Sharn Coombes Did Everything To Avoid Repeating History, And Did So Anyway
Sharn Coombes has taken out the title of runner-up once again in the game of Survivor.
It would be easy to get bogged down in wondering what you could have done to convince the jury a second time around to award you the title of Sole Survivor, Sharn was looking on the bright side.
Once again lasting all 50 days only to miss the title of Sole Survivor by inches, Sharn has made history by being the only person in Australian Survivor to reach 100 days in the game. Just like in her first season, Sharn’s torch was never snuffed.
Coming back from All Stars, adjusting to real life again was difficult, but made even more emotional when she took her dad to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“It’s sad enough when you get a diagnosis like that, and to have COVID-19, it really does impact the family as a new concern,” Sharn told 10 daily over the phone.
“Here we are celebrating All Stars and the amazing season it has been, but we’re in the reality of today stuck in this situation with this pandemic taking over the world,” she said, “speaking for myself it gives you that perspective that, you know what? It’s a game. A TV show and if you don’t have the things around -- family, friends, love -- they’re what really matter.”
As her dad’s primary carer, and due to the risks of travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharn wasn’t able to attend the Survivor filming in-person, but was there via videolink to hear the results once again. Despite narrowly missing the title of Sole Survivor for a second time, she walks away with one -- if not two -- records.
“I think over two seasons worldwide I have the most days played,” Sharn said adding, “it’s just a shame I couldn’t win it this time. That would have been the cherry on top.”
Her battle to final tribal wasn’t an easy one, tackling the final individual immunity challenge alongside David and Moana, Sharn and the Golden God lasted more than two hours through rain, with the tide rolling in and lapping at their ankles.
In a split second, Sharn slipped, handing the biggest decision of the game to David.
“I knew in that moment the power had been taken away from me,” she said. “Obviously to take Mo to the final two, I would have been in a different position pitching to the jury. Dave taking me was great, and I was confident he would take me.
“I always had a feeling, which is why I was working with him in those end stages, that I was guaranteed a spot in the final two next to him. But I was so gutted I lost that immunity challenge. I was good -- I was managing the pain, I could have been there for hours more but I just slipped.”
Asking Sharn about why she thought she missed the top spot once again is interesting, coming back to All Stars she made the choice to play a very different game than in 2018 when she first appeared on Champions v Contenders.
“First time I played I was very loyal and I didn’t want to deviate from the people I played with,” she said, adding, “I wasn’t good at lying. I knew I had to play that game true right to the end.
“This time around I thought everyone knew I was loyal and could be trusted, so I used that to my advantage. I thought I was good at lying, I thought I was going to be a bit of a devil this time.”
In Season 3, Sharn’s final pitch to the jury was underpinned by what Mat Rogers saw as her disloyalty to him, it’s what potentially cost her the title. This time around, Sharn’s relationship with loyalty changed completely.
“I didn’t want to be in the minority. I was in the minority in the endgame my first time around, I thought if I’m in a majority I can work with everybody. I can pick sides and always have the numbers on my side.
“That strategy worked, but the jury had other ideas.”
As a criminal barrister, Sharn’s always seen as a threat to be in the final tribal alongside considering she’s no stranger to speaking in front of a jury. The difference being this is a jury of peers she had a hand -- indirectly or otherwise -- sending out of the game.
“As that jury was being formed I had the thought -- this is not going to be a favourable jury for me if I make it to the end,” Sharn admitted. “I always got along with everyone on the jury, I just knew how they operated.
“I was hoping, at the end of the day, they’d untangle their emotions from the decision making process,” she continued, hoping the jury could recognise the moves she made even if they had cost them the game.
As they did in Season 3, the All Stars jury took Sharn to task for some of her moves in the game -- with a lot of focus falling on the now infamous tribal council which saw a split tribe almost go to rocks.
