Australian Survivor is back for its 2019 season. For the show’s fourth season since the 2016 revival, the show has decided to use Champions Vs. Contenders as the theme again. With another 24 people assembled together, a new battle has begun.
Status of the US Show
Given that almost a year has passed since I last wrote about the show, I thought I’d take the time to talk about my thoughts on the last two US seasons- along with my thoughts on the next two.
Much to the surprise of many, David Vs. Goliath (Season 37) ended up being one of the show’s best seasons in years. While the theme was gimmicky (underdogs vs top dogs) and there were some modern twists, I’m happy to say that I really did enjoy DvG. Given the solid cast, the editors were given a lot to work with. All season long, I was surprised by how good the season was. If you’re a longtime fan of the US version and haven’t seen any of the recent seasons, I recommend checking this one out. You might be surprised
Despite the pleasant surprise of DvG, the following season- Edge of Extinction (Season 38)- was not a good season. However, this was to be expected given what the theme/twist for the season was. For EOE, 14 new contestants were split onto two tribes with two returning players each- giving the season a total of four returnees. After a contestant was voted out this season, they would have a choice to make: leave the game for good or go to the titular twist for a chance to come back into the game. These chances (re entry challenges) to come back into the game would happen prior to the merge and after the final 6 Tribal Council. The twist was similar to Redemption Island (used in Seasons 22, 23 and 27) sans the duels. EOE was a season plagued with bad editing and uneven confessional counts. While I don’t like EOE, I can like it in an ironic way in that the season was a mess.
Come Fall 2019, Survivor will enter its 39th season- Island of the Idols. The season will feature veteran castaways Sandra Diaz-Twine and “Boston” Rob Mariano as mentors to the 20 new castaways. While my expectations for the season are very low, I am looking forward to having a whole season worth of Sandra. However, fans are already talking about Season 40 as the show will celebrate its 20th anniversary by bringing back 20 of the show’s winners. Despite the recent news of the season bringing back the Edge of Extinction twist, the fact that Survivor is entering its second decade is surreal.
The new AU season + Format of the recaps
Since last year, it has been known that this new season would be another Champion vs. Contenders season. This came as a disappointed to some fans, including myself. From what I’ve been reading, the show is still struggling just a little in bringing in viewers. Last year’s season was done as a way to get more viewers and aside from a slow week or two, I really liked last season. Themes in Survivor are nothing new. In fact, the US show heavily relies on them now. The last season that didn’t have any theme attached to it was Samoa (Season 19) in 2009. While its disappointing that AU had to use a theme this season, I was still looking forward to it considering the US show has become increasingly boring- although David Vs. Goliath (Season 37) is the one exception.
For this season, production has changed the theme up. From what’s been written, the show wasn’t too happy with how the Champions won multiple challenges last year- leaving less and less Contenders. When looking at the tribes this season, it looks like they’ve also been divided by age- with the Champions having the older contestants. It’s a little like a young vs. old theme but at least the show is trying to fix the theme.
For those of you who are new to my recaps, I try to keep this as simple as possible. With the show having more than one episode per a week, I’ll be recapping this season weekly. Along with that, I will divide my recaps into different parts/sections, which will include:
-Overall thoughts (on the episodes)
-Stand Out Contestants
-Voted Off (and, in my opinion, why)
I enjoyed these first two episodes very much. However, I can’t say they were perfect. With 24 contestants, it’s hard to squeeze everyone into an episode. Comparing this first week to last season’s first week, I think last year’s was stronger. It had a nice balance with both tribes- leading up to the elimination of Russell Hantz from US Survivor– which was fun to watch even if it was to be expected.
The new Champions and Contenders tribes aren’t too different when it comes to personality. The Champions still seem like workers while the Contenders are the free spirits. This week, I feel like we got to know more about the Champions than the Contenders. With the Champions, a strong alliance of seven has been formed consisting of the professional athletes- with everyone else in the minority. The Contenders are struggling with strength and cohesion. In the first episode, the shelter the tribe had built almost collapsed from the weight of the people sleeping on it.
Stand out contestants
I will pick at least one contestant per a tribe.
For the Champions, the stand out contestant this week is easily Luke Toki. Luke is AU‘s first returning player as Luke was originally on AU 2017. Luke was one of my favorites that season as he was super entertaining and always cracking jokes. Looking back at last season, Luke seems to be filling in the spot that Russell Hantz did last year as a returning player (although Russell was technically a new player to AU). Unlike Russell, Luke is far more likable. In his first season, Luke was a 30 year old mining technician- married with two boys, both of whom were diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Luke was a fan favorite in his first season with his sense of humor to his unique friendship with tribemate Jericho. Two years later, Luke is now a father to a baby girl. In this first week, Luke has not changed: right off the bat, Luke’s confessionals had me cracking up. In his confessionals, Luke remarked how he was on a tribe with old people- even joking that tribemate ET should be selling wrinkle cream. While he’s currently on the outside of the athlete alliance, Luke is trying his best to maneuver his way through the game.
Of the Contenders, Andy is the contestant that’s gotten the most amount of screen time, The 47 year old marketing executive is setting his sights on becoming on the show’s most memorable villains- along with playing one of the best winning games strategically. In his first week, I can see that the edit could be setting Andy up for failure. In the past, contestant who set out to be strategic villains typically don’t win the game. In the end, the jury votes for the person who they feel deserves the title of sole survivor. From what’s been shown of Andy, I don’t think I see him winning.
My personal pick for stand out contestant for the Contenders is Baden. At 23 years old, Baden is one of the youngest contestants this season. In this first week, the graduate student has been shown to be weak in physical challenge and socially awkward. Looking at this, Baden could very well be an early boot. In fact, he almost was voted off when the Contenders went to tribal for the first time. However, his loyalty was what saved him from going. I can’t help but relate to Baden as I too struggle in social situations. From what’s been shown of him, I think Baden could be a dark horse in this game: while he may not be the strongest in challenges, the guy seems genuine- which I think might help him. Should the Contenders go back to Tribal Council next week, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up going.
I thought the challenges were okay this week. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d pick the reward challenge from Episode 2. In this challenge, two members of each tribe are stationed at one end of a turnstile-like wheel with their tribe color on the tube. The two tribes must then push with all of their might to a red line. The first tribe to get to the red line three times wins the challenge. The Champions ended up winning and received fishing supplies. From memory, I don’t think this challenge has been used in the US version- which is why I’m picking it as my favorite challenge from Week 1.
In Episode 1, the Champions went to Tribal Council where they voted off Anastasia Woolmer– becoming the first person voted out of the season. The 42 year old memory champion from Brisbane was physically fit and seemed right for AU. However, she was in the minority outside of the athlete alliance. Tribemate Pia was looking like the one to go but she was somehow spared. In my opinion, I think Anastasia’s downfall was from playing a little too hard so early into the game. It also didn’t help that she seemed to panic after hearing that her name was being thrown around.
In Episode 2, the Contenders went to Tribal Council where they voted off Laura Choong. The 31 year old digital marketing manager was already at a disadvantage with her height. From what was shown, Laura was also coming into the game playing hard- similar to Anastasia. She was talking to most of the women from her tribe, which had the men seeing her as a threat. However, it was mostly the women who voted against Laura. It’s possible that she rubbed them the wrong way when Laura was only trying to form alliances.
While not the best first week in AU, this was still an enjoyable and entertaining premier. For Week 2, we’ll be getting three episodes on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
I’ll see you all next week!
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.