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May 15, 2017 | by  | in TV |
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Survivor NZ

During school holidays between ages ten and 13, I would catch the bus down to Dunedin to stay with my cousin who was studying at Otago and working as a librarian. After her shifts at the library would finish, we would catch the bus back to her flat. My favourite game to play on those trips was memorising every single winner and runner up of Survivor. She ordered the soundtrack from eBay and we would dance around the yard chanting. Naturally, I became a huge fan of the show and, 15 years later, here I am writing about the very first season of Survivor New Zealand!

First up, I’m impressed with Survivor NZ’s attempts to not be bogged down by that “kiwi reality television” vibe (I know you know what I mean). At $100,000 the grand prize falls quite short of the usual cool million in the US version, but they got the actual theme song, font, and filter for the opening credits, and even found someone who kind of looks like Jeff Probst, though that is mainly because his hat covers his face. Fake Jeff Probst is super amped throughout the whole episode and does a lot of yell-narrating, maybe a bit too much. He’s no Dom Bowden.

Within five minutes we get a great selection of soundbites, from Louise’s “I actually didn’t know where South America or North America was,” to Sala’s “I’ll take on any gang member but I won’t take on a spider.” When the truck pulls up on the Nicaraguan beach for the show to begin, tattooed customer service worker Dee is quick to establish herself as a villain. Recalling her months of preparation, she says, “I started meditating and trying to figure out how to convince people I’m a decent person,” which really required The Bachelor’s knife sound. There’s a guy called Tom who looks like he makes craft brew at your friend’s flat. Rockabilly Hannah is a plus-size model AND a powerlifter; I like the cut of her jib.

After the tribes are assigned (Mogoton and Hermosa), there is a quick and confusing challenge to acquire food and camping implements, followed by a half hour of terrible attempts at forming alliances. I don’t think any of these people have watched Survivor before, except Dee, and no one is even talking to her. Everyone keeps calling Hannah weak because of her size, even though she is literally a fucking powerlifter. Snap forward to the double Tribal Council and Dee and Hannah are both eliminated, while everyone on their respective tribes look down at their feet so as to avoid conflict.

In a “surprise” twist, a very surly looking Hannah and Dee return to the beach for a chance at returning to the game — Hannah looks so angry and her tribe seems very afraid. Fake Jeff Probst yells that they must “duel” one another for the right to return, by tying some sticks together and using them as poles to retrieve hanging keys and open a “door” (sticks, it’s a frame of sticks). Hannah powerlifts the heck out of those sticks and wins the challenge, but she must spend the night alone on “Redemption Island”; she’s stoked because her tribe is full of SNAKES. For the second time tonight Dee’s elimination is announced and she must leave Nicaragua, but not before giving the speech of a lifetime: “One thing everyone didn’t know is that Survivor is actually my life. I’ve watched every season about three times. I listen to podcasts for about 40 hours a week. I’ve listened to 600 hours of audiobooks. I follow every blogger. I’m a Survivor superfan… My life has been a Survivor fan. Just not a survivor.” I am in tears.

Catch Survivor NZ on Sundays at TVNZ On Demand, because no one has a TV.

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