Australian Survivor 2019 episode 14 recap: Puppet mastered

Ten Network
Ten Network /

With half the cast and more than half the 50-day journey come and passed, Australian Survivor 2019 episode 14 finally brings us to the merge.

The past season of Survivor: Edge of Extinction gave us quite a few episodes that jumped from the previous episode recap right into a challenge. Some episodes even required a cold open straight into the action due to the amount of content needed to get through in an hour. Australian Survivor 2019 episode 14 starting out after the recap with two tribes heading to a challenge was out of place.

There’s a reason for that; the tribes have merged. Champions and Contenders are no more, even though the number of former original tribe members are neck and neck at six apiece. Australian Survivor even managed to make a black merge buff look better than the US version, going with a veiny red core coursing through its design.

As players were running scenarios in their heads, we had no time to slow down. We like to get challenges in on Australian Survivor! This Reward Challenge was of the simple “hold a bag over your head for a long time” variety, but the continued reliance on offering up a mystery reward (this time in crate size) adds intrigue to a mundane test of endurance.

Almost immediately, production knew that they had to move things along with temptations to get players to drop out. Knowing what you’re getting over a mystery reward (crate-sized, mind you) was an interesting wrinkle, as Luke dropped immediately for a tin of chocolate biscuits and both Harry and Pia dropped immediately for a phone call to a loved one ten minutes in.

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20 minutes in was enough for Abbey and Janine, who split beef tacos and a margarita, while Baden, Shaun, and John split a bowl of spaghetti and a bottle of wine. With just four players left in the challenge at the 25-minute marker, John really regretted his decision to split spaghetti, as Andy, instead, took the Mexican parmigiana dish he had been so craving for a month.

With David, Daisy and Simon playing for the crate 30 minutes in, a bacon and egg sandwich, chocolate cake, and shampoo and conditioner did nothing to move the needle for them. Even an advantage in the next Immunity Challenge and a whole pizza didn’t get them to drop. With 45 minutes into the challenge, JLP heated things up by forcing players to hold the bag above their head with both hands.

Quickly afterward, David slipped up, leaving Simon and Daisy to tough things out. As waves of pain came crashing over them, Simon eventually gave in to the pressure, leading to Daisy winning the first individual reward of Australian Survivor 2019.

Considering just how well the old Champions beach and shelter was, it made sense for the merged tribe to go there. It also made sense that Andy came into the game with a merged tribe name prepared, offering up the eventually accepted Soli Bula, which he described as “to welcome together” in Fijian. Of course, he knew it meant “to sacrifice” instead. Considering that Elizabeth from David vs. Goliath was the merge boot after naming the merged tribe in her season, it was a foreboding sign of things to come.

Just minutes after arriving on the beach, David and Luke got into a two-pronged attack with their strategy. Luke stayed back to ensure that all the Contenders couldn’t openly talk strategy, while David spilled the beans on Andy’s challenge-throwing, his attempt to get out Daisy and Shaun’s threat level.

With Harry, Daisy and Baden coming together, Dirty Harry lined up the Champions’ next three targets: Shaun, Daisy, himself. That really whipped the Contenders back into reality (for a second), refocusing their strength in numbers and wanting to keep loyal. As this was happening, Pia started to expound her strategy of keeping meat shields ahead of her, including Janine: the only player who could see her for the threat she is. Since Pia said she would either be the first boot or win the game, we could be in for the most predictable winner’s edit we’ve ever seen.

The mystery crate turned out to be worth the struggle, as everything offered for players in the Reward Challenge to stop was bundled in the box. That includes not only the added advantage heading into the Immunity Challenge but a Hidden Immunity Idol that doesn’t expire until near the endgame. That’s a hell of a reward; perhaps the most overpowered reward so far.

It didn’t go unnoticed by David once Daisy returned to camp, as he was paying attention to how the reward would set the player up for the rest of their game. While Daisy was confirming to Shaun she did have an idol, David was spending the rest of the day setting a plan to make Daisy feel paranoid about them knowing she has one in hopes of flushing it at Tribal Council.

