Survivor star’s heartbreaking decision
Australian Survivor star Luke Toki has fallen just short of the finish line, unanimously voted out by his three remaining tribemates in Monday night's penultimate episode of the season.
Toki has been the runaway favourite among this season's Survivor contestants, attracting 70% of votes in a recent news.com.au reader poll asking who should win the game (Pia Miranda came a distant second with 15%).
A masterful game player with a cheeky sense of humour, Toki is also a father of three young children, each of whom lives with specific challenges. His two boys are both on the autism spectrum, while baby Madeline, born just six weeks before Survivor started filming, has cystic fibrosis.
But this super dad's popularity among the public did not always extend to his fellow contestants, who viewed him as the game's biggest remaining threat.
"He has the charisma, he has the resume, he has this backstory - and to top it all off, he's played far and away the best game," said Harry early in Monday's episode, admitting that his only chance to get to the final three lay in defeating Luke at the next immunity challenge.
And win Harry did - devastating Luke, who knew it would now take a miracle for him to make it to the final.
A player to the end, Luke knew Harry and Baden would both vote for him, so made a desperate pitch to sole remaining ally Pia as tribal council approached.
As he explained, if both he and Pia voted for Baden, it would force he and Baden to a fire-making tie-break - a challenge Luke would undoubtedly win, keeping him in the game.
Pia wept as she promised she'd consider his proposal carefully. "I really wanted you to win the money if I didn't … cos I know that you need it," she said.
Privately, Pia admitted she had to decide between voting with her heart - giving Luke a lifeline - or voting with her head - getting rid of the game's best player.
At tribal council, Luke laid out the plan he'd concocted, telling host Jonathan LaPaglia that it would only work with Pia's participation.
"If Pia doesn't want to vote that way, that's fine too. Don't think that you need to save me for any reason," he told her. "I'll take it on the chin if she wants to go with the boys …. But if she goes with me, I'll be forever grateful."
Pia broke down as LaPaglia noted that the pitch was "a lot to digest."
"I know how much the money would mean to Luke - to know that that rests on my shoulders is really tough," she said. "There's a lot for me to think about, and I've been thinking all day. Tonight, my head and my heart are in a complete mess and I feel really stressed out."
"Potentially what I write down tonight will change Luke's life. that's a lot of responsibility. You're taking away a life-changing opportunity."
Pia looks heartbroken after casting her vote for Luke, once more breaking down as it was announced he was leaving. With a reassuring hug, his parting words to her: "That's alright … go in there and smash it."
With Pia, Harry and Baden the top three, this season of Australian Survivor concludes with Tuesday night's finale, 7:30pm on Ten.