Damien Thomlinson became the third person voted off Australian Survivor 2018 overnight. He was the second Champion to get the boot, after villain Russell Hantz was eliminated last week.
The episode did not go down well with viewers. Some members of the Champions tribe - in particular Lydia Lassila, Sharn Coombes and Jackie Glazier - were accused of ableism. In the lead-up to tribal council, the women were shown calling Damien a 'liability' due to his disability.
Damien is a double amputee, who lost both his legs while serving in Afghanistan in 2009. As host Jonathan LaPaglia noted at tribal council, the contestant had "proven himself" in every challenge so far.
"My main motivation going on Survivor was to show handicapped people that anything is possible, so that was the most difficult thing. Having people who you look up to in society, saying I would potentially be a liability was a bit disappointing," Damien tells TV WEEK.
Fans vented their frustration over the 'liability' comments on social media, pointing out that Jackie lost the challenge after lying about being an 'expert' in puzzles. Meanwhile, Damien had been an asset to the team.
"I think Jackie definitely felt threatened after the amount of trouble she had with this relatively simple puzzle, you didn't have to be an astrophysicist to figure out what to do," says Damien. "In Jackie's defence, she didn't want to be at that council. I don't think anyone there wanted to have to vote someone out, there was no real bitchiness at camp."
The veteran knows it was a tough decision to make, but is still baffled why the contestants chose to label him a 'liability.'
"I worked really hard on the shelter, what more can you do than be the last guy to sleep, and building the fire, and doing the work? I'd done enough to keep the team onside, and I'd done more than enough in challenges, and it turned on me. I've still got no idea how [the elimination] happened.
"It was hard to watch people say that I could be a liability in challenges," he admits. "If eliminating me was done to make the tribe stronger in challenges, then obviously no one watched the challenges we had done."
Damien reveals he struggled to watch the episode, and says he doesn't understand how he could have been perceived as a weak player.
"Hearing that there could be the 'possibility' that there is a challenge 'in the future' that I couldn't sort of take part in… I mean, like what? If there's a marathon or something? Well, yeah, I'm definitely going to struggle in that. Is there going to be a marathon on Survivor? Highly unlikely," he says.
Damien admits he is "not sure" if they were genuinely concerned that his disability would be a problem in future challenges, or if they viewed him as a threat. He says their logic, and their actions, do not match up.
"I'm not sure, to be honest. It's not actually logical. If I'm supposed to be the liability, you kind of got rid of me too early. What was your whole idea behind that? It was an interesting concept, it's not a strategy I would use, and it could backfire on them. It will be some interesting viewing!
"If it was [because of his disability], we'll sort of see if it works for them. I think it more had to do with them thinking that if it came down to one-on-one, they knew who would win. I am most dangerous [to them] after the merge, when it becomes a one-on-one game."
Aside from Damien, no one seemed more frustrated by the elimination result than Steve 'Commando' Willis. If looks could kill, tribal council would have been a crime scene last night.
Damien says he hopes Steve is crowned the winner in the end, saying the fall-out from last night's episode will be interesting to watch.
"We had a great bond," Damien says. "Steve, he's such an honourable guy and such a good guy as well, and I think he watched those votes come out and there were people who had given him their word... I know that's the game, but still, in our profession your word is your bond.
"I hope Steve does win, I honestly do. Matt or Steve. They're both legends, I have a huge amount of respect for them. I definitely hope that it's one of those."
Damien continues, "I'm just as keen as anyone else to see how it unfolds; after all did you see how quick it turned on me? I think there is a rift that's going to… there are cracks that are going to form after that elimination. I don't think it was a wise move."
Australian Survivor continues tonight at 7:30pm on Network Ten.