Why did you apply for Survivor? Did you apply for series 1 as well?
I didn’t apply for season one, it wouldn’t have occurred to me off the back of the Australian seasons that had preceded it. But the last season of Australian Survivor was absolute top quality, on par with the US season, and so I finally had a chance to play the game that I’ve been watching since I was 12 years old! I initially applied out of a wish to show some people in my life that you can do something crazy and exciting and that nothing is too hard. Admittedly though, as the dream came closer to reality, my motivation became entirely selfish. I want to play this game to see what I can do, to challenge and push myself. I’ve never been a spectator, and I love games. I want to play just for me.
What will be your strength in the competition?
I have a cool head. Unfortunately, I don’t find this translates into any sort of puzzle prowess, but I’m hoping it will serve me well in the strategic and social game.
What is your Survivor game plan?
Above all, to be flexible! You can only play with the cards you’re dealt. Beyond that, it’s a very long game. I feel that a 55-day game needs to be played in stages, with the first being to be generally inoffensive, cooperative and try your guts out to win challenges. That’s the warm-up. Hopefully during the warm-up I can find someone who can be the J.T. [Thomas] to my Stephen Fishbach [the pair took one another to the final Tribal Council of US Survivor: Tocantins, 2009]. I believe the best way to progress through this game is with one true ally, who is on an equal plane with you and with whom you can genuinely discuss strategy. That way, no one is the goat and no one is dominant - this means you don’t get to the late stage of the game and have the goat realise they can’t go all the way with you or vice versa. This strategy risks taking someone to the end who could beat me, but if I have faith in my social game and my final tribal council speech-game, I feel it’s the best way to avoid being blindsided by your ally. So, with your J.T.-ish ally lined up, the second stage of the game is to secure an alliance for you and your ally, with an eye to jury management. The final stage is the end game. This is when the rest of the alliance needs to be shucked.
What’s one thing people won’t expect from you?
People often think I am soft or gentle, but in the name of winning I’ll do what’s required of me.
How did you prepare physically and mentally?
Physically, I only really have time for my usual regime of running to the beach and swimming a few times a week, plus going to the gym on the other days to do spin or weights. I also ride my bike to and from work, which has been a lot more exercise in Sydney than it was in Melbourne (so hilly)! I’m envious of people who have the time around work and home to actually up that level of training. Having said that, I did two Tough Mudder-style mud courses in preparation. I’ve been practising slide puzzles and doing brain teasers on my phone, and listening to [ex-US Survivor] Rob Cesternino’s strategy podcasts.
How do you think you will fare in challenges (both physically/endurance challenges and puzzles)?
As mentioned, I’m quite worried about keeping up to par in the early team challenges. I think I’ll perform better in the individual challenges, where endurance and mental stamina have more bearing.
Which part of the game do you think you will be more successful at: the social game or the strategic game? Why?
The social game is a strategic game! I guess the fact that I think that means I’ll be better at the strategic game than a genuinely social one.
Do you have a limit to what you are going to do to win the competition (lie, cheat, flirt, sabotage, etc.)? Or rather, what is your moral game compass? What are you prepared to do and not do to win?
This is especially pertinent after the US Zeke-outing [when Jeff Varner revealed that fellow Survivor Zeke Smith was transgender in the 2017 season of US Survivor: Game Changers]. That definitely crossed a line that I didn’t know I had. I wouldn’t be willing to take part in bigotry or bullying. Otherwise, there is no such thing as cheating on Survivor, if production allows it, then all is fair.
How meaningful is your word? Are you willing to break alliances if it will get you further in the game?
As much as I hope to have an ally in this game that I can be genuinely loyal to, I don’t believe this is possible in a group of more than two. People should know better than to even be asking for someone else’s word in this game.
How will you ensure that members of the Jury Villa you helped vote off will still turn around and give you their vote, if you make it to the end?
I will always be good to people, regardless of alliances or numbers, and I won’t bully or belittle. Then at the end, I’ll give them the respect of explaining my strategy and how they are a part of that.
Describe yourself in five words:
Tenacious, Empathetic, Level-headed, Bookworm, Stubby-legged
Do you think you can win? What makes you think that?
I do think I can win, though of course you can’t account for the role of luck. I think if I can get through the early votes then I’ll be able to keep my wits about me to keep an eye on jury management while I make the right moves, with a good ally who can trust me, to get me to the end.
View Tessa’s full bio.