Australian Survivor Recap: Week 1
Australian Survivor is back with a brand new season, which started this last Wednesday. The show, which is in its third season since the 2016 revival by Ten Network, has taken on a batch of another 24 willing contestants. Unlike the first two seasons, this season has a theme: Champions vs. Contenders, more on that in a minute.
For many fans of the US version of Survivor, Australian Survivor is a breath of fresh air; whereas our show is showing signs of fatigue, the Aussies have breathed life into the franchise.
A little history
While many are familiar with the US version of Survivor, the show originated from the Swedish reality show Expedition Robinson, which first aired in 1997. Producer Mark Burnett brought it over to the US in the summer of 2000 and it became an instant hit. Eighteen years later, the show is still going on. While it isn’t pulling in the numbers like it used to, the show is still fairly popular- although it’s not unusual for a fan to hear from someone “That show is still on?” For better or for worse, Survivor is, yes, still going. Come September, the show will be starting up its 37th season, David vs. Goliath.
The history of Australian Survivor is a little weird. Seeing how successful the US show was, the Aussies decided to make their own version in 2002- which aired during the run of the US’ fourth season Survivor:Marquesas. The effort was not well received and wouldn’t be brought back until 2006, in the form of a celebrity edition. A decade later, Ten Network decided to revive the show in roughly it’s original skin. Hosted by Jonathan LaPaglia, the Ten Network revival of Australian Survivor has been met with almost universal praise. Personally, I’m preferring this version of the show over the last few seasons of our American version. While I will always love the US version, the newer seasons focus way too much on the strategic aspect of the game. Instead of character scenes or showing the players using their survival skills, we are instead shown contestants finding advantages left and right. With Australian Survivor, the production balances all of these aspects. While New Zealand and South Africa versions have also churned out a good season or two, the Aussies really know what they are doing here.
This season had some viewers concerned with the over-arching theme. With the 2016 and 2017 seasons of AU, there was no theme. However, the show has been struggling in terms of viewership, so with this, the show is tinkering with structure and trying to bring in some new viewers. The season’s theme, Champions vs Contenders, sees the 24 contestant divided into two tribes of 12. With the Champions, the pre-selected group consists of people who are at the top in their career and/or were athletes at one time in their life. With the Contenders, the tribe consists of everyday Aussies. It’s the kind of theme that the US version would try to pull off, with mixed results. However with the Aussies, they know what they’re doing.
Intro to the recaps
I’ve been watching Survivor for a very long time. Never have I really done something like this in recapping the episodes week by week. Given that the Aussies have more than one episode per a week, I’m going give an overall evaluation of each week. In these recaps, I will divide them into different portions: overall thoughts, stand out contestants, favorite challenge, and then a summary on who was voted off. This will make it easier for me to write and hopefully, easier for you to read. When it comes to recapping Survivor, I feel that it can get repetitive quickly- especially when discussion strategy. I will try my best here.
I liked these first two episodes. I thought this was the perfect way to start the season. While variations of challenges from the US version, the challenges were fun to watch, as were the contestants participating in them. I liked how we were introduced to a majority of the cast in the first week – that doesn’t always happen. After the first episode, I already have some favorites.
Stand Out Contestants
With 24 people in the game, it’s incredibly difficult to cram 24 different stories into one episode of television. With US Survivor, they don’t even bother to build the characters that much. It’s all about the strategy- which they condense into a 42 minute episode. With AU, they take their time and let episodes go over an hour if necessary.
Of the 24, I think the one that has stood out the most in the first week is Damien Thomlinson (pictured below). The former Special Forces Commando was injured by an explosion while on the field- which forced doctors to amputate his legs. Damien isn’t the first amputee contestant in there show’s history: there’s been Chad Crittenden from Vanuatu and Kelly Bruno from Nicaragua. Damien has been great in the challenges and in confessionals, he seems like a nice guy. I’m also liking the wonderfully quirky Steve Khouw. While the guy is walking on thin ice, the takeaway delivery man is a real character.
I personally liked the opening challenge the most. Seeing the contestants slide down for starter items in the game was fun. However, the first immunity challenge was a feast for the eyes. Damien was great in the challenge, firing on all cylinders. That last winning shot that he took, after which he looked straight into the camera, was an amazing moment.
I wish I could say more about the challenges because this is where the Australian version really shines. The challenges in the US version have become so bland in design. The challenges in the Australian version, especially last year, have been stunning. This show isn’t afraid of trying new things.
Both tribes had to go to tribal council this week.
Matt Dyson became the first person voted out of the game. The 35-year-year old traffic police officer struggled in the puzzle portion of the immunity challenge, which didn’t give the Contenders too much time in hitting the pieces off. On top of that, Matt went into tribal council and started to comment on how the women weren’t playing the game. Matt was wrong: the women were playing the game and they all decided beforehand to vote out Matt.
The Champions went to tribal council in the second episode and after a tie vote, Survivor veteran Russell Hantz was the first “champion” to be voted out of the game. When it was leaked earlier in the year that Russell would be on the 2018 season, not too many fans were happy- including myself. Russell is one of the most notorious players in the US show’s history. He appeared on three seasons here in the US: Samoa, Heroes Vs. Villains and Redemption Island.
I can’t say that I dislike Russell as a character: it’s fun to see the guy fail. While the guy was able get in the heads of the contestants, barely anyone respected the game that he had played. If hidden immunity idols weren’t part of the game, Russell would’ve been a goner. The guy lacks social awareness, which is why he can not win this game. Russell was able to get to the end twice in his US seasons, mostly because the cast in Heroes Vs. Villains hadn’t seen him play the first time around. When he came back for Redemption Island, he was the first voted off of his tribe. So it should come as no surprise that the Aussies had no problem with getting rid of him as soon as possible.
I think this season is off to a good start. I feel like I haven’t talked a lot about what’s been going on but keep in mind, the season has just started.
For week 2, AU will be airing Monday thru Thursday. That should give me enough to talk about in my next post. Share your thoughts below.
I’ll see you all then.
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.