“One of the hardest environments”: Bringing Survivor back to Samoa for Heroes V Villains


EP Tim Ali: “It’s the grandfather of reality formats, it just works”

Australian Survivor is back, and this time the show is returning to the place it all began – Samoa – to take on Heroes V Villains

Australian Survivor: Heroes V Villains will see two teams of 12 deprived of everyday basic comforts, and make them go head-to-head to outwit, outplay and outlast each other. The sole Survivor takes home $500,000, but the road to the title will not be an easy one.

Mediaweek spoke to EP Tim Ali ahead of the series premiere on Monday, January 30 at 7.30 pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play On Demand.

Australian Survivor - show title card

After Covid meant that the team had to take the show to the Queensland Outback while borders were closed, the 2023 season saw Survivor head out internationally again. Ali says that the team “couldn’t wait to get back” to the show’s birthplace of Samoa, but that the environment had more up its sleeve than first thought. 

“It’s one of the hardest environments to play the game. We thought the Outback was going to be hard, but we soon realised that Samoa is just as hard if not harder, for a whole different range of reasons. The cast realised that too! We’ve got some returning players that played in the Outback, and I think they were excited to come back to Samoa – our tribe camps are going to be on a beach, how amazing is it going to be?

“Then they realised that it was probably tougher, because you still have that intense heat and humidity during the day and really, really cold nights. But the thing about Samoa is everything that there’s so much moisture in the air, it’s really wet. That really bogs everything down – clothes don’t dry, it’s hard to make fire. So it was just a whole new range of struggle.”

Covid wasn’t entirely escapable, however, and a number of crew members came down with it during production.

“Like every production over the last three years, dealing with Covid is part of it,” says Ali. “Ourselves and the production company, Endemol Shine, have procedures in place to deal with it. 

Even though we thought, ‘hey, 99% of the show is made outdoors, so we should be fine!’, Covid was very much in Samoa as it is around the rest of the world.”

Australian Survivor

Australian Survivor – Heroes tribe

With a mix of new and returning castaways appearing on Heroes V Villains, Ali says that the team had two things in mind while casting: which players audiences would want to see as returnees, and who could potentially become future Survivor superstars.  

Bringing returnees back, we had people throwing themselves at us to do it! Traditionally it is a full returning theme, but we chose to change it up because we always want to invest in the new era of Survivor players. People like George, Hayley, and Simon are all new era players that we invested in, and they gave us amazing content and given us an amazing show. If you give the people the opportunity, you find some great players in there. 

“The new players we got in give these returnees a serious run for their money. The returnees had to bring every bit of experience and whatever they could find to throw at these newbies. They had to bring it to this series, and it was amazing to watch.”

With the previous season of Blood V Water turning the format on its head – from the very beginning, players arrived in pairs – Ali says that this season returns to the basics of Survivor, whilst also putting a microscope on how castaways play the game.

“When people play this game, they either play a more heroic game or they play a more villainous game  – but you can’t win this game and get all the way to the end by just doing it that way. At some point, if you’re playing heroic – if you’re loyal, if you’re trustworthy, if you’re playing for your alliance – you have to turn villainous. You have to turn deceitful to progress yourself further, and vice versa. 

“That’s the nuance of it. At what point do they turn heroic when they need to? At what point do they turn villainous when they need to?”

Australian Survivor - Villains

Australian Survivor – Villains tribe

Whilst Survivor has a set of rules that keep the format running, Ali says that the team will always work to keep the players and the audience on their toes.

“Survivor has a very strict format, that we can’t mess with too much, but we always try and evolve the show, because we don’t want players to come in thinking they know exactly what’s going to happen. 

We want to keep the audience guessing as well, because a lot of the time the audience is smarter than us! Our superfans watch every single territory of this franchise, so trying to keep our audiences guessing is something that we put a lot of effort into.”

With the American series of Survivor going into its 44th season, and more than 25 countries adapting and producing their own version of the show, Survivor is a global heavy hitter that has been drawing in audiences for years. Ali says that it’s the simplicity of the show that keeps people coming back.

It’s the grandfather of reality formats, it just works. That’s why you’ve got to stay true to it, because the format works. I think the most important thing that the show does is that it lays out exactly what the format is, and then it throws all these people in there and says go and play

“We try not to involve ourselves too much, because it’s just the format that exists encourages amazing gameplay, evolution of relationships, people manipulating those relationships, and people doing whatever it takes to get ahead. The show at its core allows for that type of social interaction, which is what gives us such an amazing show.”

Top Image: Tim Ali

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