How Much Do I Love Australian Survivor? Let Me Count the Ways

If you have paid attention to me at all online the past year or so (or read any of my ‘watch list‘ blogs), you might have noticed that I am an eensy bit obsessed (I feel comfortable using that word, since I have OCD) with the television program Australian Survivor.

I mean, with good reason, y’all.

You know how American Survivor is all same same nowadays? Hmm, maybe you didn’t notice so let me ruin it for you too (if you don’t want the show ruined by my hardcore pattern recognition, please peace out now for a bit. I’ll indicate when it’s safe again, ok?)?:

  • They stopped theme-ing the seasons. I love me a good theme. Now all the seasons, like, blend together.
  • The show has taken place in Fiji since season 33. We are now on Season 46. 13 seasons at the same place.
    • On the season 46 premier, I realized they must have depleted much of the islands natural resources, because the castaways were provided precut bamboo and leafy things to build their shelter.
  • The show follows the EXACT SAME STORYLINE every single season:
    • One tribe is not good, so they go to tribal council a lot and get picked off one by one.
    • Then a tribe swap happens.
    • The members of the ‘not good’ tribe stick together and make it very close to the end, if not the end itself.
    • There is always a final four firemaking thing.
  • Casting – it feels like they are casting to “types” and not casting individual humans.
  • All rewards are at the Sanctuary (where good things happen). I am SO OVER THE SANCTUARY, JEFF.

Here are some other things that rub me wrong about the current US Survivor and that you can hear me bitch about on my podcast every week:

  • The challenges are all the same – some variation of an obstacle course with a puzzle involved
    • or throwing things at targets
  • The immunity idols are laughably ugly.
  • I am SO TIRED OF JOURNEYS – they add very little to the story and eat up time that we could be meeting other castaways in a more meaningful way.
  • They try to make this show surprising and shocking, but all the twists are just for the sake of drama. It rarely does anything to further the game in a meaningful way.
  • People play too hard, too early:
    • There is no time to get to know the people – only how they play the game.
  • Voting someone out at the first tribal council should take more than three votes. That just seems so sad.
  • Jeff is mean to the castaways, not encouraging. Like, it feels like he is trying to be snarky instead of himself and that makes me sad.
  • The rewards are SO disappointing. A single rotisserie chicken? As a reward?! Come ON.
  • Don’t even get me started on the “In Addition” Rewards… you know, the ones where the castaways show up to an immunity challenge and then Jeff tells them, “In addition to immunity, you will also be playing for reward.” Ugh so lame. You have more than an hour or airtime now, Jeffs (I call him that sometimes), you can have two challenges. JUST DELETE THE DUMB DAMN JOURNEY!!!

This all makes me so sad and worse, so bored. I’ve been watching since ‘day dot’ (this is a phrase used often in Aussie Survivor) and I want it to be as good as it once was. As good as it could be.

It’s safe to read again. I’m now gonna be waxing poetically about Australian Survivor.

So, at some point last year in the midst of all the fog, my friend Molls had been pushing me to watch a season of Australian Survivor. So I did.

And an obsession was born.

I started with Season 8 (or 10, depending if you count the first two seasons produced by a different production company) and didn’t look back.

I was hooked from day dot. (that is an expression I have adopted from the show.) There were 24 castaways, separated into two tribes. Every single one of them was there for the game.

Those words are important to me in Australian Survivor, because I think that is one of the important distinctions between this and the US version: the Aussies treat it just like that – a game. Sure, there are villains and rivalries, but they aren’t fueled by hate, they’re fueled by the game.

When folks get voted out, they don’t get all mad and angry. They’re like “Yoop, y’all got me! Good gameplay! I can’t wait to see who wins.” Then they head off to home or the Jury Villa, depending on where they are in the game.

I cannot gush enough about the host either. Jonathan LaPaglia is IT. He reminds me of early Jeff Probst in the way that the viewer can FEEL his connection to the castaways. You can tell he is just as invested into the game play as everyone else. He is just as excited to see what happens as the viewers are.

Then, during challenges, Jonathan (or JLP, as some of the castaways call him) is so encouraging. He wants to see everyone succeed, you can just feel it. And when they don’t succeed, he doesn’t make them feel small or less than – he just lets them know they need to catch up if they want to win.

Plus, he’s kind of a dreamboat.

