Relationships will be tested, betrayal and heartbreak will be felt and there will be strategy unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed Down Under.
In the first episode of Australian Survivor: Talking Tribal, host James Mathison was joined by Brains V Brawn Sole Survivor Hayley Leake, King George Mladenov, and Survivor expert Shannon Guss to talk everything Blood V Water.
And if there’s one thing they know for certain, it’s that Sandra Diaz-Twine is one to watch out for.
“She's one of the best characters in global Survivor history,” Shannon said. “As a player, she has some superpowers that are really unique to her. She has a great awareness of the game, of the Jury and herself and she's really, really adapted to that.”
Agreeing, Hayley said, “I'm so relieved I didn't have to play against her… She's so good at being underestimated. No one seems to think she's as big of a threat as she actually is and the next thing you know, you're sitting next to her and she's beating you.”
While everyone was in agreement about Sandra’s iconic gameplay, there was a divide on whether Australia can expect to see Sandra vote her daughter, Nina, out of the game.
“I think Sandra's a bit of a wheeler and a dealer, if she feels that sacrificing Nina would be better for her game, I think she's got it within her to do it,” George said.
“At the end of the day, Sandra has a reputation of seeing the options that are before her and taking the best route to the end. If she needs to let Nina go, I reckon she'd do it.”
Splitting the panel, Shannon and Hayley disagreed with George.
“I don't agree. Sandra technically retired and I think a lot of that has to do with Nina. She's here to pass the torch, she's here to create the new dynasty of Survivor and I think she'd be more focused on Nina than herself,” Shannon explained.
“She's not going to cut her daughter,” Hayley continued. “In a game like this where she wants Nina to come and have the experience she got to have, it would be pretty ruthless to see her cut Nina from the game.”
“But that would be crazy if she did it; that would be an iconic moment for sure,” Shannon added.
If the tables turn, however, they believe that Nina could potentially try to dethrone her mother.
“Does the princess replicate her mother? Nina is the daughter of Sandra Diaz-Twine, I'm expecting Nina to play exactly the same,” George said. “Someone who's really good with relationships, someone that's really good with strategy and someone that can navigate their way to the end.”
That begs another question: is Nina willing to sacrifice her mother, Queen Sandra, to assume the throne and become Survivor royalty herself?
In an exclusive podcast moment, Shannon said, “That I could see, and I think Sandra would be okay with that. She's comfortable with the fact that she's won twice, and she's gotten as much as she needs to out of Survivor and can rest on her own reputation.
“She would want that success for Nina more, so I'm really interested to see Nina because she has some absolutely giant shoes to fill, it's so much pressure… and I'm absolutely excited to see.”
Other players may see Queen Sandra and her daughter as a huge threat, but they may not be easy to take out, so Hayley shared how she would do it.
“I might try to vote off Nina instead of Sandra, because you want to weaken her somehow. If you took out Sandra first, Nina might weasel her way quite far in the game, and she could be the underrated player. So, I think I would actually go for Nina first and let Sandra go a bit further before I tried to chop off at the knees,” Hayley explained.
George’s strategy was quite the opposite, opting to keep her closer.
“I would instinctively tell myself, that is the first person I need to talk to after we all say hello. You've got someone there that you can strike a deal with. It's basically the same reason that I wanted to work with Hayley, I want to surround myself with players that I can bargain with, that I can negotiate with and that I can strategise with. I'd keep Sandra close, but I'd also monitor her like a hawk.”
But host, James Mathison pointed out the high risks involved with upsetting Sandra by voting off her daughter.
“I think that you might have a death wish if you go for Nina,” Shannon agreed. “We’ve seen Sandra want revenge, we've seen her in fights with people and we've seen her tell us confessionals on how she's going to screw people over and then do it strategically. And if I got rid of Nina, I'd be scared the whole time that she's had that confessional about me and is quietly working on something to take me out.”
While Sandra has built a sassy, cut-throat and genius reputation for herself, only time will tell how it all goes down.