Between Rocks And A Hard Place: Nick Iadanza Explains The Tiebreaker We’ve Never Seen Before On Australian Survivor

In five seasons of Australian Survivor, we’ve seen plenty of twists and turns but never before has a tribe ‘gone to rocks’ to decide which player will leave the game next.

While viewers will be familiar with the fire-making tie breaker challenge (seen recently between Phoebe Timmins and Lydia Lassila, and previously between season two’s Jericho Malabonga and Michelle Duggan) the stars have never aligned to bring us the wild unpredictability of a rock-off.

But with eight contestants left and KaloKalo seemingly split down the middle, hushed whispers about the possibility of going to rocks began echoing through the All Stars’ camp and soon enough, it seemed the scenario was unfolding after a stalemate between votes against Jacqui and Moana.

To help us understand the history, the complexity and the beauty of contestants drawing a bunch of rocks from a bag, we decided to call recently eliminated All Star Nick Iadanza -- the erudite Survivor scholar who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game.

Rocky roads ahead! Image: Network 10.

“It’s like a big game of Survivor chicken, it really is,” Nick told 10 daily. “You’ve got two even groups going against each other and you’re finding out which group is going to crack first.”

Nick explained that the tiebreaker challenge has only been seen three times on the US series.

“Which is crazy because Survivor’s been on for 40 seasons,” he said, explaining that tribes have previously gone to rocks in a final four, final six and final ten scenario.

“So this is actually, not only an Australian first, it’s one of the few times you get to see what would happen in a final eight vote,” Nick said.

A trio who were safe if the tribe went to rocks. Image: Network 10.

How It All Works

In an even-numbered tribe, if a vote and subsequent re-vote deliver a tie -- things get a little topsy-turvy, according to Nick.

The tribe has a chance to discuss the two names up for elimination (in this case, Jacqui and Moana) and if a unanimous decision can’t be reached -- Jonathan fetches the never-before used bag of rocks, containing one uniquely coloured stone that will send someone home.

“The two people who are actually in trouble become immune and that’s the tricky part because all of a sudden, you could go from not being on the chopping block to having your neck placed right there with the axe ready to drop, depending on which rock you pull out of the bag.”

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When Is Going To Rocks Actually Worth It?

While it seems like a crazy lottery, the odds of picking the coloured rock and heading home don’t look great when one (or more) players are clutching an immunity idol or necklace.

“If anyone had won individual immunity and if someone played an idol, then the numbers start to decrease and you go, ‘Hold on a second, I might have been willing to pull a rock out of a bag when I was one of six people going home, but what if I’m one of five? What if I’m one of four? What if I’m one of three? The odds of you going home are exponentially higher.”

David was protected by his immunity win and then chose to hand Tarzan one of his spare idols, and with Jacqui and Moana now immune this meant that it would either be AK, Brooke, Shonee or Sharn going home.

Not great odds for anyone.

Image: The Golden God knew exactly what he was doing.

“It really boils down to this,” Nick told 10 daily. How much nerve do you have and who are you willing to go to rocks for?

“Dave actually does a really good move there and by playing an idol for Tarzan, he actually made the likelihood of the people who were going to go to rocks much higher,” he added.

Nick explained that Shonee, AK and Brooke then had to think about whether they wanted to risk going to rocks for Jacqui, someone who had been in their alliance for just one day.

A huge decision for the Vakama Three. Image: Network 10.

Why Did Jacqui And Moana Remain Silent?

As the discussion raged on between the two parties, with Sharn using her best legal tactics to coerce the Vakamans away from the pile of rocks, both Jacqui and Moana said very little, with Jacqui later telling 10 daily she was unsure whether she could pipe up.

“You can say whatever you want, you don’t just have to sit there in silence,” Nick said.

“You can start campaigning and you can say, ‘If I’m here tomorrow, we’ll do A, B, C -- do not do this, or do this -- you can say much more than I think they thought they could.

“The whole game is in the balance in this one moment and if they can tip the scales and upend the alliance, then they have to throw everything at the wall,” he said.

Don't mind Jacqui! Image: Network 10.

Dr Nick’s Takeaway

There are times in the game when being a superfan can work against you but ultimately, Nick said these history-making moments are learning experiences for future players.

Explaining the US season four tie breaker that went to rocks, Nick told 10 daily the cautionary tale of Paschal English -- a man who made it to the final four without ever receiving a single vote against his name but who was sent home after agreeing to let a hunk of minerals decide the fate of his game (which was never in danger).

“Survivor is littered with this history, these people that shouldn’t have gone and then the way the great roulette wheel spins, they get their butts handed to them.”

Wise words that we’ll remember forever.

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