Welcome, class! Everyone, take a seat. Or stand. Or lean. Smartphones have really opened the door for reading in a variety of positions.
My name is Mike Bloom, and I am thrilled to join the staff here at True Dork Times to hopefully write many, many words about Australian Survivor over the next couple of months. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, I figured I would break down exactly what Survivor AU is and what it's been able to accomplish in the past four years. Of course, any questions are welcome over the course of this lesson.
Wait a minute, what the hell is this?
Ah, I see we have our first question! So this is going to be a weekly column that recaps the upcoming season of Australian Survivor: All-Stars from Day 1 to the bitter end.
And who the hell are you?
Another good question! I'm a Survivor fan-turned-podcaster-turned-journalist. I got my start on the "Survivor Historians" podcast, where we periodically talk about the old seasons of the U.S. version. I currently cover Survivor U.S. for Parade Magazine and even had the opportunity to go out on set to Fiji, where this crop of Australian contestants also happen to be playing. I can usually be found on Rob Has a Podcast and its subsidiary networks, where I'm typically playing some Survivor fun and games, talking Survivor South Africa, or playing out reality TV simulations involving sandwiches and Reem Daly.
Alright, that all seems to check out. So what's Australian Survivor anyway?
The purpose is in the name. It's a version of the American reality show of the same name that features contestants competing in challenges and voting each other off in pursuit of the title of Sole Survivor. Only this time, all the contestants hail from Down Under!
Wait, I thought we already had Australian Survivor. There was Colby, and Jerri, and that one guy fell in the fire ...
We don't talk about him. And yes, the names can get a little confusing. For all intents and purposes, Survivor: Australia will refer to the second season of the U.S. version, while Australian Survivor will refer to the Aussie franchise, which has been going strong in name for six seasons.
When did Australian Survivor start?
The franchise actually started not too far after Borneo took the world by storm. A civilian version aired in 2002, followed by a celebrity edition in 2006. A decade later, the show rebooted under a new channel and production company in 2016, where it produced four iterations that will feed into this upcoming all-stars season.
Wait, are the contestants coming from seasons one through four, or three through six?
This is probably the biggest thing that's divided the Survivor AU fandom to date. Some consider the last four seasons to be seasons three through six since they're still under the same name. Some feel it should be taken as a hard reboot, with the 2016 edition being the spiritual season one. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to use the latter parlance, just to not make it look weird that there is nary a mention of a season 1 or 2 when we go through the cast.
Alright, so Survivor AU shares the same name as its American counterpart. But what are the major differences between the two?
A fair amount, actually. As I said, the core structure of the game is still in place no matter what the franchise. But there are quite a number of differences.
Okay, any other differences I should know about?
Well, this isn't a change to the structure. But I should mention that the editing in Australian Survivor is quite different than what we're used to with other versions. Survivor AU tends to tell its stories based on what's happening that week. That means confessionals from other weeks might get spliced into that episode since it's appropriate to that story. Hell, your confessional might even be spliced from two or three different times, shown by a change in location, clothing, and facial hair. And if you're not a part of the action that episode, no matter how far you're going, you might not even get screen time that episode.
That's led to some very ... interesting editing choices, to say the least. You get major characters like Benji in season 3 who don't have a confessional in the first seven episodes. Three out of four seasons, someone who made finale night has been very under-edited compared to their opponents, virtually removing them from contention before votes are even cast. And don't get me started on the Contender women from season 4. We actually had someone leave the game without any confessionals, a first in Survivor history!
Now look, are confessionals the end all be all of Survivor storytelling? Absolutely not. Does Australian Survivor produce some of the most beautifully cinematic footage, as well as highlight people who could be in consideration for the best reality TV contestants of all time? Without a doubt! I'm just saying, if you're looking for a Survivor franchise that is happy to give time to its stars, but not time to all, that's Australian Survivor.
Did any American contestants ever play Australian Survivor?
Yes, Russell Hantz did. And he got spanked.
So this next season is going to be All-Stars?
Excitedly, yes! Obviously fans had been talking about the idea for some time, what with how the American version popularized the idea of returning players. But the season was officially announced after the season 4 finale in September 2019, and it's happening next month!
Wait, they're doing All-Stars after only four seasons?
Yes, you certainly aren't the first person to question whether or not this is too soon. American Survivor waited until nearly twice the number of seasons passed before casting their own. The pool is 95 Australians versus 112 Americans. Wouldn't you think they would wait for another season to build out the pool and then cast from there?
Well, yes and no. It is true there are fewer contestants to pull from. But if you add up the number of episodes from the first seven American seasons and the first four Australian seasons, you can see that the latter outnumbers the former. Meaning that we've technically seen more of Australian Survivor up to this point than we did of American Survivor from 2000-2003. I think that allows these cast members to leave more lasting impressions. One of the all-stars, for instance, was the last premerge boot of her season, but was on for fourteen episodes. She placed fourteenth but was on our screens as long as the winner of an American season. That's why I'm personally fine with an All-Stars season here.
So I assume that means there won't be any WTF casting choices then!
Well ... I'll cross that bridge when I break down the cast. What else do you want to know?
If I don't live in Australia, how can I watch Australian Survivor?
