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From Cold Food Rewards to Reordered Tribal Council Votes: 9 Secrets You Might Not Know About Australian Survivor

Jonathan LaPaglia gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the series

By Winsome Walker Aug 05, 2019 3:34 AMTags
Australian SurvivorTen

Survivors ready!

Any superfan of Australian Survivor knows exactly what it takes to outwit, outplay and outlast in the game, whether it's how to start a fire, where to find an immunity idol or when a merge is about to go down.

But there are still some things viewers might not know about shooting the series, which is now in its fourth season on Ten (Champions V Contenders airs Sunday-Tuesday at 7.30pm).

We caught up with Australian Survivor host Jonathan LaPaglia, 49, to find out what really goes on behind the scenes—and it's a real game-changer. 

Let's go tally the votes secrets.

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1. Planning challenges begins months in advance

As you might expect, building a reward or immunity challenge from scratch is a "massive amount of work," LaPaglia told E! News. The art and construction team arrive on the island around three months before shooting begins.

"When we develop challenges, first it's an idea, then it's drawn, then they will manufacture parts of it in the workshop and test parts of it there," the host explained.  "And then they'll assemble it out in the field."

2. Yes, there’s an Australian dream team

Testing out the Survivor challenges before the contestants is any fan's dream (minus being an actual cast member). Like the US series, Australian Survivor has a ‘dream team' that tries out the gruelling obstacle courses and intricate puzzles.

"The full run with the dream team usually doesn't happen until the day before we perform the real challenge," LaPaglia said. "And that's just because of the schedule, it's so tight. Sometimes when you test them you uncover problems that you didn't anticipate, and when the turnaround is so tight you don't have a lot of time to make adjustments."

3. LaPaglia even has a crack at the challenges

"I try out challenges or parts of challenges depending on how risky I'm feeling that day," JLP explained. Why wouldn't he?

4. Sometimes the food rewards are cold

The reward challenge feast isn't always piping hot by the time the contestants get to it. "We try and get the food in there just before the contestants turn up, but things take time," LaPaglia said. "I'm sure that half the time it is cold but they don't care. They just want food. Any food." Cold pizza trumps rice and beans any day.

5. The crew’s accommodation is definitely better than where the contestants sleep

Unlike the tribes' DIY camps, LaPaglia and the Survivor crew are put up in a resort close to where filming takes place.

"We have pretty good conditions," the host said. "We stay at a resort, it's not five star but it's pretty good! We're all taken care of."

6. Contact between the host and contestants is minimal

Don't expect LaPaglia to be having any deep and meaningfuls with contestants when the camera crew aren't around. Asked if he's allowed to chat to the contestants—or give advice—the host's answer is simple: no.

"My only contact with them is at tribals and challenges," he explained. "And that's it."

7. Remembering contestant names is its own challenge

LaPaglia told E! News that there's a lot more to hosting Survivor than what viewers might expect.  

"People have this idea that I just roll up and say a few things and leave, but whenever I'm not shooting I'm prepping for what we're about to shoot," he said.

The Australian Survivor host has no problem recalling contestant names, but things occasionally get confusing "when you have 24 people bolting across the field" in challenges.

"You're trying to commentate everything that's going—who's leading, who's falling over, who's doing what—and sometimes it's difficult to remember all their names. Sometimes two people might look similar and I'll switch their names by mistake."

8. Tribal council votes are shuffled for added drama

Grab a torch and approach the flame: it's time to talk tribal council.

According to LaPaglia, the elimination ceremony usually runs for an hour to an hour and a half before it gets cut down to around 10 minutes in the edit. The order in which the host reads out the votes is also planned to a T.

"When I pick up the urn, we then take it off set and we arrange the votes in a certain order that's most dramatic," LaPaglia revealed. Knew it.

9. Those tribal council one-liners aren’t off the cuff

When Olympic gold medallist Steven Bradbury narrowly avoided elimination in episode 4, LaPaglia quipped: "Steven, just when you thought all was lost you've skated through again."

As the host told E! News, many of his apt tribal council lines are scripted beforehand.

"I was going to say they're 100 percent spontaneous," he laughed. "But they're 100 percent planned. We have a writer and more often than not he comes up with the line or something close to it and we might push the idea around a little bit.

"When we're rearranging the order of the votes, that's when we decide on what the line is, and then I memorise it."

Well there you have it, the tribe has spoken.