Survivor

Jonathan LaPaglia reveals Australian Survivor 2018 is anyone's game

'Everyone gets a fair shot!'

Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. That's always been the aim of the game on Australian Survivor. But this season, the approach is more crucial than ever.

Crossing seas from Samoa to Fiji, Australian Survivor: Champions V Contenders is closer to home, but worlds apart from the day-to-day lives of the 24 contestants hoping to win $500,000 – if they can endure 50 days of serious game-playing.

For the first time in Survivor history, the series – which has more than 70 versions around the world – is pitting 12 everyday Australians (the Contenders) against 12 extraordinary individuals (the Champions) in a David-and-Goliath-style battle fought out in a new setting.

The island of Upolu in Samoa played host to last year's competition. This season, it's Savusavu in Fiji that's offering a whole new landscape to set up camp, forage for food and conceal Hidden Immunity Idols.

"I was excited – it's good to shake it up and have a new location," returning host Jonathan LaPaglia, tells TV WEEK when we sit down with him in Fiji.

"I loved Samoa – I had fun. But we did two seasons there, so I think we got the most out of it. It was time for a change."

And while fans of the show have been waiting to sink their teeth into the latest season, Jonathan wasn't always excited about the new format.

"To be honest, when I first heard the concept, I was a little wary, because they hadn't decided who the champions were going to be," the 48-year-old admits.

"I didn't want to tip into a celebrity version of Survivor. I'm kind of a purist and I think the format is so strong, we don't need to do that. But when I saw who they'd cast, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed."

Selected for their physical and intellectual prowess, the Champions hope to showcase the talents of tribe members such football stars, an Olympian and an astrophysicist over the abilities of a sales rep, a delivery driver and a construction manager on the Contenders' side.

"They really have found people who are true champions in their field," Jonathan says. "It's a great narrative for this season: people who are highly trained versus the average guy."

Since this season marks Jonathan's third time hosting what he calls "the grandfather of reality shows", you'd think he'd have the hang of it by now.

But the actor says hosting is still a whole new ball game compared to shooting scenes for TV dramas.

"First of all, you can't do a take again," Jonathan explains. "You live and die by the sword."

The former Love Child star admits remembering all the contestants' names is still a challenge.

"You've got 24 people charging through an obstacle course and you're trying to remember everyone's names," he laughs. "Thank God the tribes are Contenders versus Champions this year!

"Normally, I'm trying to remember some local name that's impossible to pronounce, as well as everyone's names, as this thing is rapidly unfolding in front of me.

"So hats off to [US host] Jeff Probst, because he makes it look easy – and I'm here to tell you it's not."

"Easy" isn't a word you'd ever associate with Survivor, least not this latest instalment. And for anyone assuming the Champions will avoid Tribal Council, Jonathan is quick to point out anyone can be crowned Sole Survivor.

"The interesting thing about Survivor is that, yes, there's a physical element to it, but this is only part of the game," he explains. "There are so many other elements that everyone gets a fair shot.

"Also, sometimes the big boys have a hard time because they have a lot of muscle that needs a lot of food, and there's not a lot of food out there.

"In some ways, it [their size] becomes a disadvantage."

But if he's suggesting the average guys have a leg-up, Jonathan's not letting on.

"It's a great social experiment," he teases. "It will be fun!"

Australian Survivor is set to premiere at 7.30pm on Wednesday 1 August, on TEN and WIN Network.

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