Australian Survivor All Stars: Don’t Underestimate Shonee’s Social Game

Hello, and welcome to my TED talk. Please take a seat.

Today, we’re going to talk about Queen Shonee Fairfax, who is currently one of Australian Survivor‘s All Stars.

As a big fan of Survivor, I’ve seen a lot of chatter online about Shonee’s game. That she’s not strong enough, that she’s not good in challenges (incorrect, but we’ll get to that later), essentially, that she’s not ‘good’ at the game because she’s not a professional athlete.

Today, I’m here to remind you of a little thing called the social game. Having watched all 39 seasons of US Survivor last year (no, I don’t have a life!!! Mind your own business!), watching Shonee befriend her tribe and joke her way through tribal councils, and even survive an elimination that saw her sent to Exile Beach with Zach, I was reminded of another social player’s game, who’s currently starring on Survivor: Winners At War, one Ms Parvati Shallow.

There are a lot of similarities to be drawn between the two: Both charm their way into the good graces of their tribe, both form deadly alliances that allow them to pick everyone on their hit list off one by one, and both are physically underestimated, despite having incredible levels of endurance.

Chatting to Shonee over the phone, I asked her if Parvarti — or any of the other US Survivors — was an inspiration to her own gameplay.

“Yeah, no!” she replied, before adding that she was “really flattered to be compared to Parvarti”.

She explained: “I haven’t really watched any American Survivor, I’ve seen bits and pieces, but I mean, the whole Survivor thing happened really fast for me. I watched the season in October and then the following April I was out filming, so I didn’t really have much time to watch them! So, I didn’t really take inspiration from any of the American Survivors, it’s just my own gameplay!”

Agreeing that “social players are definitely underestimated” in Australian Survivor, Shonee added that “it’s stupid to do so”, because “being social and making people like you, and being smart and strategic enough to know who you can get on board” are major elements of the game.

“I mean, I believe I am strong, but obviously I’m not built like an olympian athlete, or whatever. Even with muscle, you still can lose challenges, and we did!” she added.

Despite getting to the top three in her season of Australian Survivor, Shonee said that she was able to “use the fact that people underestimate me to [her] advantage”, and thinks her cheeky, social gameplay has been what’s won over the fans at home.

“I think that a lot of people like my gameplay because people sitting at home watching aren’t necessarily athletes themselves, so they’re like ‘oh, this girl’s being herself, she’s really sociable, and she has somehow turned things around, she’s getting it done!’” she said.

Aside from being underestimated, Shonee knew from the moment she set foot on the mat who she wanted to work with.

“I saw Dave, and I was like ‘okay, I definitely wanna work with him if he’s in my tribe’, and then Harry and Nick, they all caught my eye immediately,” she recalled, adding with a laugh, “I kind of thought I was doomed when I saw my real tribe, I thought ‘oh no, Lydia, Shane, oh!’”

View this post on Instagram

Locking down deals etc…

A post shared by Shonee Fairfax (@shoneefairfax) on

Having made it so far in her initial season, Shonee said she felt like she’d already had a great Survivor experience, and that this time around, she wanted to make sure she “had a lot of fun”.

“My strategy for this time was to align with all of the naughty people, because number one, I wanted to know what they were doing, and two, they’re always cheeky, they’re always up to no good, they’re always having fun,” she shared.

“The first time I played Survivor my number one strategy was to never burn any bridges,” she explained. “If I didn’t get my way, if someone was coming for me, I just wanted to come back after tribal and be like ‘ah, it’s okay, don’t worry!’ because I knew that once someone knows that they can’t work with you anymore, then there’s no point in keeping you around.”

She laughed. “I didn’t do that this season. I was all about revenge!”

On her hit list of athletes, which included Abbey Holmes and Lydia Lassila, she added: “I tried to forgive them the first time [they came for me], but then the second time, I was like, there is no coming back from this!”

With the challenge beasts gone, Shonee has quietly begun to prove herself as a physical threat on top of her social game — particularly in challenges that require endurance — and won herself the very first individual immunity necklace of the season after the tribes merged last week.

“I think I’m really good at endurance! I just try to get as comfortable as possible and then I just stare into the distance and repeat things in my head, just relax,” she said. “You know when you do pilates and you’re like ‘oh s**t, I’m really struggling’ and then the teacher’s like ‘relax your face, relax your face!’ because if you’re tense in your face, then your body gets tense, and then you just lose it. If I say to myself ‘yep, you can do this. Yep! You can do this’ over and over again, you just kind of forget about it.

“Try it! You’ll think you’re dying, but trust me, after awhile, you’re fine. Go home and carry a ball for like six hours, see how you go. You might surprise yourself!” she assured us.

Australian Survivor: All Stars airs Monday – Wednesday, 7:30pm on 10.