And now we've come to the question that people have scrolled past plenty of characterized nonsense to get to. Australian Survivor currently airs on 10 Network, and suffice it to say they're not too kind to those who live outside of Australia. Your two options are essentially to invest in a VPN and watch episodes on the Tenplay website, or head down the rabbit hole into the wonderland of Survivor links.
It's tough to recommend dedicated sources for episode links. Patrons of certain reality TV podcasts, for example, get access to a Facebook group where community members are tiring endlessly to get private links housed and posted. If you'd prefer to go independent, websites like Dailymotion and sometimes even YouTube have full episodes up there. While those are plentiful, it's also less secure when they'll pop up after the episodes air in Australia. Just make sure when you're perusing to keep an open mind and your pop-up blocker up!
Okay, you've primed us and pumped us enough on what Australian Survivor is. Can you get to the castaways already?!
I thought you'd never ask! Yes, here are the 24 people who are going to be competing for the second time on Australian Survivor. I'll run down a quick bio of who they are, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Think of it as a way to either catch up on the past four years of strategists and characters or as a reminder as to what these people were able to do their first time on the island.
I will say, at the outset, this is a very interesting group. When I saw the first rumblings of a cast list, which wasn't too dissimilar to what we ended up with here, I thought it was a really great group for Australian Survivor: Second Chances. It was a group of people who varied from premerge shock boots to runners-up, but all wanted redemption. Unfortunately, the casting of two particular people squashed that fantasy for me. Because if you look at this group under the Second Chances lens instead, a good handful of them make more sense than calling them All-Stars!
But of course, that's a song the Survivor fandom has been singing since they saw Amber Brkich and Rob Mariano return to the game in 2004 (less so when they returned to the game in 2020). And even under the All-Stars theme, there are still people left out of the cast for one reason or another that make my heart ache (pour one out for Craig, Anneliese, Tessa, Sarah, Benji, Fenella, Shaun, and Janine). No matter what, Australian Survivor has cast extremely dynamic and compelling people over the years, and I can't wait to see how it all shakes out. Without further ado, here are your 24 "all-stars":
(Quick note: Yes, I did say 24. Even though 10 has only revealed 15 contestants in their marketing for...whatever reason...I am going to be talking about the full group of castaways that made its rounds the past several months. This is your last warning to hop out now if you wish to be surprised as to the full lineup of the cast on February 3.)
Aaron "A.K." Knight
Season 2, 15th Place
The Story So Far: A premerge story for the ages! A.K. came out of the gate in true Hantzian fashion, making several alliances from the jump, whether they be in good health or vomiting on the beach. Noticing his mistake, he cooled down immediately. Using a fake idol, a real idol, and an easy person to target, A.K. evaded being the first out of his tribe, where he then proceeded to navigate into a position of power that he sought from the beginning. Unfortunately, a tribe swap sent the power player over to the other beach in the minority. His perennial enemy Tara, whom he voted out of the game before (it's a long story) was able to finally get her revenge, and the wedding DJ could only sit back and watch as his final song began to play.
Strengths: Extreme flexibility. After realizing how he was coming across, he immediately changed up his game. That allowed him to build patience, which was necessary when he took the opportune moment to flip the game on its head in Episode 5. It does say something that, despite being so at the forefront of conversations, it took a bad swap to truly end his game. And should he find himself on the bottom again, it is noteworthy that he can find idols sans clues, which is always good in a pinch.
Weaknesses: A.K. wasn't just targeted initially because he can find rocks that look like chickens. He is an AGGRESSIVE player, and that does not wear well interpersonally, making several rivals over the course of his time in the game. A.K. is now playing in a cast that has a noteworthy amount of big players, so he could blend in a way he couldn't before. But prior history shows A.K. could put himself on an island again.
Season 4, 5th Place
The Story So Far: Australian Survivor hit a ratings boost with the "Champions vs. Contenders" theme of the past two seasons, which saw leaders and winners in their respective fields competing against ordinary people (and your occasional AFL player). Australian footballer Abbey found herself in a comfortable alliance with fellow athletes on the Champions tribe. But feeling her voice wasn't heard, she flipped on them early, prompting a fiery outburst from her former allies. Despite burning those bridges, Abbey moved forward with her new group, forming a tight trio with Janine and Pia. But seeing a tough endgame, she flipped once more at the Final 7. Abbey got a taste of her own medicine a couple of rounds later, as Luke masterminded her blindside in an absolutely scattered 2-1-1 vote.
Strengths: Abbey is one of the most physically strong players the show has seen and was a standout performer in challenges both team and individual. Considering how brutal the AU challenges are, as well as how much they use one-on-one matchups, she would be a large asset in the premerge. This cast had also allegedly only seen through the premerge of season 4 before going out to play. This benefits Abbey heavily, as the last thing they would have seen is her in a tight, loyal trio, which bodes well for her reputation.
Weaknesses: But you'd have to imagine her postmerge game gets leaked at some point, right? By the time Abbey got her torch snuffed, she was seen as emotional and flippant. That's not a complete game-killer in electing a winner, but it may be tough for her to find allies with those qualities. Additionally, Luke targeted her because of her physicality, and it would not be a surprise if the same thing happened once the merge hits.