With a fancy new Immunity Necklace in tow, Shaun felt the pressure to win the first Individual Immunity Challenge. Each player had to hold 60% of their body weight in a barrel via a rope suspended in the air high and far away, with a tile holding up the apparatus. The last play to drop their barrel and have the tile crack won immunity.

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Even with her idol in tow, Daisy’s ridiculously OP reward allowed her to start ten minutes after everyone else. By the time she even entered the challenge, both John and Luke (two top challenge performers), then Harry later, had already dropped out, with Baden dropping out shortly after she entered. The sun played a huge factor, as was the fact the dropping the barrel made it harder to regain height.

Pia dropped out after the 25-minute mark, Janine started to rein in David’s overconfidence, who later dropped out of the challenge. Andy suddenly fell out of the running later on, and Simon snapped out of the competition 30 minutes in. At 40 minutes, a dabbing of his sweat caused Shaun to struggle mightily, but it was Janine holding on by a handle who dropped out.

The power (plutonic) couple of Shaun and Daisy were the two people who needed individual immunity the most, but the latter dropped out. It was two players with AFL roots who made it to the 50-minute mark, as Abbey’s unshakable core helped keep her grounded. However, the scorching sun drove the sweat factor, as Abbey slipped up 55 minutes into the challenge to give Shaun the necklace.

Heading into the first post-merge Tribal Council of Australian Survivor 2019, the Champions had an embarrassment of riches when it came to voting targets. Shaun was eliminated by procedure, and David was (rightfully) worried that Daisy had an idol. However, Andy was agreeable enough a choice to convince everyone but Shaun and Daisy to vote him out, as John downright detested his attempt to throw a challenge prior to the merge.

It’s incredible to see how much having likable, strategic players can influence the flow of the game, no matter their tribe designation. David and Luke’s two-pronged attack worked like perfection, as even Daisy didn’t want to play an idol on Andy to keep him in the game and send David home. The Contenders never really had to make a tough decision at Tribal Council before the swap, and their inexperience shone through at this merge vote.

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Pia wanted to influence the voting target while not drawing too much attention to herself, comparing herself to a lowly fish swimming among the sharks. Janine, meanwhile, compared herself to a perfumed scorpion, waiting to draw people in with her pleasant smell before stabbing them with her pincer when the time was right. We received many animal comparisons as the Champion women pontificated their mid-game strategies.

David’s subtle messaging in the dying hours before Tribal Council exemplified his masterful ability to play the game (ego aside). The way he talked about comparing how Daisy felt to when he had an idol both confirmed she had one in passing while planting seeds that he no longer had an idol. He also threw Andy’s last-ditch plea about fake throwing a challenge back in his face in targeting Daisy.

We saw a lot of dancing around “Contenders strong” and “Champions strong” talk at Tribal Council, with Janine’s talk of new relationships being disregarded by John and others. Andy talked about keeping loyal to his people, which Luke correctly rebuffed in the fact that Andy tried to blindside Daisy alongside David and Luke after the tribe swap.

With Andy failing to own up to the move to both Luke and Shaun, David started to spin the wheels of chaos by saying Andy wasn’t necessarily the target. He fully anticipated people turning on their old tribe members and that the squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the grease, and a blindside could be into effect. David even teased that people “in the know” wouldn’t be surprised by the vote.

In effect, David had killed two birds with one stone. After the votes were cast, Daisy played an idol on herself to nullify all the votes targeting her: a vote from Andy that David told him to provide. Everyone else voted for Andy, making the “greatest mastermind the game has ever seen” one of the most unanimous merge boots ever.

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I seriously don’t know what is going through the Contenders’ heads in Australian Survivor 2019. Heading into the tribe swap, there were 11 Contenders and seven Champions. Now they are at a five-six minority, Daisy can’t trust her own group not to vote her out, and Andy thought he lied about David having an idol on the way out. It was the most underhanded move to tell what he thought was a lie after being played, as he hoped to punish a player unfairly because they were smarter than him.