Baden Gilbert has been crowned the runner-up of Australian Survivor: Champions vs Contenders 2019.
The star came SO close to taking out the title of Sole Survivor after 50 days in Savusavu, losing out to Pia Miranda in the final tribal council.
Baden managed to score his first immunity idol necklace at the all-important final challenge, which laster over 6 hours and 30 minutes. With the ability to choose who he took with him to the top two out of Pia and Harry Hills, he opted for the Aussie actress.
We caught up with Baden to find out all about his immunity win, his unsuccessful pitch and what he would do differently if he returned for another season of Australian Survivor.
You made it to the top two! Is that a Survivor dream ticked off the list?
Oh god, to be able to win not just immunity but the final immunity challenge; that was major bucket list stuff. And to be able to do it with my family there, it was so cool.
It must have been really emotional reuniting with your family. What was it like?
Oh just them being there, it's been quite a while since I'd seen them, to be able to see them and have them there for such a big moment for me... It was unreal, I can't describe it.
The challenge was absolutely brutal, but you were just chatting away to everyone. Was that just to keep yourself distracted?
Yeah I mean obviously it was painful, but I could tell by the challenge's name that it was going to be hell. I was doing whatever I could to take my mind off the pain in my feet, whether that would be chatting to the person next to me, or whatever I could do just to sort of, yeah... it becomes sort of a blur towards the end essentially. My arms and feet were killing me. I was just trying to stay in one place as long as possible so I could then move to a different part of my foot. It was such a wild ride and the fact that we all lasted that long shows how badly we all wanted it.
How did you feel when you won? What was going through your mind?
I was like, I want to walk over to my family, and then I thought hang on, why am I trying to walk over? Hug me here! [laughs] So, it was unbelievable. It's this weird euphoric relief feeling that I made it to the final two, and I get to choose who I sit next to. It's a big deal.
It's quite a big decision you had to make. How did you choose to take Pia in the end?
I had Pia in my head for a little while. I think it was around the final six, I was looking at everyone left in the game, and I figured that my best shot would be with Pia. Because she had just been blindsided, she was on the out, she then got essentially saved by Luke in the final five, so in my mind it was more likely I could beat her. I thought of my real end game and figured out my chance to highlight that.
Do you have any regrets in taking her? Or do you think it would have been just as risky to take Harry?
Oh god, I mean, I've got nothing against Harry. It's such a tricky thing because pre-merge Harry had a huge game that I didn't see fully but I heard he had two idols that he played expertly, he pulled some huge moves and avoided being sent home. Like that's a fantastic pre-merge game, better than mine. Then, post-merge he did the same thing as me all the way through, so I couldn't really see a way to tell that I was better post-merge up against Harry. So I thought, on paper, he's looking much better. And he's got that charisma. He's Dirty Harry, he's the cockroach, right? I felt like sitting next to him, I would have no chance. And I felt I had a chance against Pia, which is the reason I made the decision I did. We're not playing to be the footstool or benchwarmer. I played to win, and I figured that was my best shot at winning. Whether it was right or not, it was how I felt at the time. And it was partly because of what Pia said to me in the second-last tribal council and kudos to her for convincing me that I had a better chance against her.
Was it hard pitching your case to the jury? There were some people suggesting you'd coasted along...
Jeez, yeah, I feel like some people were definitely a bit more antagonistic and I knew that particularly Janine would be an absolute stalwart for Pia and praise her to the heavens. So I knew that coming in, but maybe I underestimated how much the jury would talk. Because I know Janine is a fantastic speaker and she would have pitched Pia's game to the jury every night in jury villa.
I definitely think they were quite brutal on us, but I mean I gave it my best shot. I don't like to talk about myself, probably not the best at answering questions about myself, let alone pitching my game for half a million dollars, my god. There's doing a job interview, and then there's that. It's absolutely insane. I did what I could and some of the questions I got asked, I could just feel the jury was really looking for evidence of big moves and that wasn't the game that I played. I knew I had to spin what I had done into something meaningful. I just couldn't get it over the line I guess.
It's hard. You can't fly too far under the radar, but you also can't be too good...
It's tricky. You've got to find that balance where you make moves but you don't claim it until tribal where you can say 'oh look, I did all these things.' It's a very fine line to draw. Luke would probably be on the side of you need to have the best resume possible. He had an amazing resume, as much as we hated to do it, he had to go at the final four because he was the best. But, to win you have to make it to the end and to make it to the end you have to make sure that you don't become a target. There were definitely two ways to approach it and maybe Luke played too much to one side, and I played too much to the other side.
Even coming into the game I looked at previous winners of Australian Survivor. You've got Kristie who was the ultimate underdog and just did the most amazing jury pitch back in 2016. I probably should have watched her tribal council before going into the game and picked up a few tips. Even with Shane [in 2017], she played an underdog game as well. I figured that my character type, my archetype, was more suited to making it to the end game, I just had to sell it at the end. But unfortunately the jury saw Pia as the better option. I hold no grudges. I think I knew I was in trouble when I saw everyone sitting there nodding along with what Pia was saying...
It's got to be tough sitting there when someone's saying why they're better than you.
Yeah it's hard because you don't want to put anyone down either. With Luke, the last thing he said to me was that Jericho almost lost in 2017 because he started pissing off the jury too much in his speech. So that was going through my head: don't insult the jury, don't make them angry at you. You don't want to piss people off, but you also want to explain how you beat them. It's a very tricky act to pull off, and I think I got caught in somewhere the middle trying to cover every angle at once. You won't make any progress with any of them.
It's a shame you got to the end but didn't win. But are you happy you had that experience?
Oh, it's been such a crazy experience. I saw myself coming into this, like I'm going to apply and whatever comes from it is whatever happens. Anything beyond just applying is a bonus. And it just kept going from there. And I thought, God, what are they seeing in me? It's absolutely insane. I guess that the casting people saw something in me that even I didn't. I guess, I hope, I proved and I showed them I was capable.
Yeah, of course you did. You won the final challenge!
I won the final challenge! I mean, I was gone early on... I was so close to going. But I managed to keep it together and win. It's a bit of a shock to be honest. It's just such a cool and amazing experience. God, if I was ever lucky enough to go back, oh my god, that would be a dream come true.
Would you pull a Luke and return if you had the option?
Like I've obviously, I've played the game which is a dream come true. I've played the game I wanted to play and I didn't want to chop and change during it. The game I played was my personality. But looking back and watching the King of the Jungle firsthand, I know what to do in this game now.
If I went back I would have a lot better understanding of what I could do. I'd make moves early because I walked into final tribal without a move to my name. I wouldn't make that mistake again. I think it's a bit overdramatic but the one word that popped to my head, especially around the time of the premiere, it was actually the first word on the first ad all those months ago: retribution. And like I remember around the time of the premiere thinking oh man, I want to go back. I now realise there's so much that can be done.