Season 1, 7th Place
The Story So Far: Brooke held a staggering amount of power for the vast majority of her game. She found an early partner in Flick, then recruited the majority of the tribe to her cause. A tribe absorption/switch (one of the most unfair twists in AU history, don't @ me) gave her a further advantage, as she didn't attend Tribal Council for the rest of the premerge. By the time the merge hit, she had used that time to perch herself high on the totem pole, picking off people from both the opposite alliance and her own alongside Flick and El. Once the Final 7 hit, enough blood had trickled in the water that Brooke wanted to turn on El and Lee as physical threats. But turnabout was fair play, as Flick flipped against her best friend in the game, seeing her as the biggest threat and truly shaking up the season 1 end game.
Strengths: Brooke's down-to-earth demeanor and ideas like creating a Survivor beauty salon allow her to make social inroads very easily, which she converts into strategic capital. Her run postmerge is particularly impressive, being behind essentially every vote-off until her own and winning two individual immunities. Despite her lofty position, she seemingly never slept on it. She would go so far as to follow around her allies to guarantee they wouldn't be swayed by pitches and had tried to make a jump on what ended up being the most powerful twosome in the game when she was voted out.
Weaknesses: It goes back to the reason why Brooke lost. The majority of people in the game, including Brooke's closest ally, saw her as the biggest endgame threat, so they made sure she went no further. One can imagine players would come to a similar epiphany should Brooke find herself in the same position, especially with a cast full of high-level thinkers. She also is playing once again with Flick, and who knows how much the idea of revenge would cloud her usual visage of calmness.
Season 4, 8th Place
The Story So Far: A Contender winning streak allowed Daisy to make a tight bond with AFL player Shaun, which unfortunately broke when they got separated during a tribe swap. Though her old tribe had the numbers, she was untrustworthy with who she swapped over with. She decided to flip over with the two remaining Champions, angering her fellow Contenders in the process. When she re-joined with Shaun, she went back to being Contender strong, and paid for it when the Champions got rid of him at the merge. Scrambling, Daisy was able to find two idols, only for the opposition to talk her into incorrectly playing them. Her nine lives finally ran out when the majority felt she was too unpredictable and dangerous as a free agent.
Strengths: Daisy was the only Contender woman really highlighted on her season, and it was due to her involvement in some of its biggest moves. Though she is capable of flipping, she still comes across as a naive farm girl, something which the Champions used to their advantage. In a season where people could go for threats early on, that makes Daisy an appealing ally.
Weaknesses: That knife of naivete cuts both ways. Again, remember the cast only saw the premerge of season 4. So the very last thing they saw was Daisy flip on the Contenders, then flip back. That doesn't leave a great first impression. She was also regarded as emotionally volatile her first time out, being seen as an easy target rather than a free vote. And even if she's able to find an idol or two to overcome these assessments of her game, it seems more likely than not that she won't know what to do with them!
Season 4, 10th Place
The Story So Far: The self-proclaimed "golden god" was indisputably one of the stars of his season. Being on the outs in the Champions, his charm got Abbey and Ross to flip, while he made a tight bond with previous player Luke. The model was also looking for some accessories in the form of idols and organized an idol switch that gave Contender Shaun a forgery. The swap put him and Luke as the odd men out, but he leveraged new relationships and his idol to make it to the merge. David felt on top of the world with yet another idol and in the Champion majority, ready to gobble down the opposition like popcorn. But his allies feared his power and sent him out in a massive blindside, with only the sarong on his back and an idol in his bag.
Strengths: David lit the game on fire throughout his time on the show. He had the physical strength to become an early asset for the Champions in challenges. He had the people skills, playfulness, and charisma to endear himself to nearly everyone he played with, with numerous people flipping to work with him. And he was able to work miracles with his strategy. To claw your way out of the minority not once, but twice, and to find idols that require both individual and partnered effort, takes a hefty amount of Survivor skills.
Weaknesses: But man, is he flashy! The fake idol trade with Shaun, while entertaining, was wholly unnecessary. It got him an idol but planted seeds of untrustworthiness with so many people in the game, including his own allies, once the information leaked. For being so sociable, David also did tick off others with his braggadocious behavior when in power, which was part of the reason why they turned on him. Going back to what the cast saw of season 4, they just witnessed David blaze a trail through the premerge. I can't imagine how he won't be the first target from his season, just because of his résumé to that point.
Felicity "Flick" Egginton
Season 1, 4th Place
The Story So Far: As I mentioned in Brooke's entry, Flick formed a tight bond with her early on. However, Flick was in significantly more trouble than her partner in crime in the first days, being seen as wheeling and dealing too much. She was nearly a boot in Episode 5, were it not for the sweetness and naiveté of Conner. Luckily, the numerous tribe members that came to her beach throughout the premerge — and a lengthy winning streak — protected her from harm. Halfway through the postmerge, she was part of a core alliance, attached at the hip with Brooke. But her worries about her closest ally caused her to flip, forming a new group with power couple Lee and El, as well as outsider Kristie. Soon after, Flick tried to make another swing by breaking up El and Lee, only for Kristie to side with them and send her out.
Strengths: Flick may be one of the most strategically aware contestants this season. She voted in the majority every single Tribal Council she attended until her boot in the penultimate episode, always in the know as to how the votes would go. Part of that is credited to how quickly she's able to turn a result. The first two Tribal Councils she attended, her name was on the chopping block. But she was able to work her magic and turn the numbers her way, sometimes over the course of one afternoon, to stave off elimination.