Regarding these challenges, they are brutal – both for the viewer and the castaways. In the early tribal stages, there are often head to head challenges, which helps form rivalries in the game. But they are like, playful ones. I really think these head to head, one one one challenges helps the viewer to get to know the players on a whole new level. I dig it.

Don’t even get me started on the final immunity challenge before final tribal council, it’s similar to a torture device.

Everyone knows that a torture device of some sort is coming, so it’s not a mean secret surprise or anything. The castaways are ready for it. I’m looking so forward to seeing what they come up with for the end of the current season.

And the immunity necklaces are lovely to look at – they feel fitting the the level of gameplay onscreen.

Aussie Survivor also holds the classic Survivor Auction with a lot more regularity than the US version does. Sometimes they throw in twists that are fun too – not just secret game advantages and stuff like that. I’ve seen phone calls home before and an opportunity to brush your teeth (plus some mints to take back to camp).

My favorite auction item, however, was one where a castaway won the ability to share in everyone else’s reward. They got their own fancy table and chair and people could come up and share their rewards with the winner. It felt king-like and I loved it. I’d love to see something like that again, but Aussie Survivor isn’t great for repeats.

Which is another thing I appreciate about it.

Don’t even get me started on the contestants, either. They inspire strong, strong emotion. I find myself at the end of almost every single season saying, “I honestly don’t care who wins. I mean, yeah, I have my favorites, but really and truly, every single one of these folks played hard and deserve to be here.”

There’s not as much of the “bringing along a goat” thing to ensure the win. It’s a good vibe.

Another thing I love about the contestants is that, for the most part, they feel comfortable with themselves. This is something I do not see very often in US Survivor, aside from maybe one player a year. (Looking at Season 44’s Carolyn and Season 45’s Jake!) On the Aussie version, I find the castaways to be, for the most part, comfortable with who they are as people. Like, to the core.

This sort of authenticity is extremely appealing to me.

I think it really ups the level of gameplay, because we’re not stuck with people who are playing through their insecurities, but through their hearts and minds. It’s really refreshing and makes for some really fun TV watching.

Don’t get me wrong though, there are still contestants I do not like. These tend to be castaways that remind me of people in my real life who I no longer associate with. So that’s on me, not on them.

A couple more things and then I’ll stop gushing, I promise.

First off, the Aussie version is so much more cinematic. This is something I’ve noticed that the US version has been improving in recent seasons. In Aussie Survivor, the location and it’s inhabitants are characters of their own. If you ever join me for a watch, you’ll hear me happily exclaim, “CRAB!!” over and over again.

They are very cute.

Oh, plus, they don’t have the seasons at the same islands over and over – they switch locations!!! This is great for a couple reasons – it doesn’t deplete the natural resources of the island year after year, so it is easier for them to find food and resources. AND it adds some variety for the viewer.

Also, the spaces they clear out for camps and challenges and stuff have a great deal more nature around ’em. It doesn’t seem to make as much of an environmental impact to my non-environmental scientist eye.

Okay and my final thing I will tell you about… because I can’t really talk about the gameplay or the literal BEST TRIBAL COUNCIL EVER IN SURVIVOR HISTORY (this is not an exaggeration) without giving away massive spoilers… is the treatment of the contestants.

They are treated like humans. They get rations of rice and beans, so that they can fuel their bodies to compete in the difficult challenges set by production. The rewards are actual rewards, not at the same place every time, with a variety of foods offered. Not just, like a single pizza or something.

Now, sometimes, they will give them a little challenge of a reward – like canned food when they were expecting fresh or pizzas they have to figure out how to cook themselves.

They get more clothes than American Survivors get and a couple pair of shoes. This show isn’t about watching other humans suffer. It’s about watching them play a game. The US version seems to go out of their way to make things difficult for the contestants.

We suffer enough in real life, we don’t need to see it more on TV.

The way Aussie Survivor handles medical situations makes so much sense. Castaways are allowed to leave the game for 24 hours to get medical treatment. If they are well enough to return after 24 hours, they do! If not, they go home. It feels like a more human way to treat the situations. It’s like production understands real life is a bit more important than a game.

Plus the medical team also gives them bandages, so you’re not stuck looking at a bunch of open sores all season, you know?

I have fallen in love with Aussie Survivor, y’all. I could have kept typing for at least 3 more blogs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t air in the states at the moment. If you wanna get in on this action, you know where to message me (if not, here’s a contact form). I can help you find some ways to watch this spectacular program. If you wanna do a watch together, I’m down for that too.

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