We get to our first challenge as a group of 12 people, some I recognise but mostly I do not (I do not really get out much) nothing like getting the game going quickly. I stand with my new frenemies and find out what is in store. My nerves are at an all-time high and my mind is racing; What if I embarrass myself and fail the first time up? My daughter would be mortified!
The challenge is simple, there is a sand bag in the middle of a large circle in the sand. Starting at the edge, facing a competitor from the opposite team you simply have to be the first one to get the sandbag and bring it back to your side of the circle and drop it in a marked square. How hard can that be, right? Well, we find out quickly that it is super hard and the Contenders have something to prove.
On tv you see that it was first to three, when we played it was first to six, they needed to edit it for time. One by one we squared off. Pia, who I found out later was a famous Australian actress, is a small framed woman of 5’2”, goes up for her turn and she meets a 40 something, solid, strong looking women who looks like about 5 inches taller than Pia. Pia is tough as guts, unfortunately she did not have weight on her side and found herself squashed under this woman’s weight with her competitor yelling in her ear “I need this, I am winning” which she did.
We are now 5 each and I am up for the deciding victory, ‘no pressure’ I hear my mind saying and now I’m seriously worried about my first impression.
I was last and through sheer determination I dragged the contender and the sandbag to my square. I am off to a good start and I am hopefully looking good for the new tribe. We have a reward of food and flint for our first fire at camp.
One thing everyone knows on survivor is that you need fire or your life is miserable, or even more miserable that your life is going to be.
We arrive on our beach and properly meet the other champions. There were faces that I knew and others that I did not. I had recently seen Ross Clarke-Jones’ doco called Storm Surfers. Having seen the doco I was surprised that Ross was even alive let alone on Survivor! There was ET who I did not recognise as being from Melbourne, if you are not AFL then you do not exist in sport. There was a beautiful blonde that I recognised as Abbey who was an AFLW footballer, Steve Bradbury who we all know as the ‘last man standing’, the extremely well known and respected, Nova who is an ex Olympian, a happy looking women who I discovered was Pia, she starred in the movie ‘Looking for Alibrandi’, Simon Black, an AFL football player, Susie Maroney who set ridiculous records in long distance swimming, Luke Toki who was on season two of Survivor, Anastasia who I did not recognise but later found out she was a memory champion and David a male supermodel who on day one looked quite intimidating. These 11 people were going to be either my best friends or my worst enemies over the next few weeks.
After a few uncomfortable hugs we get onto the matter at hand which is building a shelter. It is getting late into the afternoon and the sun sets about 6.30pm so we did not have much time. ET and Blacky (Simon Back) took control and started building the shelter whilst others worked on the fire and food. Nova was self-designated cook (you do not mess with Nova and her cooking!) and the rest of us were working bees. After a lot of work the shelter was done, we were about half meter off the ground with a bamboo floor and a decent roof, we were pretty chuffed with ourselves. The fire was going and the rice and beans were in the pot, life was looking ok.
We then got down to the business of getting to know everyone. After this initial who’s who in the zoo it was getting late and we started to think about bed, I use the term ‘bed’ loosely as it was more like dirt and sand with lots of bugs. Abbey and I quickly realised we had something in common; we loved to go to bed early, so we hit the sack.
Now this is where Survivor started to feel real. We lay down on the hard, round and ridiculously uncomfortable bamboo. I found a spot that was at least not painful and started to rest – to call it sleep would be a stretch. Slowly one by one the tribe started to join us and then slowly one by one the tribe started to find alternative places to sleep. Steve found a cave, the rest found somewhere on the beach or in front of the fire. No one got any sleep night one so we had to pull the base of the shelter off and start again. We decided that sleeping on the sand with some palm fronds would probably be a better option than on hard, round bamboo. We had just learnt our first lesson on Survivor, nothing is as easy as it seems.
We are awake and back being busy bees sorting out things like wood for fire, coconuts and papaya for food and starting to form relationships with the fellow tribe mates to see if we can form any allegiances.
My strategy was to see if I can make some true relationships and form some close bonds that would get me deep into the game. I did with Anastasia as we have ashtanga yoga in common and Pia who I immediately liked upon first meeting.
We were all going slow and steady, however, maybe we were a bit too slow and steady as Steve Bradbury was off creating a seven-person alliance called the ‘sporting alliance’, unfortunately being the business woman of the group it did not include me nor a model or an actress or a former Survivor player.
Challenge: The Hammer Throw
We rock up at our first immunity challenge and I am as nervous as hell. My strategy is to not be the weakest in the challenge in the early days so I’m not voted off but also not to be the strongest so after the merge I’m not seen as a threat. It is so important that I give it my all so that I at least could prove myself. We walk into the challenge and Johnathon says “come on in” (he says this a lot) as if welcoming us into his home and not some sort of scary challenge that could potentially end my game or seriously hurt me.