Weaknesses: We'll never know what Flick's winning odds were if she went to the end with Brooke. But one thing's for sure: They got a lot worse once she got rid of her. Her paranoia caused her to not only get rid of someone who was guaranteed to vote with her, and not only tick off the next two jurors, but also empower a twosome that would rule the rest of the game. Hopefully enough time has passed for people to forget the impact Flick made with her endgame. Because if she got rid of her closest ally on a whim, what's keeping her from getting rid of you?
Season 4, 3rd Place
The Story So Far: Harry came barreling out of the gate on the Contenders, helping flip the vote to keep close ally Baden. But he went from powerful to powerless when the swap put him in the minority. He began to play up narratives to save his game. First came "Oscar," the fake toddler that he used to bond with the older Champions. Then came "The Godmother," a nickname Harry gave to Janine to try to turn the others against her. Unfortunately, that got Harry several nicknames himself, and the need to find and expend idols to make it to the merge. Despite the Contender culling, Harry was able to slip under the radar, biding his time until the Final 7. He then used Champion dissension to flip Abbey and Luke, and he and Baden were able to get to the Final 3. Unfortunately, Harry lost the final Immunity Challenge and Baden found him too dangerous to face off against in the finals.
Strengths: The guy was called "The Cockroach" for a reason, somehow escaping the torch snuffer despite all the odds being against him. It's still staggering to me how much he was able to slip below the radar after the events of the late premerge. Speaking of which, Harry does have the ability to build a narrative, and I would say his label of Janine is part of the reason why she went at the Final 6. And considering how much verbalizing your story is key for a final Tribal Council performance, Day 50 shouldn't be a problem to Harry if he gets there.
Weaknesses: Let's just recap the last thing these people saw before going out to play. They witnessed Harry lie about having a child to fake bonds with other players. They saw him find and play idols back-to-back. They saw him purposely draw votes to him by antagonizing the rest of his tribe, nearly torpedoing his game in the process. Survivor often operates under the logic of, "What have you done for me lately?" And seeing what Harry had done lately, It would be no surprise if he's an early target.
Season 4, 10th Place
The Story So Far: When a laborer enters the game lying that he's a yoga instructor, you know he's not afraid to make a move. Henry formed an unlikely partnership with Jacqui and found an idol early on. Looking across the tribe at another power couple, Henry took aim at the duo of Sam and Mark, even throwing a challenge to do so. Despite being on top, Henry sought more power, which made him take the opportunity to leave Jacqui and swap to the other tribe. Despite putting himself on the bottom of a new group, he succeeded in his goal of making bonds, making him a pivotal swing vote at the merge. Thinking he had several people in his pocket, Henry was ready to take the endgame by storm. But his threat status loomed large, and the new Champagne Alliance cobbled together enough numbers to blindside him with idol in pocket.
Strengths: Despite the needlessness of switching tribes, there's a reason why Henry was able to enter the merge with options. His natural charm and magnetism endeared him to a lot of people on his season, allowing him to form close one-on-one bonds. Couple that with physical strength and being able to play again with the people he made his tightest bonds with, and on paper you have someone who could be poised to go far with this cast ...
Weaknesses: ... until they remember who Henry is. I think one of the fundamental reasons he had the success he did in season 2 was because of how unassuming everyone thought he was, just an easygoing yogi who would rather play a game on the beach than the game of Survivor. But everyone now knows that's a crock. Knowing how much he can deceive and play for himself rather than an alliance, I wouldn't be surprised if Henry gets significantly fewer strategic suitors than he did in his first time out.
Season 2, 17th place
The Story So Far: The wedding celebrant's game echoes Henry's, considering the tight partnership they formed from the jump. The unlikely duo staged a coup on Asaga, taking the place of couple Mark and Sam. But heavy lies the head that wears the crown, as Luke and Jericho tried to make a move against Jacqui and Henry to seize their own power. Though they missed their first shot, Henry voluntarily switching tribes left Jacqui in a perfectly vulnerable position for them. Despite trying to rally her original tribe members against their new visitors, her enemies took advantage of the opportunity to finally hit their target.
Strengths: Australian Survivor's casting shows that age is just a number. At 50 years old, Jacqui proved herself to be a strong challenge performer, and a key asset as her tribe began to winnow down. It's clear she's not afraid to quickly make big swings, considering what she was able to do with Sam and Mark. She also happens to be playing once more with her tightest ally in Henry, and having a friend on the beach in a returning players season is key.
Weaknesses: A reason why Jacqui and Henry got turned on so quickly was Jacqui's behavior. When she was in power, she tended to be very outspoken. I do think she'll be able to slip by this season for a while due to not being one of the "big name" immediate threats. But I wouldn't be surprised if she acts a similar way when she ends up in the majority once more, which will draw eyes on her again.
