Australian Survivor 2019 episode 17 recap: Back to business

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With the Golden God undeified, Australian Survivor 2019 has a new power vacuum. Will the former Champions unify or fight for that power?

One of the most underrated aspects of Luke’s Australian Survivor 2019 game is just how well he can shrug off difficulties. It’s a testament to his social game, as even though he was the only one not involved in the plan to blindside David last episode, immediately when he arrives at camp, he’s bringing in Baden and Harry into Operation Nightime Rice for some fun nighttime escapades. He doesn’t feel the pressure because he knows his capabilities in the game.

Day 35 was the time in Survivor: Edge of Extinction that we reached the finale and a sixth member re-entering the game. In the second Champions vs. Contenders season, however, we’ve only reached the Final Nine, as Janine plotted her next move alongside her second-in-command; the smiling assassin Pia.

As Pia tried to bring Luke back into the fold and regain his trust, both of them were too focused on their conversation to go searching for a Hidden Immunity Idol sitting in a rock crevice right beside the well. It allowed Harry and Daisy to go hunting for it themselves, as Daisy was the one to suss out the spot and secure her first discovered (not given) Hidden Immunity Idol.

The problem with an idol at the well is that there is a lot of foot traffic near the well, as Daisy was interrupted immediately by Pia and Luke making a return trip. She tried to play it off like she was washing, but the fact that she held her shirt in one hand coming back from her reward (where she won the first idol) led Luke to call her out. Daisy reluctantly admitted to having the idol, and now the Champions had learned what obstacles faced them this voting round.

Those discussions had to wait, as the Reward Challenge saw pair team up to suspend an idol on a narrow platform in the air using poles. At scheduled intervals, players had to add a section to their poles to make balancing the idol more difficult, with the last pair earning a succulent Chinese meal delivered from Deliveroo.

With nine players remaining, Harry was the odd man out, as he had the option to bet on who out of Luke and Baden, Simon and John, Pia and Daisy, and Abbey and Janine would win in order to join them. It wasn’t a grueling challenge early with the shade starting out, but in the transition to the second stage, Pia and Daisy slipped.

It was in the third stage that the sun started to beat down, and as the fourth section needed to be added, the physical space within each pair’s box started to become a factor. However, the three remaining pairs found new strategies to balance easily thanks to John holding the pole between his knees, as the remainders asked to jump to the sixth section early.

It was at that final stage that Baden and Luke fell with just ten seconds left into the transition, and with one second remaining, Simon couldn’t get his pole in properly, forcing the idol to drop. Harry was right; he picked Janine and Pia to win, allowing him also to select a fourth player (here, Simon) to join them on a nice, refreshing meal.

Despite Abbey really laying into David for playing too hard, too often, especially on her car reward, Janine’s first instinct was to talk strategy about who needed to go home. The Godmother was hellbent on getting out Dirty Harry before the merge, but now that the game is getting close to doing away with team dynamics, she trusts the devil she knows to get out the devils she doesn’t (like Daisy).

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The first time we saw the Champions receive decorative plates from members of their family, it provided a tinge of emotional feedback. However, seeing it for the second time much later in the game with many of the same people receiving the same reward once again lessens the impact.

Janine saying she “breeds well” was the most bougie thing imaginable, and that alongside Harry’s encouragement from home finally got the verbiage “Contenders strong” into the game. However, it’s long been a time since the Contenders could systematically wipe out the Champions, as their own in-fighting handed them the numbers advantage to this day.

The river from the infamous Australian Survivor 2019 river fight challenge makes its return in this Immunity Challenge, with players having to hold a plank position between two bars for as long as possible. It is a simple but agonizing challenge, as Harry fell two minutes in and Abbey dropped thirty seconds later.

With Luke dropping just three minutes into the challenge, you could tell that the producers didn’t want another challenge heading into the night. Pia dropped, then John fell shortly after as the remainders started to switch arms one by one after the ten-minute mark. Baden’s strategy to push through the pain was to distract himself with lists, going through Olympics and Eurovision cities to push through.

Janine had enough once Simon began to go through AFL premierships, as it became a test of the mighty versus the meager. The two really pushed themselves to the limits, as one used the Fibonacci Series to count his way as the other went through typical AFL stretching warmups for a lot longer than expected. Unfortunately, Baden slipped up in the end, and Simon secured his first individual immunity win.

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At the Final Nine, this was the time that the Contenders agreed that they should stay strong and vote in a bloc, with Daisy finally revealing to everyone in that group that she had a Hidden Immunity Idol and they needed to throw their four votes for a shot to even the numbers. Harry suggested that the Champions would throw their votes on John while the Contenders settled on voting for Abbey.

With the Champions settling on Daisy as discussed on the Deliveroo reward, Pia and Luke had to come clean about catching Daisy discovering an idol. That led to the four agreeing to vote for Harry instead in hopes of flushing the idol and getting out their target to keep the numbers strong.

That’s where the Baden and Luke half-truth dynamic comes into play. They’ve been the only two players in Australian Survivor 2019 to genuinely look after each other across tribal lines, with each exchanging pieces of information to the other. However, Baden made the critical mistake of telling Luke the Contenders’ voting and idol protection plans while Luke just confirmed he caught Daisy finding the idol.

Baden wants to play the middle, and I truly respect his intentions. Sarah Lacina played the middle to perfection, but it is a fine line to toe. Giving one side too much information while playing for the other at that instance can lead to a numbers discrepancy, and here, Luke used the information provided from Baden to figure out who to target.

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In the US Survivor, it’s usually at the merge or the Final 11 that we see these anti-idol voting target discussions come into play. While the Champions discussed option A or option B, it was the potential of a “safe vote” that harkened back to the Jessica Johnstons, Edgardos and other option Cs that have come before the Final Nine of Australian Survivor 2019.

As we arrived at Tribal Council, Daisy spent no time in whipping out her hardware and started to wear her idol necklace. She noted it was the worst-kept secret, but Janine played coy as if she only had a suspicion, showing she’s not one to tip her hand. That got the conversation focused on tribal lines, as Harry and John were upset about the level of conservative play exhibited by the Champions.

It was the editing of Tribal Council that had me wondering whether or not Australian Survivor was telegraphing the future of this season. With John saying players are playing for fifth, the camera cut to Simon. Likewise, the camera cut to Abbey when stating players are playing for fourth. There’s no way the show makes the future boot order of the endgame that obvious, no?

Either way, Daisy made the smart play leading to Tribal Council, but flaunting her idol made conversations one-note and linear. The real drama came down to who she would play the idol for, as she picked to keep herself safe. Whether or not she genuinely thought the Champions would call her bluff remains to be seen, but she and Baden would be the two Contenders who wouldn’t receive votes.

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Not only did the Champions play the vote smart, but they played it a bit too intelligently. Instead of just resigning to John’s fate, Luke threw a vote on Harry in case another player in his alliance played it on Abbey, resulting in a 4-4-1 split that eventually saw Harry go home 4-3 in the revote. Janine even gave Daisy a dig by telling Daisy “smart girl” to her losing play!