The Champions are the fastest to get to end of the course but unfortunately it comes down to the hammer throw and the Contenders beat us. Nova was not happy, she put her hand up for throwing as she is an A grade cricket player but our choice was clearly wrong, however, that is sport and we completely supported each other in defeat. The reality is that we still have to return back to camp and actually vote one of these virtual strangers off the game.
So off we go to camp and start the scramble. At this stage, I still have no idea that there has been an alliance formed, I thought people were still working it out.
Luke who plays a great social game was getting to know people and I was suss of him as I know he is a good player. I immediately liked Ross and knew he was a good guy, I thought I could trust Anastasia, I was starting to get to know David and like with Pia, I immediately got on with Abbey so I thought we may have a potential group of 7 people. In Survivor you actually never know who is with you until you read the votes.
We went to the well with Luke to discuss the vote, he threw Ross’s name out there because he was pretty noisy at night.
I did the near fatal move by putting a name out, Susie. Thinking that being on a champions team they would want to keep the team strong. Despite the fact that Susie is an incredible athlete and has achieved things that hardly anyone on the planet can achieve, she was not an all-rounder and not strong on the ground. Her first reward challenge she lost and was clearly the weakest in the first immunity challenge.
My strategy going in was to play a low profile, not put names out and go along with the number to see the lie of the land, but what do I go and do?! I wait until there was a bunch of people around and put Susie’s name out there without thinking who may have made an alliance with her. That was my first mistake, Nova was in the group of people who were talking around the well and I noticed when I said Susie’s name she said nothing and just gave me a look, I got used to that look as she was not a fan of me which she made very clear over the coming days.
Strategy blown I was thinking – bugger I may be going home day one.
The day went on with lots of names going around and I was told to vote for Pia. Despite really liking Pia from the start you are so concerned that the name might be you that you vote with the numbers. I did not know that there was a plan forming and that Nova wanted Anastasia gone because she was annoying her.
Survivor lesson number two – don’t mess with Nova.
Ten minutes before we had to stop (called lockdown) the decision from Nova was Anastasia. At this point, as you see from the episode, I had no idea and I voted for Pia. Clearly, I am at the bottom of the group.
Off we go to our first tribal council. We rock up and get our torches for the first time, we are told that fire is our life and when Johnathan snuffs out the fire, you go home. We all sit on a log in a certain order and discover for the first time that those bloody logs are the most uncomfortable stools on the planet.
I am sitting next to Luke, who I am starting to get really fond of (that is his superpower), Johnathan does his normal asking questions and Luke leans towards me and asks me are we still voting for Pia and how do you spell it? I laugh, say yes, shake my head and told him he will be fine. We get up one by one do the vote, tell the Survivor Gods (better known as cameras) why and then return to the torture stools.
No matter how many times I sat there through Johnathan calling the votes out I was always nervous that the vote was me. So out came the votes. Three votes for Pia and then all the rest are Anastasia. My first blind side and my first realisation that I am on the bottom of this tribe and I need to do something about it.
Returning at night is always interesting, there is a level of uncomfortableness as everyone now knows where everyone stands and Luke and I know we are dead bottom.
Going to sleep that night, I knew I had a lot of work to do.
Reward Challenge: Circle of Strength.
All challenges are scary and intimidating but I found the pressure of the reward challenge a little less as you do not get voted out but turning up to our second reward challenge was still daunting.
We rock up and see a round sanded area with a huge timber structure that turned in the centre – large posts expanded out to the edge of the circle that we had to push on, in pairs, at the same time as a pair of Contenders moving the timber around to step over the winning line.
We started with our biggest boys and they lost. Up next was Abby and myself. Deep down I was happy to be positioned as the second strongest women in our tribe. Abbey and I were a great team, she is a sporting superstar and I learnt quickly that there are two Abbeys – one that is sweet, kind and would not hurt a fly and the second is “game face Abbey” who is fierce and you had better try your best to win or watch out. I personally like “game face Abbey” as it is extremely motivating and we won our round. Each pair came and went and eventually the Champions were victorious.
The team arrived back into camp smiling like Cheshire cats and thinking that we were indestructible after also going on to win the Mud Challenge, which was seriously, the hardest thing I have done.
Our cockiness was short lived as we lost the next immunity challenge which put my game at risk, suddenly it was my head on the block.
The sporting alliance was strong and they were very confident in their path. We had to use all of our collective strengths and persuasive powers to make sure I did not go home. We had the team to do it; Luke has incredible powers to convince people to do what he wants, Pia with her acting skills was amazing and me with our powers of persuasion, I thought we had a real chance or converting Rosco and Abbey to our side. Rosco is one for his word and he told me that he would not write my name down and I told me the same, so it was just Abbey we needed to get across the line.
In my opinion the Champion team was acting like a losing team by not keeping their strongest players and I said so in my speech at tribal council. Nova was doing the blame game which for me is the opposite of how Champions work. Luckily for me we got the number for the night and I got the joy of sleeping another night in the dirt.
Did I mention that it rained that night? I was cold wet and hungry, and thrilled to still be in the game!
Survivor on TEN tonight at 7.30pm.
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