Season 2 Winner
The Story So Far: Jericho formed a tight bond with Luke early on, though their attempts to shake up the game failed to make any tremors. He received a gift from the Survivor gods in a jar of cookies, using them to broker deals with Luke, Henry, and Sarah. Tribe switch-ups allowed Jericho to take control of his tribe, simultaneously coming off as helpless and struggling. Despite being outnumbered at the merge, Jericho's bonds prevailed and he stayed out of danger. His non-threatening perception helped him slide by safely as the biggest players, including his own allies, left. Jericho's most pivotal moment came at the Final 4 when it seemed he was guaranteed to go. But a last-minute to plea to Tara convinced her to force a tie, keeping his flame lit. One removed juror and Immunity Challenge win later, Jericho sat in the finals with Tara, where his relationships and strategic game won him the game handily.
Strengths: Jericho had a fantastic social game on the island, coming off as the unassuming little brother in the game. So when people started headhunting in the postmerge, he avoided becoming a trophy on the mantle. His use of the cookie jar is his standout moment, using limited resources to create unlimited allegiances. He also shows the capability to change up his game, shifting his style after Luke went to guarantee he wouldn't be going out the door after him.
Weaknesses: Will Australian Survivor treat its previous winners like All-Stars or a Heroes vs. Villains? That's going to be the primary factor as to how Jericho is going to do. He made a killing playing under the radar when nobody realized what a force in the game he can be. He obviously can't play that way again. Additionally, while Jericho did win 6-3, he earned criticism from his fellow players for unnecessary cruelty and coming across as two-faced.
Season 4, 9th Place
The Story So Far: Gold miner John was seen as a sturdy and valuable resource to the Contenders both pre- and post-swap. He worked particularly close with Shaun and Daisy, flipping with the latter at the swap. As he reached the merge, John was eager to gobble down the title of Sole Survivor and a Mexican parma to boot. But the Contenders soon found themselves on the back foot, leaving the mullet man in a hairy situation. John became a victim in a tactic that's been used since the days of the Four Horseman, the target of the Champions as an option the Contenders wouldn't expect.
Strengths: It says something that the first Tribal Council where John received votes ended up being his last. His combination of brute strength, comical nature, and simple-minded philosophy made him an extremely likable and unthreatening guy. His popularity got to the point where the Champions chose to take him on a reward, allowing him to bond with the opposition.
Weaknesses: John is a great ally to have, willing to follow directions and extremely loyal. But when it comes to translating those skills into jury votes, that's where John's game falls apart a bit. I'm sure the jury would love to see John the person sitting in the end, provided he doesn't show his butt too much. As for John the player, if he doesn't have any moves as part of his story, I can see this game-focused group denying him victory.
Season 1, Runner-Up
The Story So Far: The cricketer started on the strong end of a losing tribe in Aganoa. He was granted a reprieve, though, when the tribe swap brought him over to the dominant Saanapu. He then found a bromance in Sam — who shared his ideals of "mateship" and playing with honor — and a fledgling romance in El. At the merge, he was part of the decision-makers with El, Brooke, and Flick, and used his position to go after players like Nick who were too disingenuous. When he got word that he and El were being targeted, he picked up fellow Aganoan Kristie as a key vote, and a series of impressive challenge wins brought him to the finals. Unfortunately, he chose not to own the more deceptive elements of his game, and the jury punished him for the hypocrisy of his so-called "clean and honest" game.
Strengths: Lee's first 54 days of his season were nothing short of impressive. He had the game in an iron grip, dictating nearly every postmerge vote, winning three Immunity Challenges, and somehow being able to manipulate others to get him and his closest ally to the Final 3. Lee only received one vote against him the entire game, and despite the result, it's still staggering to look back and see how much control he had over the vast majority of the season.
Weaknesses: His Achilles heel comes to owning said game. Lee was the odds-on favorite going into Final Tribal Council, but his insistence on taking the moral high ground was an absolute failure. Lee has gone through a significant amount in his life between seasons, starting and subsequently ending a relationship with El. Could he walk into the game with a new mindset that preaches moves over mateship?
Locklan "Locky" Gilbert
Season 2, 5th Place
The Story So Far: Adventure guide Locky took the lead of both the camp and his alliance in the first days of season 2. That quickly changed, though, as he was left in the minority with all of his allies leaving Samatau beach. Balancing a precarious position, Locky steered into his role as challenge standout and provider, while building bonds with tribe newcomer Henry to eventually jump ship. He got his revenge at the merge, coming back together with his closest ally Tara to turn on the other Samataus. Later, Tara felt threatened by her number one and plotted to stab him in the back. Three straight immunity wins kept Locky safe, but when he finally lost by seconds, it was the final domino to send his game crashing down.
Strengths: Like Boston Rob, when it comes to actual Survivor camp life, Locky is an extremely valuable asset. He's a beast in challenges, knowledgeable in nature, and not afraid to take a leadership position. If people are just looking to survive another couple of days, Locky is a valuable person to have.
Weaknesses: Locky's has no problems roughing it, but a rough time strategizing. He got left out of several votes both pre- and post-merge, losing his key allies in brutal blindsides. He also is quite the emotional player, getting rankled often and changing his decisions as a result. His lack of fluidity and a short fuse don't make him an ideal power player.
Season 3, 12th Place
The Story So Far: Olympic medalist Lydia immediately proved her mettle in some very physical challenges. She became one of the Champions' biggest assets, which translated to a comfortable strategic position. After being swapped into a minority, she appealed herself to the more physical Contenders, who chose to work with her moving forward. Once the merge hit, the freestyle skier's game went downhill quickly. Her physical prowess made her such a threat that the plotting against her began while she was still in a challenge. When she lost the first individual Immunity Challenge, the group decided it would be her last.
