She was touted as the stereotypical space case, while he (unwittingly) took on the title of resident bad-boy. But whereas Shona Macdonald had the opportunity to prove there’s more to her than blonde tresses and big smiles, Zan Lang left the game with the odour of haughtiness still hanging over his head.
The way in which he exited Survivor (effectively opting to quit) did little to help his antagonistic image, with his fellow Selatan tribemate, Solly Mathiba, branding him as someone lacking in honour for doing so.
Not that Zan is troubled by such opinions, particularly when they stem from the likes of Solly whom he deems someone “I never got along with from the get-go… He constantly needed to be spoon-fed.” Ironic, given it was also Solly who described Zan as “the baby of the tribe”.
Was the seemingly conceited character we witnessed on screen the authentic Lang, or was it simply a case of clever editing for the sake of interesting television?
“What you saw was definitely not the real Zan,” discloses the car salesman during our tête-à-tête.
“I’m honestly not an arrogant person… people are always going to judge a person if they don’t know them. I used to do the same. But I invite those people who say they don’t like me and who were ranting about me on Twitter to come and sit down with me and they’ll realise, I’m not that arrogant, angry guy.”
Being misunderstood is some- thing he and Shona, from rival tribe Utara, share in common: “People misjudge me all the time. I’m used to it,” reveals the bubbly accounts manager.
“But I’m a lot smarter than people think…” As proven by her duplicitous talents in keeping mum as to the whereabouts – or knowledge of – the immunity idol. Until it all backfired, that is. Badly.
Shona believes it was this realisation of her aptitude for de- ception (and the fact she managed to smuggle fishing hooks in her hat and fishing line in her clothing – not the actions of a ditzy blonde) that raised the Rugrats’ hackles.
“When they found out how well I managed to hide the idol and lie about it, they perceived me as a threat after that,” she says.
Zan, on the other hand, was his own worst enemy. What he believed were his attempts to make life around camp a little more comfortable (fishing for the tribe, offering suggestions on how best to build shelter, the infamous hammock – which, he divulges, was used by other Utara members – “it’s just that a lot of that stuff wasn’t shown”), his fellow castaways mistook for bossiness.
That he placed greater focus on physical, rather than emotional and mental preparation for the game is also something he feels he would do differently, given a second shot at Survivor.
“Now I know exactly what island fever is… When you’re living under those conditions – sleeping on the floor, being bitten by sandflies and mosquitoes all the time, not eating properly – you start to feel like the whole world is against you. And the mind games… When you’re in that state, all it takes is one little push from someone on your tribe and you’re over the edge.”
It’s the same island fever malady which Shona believes contributed to the foolhardiness of her actions, particularly in light of the fact she had an immunity idol within her reach.
“I’ve had sleepless nights about that. I could have prevented going home. But I didn’t expect them (her alliances) to be as angry as they were about the whole thing. And although I’m not usually paranoid, there being no immunity challenge and them reacting the way they did, it made me over-think things. It made me feel I had to do something, where if I’d just stayed back and let things play out, I’d probably still be in the game.”
As for her dear friend Dave… given a choice, he’s wasn’t exactly top of her list of names, in so far as sidekicks were concerned (despite being the only person to give him the time of day initially). Even more so when he grew increasingly “disrespectful, rude, speaking down to me in challenges” – which contributed to her decision to sacrifice him in favour of her newfound Rugrats alliance. Although we all know how that panned out.
On the subject of regret, to borrow from Ol’ Blue Eyes, Zan’s also had a few since returning to home turf.
“Ja, I shouldn’t have pulled out so early. But I was in a totally different mindset when I was on the island. Now I think I should have just put one foot in front of the other and seen how far I could get… Because I do believe I could have been an asset to the tribe.”
Well, Zan, at least you can always say you did it your way.
• Survivor SA: Champions, Sundays on M-Net at 5.30pm.