Host hits the ground running for this season
The new Survivor New Zealand series was considerably harder on contestants than season one, host Matt Chisholm says.
Chisholm watched 18 New Zealanders try to outwit, outplay and outlast each other on islands in Lake Vajiralongkorn in western Thailand.
And from what he saw, Thailand represented a significant step up for New Zealand’s version of the popular US reality format.
In Survivor, a group of castaways tries to survive in an isolated, exotic location. Every couple of days a contestant is voted off by their peers in a Tribal Council ceremony. Contestants can earn immunity from elimination by winning challenges.
Chisholm says there were two key reasons this season was harder on contestants.
One was the location – Lake Vajiralongkorn introduced a kind of monotony to the game that was absent from season one, set on the changeable coast of Nicaragua.
‘‘[Nicaragua] was a much nicer location, it was really quite stunning,’’ says Chisholm. ‘‘Whereas season two – on a lake, on an island and not really much going on – the outlook was pretty much the same every day. Really, really hot, you still had those creepy crawlies, but the outlook was pretty much the same every minute of every day.’’
The second element making the game harder was the contestants themselves. This year’s Sole Survivor contenders attacked the game with a ruthlessness that was absent from season one.
The increase in prize money from $100,000 to $250,000 seemed to help make competition fiercer.
‘‘The contestants were a lot more cut-throat this season and I think that was probably because there was a lot more riding on it,’’ says Chisholm. ‘‘They’d seen Kiwis play the game in season one and I think there were conscious decisions to rip into it and go a lot harder this year.’’
This season, producers decided to ditch Redemption Island, which offered eliminated contestants a way back into the game.
However, hidden immunity idols have been introduced, which contestants can use to prevent themselves being voted off.
‘‘I think that meant contestants were playing at a deeper level. They were always thinking, ‘Has someone got a hidden immunity idol in this tribe?’ and thinking about how they strategically cast their vote at tribal ... ‘I’m not here to make friends; I’m here for the quarter of a million bucks’ was pretty much how it went down.’’
Making Survivor was undoubtedly tough on the contestants, but it was also hard for Chisholm, who holds down a day job as a reporter for TVNZ’s Sunday programme.
While in Nicaragua for season one, he missed the birth of his first child. His wife Ellen was pregnant with their second child while he was in Thailand and, naturally, Chisholm worried.
‘‘My wife was at home, very heavily pregnant, with a little toddler. Little Bede was not meaning to but he was playing up.
‘‘He was teething, not sleeping and not eating. So Mum was exhausted as well and there was nothing really I could do away filming in Thailand, so I felt quite pressured. Perhaps I wasn’t being a good enough father because I was 11,000km away from home,’’ he says.
However, he found his duties as host a little easier than the first time around. The first season of Survivor was Chisholm’s first hosting experience.
‘‘I was going in completely blind, I had no idea how it all worked,’’ he says. ‘‘Season two, I think it’s probably fair to say that I hit the ground running. I knew what I was there for and what I had to do.’’
What working on season one had not prepared him for, though, were the number of blindside eliminations he saw this time.
‘‘If this season becomes known for anything, I would say it’ll be the blindside season. There are so many blindsides from the start right through to the finish of this show on a level that we simply haven’t seen before on Survivor New Zealand.
‘‘So many people had no idea they were going home. They felt really safe, really secure in their alliances and their voting blocks and what have you, and some king hitters just walked out the door, left the show, and had absolutely no idea. That was what consistently shocked me.’’
Matt Chisholm hosts Survivor New Zealand