Strengths: I've watched nearly two decades of Survivor around the world, and Lydia may be the best all-around challenge performer I've ever seen. She handily crushed anybody she faced off against one-on-one and was one of the strongest links in any team competition. That makes her essential in any effort to prevent a visit to Tribal Council
Weaknesses: Her weakness is her strength. Though Survivor AU casts a lot of physical players, she's one of the only ones solely known for her challenge performance. That's going to put her front of mind again once the game turns individual. There's a nonzero chance that Lydia becomes the rare returnee who goes out in the exact same way that she went out the first time.
Mark "Tarzan" Herlaar
Season 2, 21st Place
The Story So Far: For those of you keeping track at home, yes, there have been three global Survivor contestants in the past 10 years who give themselves a Tarzan-based nickname. But unlike the photographer or plastic surgeon that came before him, Tarzan AU became Samatau's good-hearted father figure. He made decisions based on what he thought was honest and generous, putting the needs of others above his own. His altruism was most prevalent in his relationship with bottom-feeder Tessa, who he saved twice. His hospitality got the best of him when he played his idol on her but got the bounceback, sparing her but spurning him.
Strengths: As the lowest finisher of this cast, Tarzan is at the bottom of the list of threats, despite his noteworthy physical game. From a tribal perspective, his skills as provider and fire master could make him an asset early on. Additionally, his résumé has shown him to be loyal to his own detriment, which makes him an ideal person to eyeball as an ally.
Weaknesses: Tarzan lacks Survivor subtlety. He actually could have kept himself and Tessa in the game had he not been so blatant with his subterfuge, essentially tipping Locky off that he would be playing the idol on her. He also is a selfless person at his core, so it would be no shock if he ends up falling on his own sword once more for someone else.
Season 3, 9th Place
The Story So Far: Rugby star Mat started the game relatively low-key until the boots of Russell and Damien made him realize he had to step up his game. He quickly made a series of close connections that put him in the top spot of his tribe, with an idol to boot. He never sat back, though, keeping his eyes open to the threats around him, be they Champion or Contender. That caused him to move proactively, getting rid of fellow Champions like Jackie, Lydia, and Sam for fear of them turning on him. But those decisions only revealed him as the top dog of the Champions. And while his back was turned, the remaining Contenders were able to mount the biggest blindside of the season, as the so-called Godfather left with an idol in his pocket.
Strengths: Mat didn't happen to luck his way into becoming the shot-caller on the Champions. He has the ability to form genuine one-on-one relationships, which allowed him to handpick the majority of his tribe while still keeping the outsiders at arm's reach. Not only that, but his physical strength and natural leadership could make him a tribe asset early on.
Weaknesses: Leadership is a double-edged sword. There's a good chance he'll naturally put himself out in front again, which once more opens him up to get knocked down. He also beat the drum of loyalty and honesty his first time out, all the way to the final Tribal Council, using as ammo against Sharn. But as we've seen from his fellow returnees, preaching honesty and playing honestly are two different beasts.
Season 2, 4th Place
The Story So Far: Michelle was out of her element in the wilds of Samoa, a weak link at camp and in the challenges. But her social game reigned superior, as she displaced the target from her back through some very tight spots in the premerge. When the game turned individual, that was Michelle's time to shine. She was a key cog in the first few postmerge votes, part of the Asaga majority, then forming the Champagne Alliance to blindside Henry. When the tables turned on her, she quickly got revenge on Sarah and Luke, putting her back in the majority. At the Final 4, with Jericho primed to go, Michelle looked to be in a great spot to get to the end, where she was favored to win. But Jericho convinced Tara to force a tie, where her lack of wilderness skills got the best of her and she was eliminated.
Strengths: Michelle is one of the best Tribal Council talkers I've ever seen. Her performance after the second swap, able to convince several people at the moment to turn on Ben, despite being a complete outsider, is a master class in persuasiveness. That salesmanship, combined with her excellent social play, brought her into the fold on several huge votes and let her escape the snuffer when her name was on the chopping block.
Weaknesses: Michelle is one of those players whose hardest part of the game is always going to be the first half. The calamity of Asaga helped insulate her from the typical Survivor targeting she would receive for not contributing in challenges or at camp. Though the All-Stars cast will definitely be playing hard, if they're looking for an easy consensus vote early on, it could be Michelle.
Season 3, 19th Place
The Story So Far: Moana Hope played the hell out of six episodes of Survivor AU. The footballer hit the beach running, helping organize an early blindside against Russell and completely mystifying the Survivor legend. She also found an idol, which she used to bond more closely with Mat. Unfortunately, all the momentum she built up came to a quick stop when she got sick. Worried her illness would bring her tribe down, she asked to be voted out, but not before she was used in a maneuver to nullify Shane's idol.
Strengths: Moana is one of the only non-winners to not have a downfall here, outside of a weak immune system. The game she played the first 15 days had been nothing short of stellar. She showed herself capable of making strong bonds quickly, mobilizing forces to act on her whim, and using her attention to detail to find idols. Assuming she loaded up on Emergen-C before going out, she could easily apply these skills for a deep run.
