El agree to swap and nominate Matt and Flick to replace them. Kristie says something very interesting here – she knows what her letter says. At this moment Kristie is showing some pretty solid emotional strength. She doesn’t need the physical proof of her family supporting her; she knows she has it and she doesn’t need the paper to draw from it. If the castaways continue to spiral emotionally downwards Kristie’s strength here could take her far.

We head off to the commercial break with Matt’s message that “this game is a human game” which reads to me as “relationships and human connections are going to drive the end part of this game in the likes we’ve never seen before.” Matt says that given her actions at the reward challenge, he doesn’t want to vote out Kristie– not now, not ever. That’s a powerful move Kristie made right there.

There’s a touching scene watching castaways reading out their letters. Kylie and Lee have cute stories from their kids. Nick’s letter has an interesting comment from his fiancé that mirrors Nick’s arc during this episode – “I’m worried you’re around people who don’t get you.” Nick tries to make amends with Lee and Sam. Lee apologises for snapping at him during tribal council, but Sam doesn’t seem to take a crumb of what Nick is offering.

Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

We head over to the immunity challenge. The castaways must grip onto poles and stay off the ground for as long as possible. 45 minutes pass before the first castaway even drops out. Slowly but surely each castaway falls with Lee the last male falling out at 3 hours and 32 minutes. He says more than once in the episode that he’s in awe of how well the girls are doing. I’m all for a good endurance challenge – one of my favourites of all time was when Survivor: Australian Outback castaways stood on poles for over ten hours – but having so many endurance challenges favouring smaller, leaner body types in a row is becoming a bit dull. Brooke and Kylie have been the final two in two out of three challenges in this week of episodes!

More than 5 and half hours into the challenge Brooke lets on that she’d be happy to give up immunity if JLP trades her letter from home. JLP, who must be dying for a bathroom break, agrees and Kylie is awarded individual immunity.

Back at camp, Sam is working on ‘phase two’ of getting Nick off the island. Nick knows he’s in trouble and tries to set up a plan to get Sue out. Sam sets up his own plan that sees Nick heading home.

Brooke lets us know in her confessional that any ex-Vavau is a threat that could give power in the way of numbers (or votes) to Kylie or JL. Brooke knows she’s in a stable position with El and Flick and thinks she needs to do whatever is necessary to keep it that way.

Flick isn’t keen on Sam’s plan mainly because she thinks he’s voting based on emotions. Matt is getting concerned that there is too much chaos and Sue will end up voted out by a flimsy split vote. It does seem messy – initially, Sam said that Nick, Matt, and Lee would vote Sue, but later he is saying the girls will be.

Source: Nigel Wright for EndemolShine Australia and Network Ten.

Nick can tell something is up, but he can’t quite put his finger on what. I think Nick has given up a little bit here – the emotional toll of the past few days has caught up with him. He says sorting out the vote ‘seemed a little too easy’ and that he believes the vote is between himself and Sue but we don’t see him scrambling to make sure the numbers are on his side.

Something I find unbelievable on Australian Survivor is how freely castaways speak to one another and to JLP. When Brooke says she feels 90% confident at the immunity challenge I was completely aghast – even if you feel 90% you don’t tell anyone! You don’t want to show your cards unless you absolutely have to. Brooke tries to cover this at tribal (good girl) by saying she means she has 90% faith in her alliance. It’s not much better though because if I were her alliance, I would hope she has 100% faith in me. Matt (who brought up the point about confidence being a potential flaw) says he has 99% faith in his allies.

Sam gives Nick another verbal beating, this time saying other people who are more deserving have gone home instead of Nick. It’s a pretty personal attack, and I would be devastated if somebody said that about me. Nick is on the right track when he says ‘deserving is not a metric you can use to determine who should be here.’ Deserving the money prize is different to deserving to be still in the game, and I think Sam is thinking of the two as the same. The winner is always the most deserving player because they won. Nobody takes the person who needs the money the most to the finals so that they can win and if Sam believes that’s the case, perhaps he needs to vote himself out.


JLP is still trying to sniff out the pecking order of the alliance. Nick blows up who is working with who and says that Matt isn’t as important to the alliance as he thinks he is. Flick says that the alliance makes decisions together which is a sure fire way of saying “we want everyone to believe that we are deciding things together.” Sam says he messed up at the previous vote but that he thought most people wanted Nick out of the game. The pillow talk girls glare in unison at Sam when he says this.

Sam unsurprisingly votes for Nick and turns the ‘k’ into a little snake slithering up the page. Nick yells out his vote for Sue saying it’s “for old time’s sake.” JLP collects the votes and says whoever leaves tonight will be the very first member of the shiny new jury. He also lets us know to expect a final two which means after tonight we should see another eight people voted onto the jury.

Sue gets three votes, and Nick gets eight. Ouch. Rather than looking dejected Nick takes the opportunity to ‘geek out,’ thanking his fellow Survivors and getting excited for JLP to snuff his torch. You might have said that Survivor had been an emotional rollercoaster Nick, but I have to say you may have been the one taking viewers on a rollercoaster up until now. Nick is the undisputed confessional king, and I’m not sure who can take his place. As usual, though, we don’t have too many nights to wait until the three-a-week Australian Survivor juggernaut starts again.

Written by

Alice Barelli

Alice lives in rural Victoria, Australia. Working as a nurse and midwife catching babies by day, she spends her evenings catching Survivor and other reality TV shows. She’s been a fan of Survivor since its premiere in 2000. Alice writes Inside Survivor’s episode recaps for Australian Survivor.

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