Reality TV

Australian Survivor host Jonathan LaPaglia braces for hard rain, rough challenges and game-ready contestants

“It was pretty intense!”
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Glimmering moonlight, calm ocean breezes and cool drinks by the pool – all the elements that make for an ideal evening on holiday in Fiji.

They also happen to be all the elements the 24 castaways on Australian Survivor: Champions Vs Contenders will not be experiencing anytime soon.

“We had some pretty crappy weather, a lot of rain,” host Jonathan LaPaglia, 49, reveals to TV WEEK.

“It was hard on the contestants, because it was always at the most inconvenient time, which was at night when they were trying to sleep. So there were a lot of late nights for those guys, and it was pretty intense at times.”

As for Jonathan, he concedes, “I mean, I get woken up in my hotel room and I’d hear all the noise, and I’d think, ‘Those poor guys are out there!'”

JLP says the weather was “hard” on this year’s contestants.

For season four of the series, which just won Most Outstanding Reality Program at the 61st TV WEEK Logie Awards, champions – including Boost Juice CEO Janine Allis –will face off against contenders such as Western Australia gold miner John Eastoe.

Although the competition was “all in good humour,” Jonathan says, “they definitely played into the idea of getting one up on each other, and it was throughout the entire season”.

Unlike last year, when celebrities such as rugby legend Mat Rogers and Olympian Lydia Lassila kept the champions tribe dominant, this year’s contenders, which count pro wrestler Matty Farrelly among them, get off to a better start.

“It would kind of flip-flop,” Jonathan teases. “At one point, one tribe would get an upper hand and then a couple of challenges later, it would be the other tribe. Overall, it’s a lot more even.”

Aside from physical challenges, players also experience a shocking advantage twist, Jonathan says. Even so, he adds, “I felt like there was consistently good gameplay from beginning to end. I think it’s a good season.”

Western Australia gold miner John Eastoe has already made an impression in the show’s trailer.

NRL legend Andrew Ettingshausen is one of this year’s Champions.

It’s also a lot feistier at tribal council! More and more, contestants are sassing him back – just like US players do with Survivor host Jeff Probst – and Jonathan is up for it.

“I love it!” he declares. “I think that’s one of the successes of the show – that there’s a rapport between Jeff and the contestants. And if they feel the same way about me, that’s great. I think it can only improve the show and I absolutely, absolutely welcome it.”

In fact, “We’ve had some really cheeky moments this year,” Jonathan reveals. “I won’t give away anything, but I think it’s brilliant.”

Those on the beach and those at home definitely notice Jonathan’s own muscular physique, which he admits has become a regular source of some of the ribbing.

RELATED: Meet the Australian Survivor 2019 Contestants

But achieving peak fitness is a challenge in itself because, Jonathan explains, the shooting schedule in Fiji for Australian Survivor “is kind of brutal”.

“It’s hard when I’m out there, because there’s no gym out on that island,” he laments. “So I have a couple of weights in my room I try to work out with whenever I get a chance.”

Jonathan with his US counterpart, Jeff Probst.

AUSTRALIAN SURVIVOR: CHAMPIONS VS CONTENDERS premieres Wednesday 24 July, 7.30pm, on 10.

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