In the Sunday night debut of Channel Ten’s Australian Survivor, elimination came down to Des, a grumpy, lazy old bugger who belatedly turned helpful, and Kat, the self-confessed winner of a “loveable dictator” award who drove him nuts from the start.
“She belongs in the cafe latte set in Manly,” Des said of Kat who, at that stage, was wearing a leopard print jacket, full make-up and a gold necklace.
“He does absolutely nothing,” she replies as he defies her attempt to organise him.
One of them clearly had to go and Des’ early strategy of allowing his tribe to flounder for most of the first episode before stepping up when it was clear he was up for elimination, failed miserably.
It was a stunning season opener. Beautifully made, lushly filmed, well cast with a clever mix of action, camaraderie and strategic game-playing.
If the ratings Gods are fair, it should crater the opposition and bury the memories of those previous, less-than-successful incarnations of the format.
Channel Ten’s production is the third incarnation of Australian Survivor and marks a return after an absence of 10 years.
The first attempt at an Australian version of the reality show aired on Chanel Nine in 2002, followed by a Channel Seven version in 2006.
The episode begins with the 24 contestants on trucks rumbling through a Samoan village to their first challenge.
After being put into teams and with Jonathan LaPaglia comfortably in his role as host/race caller, they had to draw supplies from the first barge before the Blue Team wins the fire stick from a second barge.
The fascinating cast of characters begins to show their strengths quickly as they attempt to establish camp, with Des quietly smirking as he watches the Red Team “runnin’ around like chooks with their heads cut off”.
“They can make their own mistakes”, he helpfully adds in pure Queensland strine.
Over in the Yellow tribe’s camp, Nick talks about this being his Olympics and he’s been in training for years. He’s even gone to a hypnotist to rid him of his fear of rats and mice.
Sue – a retired Customs officer – is the one who shows the muscle and brings their shelter together which, as they test their beds, promptly falls apart to much laughter.
The Blue Tribe has the psychological advantage of having fire. Which turns out to be a disadvantage for Conner (“I hope I won’t embarrass my parents on national television”) who promptly burns his hand with a hot stick and has to spend the next 20 minutes in the water keeping it cool.
The Red team has a horror first night. No fire, no shelter, no way of getting warm.
Des makes his own bed of banana palms away from his tribe and, later, invites them to join him to get warm. Just in time for a rising tide which promptly floods everything and ends any hope of sleep for the night.
Next morning is the first immunity challenge, which involves six members of each team climbing, walking planks and pulling heavy boxes containing a jigsaw puzzle that the remaining two team members had to put together.
Blue won again – with Yellow not far behind – thanks to excellent team playing and both won immunity from the dreaded Tribal Council eviction that night.
Yes, the unfortunate Red tribe had blown it again. Kat and Des nominated themselves to be the puzzle experts – a bizarre coupling in that they clearly couldn’t stand each other and anything close to team work was beyond them.
They knew they were in the firing line and, in the hours before the Tribal Council, Des realised he would have to do something pretty spectacular to stay and whizzed into action, plaiting flax for roofing, showing his teammates how to build a shelter and generally being ‘Mr Nice Guy’.
Naturally, when it came to the vote, Des and Kat voted for each other to leave.
As Des cast his vote for Kat to leave, drawled loudly so everybody could hear: “I don’t like being told what to do. Only my wife does that.”
Perhaps sadly for the audience, his tribe voted him out. Too little, too late, it seems. The grumpy old bugger headed for the hills.