Lydia Lassila became the 13th person voted out of Australian Survivor last night, in possibly the most unexpected blindside of the season.
The Winter Olympian was almost unanimously voted out in the first tribal council since the merge, with her own alliance of Mat, Steve, Sharn and Sam turning on her. Only her new friends from the Contenders tribe, Benji and Robbie, were left out of the devious plan.
The move was orchestrated by Shane and Mat on the sidelines during the first individual immunity challenge of the merge, where Sharn and Lydia remained the last two contestants standing (or rather, hanging on to a pole) in an exhausting physical challenge.
While Lydia, Benji and Robbie were under the impression that the tribe was voting to eliminate Fenella, there were other plans afoot.
A visibly shocked Lydia was eliminated from the competition on her 32nd day.
We caught up with Lydia to find out more about the shock twist, and what she thinks will happen to the once-strong Champions alliance moving forward.
TV WEEK: Were you scared to watch the episode last night?
Lydia: I was so scared! I'm scared to watch every episode.
So the merge has finally happened, everyone's been reunited, who were you placing your trust in at that point?
There wasn't much time to actually get together and re-group. There was the tribe swap, then the merge, and obviously then the auction and the immunity challenge. In between there wasn't really a whole lot of time to have the kind of conversations I needed to have. That was really to get back to my core alliance, all of us together, which seemed impossible to get us all together, and obviously bring over a couple of extras in Robbie and Benji who we had recruited from the Contenders side, and make up a strong alliance of seven. You know, that would give us a majority and we could proceed as usual. That was kind of the plan that was in my head and I thought that we were still a solid alliance but, you know, we weren't!
Essentially you came second in the first solo immunity challenge, proving again you were a strong physical player. Were you worried that might put a target on your back?
I think, come merge, I was already worried and had my guard up. It happens every time, it's very typical in Survivor that come merge the stronger, physical, assets are eliminated pretty quickly and that's why I aligned with the five – Sharn, Sam, Steve and Mat – and then brought Robbie and Benji over, so that we could protect each other and make it as far in the game as we could. And when we couldn't be an alliance any more then we dissolve and battle it out and everyone has that fair game. That's how I wanted it to play out.
Heading in to tribal council, what plan were you aware of? Did you think everyone was voting for Fenella?
I'd chatted to Mat in the immunity challenge. I was right next to him, and he's like 'Fenella is an easy vote' so I'm like 'okay, it's Fenella,' and all the chats I had were about Fenella and that seemed logical.
Fenella, for us, our experience with her on the Contenders side you probably don't know, is that before the Tegan vote where we were going to the Champions tribal council, we actually all got together before we went off to tribal and said 'alright what are we doing? If we have to send or save what do we do?' And it was actually Fenella who said 'well I don't see the point in saving anyone when we're trying to eliminate people from this game'. So we all decided that, whoever it is, we're going to send. And then she kind of flipped on us in that tribal council, which you also didn't see, but she was like 'no we've gotta save her' and at the same time I'm pressing on Robbie's foot going 'don't you dare'.
There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and from that point I went, okay I can't really trust her because she's flipped here. And so for me, voting Fenella was an easy vote.
Your new alliance of Benji and Robbie were the only two left out of the vote, do you think if they had known they would have stayed loyal to you or flipped?
Possibly. Look everyone is trying to save their skin in the game. I was very close with Sam and Sharn and they didn't tell me, and you know I'm kind of gutted that they didn't because I would have loved to have the chance to defend myself, and at least be able to put up a fight.
But when it was so obvious that it was Fenella, and then we break up Shonella, I thought that's a good thing. You know those two were dangerous together! That's the thing, come merge people are always looking at physical people as a threat but it's not. It's the manipulators, the game-players, that slip through the cracks.
I think Shonee actually said that in the previous episode, about slipping through the cracks in the Champions tribe…
How the hell she did that I don't know!
There are always a few people who fly under the radar and you wonder if that's their way of playing the game or if they're just biding their time...
Are they really playing the game, or are they there by circumstance? You know, some people have had some decent luck, some people have had some unlucky breaks. I think whoever was in that tribe swap was unlucky, to be separated from their core alliances. And you know, that last immunity challenge for me it rained for two minutes! That was it, it was unlucky. I could have stayed up there all day but not in the rain [laughs]. There's nothing fun about hanging on to a pole for hours!
Since the early days of the series, the Champions tribe – in particular your original core alliance – have been going on about keeping the strong players in until the end. Last night they flipped on that promise, has that opened the floodgates?
Oh, absolutely! Because if they play like that then they're not going to protect each other and they're at risk. I see it as open game now, because it's proven that the alliance is no longer strong. Because it gives way to someone like Brian, or some other crafty person in nature, to then flip and form their own alliance, which is going to change things up again. If we'd stayed unified and strong we wouldn't have had that problem.
After all that, are you still friends with your alliance outside of Survivor?
Yeah! No hard feelings, it's a game! Aside from the game and how difficult it is, you know, it's not only physical, you're hungry, and you're cold, and tired, it's emotionally draining, you're missing your family, but on the flip side it was wonderful to be out there.
Who do you think has what it takes to be crowned sole Survivor?
I think a number of people have what it takes, but as always with the game there's a bit of luck involved as well as, now that I'm gone, how the dynamics shift and who will then be targeted. I think the physical people will be targeted because they've shown they're not going to protect each other. I think that was a dangerous move on their part to leave cracks for people to slip through.
It showed in that immunity challenge that Sharn is super strong, she's great around camp, great socially and great in challenges so I think she's quite a threat in the game. Sam is also really great physically, and he's smart and great socially so I want to see more of his play now on in too.
Australian Survivor airs Monday and Tuesday, 7:30pm on Network Ten.