During the re vote, as she returned to the tribe Sharn turned to Tarzan and mouthed “vote for Mo”. When asked about it during final tribal, Sharn attempted to convince him it was to ‘test his loyalty’. Moana, hearing this, became defensive as the sacrificial lamb in the scenario.
“Tarzan and I had conversations about flipping on people, and he was keen on doing that -- you just didn’t see that in the edit. He knew if he wanted to make it to the end he had to flip on people, so that’s what I mentioned to him when he asked me.
“It was dual purpose,” she added about her last-ditch attempt to get Tarzan to flip,” I wanted to see if he would flip even though I didn’t think he would, and it was a strategic move on my part. I didn’t want to have to vote for Mo, and I didn’t want to go to rocks! I had to save my skin.”
The rocks tribal really put Sharn’s whole game in a spin after making the bold promise to AK, Shonee and Brooke to vote with them moving forward. AK even brought a sack of rocks to the final tribal offering Sharn the chance to once again let her fate rest in a small sack of stones.
“The ironic thing is that [Brooke, Shonee and AK] were lying to me about their own moves, so for them to actually think I would then go against my original alliance. I don't know if they believe that or not, but I just persuaded them effectively.”
As an outsider it was easy to see the trio seeing Sharn’s move as a betrayal rather than a crafty move to save herself in the moment.
“At the time I thought this is good game play and if you’re a game player you should recognise it as that. People get caught up in the emotion and I get that, it’s a tough game. I’ve never been on the jury and have never been in that position, but being second twice, I got a good insight into the rejection from the jury,” she said, laughing.
“When you’re forced into a position like that, I had to save my own skin. I thought going to rocks was absurd, that’s part of the reason I said to Tarzan vote for Mo. I didn’t want to go to rocks. If he did flip, I’d deal with the fallout later, which -- I suppose I did anyway, to an extent.”
Heading into the pitches of the final tribal there were people on the jury Sharn admitted she thought would never vote for her anyway, but still she was optimistic. When it came to the jury there were very few times, if at all, Sharn was surprised at a vote.
“There’s value to that -- to sending everyone to the jury. It means you’re on top of the information in the game. I knew a lot of people were sent to jury that Dave had no clue about. I had a hand in each jury member getting there,” Sharn said.
“The first time around I thought my loyalty spoke for itself,” Sharn said, “this time I thought if I go in and do all the sneaky things, play the game from that perspective, it should be rewarded. But no! It wasn’t seen that way this time.
“You’re always going to get different people on the jury, and if I had another Survivor jury maybe it would be a different story. It’s purely dependent on the people on them, who they are as people, and I knew as that jury was forming, I thought this is not my jury.”
With many of the original Mokutans eliminated and a bulk of the jury made up by Dave’s original Vakama tribemates. The remaining Mokutans were Shonee and Zach -- with Zach heavily in Dave’s corner and Shonee someone who didn’t vote for Sharn during Season 3 she knew she had her work cut out for her.
“I thought early on, these are Dave’s people,” Sharn said.
But there was still the gap between filming her pitch, and the reunion that would reveal her fate.
“I said last time, that was harder than playing the game. It’s a mental torment in your mind,” Sharn said, adding the entire Survivor experience “is very tough from go to woe”.
“But I’m a tough person. My ability to get to the end is just a testament to my ability to read and connect with people in a real way, and be able to persuade people where I can.”
Looking back on another game, when asked if she had any regrets Sharn laughed again.
“Now, knowing the result? Maybe I should have played it like I did the first time, but there’s no telling where that would have got me. I don’t know if that would have got me to the end, so I think I have to say no.
“It’s about evolution, and one thing I’m proud of is playing differently and still getting to the final two,” Sharn said.
And if the chance ever came up again to see if the third time really was the charm, she admitted she’s not the kind of person to say ‘never’.
“It’s like childbirth. Every time you have a child you think, ‘I’m never doing that again,’ I've got four kids now! At this point, I’m not sure… but I’m a sucker for punishment.”