Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

Calum Henderson: Is this a sign of what's to come for Survivor NZ?

The wily old bloke is a Survivor archetype as old as the show itself, and Des may be the least successful one in history.
The wily old bloke is a Survivor archetype as old as the show itself, and Des may be the least successful one in history.

It's hard to say exactly what the worst thing was that happened to the Aganoa tribe in the first episode of Survivor Australia.

It could have been when their canoe sunk mere seconds into the first challenge, or when a king tide washed out their camp on their first morning. Maybe it was later that day when they lost their immunity challenge, meaning they became the first team to end up at tribal council.

It's far easier to pinpoint the best thing that happened to them: they got rid of Des.

The first attempt at an Australian Survivor in ten years - 59-year-old Sunshine Coast courier driver Des came with a plan.
The first attempt at an Australian Survivor in ten years - 59-year-old Sunshine Coast courier driver Des came with a plan.

Like everyone else on the show - the first attempt at an Australian Survivor in 10 years - 59-year-old Sunshine Coast courier driver Des came with a plan. As soon as they arrived on their remote Samoan island, he announced: "I'm gunna try and do as little physical work as possible."

Des wore a garish yellow Cricket Australia hat and a striking white moustache. He spoke like a cooked Alf Stewart. "I'm gunna sit in the background like Kung Fu Panda and just sneak up on 'em at the end."

This was a strategy no doubt honed from years of watching the original US Survivor. After 32 seasons, the franchise seems to have transcended reality television to become some kind of new 21st century sport, a meticulously produced game of strategy and deception.

The wily old bloke is a Survivor archetype as old as the show itself, and Des may be the least successful one in history. As soon as tribemate Kat - described by Des as "looking like she belonged in the cafe latte set in Manly or something" - politely suggested he do some work, he threw his toys.

Des during a challenge on the television show Survivor Australia.
Des during a challenge on the television show Survivor Australia.

"I'm 60 years old," he protested, storming down the beach in a huff. "I don't wanna be bossed around by a 30-year-old girl barkin' orders at me." That night he slept apart from the rest of his tribe. "They're all young people spoonin', that's not really my cup of tea."

"If we get rid of Des I think the tribe will be a more united and happy place," speculated Lee, a retired State cricketer whose strategy was to always tell the truth. Sensing the writing was on the wall, Des found some team spirit, and started barracking heartily from the sidelines during his tribe's first challenge. "C'mon Aganoa!" he cried. "All the way! All the way!"

"Shoosh," replied one tribe member. "Yeah, shut up," added another.

Des' Survivor star shone brief but bright. Probably the best character in the whole series; easily the best member of the otherwise unlikeable Aganoa tribe. With or without him they seem doomed to fail. They're too uptight compared to the happy-go-lucky Vavau, but look bumbling and incompetent next to the elite ops Saanapu tribe.

Maybe we'll find our own Kiwi Des; hopefully they'll last longer than one episode in Survivor New Zealand.
Maybe we'll find our own Kiwi Des; hopefully they'll last longer than one episode in Survivor New Zealand.

With all the classic Survivor furniture - that ethnographically ambiguous soundtrack and everyone decked out in gross, sweaty bandanas - the Australian Survivor franchise is convincing, even if Des and company's tactics are perhaps more primitive than those of their American counterparts.

Host Jonathan LaPaglia does a serviceable Jeff Probst impersonation, chairing the tribal council with appropriate gravitas and the rest of the time shouting running commentary of the challenges. Things like, "The red tribe has flooded half their canoe - that's going to make it really tough for them!" and "Barry fell over - that's gotta hurt!"

Watching it all instills a sense of hope for the inaugural Survivor New Zealand. Maybe we'll find our own Kiwi Des; hopefully he or she will last longer than one episode.

"First to go ..." Des reflected on the boat off the island. "Worst possible outcome, I'd say."

- NZ Herald

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Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

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