For the first half of the game, Survivor’s golden boy Shaun Hampson had a dream run. Sitting pretty at the top of a strong alliance, Shaun had been calling the shots with the OG Heroes and, after the swap, still found himself surrounded by the Meat Tray Alliance. It was looking like a straight shot to the final for Shaun, right up until the merge.
Speaking to 10 Play, Shaun said he felt confident coming into merge, “Certainly not in a cocky way, I know that anything can happen, but I felt like we had good people on board. We had the numbers and surely everybody [was] on the same page that George had to go.”
King George had been ruling the game with his signature brand of controlled chaos, and Shaun said that for weeks leading up to merge everyone had been talking about how his reign needed to come to an end.
As the two tribes came together, Shaun and his alliance of OG Heroes were bamboozled by the OG Villains, who had successfully swung key members like Hayley, Matt and Gerry to form the Vigilantes.
Unaware that Nina, David and Sam had plotted a blindside of Hayley, Shaun came to understand why she lost trust in her old alliance and jumped over to work with her close frenemy as soon as they merged.
At the first Tribal where David was voted out, people’s true intentions were revealed and Shaun’s grip on the game loosened significantly.
“It’s shattering because you think you’re in a good spot and then it gets turned on you,” Shaun said. “It was just myself, Flick, Sam and Nina on the bottom of the tribe, I knew I had the Idol in my pocket… I know that any big group like that, they can call themselves the Vigilantes, sailing on a ship and stuff like that but eventually, they will fracture because somebody will make the first move.
“I knew that if I could outlast the others there’d be an opportunity. It just became about survival in the purest sense.”
When it was down to just Sam, Nina and Shaun left in their alliance, it was clear that the Idol would be vital to Shaun’s survival in the game. When Nina also stumbled upon an idol and Hayley delivered them some secret intel, it seemed like the tide had turned for their group. But trust was an issue, and Shaun and Nina played their Idols for themselves, ignoring Hayley’s advice, and watching as Sam was voted out, with the final promise of buying him a case of beer if he was wrong.
Later, on Instagram, Shaun defended his actions writing about how watching the show and playing the game are two very different experiences.
“It’s really easy for anybody not playing,” Shaun told 10 Play, “they get to sit at home and see Hayley’s confessionals, they know she’s ready to make a move. In reality, since Hayley flipped, we had one conversation in four days and that was me asking her where the votes were going and she gave me nothing.
“We had no reason to trust her,” Shaun continued. Simon, on the other hand, was very open about working with the OG Heroes, and had told them the plan as it was told to him: that Shaun and Nina were the targets. Wondering if Hayley had been sent to Nina as part of some plan to fool them into burning the Idols on Sam, the trio weren’t sure what her true intentions were at the time. https://www.instagram.com/p/CoEQpVzvUcT/
“With the information that I had, I would make that move again and again. I worked hard for that Idol, I held it for 22 days. If I played it for Sam and I ended up going home, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I went with the move of least regret.”
But it seemed as if Shaun’s luck had changed when George decided to make the first strike against his own alliance and, with Shonee’s blindside, Shaun saw nothing but opportunity opening up in front of him, including one very surprising pitch from the very man Shaun had been gunning for from the very beginning.
“George had told me he wanted me to stick around and he wanted to go to the final challenge with me,” Shaun said. “He needed to win that final challenge and I think he rightly thought that it would be some sort of excruciating pain thing where I’ve got to stand on pegs or be folded in half, that’s not really designed for my body type!
“I did feel hopeful because I could see his logic in that, and he’s a very logical player and that was okay with me. I mean, even if the devil himself was like, ‘I’ll take you another day in this game,’ I’d agree to the deal.”
With the plan to split the votes between Simon and Shaun — and George finally getting Simon out of the game — Shaun was not the only person blindsided as the votes were read and it was his torch that was snuffed at the end of the night. Hayley had made the subtle move to swap her vote over to Shaun, keeping Simon in the game and taking some of George’s power away.
“I was really shocked,” Shaun admitted, “I just couldn’t figure out why or who, and I just thought that maybe it was Nina for some reason that I wasn’t aware of.”
When he finally found out it was his former ally Hayley who cast the deciding vote he said, “I’ve got no hard feelings, but at the same time it was very disappointing”.
After his original season, Shaun said he was hurt that he didn’t win. Coming back, he already had the experience under his belt, so this time he was laser-focused on the win. Playing a game more focused on himself, Shaun just wanted to get as far as he could in the game.
“This one hurt 10 times as much,” he added, laughing. After such a positive start to the game, when everything flipped at merge Shaun was on the bottom for quite a while.
“A day or two before my vote out I could really start seeing, for the first time since merge, paths appearing before me to the end… For Hayley to flip last minute and send me [home], it was gut-wrenching.
“If I would have been voted out one or two Tribals earlier it wouldn’t have been as gut-wrenching but, because I could start seeing those paths emerging, it hurt so much.”
Though he’s loved the game of Survivor since he was 12 years old, Shaun was unsure if he’d be returning for a third shot at the title of Sole Survivor.
“This one took quite a big mental toll on me, I really did give it everything and it is a very mentally draining thing. It’s a 24-hour game and to have to be on and lie… it is really exhausting.
“I’ve left my kids now for 16 weeks all up with both seasons combined, and that’s a really hard thing to do with young children, and it’s a lot of pressure to put on your partner. She has been so supportive to let me do that. I’m eternally grateful… whether I could do it again to her and them, I’m not sure. But I’ll never say never.”
While Survivor is a game of deception, there are two promises Shaun made to Sam that he said he still plans to uphold. “I still owe him the Family Feast, that’s for sure [and] I will get him a proper case of beer.”
Australian Survivor: Heroes V Villains airs Sunday - Monday at 7.30 on Network 10 and stream on 10 Play