Jonathan LaPaglia takes Australian Survivor to the extreme pitting brainiacs against fitness fanatics

Jonathan LaPaglia: In his 6th season as host of Australian Survivor.

Jonathan LaPaglia: In his 6th season as host of Australian Survivor.

FANS of Australian Survivor can be thankful this season was filmed in mid-April, through to early June, before the latest COVID-19 restrictions came into force.

Host Jonathan LaPaglia is also lucky to have made it back to his home base in Los Angeles, California, before the latest lockdown.

This is his sixth season as host, having been recruited by Channel 10 in 2016.

"I'd never hosted before, but for some reason channel 10 was interested in me. I'm not sure why," he admits.

"I was initially taken aback, but the more I thought about it, it looked like fun, but I didn't quite realise how difficult it was till I got to Samoa [for his first season].

"Jeff Probst [American Survivor host] is a master at it and he's been doing it since 2000. I stepped in at 2016, so I had big shoes to fill. It was a baptism by fire.

Seasons 1 and 2 were in Samoa followed by three seasons in Fiji.

"Oh yeah, the locations were nice, but I didn't realise how much work was involved. I thought I'd be drinking cocktails with umbrellas in them, surfing, and eating seafood, but it wasn't that at all. Once the game starts, it never stops," he says.

LaPaglia says it was "kind of a shock to the system", despite him having watched as much of the US version as he could.

"I still felt like I wasn't prepared."

Australian Survivor: Brains v Brawn tribe members

Australian Survivor: Brains v Brawn tribe members

The actor, producer and director says he has always maintained a certain level of fitness, but finding time to work out is an issue.

This season's Australian Survivor: Brains V Brawn sees LaPaglia and his 24 castaways and the crew head deep into the Australian outback in Cloncurry, 770 kilometres west of Townsville, Queensland.

"It was tough," admits LaPaglia. "The heat was difficult. We'd head out on an challenge and within half an hour my brain was fried."

He says the locations were considerably further apart and were reach via rough broken roads, all on a tight schedule.

Throughout the 48-day shoot, there were many difficult challenges faced by the castaways, but one in particular stands out.

"About three quarters into the shoot they had to run up a a very steep hill in the blazing hear to collect puzzle pieces. But they had to do it nine times," says the host.

LaPaglia says it was the furthest he'd ever gone into Australia's heartland. "It was an eye opener. It was great to see and a much tougher landscape than I thought," he says.

"The environment was the elephant in the room in this one. It's such a polar opposite to the tropical landscapes of past seasons. It was arid, remote, unbelievably hot, and there were any number of things that can kill you in an instant."

Every season there are a couple of contestants who question why they started in the first place, but this time there are a few, LaPaglia says.

"One survivalist knew what he was getting himself into, and a farm boy had an idea, but it was incredibly tough for them and the crew. At least I got to go home to a regular house each night.

"In the past some of ours [challenges] were too focused on physicality. But there is so more to this game than that. It's exciting to watch the game and not just as a visceral experience, but where the lead can keep switching.

"I think our challenges are much more balanced this season, with good players eliminated more strategically."

LaPaglia thinks contestants sign on for a multitude of reasons.

"A lot of them are genuinely interested in the game. When it's played well it's a sophisticated game. Some might be more interested in improving their social media profile these days, but I get the sense most of the players are excited by it."

He says he didn't really have a thought as to which tribe would win. "In a way it [Brains versus Brawn] was a false division. It allows for a good narrative. But you always need a level of smarts to navigate this game."

These guys and gals would certainly agree:

BRAINS

NSW: Cara, real estate agent; George, public servant; Hayley, pain researcher; Joey, head of partnerships; Laura, environmental advocate; Wai, author.

Victoria: Gavin, ex-pro cyclist; Phil, artist.

Queensland: Georgia, forensic psychologist; Mitch, doctor; Rachel, teacher and businesswoman.

Northern Territory: Andrew, survival expert.

BRAWN

NSW: Benny, entrepreneur; Daini, personal trainer; Dani, corrections officer; Shannon, model.

Queensland: Chelsea, MMA fighter; Gerald, champion wood chopper; Janelle, cleaner; Simon, carpenter.

South Australia: Gavin, AFL legend.

Western Australia: Emmet, health coach; Flick, professional big wave surfer; Kez, bodybuilder.

At each Tribal Council, both tribes must vote out one of their own to keep themselves in the game. Will the Brains or the Brawn triumph? Who will be this season's Sole Survivor?