Weaknesses: She is yet another physical threat in this group, and could get targeted if her opposition expects her to make a challenge run. Additionally, if she gets to the end, she has a wallop of a story as one of 15 kids, the caretaker of a sister with a neurological disorder. Considering how we just saw Luke get kept out of the finals for his heartwarming narrative, we could see history repeat here.
Season 1, 11th Place
The Story So Far: The Survivor superfan became the head of his tribe early on, leading shelter building and fire-making. But he surrendered that goodwill when he lied about an idol clue, causing his tribe to blindside him in their first vote. Luckily, a twist proved to be Nick's savior, swapping him over to Saanapu. Though all eyes were still on him, his challenge strength let him sneak by, and he got to watch his tribe dominate while those who had voted him out left. When the merge hit, he tried to continue his revenge tour against Vavau while also (begrudgingly) finding an idol. With the game now individual, alpha males Sam and Lee were unhappy with Nick's play style, deeming it deceptive. And despite his various efforts to earn their trust, mateship won out when the alliance turned on their own to vote him out.
Strengths: Nick is the Jerri Manthey of Survivor AU. He's considered "evil" within the paradigms of the people playing, but looks much tamer compared to who came after him. Enough time may have passed to allow his reputation to not precede him, giving him some leverage. Nick's subsequent podcasting has also given him insight into who he's playing with. It would be no surprise if he did what I'm doing right now, mapping out the strengths and weaknesses of each person who could be out there.
Weaknesses: The issue is that everyone knows he could be doing that. Though he may have shaken the "snake" persona, the superfan persona still remains, which could make him a threat. He's also shown in his previous performance that he doesn't work particularly well with alpha males, as they were his downfall last time. Unless Nick is able to change his tune and connect more with the bros, he could be perceived as very "Nickish" once more.
Season 1, 14th Place
The Story So Far: Phoebe was the star of season 1's premerge, and helped make the series reboot catch on so quickly with Survivor fans. She took control of Aganoa, leveraging her early women's alliance and bond with the alpha males to get rid of scheming Evan. But the swap sent her game tumbling down, putting her out of the numbers of a new tribe. Thus began an impressive underdog run, as Phoebe clawed tooth and nail to survive another day. She worked the idol game, getting saved by them twice, and also successfully swayed her tribe members to turn on their own. Phoebe was one mere vote away from the merge, and had thrown her closest ally Kristie under the bus to slide through. But a twist spared her, and Kristie got the last laugh when the entire tribe voted out Phoebe for her tactical game.
Strengths: What Phoebe was able to do both in and out of power was impressive. She dictated the majority of the Tribal Councils she went to, convincing friends and enemies that it was in their best interest to get rid of who she wanted. She got Rohan to play an idol on her, a skill I always admire in Survivor that showcases social skills and manipulation. The fact of the matter is, Phoebe only got voted out when she did because of a sudden twist and Jonathan LaPaglia being too loose-lipped.
Weaknesses: As impressive as Phoebe's underdog game was on Vavau, she could never escape being on the chopping block, being seen as incredibly dangerous. If Rohan doesn't play his idol on her, or if she doesn't find one herself, she goes home even earlier than she did. If Phoebe's reputation as a "big player" carries into All-Stars, she could find herself as a premerge target yet again.
Season 3 Winner
The Story So Far: Shane entered the game with the biggest notoriety, an Olympic swimmer and a national hero. Unfortunately, her age and challenge performance made her an outsider early on. She survived as bigger targets went home, though not without finding an idol and forcing it to be immediately flushed. The Champions' win streak kept her safe through the premerge, as well as a growing relationship with Mat. At the merge, she made her move, plotting Lydia's demise on the sidelines of an Immunity Challenge. She lost Mat later, which quickly put her on the bottom of the tribe. But she and Sharn worked their way through by making big plays and securing key wins, putting them in the Final 2. Despite being the underdog going in, Shane was able to talk up the strategy behind her unassuming stance and her role in several blindsides, making her the oldest Sole Survivor in franchise history.
Strengths: Shane walks (or swims) this fine line of being seen as under-the-radar, yet able to play aggressively. Her natural sense of competition gives her no qualms for playing cutthroat, but her maternal approach to the game also doesn't isolate her socially. Shane was behind a clutch play in Lydia's boot, taking the time during a challenge to put her plan into action knowing that the skier would be indisposed. She also saved herself in Fenella's boot at the Final 6, convincing Brian to flip and preventing a 2-2-2 tie.
Weaknesses: Shane enters the game with a stack of things against her. She again is the oldest contestant and it's assumed she'll become a challenge liability once more. Her idol-finding skills are less than subtle, making it tougher for her to pull out some surprise plays. And she's one of only two winners returning! You can bet this power-hungry cast would love nothing more than to get rid of Shane before she gets her Hawaiian shirt into the Final 2 once more.
Season 3 Runner-Up
The Story So Far: Sharn was one of the few non-celebrities on the Champions tribe, making connections with Mat and Moana. The swap sent her to the other side, but she leveraged her group to go from the bottom to the middle, promising the Contenders a spot in the majority come merge. She made a tight bond with Benji, which came back to bite her when he tricked her into misplaying her idol and causing her closest ally Mat to go. Now in the minority, Sharn maneuvered her way through a minefield of an endgame. She won key immunities, played another idol, and successfully dismantled Brian Lake's alliance. Going into the final Tribal Council, barrister Sharn was ready to make her case. But her attempts to preach loyalty fell flat with the jury, who thought her argument was antithetical to how she actually played.
