Australian Survivor 2019 episode 23 recap: Outlast

Ten Network
Ten Network /

After pulling off one of the craziest moves in Australian Survivor history, Luke finds himself in a situation where he needs to win immunities to stay safe.

Without a doubt, Luke Toki is one of, if not the greatest players in Australian Survivor history. His 2-1-1 vote strategy was nothing short of brilliance, as he used an advantage and took ownership of his opportunity to the maximum capabilities to take out his target, doing so to benefit his game for the long term while keeping his best option as an ally in the game.

Unfortunately, both he and the tribe knows that he’s the biggest threat to win Australian Survivor 2019, so it’s in nobody’s interest but himself to keep himself immune in the game. Everyone’s down to serious business time, as Harry escaping the threat of going home has given him a new lease on life. It may be the fire needed to kick him into fifth gear.

Making Day 47 is another accomplishment for Luke, as even though he’s up a considerable number of spots from his first season, that competition lasted 55 days in total. He’s outlasted his previous placement, he’s gone to Tribal Council 18 times before this episode, and he’s played idols and made big moves. There’s no way he doesn’t win the game if he sits beside anyone else.

I know it may sound like I’m beating a dead horse, but I’m just relaying the majority of the early parts of this episode, as it seemed to patter about by re-iterating the same messages. For good measure, we also had Dirty Harry talk about how Pia is another threat to win the game, as she was the smiling assassin in the shadows while Janine was the face as The Godmother.

Interestingly enough, we finally heard the first instance of a player being considered as a goat to take along to Final Tribal Council. Harry sees Baden as the opportune player to take because he hasn’t been a force strategically or in challenges. Everyone seems to like the guy, but at that moment it telegraphed his social standing within the game.

While all these conversations were happening, the Australian Survivor 2019 Final Four were playing a wholesome version of the Dirty Laundry, picking who was the most honest and who’d they give a burger to at that moment. It seemed like an opportunity to burn more airtime, honestly, as the episode was twiddling its thumbs in anticipation of the Immunity Challenge.

When it finally did arrive, it was a doozy. It was a more physically-demanding version of US Survivor’s Simmotion, with players needing to place a ball down a winding maze and catch it down a small set of stairs at a pipe on the bottom. As more balls are added at set intervals, players will need to time out the spacing and run between the top and bottom of their stations as to not drop a ball. The last person standing wins immunity.

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The way the Australian Survivor version of the challenge starts is a lot slower and a lot more methodical, as the setup follows down one set path, not splitting between two. This made spacing much more critical, as it’s about having enough time to run back to the bottom than it is about whether the ball drops on the left or right side.

Once the third ball needed to be dropped, the pace and the intensity of the competition rose to an intense level. Pia’s hesitation about when to drop her third ball into the maze made her take too long, as she raced to grab a dropping ball, but it fell to the sand, kicking her out of the competition.

Baden seemed to have an audible timing strategy heading into the third ball phase, separating each by seven or so seconds. However, he did stumble in grabbing a ball, forcing him to break up his rhythm and barely catch his third dropping ball. Having to run up and down a set of stairs made for more blunders like Harry missing the drop zone, which is a great wrinkle for this version of the game.

The fourth ball seemed to be the killer, as it got everyone grasping at straws. Baden caught a ball in midair while Luke fell just short, collapsing in agony over defeat. Baden looked to be on a great pace, as he was konging up and down the stairs like he was doing parkour. Unfortunately, in throwing in his fourth ball, he had two separated by two seconds, so it was an inevitability that he would lose.

At that moment, Dirty Harry became the biggest threat of Australian Survivor 2019, as he won immunity and Luke was finally vulnerable. Much like Stephanie Johnson in Ghost Island, the rest of the episode’s editing, especially with its musical scoring, felt like a slow funeral procession, eulogizing the death of a great player in their best individual game so far.

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The fact that the Immunity Challenge ended halfway through the episode was concerning because, in any other scenario, it should be an inevitability that Luke would absolutely, so obviously go home. However, Ten Network milked the emotional turmoil of tonight’s elimination so hard because Luke was such a fan favorite.

He didn’t go down without a fight, pitching to Baden to keep him in strategically to further his own chances of taking out Harry at Final Three and being taken to the end. His pitch to Pia was a bit more emotional, and the orchestra swelled as he fought for her to give him the chance to make fire.

Rarely do you see “playing emotionally” as a strategy from a challenge beast in Survivor, and Luke’s pitch to Pia to give him a chance was emotionally tinged, for sure. That poured through in Tribal Council, as Luke put immensely undue pressure on Pia by publicly saying he’s voting for Baden and it’s up to her whether or not he even has a chance to fight for his life.

You have to give it to the editors of Australian Survivor; they truly made an easy decision seem like Sophie’s choice. This ending, with the audience seeing Pia write down Luke’s name and the music cutting out at key moments made it feel like we lost the queen (if you’re in the commonwealth, that’s a huge deal).

It does come with some very real consequences, though. Luke is very much on Rupert-level fandom in Australian Survivor, and the way the edit put the onus on Pia for getting rid of their Golden (edit) God is definitely fuel for rabid fan hate fire. As much as I felt sorry for Luke and the episode hit its emotional low notes, I knew that editing it this way was a tremendous disservice to Pia in real life.

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Pia made the smartest decision in her path for half a million dollars, yet because she took out the fan-favorite in an emotional episode, the show turned her into Judas. The fact that how good it is for her path to victory was not shown is another piece of evidence that the show loves to bury its women to prop up the men, no matter the costs.