In the end, former professional cricketer Lee Carlsedine lost Australian Survivor because the jury – his fellow contestants – didn’t believe his pitch about bringing his moral, honest and upright beliefs into the game.
Instead, they saw him as “manipulating the vulnerable” and “exuding ignorance and arrogance”.
Tuesday night’s finale on Channel Ten saw Lee soundly thrashed by Kristie Bennett – a 24-year-old Sydney-based account executive who first watched American Survivor as an eight-year-old with her newly divorced dad, Anthony.
The young Kristie vowed then that one day she would go on television and win that competition.
She kept that vow by playing a superb game where she maintained her independence, kept quiet and made subtle rather than major moves against her opponents, often confusing them.
And her dad was on hand to share her victory.
For those who have never seen Survivor, the show is a highly political, manipulative, complicated game where the whole aim of the 55 days on a remote island in Samoa was to get rid of the opposition and take home $500,000.
To do that, the competitors had to, firstly, win every challenge they could, watch, judge and join alliances, and work out how to stymie moves by other players, thus avoiding being voted out in the weekly Tribal Council meetings.
Kristie was in danger of being sent home after every one of those eviction votes and yet she ended up hanging in to fight for a place in the final, up against Lee (40, single dad of two boys) and his now partner El Rowland (33, Army Corporal, single mother of one).
The pair had formed a powerful alliance – voting as a bloc and embracing or distancing themselves from the opposition as they saw fit.
To get through to the final two, Kristie won a mind-blowingly difficult final challenge against her two opponents. For six-and-a-half hours, she stood, holding a pole, her feet balanced on two others, while being lashed by fierce waves.
El folded first and Kristie played with Lee’s mind, begging him to let her win this challenge – her first for the entire series. She used every trick in the book, including promising she would take him through to the final and recounting her desperate, childhood desire to win.
It worked and Lee slipped off the poles soon after.
Kristie kept her word and took Lee through to the final tribal council, where they had to face the judgment of nine of their fellow contestants who would vote for the winner.
And what a judgment it was. Lee faced scathing criticism, in particular from Nick who delivered a fierce critique of his game play.
Nick said Lee regularly talked about his personal values of integrity, honesty and reliability, but then “you would hear the morality siren go off and you would head for the moral high ground … making judgment on other people. I don’t know if I can award this money to a hypocrite who doesn’t play the rules”.
Lee was forced to admit that, in reality, he had to abandon those values in this game in order to survive.
When it came to the vote, Lee’s now-partner El was the only one who voted for him – despite the fact that, right up until the end, when asked point blank by Brooke, he denied their romance.
El, perhaps defiantly, told the cameras as she voted that “we’ve been together since day one. I love you and respect you and you deserve to win”.
Nobody, it seems, could quite understand Kristie, but Nick summed her up best saying she came out “balls to the wall” when it mattered, eschewing the inarticulate, stilted Kristie for a confident, skilled, game player who smashed the opposition out of the ballpark.
Australian Survivor has already been commissioned for a second series.
Politicians would do well to watch and learn from this beautifully produced Machiavellian mischief. Kristie for Prime Minister, anybody?