Strengths: Sharn has experienced playing from the top and the bottom, which comes in handy on a returnee season. With the latter, she utilized a variety of techniques for her survival, whether they be immunity wins, idol plays, or classic Survivor swaying. She can make tight one-on-one bonds, one of the only people to reach across the Champion/Contender aisle. And she has the brawn to match the brains, with her success in endurance challenges giving her the tied AU record for individual IC wins.
Weaknesses: Though one of the biggest strategists of her season, Sharn was surprisingly naive when it came to the competition. Benji convincing her to not play an idol on Mat in the moment was a glaring error, following her all the way to Day 39. Additionally, like Lee, it remains to be seen if she can learn from her mistake of not owning her duplicity, especially playing once more with the man who cost her the win in Mat.
Season 3, 4th Place
The Story So Far: Shonee entered the game so underestimated that even the chyron makers had no regard for her potential, subtitling her "Pro Skateboarder's Wife." On the outside of an athletic cast, she played up her perception as a non-threat. She found a tight ally with Fenella, and the two turned the tables on the Contender men. But the swap and subsequent merge put "Shonella" at the bottom with the least amount of connections. As the Contenders began to get picked off, Shonee saw dissension in the Champions and helped swing over Brian and Monika to take control. As the game swung back and forth, and Shonee lost allies, she fought through vote by vote. When Brian won a crucial immunity at the Final 4, Sharn and Shane had no choice but to turn on her, finally ending Shonee's journey.
Strengths: It's fitting that Shonee was the last Contender standing her season, as I believe she's a contender personified. She observed her perception in the game and played that up so the egos of Champion and Contender alike would take her along as a goat. But postmerge, she proved how dangerous she could be, able to both be a swing and swing others. Her tight alliance with Fenella also shows others that she can be loyal and go far with a "ride or die."
Weaknesses: Similar to Michelle, Shonee is probably going to be in the most danger with the physically intense premerge. Additionally, since everyone has now seen Shonee's game, it may be tough to replicate. Can she still play up being a goat when everyone saw how much of an endgame threat she was? Can she still slide through with a close ally by her side when she's known for being part of a power couple?
Season 3, 17th Place
The Story So Far: And so we finish with one of the more "unique" All-Stars casting choices. Personal trainer and former Gladiator Zach entered the arena of Survivor ready to conquer. Though on the losing end of most challenges, he still felt confident in his position as one of the tribe's physically strongest members. And he made that confidence known, angering his tribemates with his insistence that women needed to go. After Tegan returned from exile and the Contenders faced Tribal Council, Zach was confident he'd stay in the game to send Tegan out the revolving door. But the women had the last straw with Zach's behavior, and even the men joined them to blindside him unanimously.
Strengths: Considering his life is based around athletics, it's natural that Zach is probably the physically strongest person in this cast. He could come in handy as someone to keep around as a challenge asset and a free vote. That could also make him a likely shield, which could get him much farther in the game than his first time out, depending on how he's used.
Weaknesses: Zach is an asshole. Plain and simple. His nine episodes on season 3 were one-note and misogynistic, as he worked tirelessly to get rid of the women, who he deemed as the reason behind their losses. Even off the island, after watching his actions back, Zach somehow doubled down on his attitude, with snide comments on social media and at the reunion. Is it possible that Zach did a lot of learning in his year between seasons and is entering the game a changed man? Absolutely. Will that happen? Let's just say there's a better chance that Zach's black Spanx will make a return.
Okay, we read through your novel of a cast breakdown. Who's winning this thing?
A great question. Looking at the field, and what type of gameplay tends to prevail in Survivor AU, I'd guess that someone out of Flick, Brooke, Phoebe, Moana, or Abbey will be your winner. I'd also give an outside chance to Henry, Sharn, and Lee, if they can learn from their game-ending mistakes.
Are all your articles going to be this long?
Lord, I hope not! I just wanted to make this your one-stop-shop for all things Australian Survivor All-Stars, whether you've never seen the series before this season or have pored through hours of footage to get to February 3. My column moving forward is going to more so be a review of the week in Survivor AU, talking through what happened in the two or three episodes I got.
Thank you to all who made it to the end of this odyssey. I look forward to taking this Australian journey with you, whether we're riding a barge in the rain, swimming through a river, or sitting awkwardly in a pick-up truck. 2020 is a great time to be a Survivor fan, and I hope I can contribute to the entertaining mania that comes part and parcel with Survivor AU.
Mike Bloom is a television writer, podcaster, and Survivor obsessive. His work around the show can be read at Parade, where he provides exit press and other exclusive nuggets. He can be heard talking way too much about domestic and international Survivor weekly on Rob Has a Podcast, as well as the long-running Survivor Historians podcast. Mike also covers other island-based shenanigans with his LOST rewatch podcast “Down the Hatch” on Post Show Recaps. He feels BrantSteeles are a good way to keep the blood pumping. Banter with him on twitter: @AMikeBloomType