Vavau — now a dejected, hungry trio — looked forward to the Survivor Auction as a way to feed their bodies and spirit, especially after Jonathan announced they were all merging into one tribe.
Conner, who had been dreaming of food, spent all of his $500 on potato chips, chocolate cake and chocolate milk and rewarded sodas to his old Vavau mates Kate, Kristie and Sue.
Yet Conner missed bidding on two advantages, one for a clue to a hidden immunity idol that Nick made a stink about not wanting (but later finding like a giddy schoolboy anyway). The idol could have helped Conner after Brooke won the hanging-on-a-pole immunity challenge, securing that she and Flick would continue to influence the Saanapu vote against him on Day 33.
WHO spoke to Conner Bethune, a 23-year-old paralegal from the ACT, about becoming the twelfth person to leave Australian Survivor.
What affected your game the most?
Hunger really affected me, to the point of irrationality. Obviously my downfall was that the ghosts of my past caught up to me. I got knocked out.
It was clear how hungry you were prior to the auction. So how did the chips, soda, cake and milk go down?
It was like heaven. Those salt and vinegar chips were like having a full-course meal, like cooked chicken. It was like the best feeling in my life, but it went down rough later, that's for sure, because when you're starving, you really shouldn't be having that much sugar. It really catches up to you. But the spaghetti that Kate had smelt so good next to me.
Were you elated to make the merge?
Absolutely. Elation on two different points. One, I completed a dream of not only playing Survivor, but I made it to the merge. I just couldn't believe it. I was shocked. And also the fact that we no longer had to be decimated as a tribe. That was really nice. We would speculate, you know, are we going to go down to one person? Are we going to have to make fire as two people left and one person makes it to the merge? We were so grateful that we didn't have to keep taking each other out.
Do you think the results would have been different if you had kept Phoebe, or would she have lined up with the old Aganoa as Kristie did?
Possibly. It's really hard to say. We thought they both most likely would flip on us but Phoebe could potentially hit the ground running at the merge and we would be giving her a second wind and she would just decimate everyone like she decimated our tribe. But then again, she did have those connections with El and Lee, and she would tell us about that but we weren't sure if we could believe her or not.
Was it that hard to speak to people and would it have been any use to concentrate any votes on Nick?
I thought I'd still have some wiggle room to talk to people but at the auction, really quickly, I got a lot of social cues that I was in a hell of a lot of trouble. Even just walking back to camp, you'll notice that all three of us Vavau, four of us including Sue, were walking in front and everyone else was at least two metres behind us. It's like they didn't want to be seen with us, and once we hit the tribe, no one wanted to talk to me, no one would be seen strategising with me. Brooke was on me like a hawk, and even when I was somewhere else, Matt was always there, or Flick. It was smart of them. Saanapu surveillance worked really well.
Did you want to get a pink bracelet? Did they even offer one to you?
[Laughs] I'm happy to accept any bracelet that I ever get! Whether I wanted a pink bracelet or not, I definitely wanted the alliance that came with it, that's for sure.
How frustrating was it to know there were people on the bottom of the Saanapu hierarchy who didn't take a chance to work with the former Vavau?
Oh, it was so unbelievably frustrating. It wasn't clear to me at first what the hierarchy was because I had been away from Saanapu for such a long time and they would rock up to challenges wearing each other's clothes, and we'd be like, 'Wow, they seem like a tight-knit group. They haven't had to vote each other out.' So once I got there, and I could see everyone was all buddy-buddy and no one was working to get our free votes, from the bottom to the top, it was really disappointing. I think people were thinking, 'Oh, I'll live another day' and not thinking long-term.
Did you sense that Sam was going to put your name down but just couldn't face you to tell you?
That's very much the vibe that I got. I could see him struggling with it at tribal council. He was face-in-palm and really looked like he was having trouble. I love Sam. He's a great guy and we're great friends in real life and it's just unfortunate it had to go down that way. No hard feelings — it's just a game, of course.
You've said it has taken some adjustment to return to normal life.
So I lost about six kilos, which isn't much for most people but because I'm a small person, it was quite a bit. I felt pretty unhealthy and, according to my girlfriend, I smelled like death walking around! It took me about two weeks before I came good mentally and physically. Coming out, you have a little difficulty trusting people because you very much think you're still in a game. Like, somebody will give me a compliment and in my mind, I'm like, 'Could they be lying to me? What is their intention?' It's just so bizarre. Being in a vehicle actually made me sick coming out because I hadn't been in a vehicle for a while, and I would have nightmares I was still on the island and I would wake up thinking I was on the island while I was just happy at home.
Would you play again?
Oh, in a heartbeat. I remember saying, as soon as I got out, my girlfriend asked me and I was like, 'I don't know. That was pretty rough.' But now that I've forgotten what the pain was like, absolutely, 100 percent I would go back!
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