Australian Survivor All Stars: A Gladiator’s Redemption

For many, a second chance at Survivor meant a second chance at revenge, but for Zach Kozyrski it was about redemption.

First appearing in Season 3, Zach was the overstated Alpha Wolf -- characterised as a brash, beef-headed misogynist. Websites even went so far as to catalogue every sexist thing he said in Season 3.

While some of his fellow All Stars were returning to the game to confront the wrongs done to them in the game, Zach’s second chance was more complicated.

“For everyone else, they wanted their second chance. For me, I needed it,” Zach told 10 daily after he was blindsided on Wednesday, making him the third member of the jury.

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Returning to All Stars was a chance to show that he had learned from the response to his first appearance in the franchise, but Zach said it wasn’t an easy decision coming back.

“I really am a huge fan, I love this game I really do. People probably don’t realise how much of a fan I am,” he said, ‘so I was pumped to get the call again, but it was really difficult whether or not I was going to come back.

The backlash in 2018 was easy for Zach to brush off, but less so for his family. 

“The online bullying is massive,” he said, wondering if he wanted to put his family through that all over again. Eventually, he made the decision to show just how he had changed.

Basing his Season 3 gameplay around that of a WWE wrestler, Zach said coming into All Stars he had to do a lot of work unpinning how he was perceived by both the other castaways and the audience at home.

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“People pigeonholed me, ‘Zach’s just some big, dumb jock and he doesn’t like girls,’” he said, “I really wanted to dispel that and show there’s obviously more to me.

“I really needed to get back out there and prove not just to myself that there’s been growth but to the rest of the country, that I’m not that guy.”

The response, Zach says, has been worlds different. 

“I don’t have people trying to get me fired from my job, so that’s cool,” he said, laughing. 

This time around, a more rounded image of Zach was shown. We were introduced to Zach the flamenco dancer, Zach the frequent skinny dipper and Zach the bird rescuer. 

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Zach Kozyrski said he's conscious of playing a very different game of 'Survivor' this time around.

“I love animals, anything we can do to help we try to,” he said of the bird sanctuary he runs with his partner Katie. The pair have recently fallen into expanding the sanctuary to now also include rescuing guinea pigs. 

In softening his image, Zach also had to reshape how he played Survivor. This time around, hoping to play with a more subtle strategy and focus on his social game, Zach became closely aligned with the Golden God which many have linked to his downfall.

After volunteering to go to Exile Beach as a sacrificial lamb of the majority alliance, it would be easy to assume he regretted trusting David Genat so closely.

“That wasn’t the issue,” Zach explained. “What I regret is not getting my alliance to put all [votes] on Shonee.” Adamant the remaining Vakamans didn’t have an idol stashed away, Zach apparently tried to convince David, Moana, Sharn and Jacqui to load the votes on Shonee.

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“In the end, it wasn’t their ass in the hot seat, it was mine, so we should have been running it the way I wanted, but I kind of let that go!”

The six castaways on exile were given two chances to win their way out of that hot seat, which Zach narrowly missed in a fire-making challenge. It was so close, he says, they had to go back and look frame-by-frame to double-check who won. 

Though he and Jacqui were in an alliance, exile seemed to exaggerate some friction between the two which came to a boiling point during the second challenge where Jacqui was ultimately victorious, sending her on a warpath to get Zach out of the game.

Flipping on her alliance, Jacqui voted with the remaining Vakamans, making sure to at least alert some members of her alliance -- Moana and Sharn.

“I said she was going to flip,” Zach said. “Everyone kind of reassured me which sucks because obviously Moana knew [Jacqui] was trying to flip. Sharn would have known for sure. No one really said anything.”

Worse still for the former-Gladiator, his closest ally had an immunity idol in his pocket he promised to play if he felt like Zach was at all in danger.

“I should have made him give me the idol before we even went to tribal,” Zach said with a laugh, “Just let me hold onto it!

“If I had gotten up and said let me talk to Dave for a second, I think he would have handed it over. I’ve heard other people saying they don’t think he would, but I think he would have.”

Unfortunately for Zach, the blindside went off without a hitch, though he says he felt more and more concerned as AK and Shonee woefully fibbed to Jonathan LaPaglia about their unavoidable fate. 

“I was like, hold on… AK never lies down, what’s going on? I started getting really sketchy about halfway through [tribal]. I’m sketching out, I look at Dave but he seemed cool. Everyone seemed chill so I thought maybe it was fine.

“Turns out: not fine!”

Saying he 100 percent is glad he took up the opportunity to return for All Stars, Zach added, "more than anything I really went through a change".

"Not just in the way I played the game but my character, in its essence, went through an evolution. I'm a different person," he said, "I'm a different player. There's been a lot of growth since Season 3 to Season 5,  that's what you're seeing."

This time around the response has been a lot different for Zach, who admitted he doesn't lurk in Facebook groups or try to read what people are saying about him too much, but following his All Stars stint he's been receiving a lot more messages of support. And one or two messages about guinea pigs.

Australian Survivor: All Stars' airs Monday-Wednesday at 7.30 pm. Only on 10 and WIN Network.