This season of Australian Survivor has been fantastic to watch. The All Star players certainly did not disappoint and the show prepares to culminate next week with the greatest final three we have ever seen. Sharn Coombes, David Genat and Moana Hope have been part of the strongest alliance in Australian Survivor history, and have made it to the final three together. Sorry to be as hyperbolic as they have been in recent episodes but it really is true. The only alliance that could even rival them is the one from last season with Janine, Luke, Pia, Dave and Abbey, but even they all turned on each other, leaving only Pia in the final three.
What has been even more impressive than how tight their alliance has been and how incredibly functional they have all worked together, has been the fact that they’ve each made so many moves along the way to benefit their own games, rather than their alliance. I cannot even think of a point in the season in which Sharn, David or Moana have done something that would not directly benefit their own individual game. It’s just been fantastic to watch their mutually aligned goals come together in such a great way and form the most formidable final three we’ve ever seen. So with that, it is time to present the case for each of the final three, from least likely to most likely to win. So with that, we have to start with arguably the best player and maneuver of this season, Sharn Coombes, who looks likely to come up just short of the half-million-dollar prize for a second time.
I would be incredibly happy with any of the final three winning the game. What is a bit unfortunate is that I think Sharn is drawing dead at this point. There is a very strong argument that she has played the strongest game of the season, but it’s also certainly been the messiest. The problem for Sharn is that her game has needed to be messy and almost in like a Tony Vlachos fashion, she’s constantly created messes for herself out of her position in the middle of everything, and then cleaned them up the next day with her smart social and strategic maneuvering. The road has been so hard for her to get there as she’s never been on the top and has always been in the middle. As a result of that, she’s annoyed so many jurors along the way and her path to victory now seems very unlikely against Moana and Dave who have played perhaps cleaner, more straightforward games in the eyes of the jury.
One of the things that is so underrated and understated about Sharn’s game is that she is probably one of the best at social positioning of any player in Survivor history worldwide. She always knows how to position herself based on the dynamics around her and it is truly a massive reason why she has managed to make it to the final three now in two different seasons. With the threat level that Sharn had coming into the game, she should have been one of the first to be targeted. But she positioned herself perfectly in the middle of every single vote, so much so that every single person on the original Mokuta tribe thought that they could work with her and thought she was a loyal number for their plans. She was very much in the plans of both the Rascals of Nick, Harry and Shonee, and also of all the athletes/sport alliance that had control over the tribe. Even Henry wanted to work with her to pull off his baffling plans until he correctly sussed out that she was the biggest threat on the island.
When new Mokuta came into existence, it was the exact same thing. Moana and Dave trusted her and Lee to be part of their crew, while on the other side Nick and Phoebe had the same thought. She ultimately chose the correct direction to go down, and positioned herself in behind two massive players, effectively shielding her until the final seven when her game became slightly exposed. Despite that, Sharn has always been in a wonderful position in the post-merge part of the game to make it to the end and I genuinely believed at the start of the merge that based on the narrative and the way she had positioned herself that she was on track to make it to the final two yet again. I was disappointed for her when Lee had to be medically evacuated from the game because I thought it was going to remove a big piece on the board for her. However, the barrister managed to position herself in the middle yet again and was perceived by the minority group as the most flexible person to work with. Make no mistake, her move to convince A.K., Shonee and Brooke not to go to rocks is on par with some of the greatest moves we’ve ever seen in this game. She had only a 25% shot at going home, yet she still stuck her neck out on the line to save herself and her alliance. It was a commendable sacrifice and it is so unfortunate that it needed to happen because by sticking her neck out on the line like that for herself and her alliance, she angered four people that are now on the jury, and even lost a bit of trust and credibility within her own alliance! What makes it one of the greatest moves is that A.K. and Shonee were adamant they wanted to go to rocks, and Sharn managed to convince them not to, without angering her own alliance. Her path to the end has been incredibly difficult, yet she’s still managed to get there with two of her closest allies. At this point, both Moana and Sharn should want to take Sharn to the end and this is a fantastic position for her to be in. Unfortunately, with just how much dirty work she had to do to get herself to the end, it looks very likely that Sharn is drawing dead at this point and could end up being either a third place finisher, or a losing finalist for the second time. Regardless of what happens, I think there is a very strong case to make that Sharn remains the greatest player in Australian Survivor history, just as we proclaimed her to be after she lost Season 3.
Speaking of players that should have been targeted early on, David came into the game as the biggest name and biggest threat of any of the twenty-two non-winners. Despite that, in the early days of the game every single person wanted to work with him. He managed to get himself in the majority alliance on original Vakma, but quickly realized that the top of the pecking order involved Locky, Brooke and A.K., and not himself. (Quick shoutout to Brooke for making the best final-four we’ve ever seen too!)
