Australian Survivor’s Shonee Bowtell On Breaking Records & Why George Is The Biggest Threat

Image courtesy of Channel 10
When Shonee Bowtell first appeared on Australian Survivor in 2018, she was determined to step out of her-then husband's shadow, and come across as more than "just a professional athlete’s wife".
Now, as she returns to the reality show, the 30-year-old's objective is very different. She's no longer married to pro-skater Benny Fairfax, and this is her third time on the show, after competing on Survivor for the second time during the 2020 All Star's season.
"I actually felt like I had nothing to prove this time," Bowtell tells Refinery29 Australia.
"Moving into my third season, I already know I can come up against all these difficult things and and I will be OK. So, I definitely went into this season thinking, 'I'm just going to try my best, give it my all and see what happens'."
While the villain trope is not new to reality TV, this season of Survivor — called Australian Survivor: Heroes vs Villains — flips the concept on its head. It's actually uplifting and empowering to be featured as a villain on the show, with half the contestants forming the 'Heroes' tribe and the other half being the 'Villains'. Bowtell says that producers told her she'd be on the 'Villains' tribe from the get go, but she had no reservations about unleashing her ruthless competitiveness and harnessing the villain role for what it is.
"I can't say that I'm a hero and I would hate to have to rock up to the 'Heroes' tribe and then be like, 'Oh, I'm the hero'," she explains.
"I also think that Survivor is such a villainous game, that I would feel more comfortable owning that — just rocking up and playing villainous and not shying away from that."
If she were to pick the person with the most villainous strategy among the Australian Survivor contestants, Bowtell can't help but mention co-star George Mladenov, who's also returned to the game after placing second in 2021.
"George has an idol tattooed on his chest, so I feel like if anyone was going to go hard, it'd be the person with the idol tattoo," she laughs.
Last night, Mladenov showed why he's a force to be reckoned with during one of the most dramatic tribal councils in Survivor history. After Simon Mee managed to score immunity, co-star Mladenov pressured him to use his immunity idol on Stevie Khouw to show his loyalty. Ultimately, it was Frazer Lack who was sent packing, leaving Mee's loyalty and leadership being questioned by Khouw and the other tribe members.
"It truly is something that has never happened on Australian Survivor," Bowtell says of Mladenov's huge power move.
But while Mladenov has some sneaky tactics up his sleeve, it's Bowtell who's breaking records on the show. This season doesn't only represent Bowtell's opportunity to play the game with no self-imposed pressure, but it also marks her making history as the person who's played the most days on Australian Survivor.
"I do have the record, and I'm seriously so proud of myself for being able to beat that," she reflects, adding she's stoked to also be the first person to be on Australian Survivor for the third time.
Ultimately, she just wants viewers to tune in for what she describes as "the best season" she's ever watched. With the merging of tribes and the 'Heroes' yet to go to another elimination, there's no doubt plenty in store to keep us hooked over the next couple of weeks.
Australian Survivor airs Sunday to Tuesday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.
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