Olympic champion Lydia Lassila was one of the most physically capable contestants competing in Australian Survivor: All Stars.
But in Tuesday night's episode it was her fire-making skills that led the her demise after both tribes went to Tribal Council. The two players who were voted off their respective tribes – Lydia and rival Phoebe Timmins - had one last chance for redemption in Survivor's notorious fire challenge.
It was ultimately Phoebe who was able to claw her way back into the game, forcing a devastated Lydia out of Fiji for good. Following her exit, Lydia speaks to Now To Love about why she can't get the fire challenge out of her head, the big mistake her tribemates made by not voting out Mat Rogers and the real reason she wanted other physical people in her alliance.
Now To Love: What a twist the fire challenge was. Would you prefer to go out like that or would you rather be blindsided like last time?
Lydia: Worst way ever! I thought I would go when Abbey went so I knew it was coming and I knew that I was on the bottom after the tribe swap. So it was good to know that so at least I had a chance to try and fight for myself. But it was still hard, the fire challenge was terrible. It started off well but it got too much and I choked. Choking at its finest!
Had you practised making fire a lot beforehand?
I practised a lot before my season – the first time I played and I was fine at it. Who knows? I knew how to make it work and how to do it but just didn't do it on the night. So it's a bit disheartening knowing that you can. I got home and I couldn't sleep because I kept making fire in my sleep. It was just one of those stupid things – we had two tribes gawking at us and I just lost it.
Shonee's on a path of revenge and you were in her firing line tonight – do you regret trying to get her out earlier?
No, definitely not. Who would have thought she'd come walking back into our tribe after being voted out so there's luck involved in this game – such as what colour buff you pick up and that twist of her and Zach just walking straight back into the game. But what do you do there? It's just one of those things. I really like Shonee, she's a great social player so I knew early on she's definitely the person I need to be targeting because I know she's a threat post-merge so the Shonee thing was right for me. But she had nine lives!
Once you knew you were in trouble, you started campaigning for a blindside of Mat Rogers, was there ever a point where you thought you had the numbers to do it successfully?
It was a hard slog. I even went to Mat and tried to do something together - we had worked together before and I would have liked to have worked with him or anyone that was willing to work with me but he didn't really want to do anything even though he had lots of friction with that tribe. I couldn't really bring him around. But I knew I was going home so I may as well just make a scene and then appeal to AK and Brooke and say "Look, I've set it up - everyone knows I'm going home. Wouldn't you want to at least flush an idol out? I'll be the second vote. At least you'll flush his idol out and he might go home too". I think they just didn't want to change anything, they wanted to ride it all out and make it to merge knowing they had the numbers.
It's tough because the way they were voting seemed to be working for them but they all wanted to get Mat out so I'm like "Why don't you do that tonight? It's set up perfectly. He won't expect it – everyone's voting for me, this is the right time to do it…" They all agreed they wanted to do it but they just didn't make it happen which is so frustrating.
Who do you think will ultimately reign supreme in the battle between Mat and David that will come to a head sooner or later?
Look I think Dave's really the mastermind of the game. He's the ultimate triple threat, he's very, very good. He can make magic happen that boy. I don't think anyone would disagree.
What was the toughest physical challenge you faced out there?
The most recent, individual one was really hard for me. My hands went numb in under five minutes so I knew in the first five minutes this one was not for me. It's hard to know that when you're under pressure to win and you can't feel your hands – what are you supposed to do?
WATCH: Australian Survivor's David Genat plays The Tribe Has Spoken. Story continues below...
Abbey was quite outspoken about the "physically strong" alliance not being all it seemed on TV. Was there any parts of your gameplay that were omitted or edited that frustrated you?
The thing for me was I was never pitching a strength alliance. I wanted a balanced alliance. I went in five kilos heavier. I went in not trying to be the hero in the challenge every single time. I really tried to underplay it and I did. And then upped the social by obviously compromising and not aligning with too many big people straight away and even though you feel more compelled to work with them so it was friendship to start and I wanted to work with the people who were strategic but also have a more unlikely alliance rather than a predictable one so it was never me pushing that strong alliance. But then again, early on in the piece, all of the challenges were hard and if you lose them, you go to Tribal – that's the reality of it. You want to reduce your chances.
It seems in Survivor at the beginning being a physical asset is a plus but then when you get to merge, they're the first people to get picked off. Is that something you were worried about?
Yep. That's why when I was making an alliance, I didn't want to be the only physical person in there because then I've got no protection so I wanted to go into a merge situation with physical people still around me to use as a shield or a buffer because if I'm the only one, then I'll be next unless you win challenges, which is not always possible.
How much weight did you end up losing on the beans and rice diet?
I think I lost five kilos in 18 days. I didn't want to come out too skinny because I tried to put on weight going in, just to make myself look a bit unthreatening so I'm back to my normal weight, really.
Did you struggle being away from your kids?
You know what? They're just not into watching it as much this time. They love the show but we've had family stuff and been a bit busy. But they do love it – they've been wearing my buff around which is very cute. It's hard to leave them but it's also great to go back. I wanted to win obviously and wanted to have a good crack at it but the experience is really what I was in it for, not so much the TV show. I don't want fame, I don't want to be a reality star. I'm really happy with my life, my life is really balanced in reality but for me the whole experience of leaving everything behind, the emails, the businesses, the technology and doing really cool challenges, living by a fire every night – it's an experience that I really bloody love.