After recognizing his position in the tribe, he revolutionized this game with his cross-alliance relationship with Mat Rogers and used that relationship to weaken Locky and Brooke, taking out Daisy and getting Brooke to play her idol on him in the process. It was one of the most elaborate moves we’ve ever seen in Survivor (probably one of the best episodes too) and although one could certainly question the necessity of the plan, there’s no denying it was a massive move that shook up the game. After Dave had been swapped to Mokuta with only Phoebe on his side, he should have realistically been in greater danger. But he somehow managed to convince Moana that he was good for her game. They were evidently both correct in aligning with each other. His relationship with Tarzan also must have been an understated part of original Vakma, and it’s very possible he was even closer to Tarzan than Phoebe and that is why he was so adamant about getting Nick and Phoebe out of the game. Still, Dave’s gung-ho nature about eliminating Nick and Phoebe effectively kept the target off of his back for the entire swap. In the narrative of Dave’s game we will obviously remember the swap for how cutthroat he was towards Phoebe and how he took the idol right from underneath her nose. But you can’t help but feel that this was a critical time in the game for Dave and his relationship-building. He grew stronger with Moana, Tarzan, Jacqui, Zach and Sharn during this time, and it’s very likely that they all saw Dave as being this calm, collected, meditative player. In reality, he was up to his old tricks, finding not one but two idols, and setting himself up in the best possible position heading into the merge. It is just miraculous how he managed to minimize his threat level throughout this entire game, and it is a true testament I think, to his relationship-building and ability to connect with every single person he comes into contact with. We often talk about good of a social player Shonee is. Dave is arguably even stronger, while being less overt about it! What’s more is that he also used one of his two idols as a mechanism for fear of turning against him. This was significant in helping the model remain under the radar to the point where his name didn’t even come out of the urn until the ridiculous Exile Twist. Still to this day he’s only received just a few votes against him, which is crazy given his threat level.
Crucially at this time in the game for Dave was also his relationship with Zach, a massive player on the chess board for him. As soon as Jacqui flipped on him and the rest of the alliance and took Zach out, Dave and Moana were both correct in eliminating Jacqui next. Just before that, we should also go back to when Dave used his old relationships with the old Vakma to convince them that he and Zach were willing to work with them, and then completely blindsided and decimated their alliance.
From then on, David used his idol and the reward getaway as mechanisms for strengthening his alliance, two moves that were questioned heavily by the other players on the island. In the end, two moves that also paid off tremendously well for him. When he needed immunity most, he won and was able to vote Brooke out at the final four. You can just see the physical toll that playing this game two times in quick succession has taken on his body. He has almost no energy left in him, and it’s amazing he was even able to win that final four immunity challenge. If he can just push past the pain now and win at final three, he wins the game. Unfortunately for him, the final challenge typically does not favour big males like himself, instead typically favouring smaller individuals (Kristie, Jericho, Sharn and Baden). Baden is probably the tallest of those to win the final endurance challenge, but had to wait seven hours to outlast Pia and Harry. Like Moana this season, Baden also hadn’t won a single immunity challenge until the final one. Sharn meanwhile has won a final immunity challenge in the past. So the cards are not necessarily in Dave’s favour to win at the final three. However, regardless of the outcome, Dave has played one of the greatest games Survivor has ever seen and has pulled off some of the most incredible moves this game has ever seen in two different seasons now. He will go down as an absolute legend and will be remembered as being right up there with Boston Rob and Sandra Diaz-Twine as an all-time Survivor great. Whether he goes out third or wins the game remains to be seen. But second place is certainly not an option from here.
From about the swap on, this game has been a showdown between Dave and Moana and I think a lot of us have underestimated just how deep into the game they were willing to go with each other. It is still yet to be seen whether or not Moana will gain the respect of the jury (or even the fans watching at home) given her quiet, subtle, behind-the-scenes game. For my money, Moana has played an all-time top-five AUS Survivor game and should be remembered as an absolute legend of the game. She had so much promise in Season 3 and had it not been for getting terribly ill in the pre-merge, she could have made a deep run at this thing her first time out. Moana coming back for All Stars could have been argued as a questionable move from production given that she had effectively asked her tribe to vote her out (a.k.a. quit). But I don’t think anyone will be questioning it now given how much promise she has fulfilled this season. What is perhaps most impressive about Moana’s game this season is that she’s been a target the entire season, without actually ever really being the target. In the early stages of the game, Moana had her shield in Mat, although she was still someone the majority alliance wanted out of the game. She didn’t trust Dave in the early stages of the game, but after being swapped onto Mokuta with him, she correctly identified that Dave was someone who could help advance her in the game and keep her safe. During the swap, Moana really just took her game to new heights and it was amazing to watch her use information, sometimes false information, to create trust between herself and individuals like Sharn and Dave. She knew that if Mat got voted out of Vakma, Dave’s role was going to be even more important in shielding her and she played on Dave’s disdain for Phoebe so meticulously. It was also impressive just how tightly-knit she kept her “crew” of Jacqui and Tarzan, who were made to look like pawns in Moana’s puppet master game in the swap portion of the season. After being pretty much on the bottom of old Vakma, Moana quickly went to the top of the new Mokuta and set herself up in the best position of anyone to make it to the merge.
In the early stages of the merge, Moana remained a massive target for the minority alliance to try and put votes on, but she was simply too well positioned to be in any real danger. She played from the top throughout, without really ever having the target on her back as being the “godmother” like Janine had on her back last season from being in a similar position. This was massively impressive to watch, as it’s not easy to play from the top, get so much heat, remain so cool, and have such a clear path to the end where every single person who might have wanted her out could just do nothing about it. The way she has used information, such as the conversation she had with Sharn about Dave’s idol just proves how she is always one step ahead in the game. Moana’s game this season has been impeccable and although I am personally rooting for Dave, I think if Moana wins this season, she is probably the best winner we’ve seen in Australian Survivor. Bold statement, I know. But no one else has played from the top for so long, had so much control, and managed to make it this far. The only other one who could maybe claim that is Lee Carseldine, but he was absolutely annihilated by Kristie in the final two of Season 1. Although Dave was pulling off the bigger moves and Sharn had the more difficult path to the end, Moana has arguably played the best game of anyone and her work this season deserves an immense amount of credit.
So there it is! Our thoughts on the final three of this season of Australian Survivor: All Stars. Who do you think should win? Who do you think played the best game? Be sure to comment below or on Twitter @realitytvtms. Also be sure to check out our Player Rankings and Season Rankings, which will be updated following the conclusion of the season.
Thanks for reading and see you soon!