When I speak with Jonathan LaPaglia he is hunkered down in California, unable to attend the recently filmed Australian Survivor Reunion.
For LaPaglia, who is himself an avid fan of the format, it’s a big disappointment but a necessary one. 10 go-to guy Osher Günsberg steps into the studio with LaPaglia announcing the winner via satellite (he declines to reveal quite how that unfolds).
More frustrating is the delay to the next season which was due to film in Fiji in April and screen in coming months. Nor is it practical to relocate to the tropics of Queensland, either.
“Every production around the world has been put on hold and we’re no exception,” he explains.
“It’s not going to be possible until we’re on top of the pandemic -not only from an insurance point of view, but just the logistical point of view.
“You may be able to isolate the cast for something like Survivor, but you have a crew that’s still functioning within the community, wherever that is.
“The way crews work, they are very tight.”
“The minute one crew member gets it, obviously they’re out but then you have to isolate everyone else who’s been in contact with them. The way crews work, they are very tight. So as soon as one person gets it, basically your whole production is shut down.”
The crew comprises some 200 to 300 people.
“Not only do we have Australians that we transport over to Fiji, but we also have an equal amount of local hire on transportation, construction. catering, security. They’re involved in everything.”
Producers had originally mapped out a three-way final Tribal Council, but tonight only two of David, Moana & Sharn will proceed beyond the very last challenge.
“It’s an endurance challenge, again. There’s elements of other final challenges in this challenge,”says LaPaglia.
“We really wanted to do three but the unfortunate situation with Lee and his mother, he had to leave the game so we couldn’t do a final tribal of three.”
“He’s a producer’s dream in a way.”
And while David is the bookie’s favourite to win, LaPaglia points out that even if he loses the challenge there’s still the question of whether one of his rivals may or may not take him to the end.
“David’s incredibly entertaining, very smart and he knows how to work a camera as well. So he’s a producer’s dream in a way.
“But there’s no one way of doing it, which is what makes the game so fun to watch.”
LaPaglia, now in his 5th season for 10, has won plenty of praise for his hosting of the series, with a watertight format that requires him to follow the hosting methods of Jeff Probst -from challenge descriptions to the poetic summary wrapping up Tribal Council.
“They’re all quite opinionated about it!”
But he points out the the Aussie players have developed a gently ribbing of his Tribal Council closing summary.
“In the US they just kind of sit there, don’t say anything and leave. But (in Australian Survivor), they’re all waiting for it and they’re all quite opinionated about it!
“They always give me either a thumbs up or ‘nahhhh.’ It’s like they’re holding up score cards!” he laughs.
“We do have a writer that that comes up with them, but when we’re organising the votes we push ideas around and stuff.
“It usually references what’s happened in the Tribal. Sometimes we get a little stuck because in the edit the ‘theme’ disappears or is not prominent. So sometimes the tagline at the end doesn’t quite work.”
Tonight David, Moana & Sharn only want to hear one thing: they they have outwitted, outlasted and outplayed the very best to win $500,000.
Australian Survivor airs 7:30pm tonight (Reunion at 9pm).