Australian Survivor 2019 episode 8 recap: Waterboarded

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Are we just going to forget that a woman survived one of the most horrific tsunamis and still put her in Australian Survivor 2019 water challenges?

Australian Survivor 2019 doesn’t know what it wants to tell the audience. The show basically knows two things; underdog good, conniving good. However, the first thing we see is the old Champions complaining about their new Contenders beach and the second thing, right after the intro, was the same people saying they prefer their new beach.

As the Contenders tribe pondered its status on whether or not they like their living conditions, Janine talked about how they’re really “Champions strong” at heart, going so far as to salivate over eating Harry alive. This kicked off his second highlight package, which really makes you think why the show couldn’t bother to tell Sam’s story at all yet double down with Harry early on, especially since the two had a bond that was so important to the reveal of her elimination.

Despite being at a massive tribal numbers disadvantage, David is back to Golden God status. He’s still a great first-time player, ego aside, but he could see through Andy’s attempts to parlay good favor. At least he didn’t play bitterly like Sarah, who was so bitter that Daisy made a move that benefitted her game that she planned a seemingly futile blindside attempt to take out Daisy as an act of vengeance.

The Reward Challenge was an extremely cool, novel concept, and since Australian Survivor 2019 is filmed in Fiji, I hope the US show can recreate it. It was a simple concept; one member from each tribe swam against a strong river current. The other team gets the point if you reach the end of your marked swimming zone first, and the first team to three points received pastries and coffee.

The continued duel narrative of Luke vs. Matt is a great well of micro drama the show loves to tap into. I, for one, love to see all the new ways Luke loses to Matt, although their grudge match will seemingly continue in the episodes to come. After Matt took the first point for the Contenders, Baden did his best to hold his own against pro surfer Rossco, but ultimately fell back to give them a 2-0 lead.

After a playful shove to tease pushing Jonathan into the current, the matchup between Andy and Janine proved to be a back-and-forth match. His slow and steady approach saw him take a point after Janine tired out. However, in Daisy and Abbey’s match, they got tangled up, and Abbey clearly got flustered as she began to take on more water, which saw her fall back and tie things up at 2-2.

It all came down to Casey and Hannah in the decisive matchup. There was nowhere for Casey to hide, as she had to earn her worth over her close friend (a friendship that’s been pretty well hidden in the edit). Thankfully, another entanglement saw Hannah struggle quickly, giving the Contenders their second reward of the season. Maybe next time, they should better divide the teams!

The continued deep dive into the manic psyche of Ross is one of Australian Survivor 2019’s greatest delights. His no-holds-barred approach to playing the game and enjoying every minute of it brings laughter and excitement to him and others around him, as he’s whipping through coffees and “having a spew” to work his appetite back for more. Absolute legend, mate.

The longer episodes allow for a lot of general content that we wouldn’t usually see in the US version, such as the reward tribe discussing the dynamics of the Champions vote flip. It seems as though the tribe is open in their discussions of what happened, with Janine asking Harry what it meant for his alliance. That was a cool touch, as it’s the kind of discussions that have to happen all the time yet we rarely see.

Finally, we get to hear what Casey has to say! Of course, it’s in reaction to Harry’s thoughts on her game as the two are strategic threats on the outs of the Contenders tribe. However, she’s a smart cookie, herself, confessing to being just as open to anybody on her tribe.

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She relied on leaning on the strong women and playing the social game of Australian Survivor, while Harry went on a scavenger hunt for an idol. It’s 2019, so we know exactly how the show favored the two novel approaches; Harry immediately found a Hidden Immunity Idol, giving him the potential to flip the vote in the future.

But in this game, you can only be voted out if you go to Tribal Council. We had an Immunity Challenge to get to first, with two players per tribe floating in a water tank each. The rest of the tribe race across a series of balance beams to fill up buckets of water to bring back and fill the water tanks up, forcing the player within to lose breathing space and pull out. The tribe with the last player standing wins immunity.

Everyone on the Champions tribe had to compete, so I know there were logistical issues facing this challenge. However, after Sarah survived a top 10 deadliest natural disaster in recorded history involving jumping from balconies and getting swept up in currents, you would think she wouldn’t have to jump 20 feet into water or be subject to a waterboard challenge.

With an estimated 100 buckets of water to fill a tank, this challenge balanced strategy, endurance, and dexterity. It seemed like the Champions piled on Pia early, pouring cold water into her tank and a little bit towards Casey. The Contenders, however, focused on a balanced approach between both Sarah and Hannah.

Despite the differences in approach, both Hannah and Pia pulled out of their water trap at roughly the same time, leaving a jubilated Casey floating about as Sarah did her best to overcome the latent trauma of the deadliest tsunami in recorded history. She fought her butt off, having her face fully submerged in water and pushing out while holding her breath as long as possible before finally giving up. The Contenders won yet another Immunity Challenge.

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As the Champions came back to camp, Andy tried to buddy up with David straight away, offering contacts at the merge. However, David knows the type of player Andy is but is stringing him along in an attempt to get out Sarah to keep the tribe strong in the realm of agility. I have no idea what he means by Sarah saying there are things she won’t do because reliving a traumatic event that saw your friend tragically pass away seems to be something she’s willing to do.

She’s also willing to go out fighting, even if the plans don’t work out. She gathered Hannah and Andy to target Daisy, not knowing that Andy thinks he’s in with the power group. As she returned to camp, however, Andy openly threw Sarah under the bus to Daisy, who questioned what was going on.

In Australian Survivor, it seems as though players think they can do anything they want out in the open, like discuss players being targeted. This led to Sarah gathering half the tribe across alliance lines in revealing Andy leaking voting plans, going so far as to ask David who he was targeting. She did a good job at blowing up Andy’s spot; just as much as he was! We even saw Daisy discuss the possibility of voting out Andy!

Of course, this left the Champions’ power in the hands of the OG champions, which was an odd feeling at Tribal Council. It felt like the majority tribe alliance is helpless against two players who have been controlling them without the use of their idols as if they are asleep at the wheel.

So much of the Tribal Council conversation danced around Sarah overhearing Andy and Daisy, with the editors doing their best job at making it look like the vote could be between Sarah or Andy. They even snuck lines about blindsides being the most humane way to take a player out, while those not involved tried their best to stay out of the conversation.

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Ultimately, Sarah’s wishful thinking never got much further than playing a part in Andy’s dynamic as an untrustworthy player. She was voted out 6-2, with Hannah offering a sympathy vote. I loved Sarah’s sweet, but brief, story in Australian Survivor 2019, as it seems like the editors do know how to portray a strategic-bereft Contenders tribe woman player after all.