Lara de Matos

Dear Dave,

You flicked, you flacked, you flopped, you flipped. Your age and ostensibly unfit physique immediately positioned you as an outcast and it appeared you did your utmost to live up to that title.

Be that as it may, we found ourselves rooting for you, the proverbial underdog. You became something of a poster child for anyone who had ever been told they were too old, too inexperienced, insufficiently savvy, not sought-after enough, or outright not comely enough to make the cut.

But as the series wore on, we watched you sway whichever way the wind blew, with seemingly no strategy to speak of. Your tribe mates took notice, too. By your own admission, you swiftly descended from “underdog” to “runt of the litter”.

Yet still, you continued to flip and flop, thereby cementing your reputation as the guy whose vote could always be bought by whoever found themselves top of the food chain.

There were moments when we felt your desperation and found ourselves sending you big balls of “here’s a hug” energy. At times, we simply wanted to slap you. To say you would not be winning any Mr Congeniality awards would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Even at the height of our irritation, however, a pestering voice in our heads kept saying: “Wouldn’t it be something if this old toppie (your words, not ours) actually went on to win it?”

You didn’t. But boy, oh boy, you certainly came close enough to smell victory. And you made it to the Top 4 – beating out the competitor you dubbed the “Vitruvian Man” in the process! Despite him having “his own personal manager – called Corne Krige” or the fact that “the only way I would ever have a six-pack like his is if I tattooed it on!”

Yes, you were little David to Zavion’s Goliath and his social skills may very well have been such that “he could sell a sack as a wedding dress and convince the bride she looks like Coco Chanel.”

Nevertheless, you still managed to outwit, outplay and outlast The Great Z, even if you stood directly behind him in the firing line.

“Lekker!” comes your naughty response down the phoneline. And I swear I can sense your caterpillar eyebrows furiously squirming with glee.

It is indeed difficult to step on to the island with any sort of blueprint in hand, since it’s ultimately the people you play against who will determine how far you get in the game.

Perhaps you weren’t the most popular, the most agile or the prettiest person to look at (like ol’ Genevieve, whom you refer to as “the bijoux of the group, a real little spumante” – and, incidentally, the only player you say you feel badly about betraying). And okay, you didn’t have a strategy to speak of either.

For all we – or you! – know, this in and of itself, may have inadvertently become your action plan.

It’s unlikely you’ll ever have a second shot in life at trying to secure the title of “Ultimate Survivor”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the experience alone hasn’t left you a changed man.

For one thing, you met “two of the weirdest people on the planet – Shane and Marian”; you stuck it out almost to the end, in defiance of all the odds and the pain you found yourself in under the hot, beating sun thanks to a scar caused by lip cancer; you “have so much more respect for myself because I did what I never expected to do”; and lest we forget, you got to shower – naked – with Graham.

Yes, you will forever go down in Survivor history as the adopted bastard child. But a beloved one, nonetheless. And hey, at least you can rest assured your “chirping” skills are still intact and, if all else fails, there’s always “my horses and their opulent owners” to keep you company. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Fare thee well.

From your friend in television critique, Lara.