Until earlier this week, Henry Nicholson seemed like countless Survivor contestants who have come before him. Young, strong, charming, non-threatening and able to go all the way.
But 25 days into his time on the island, a revelation about the labourer posing as a yoga instructor came to light that fundamentally changed not only how a lot of people saw Nicholson, but also his reasons for being there to begin with.
After a three year battle with pancreatic cancer, Henry’s beloved mum Jenny passed away just six weeks prior to him entering the show – something he decided not to tell any of his tribe members while competing.
“It was a strange way to grieve out there,” Nicholson told Mamamia on Wednesday.
"I think I might have delayed my grief, but grief is a long journey and it's going to be a continual thing... I think it's helped."
Heading to a remote Samoan island with a group of strangers after what would universally be considered one of the hardest experiences of your life isn't something many would sign up to. But for Nicholson, competing on the show was not only honouring one of his mum's greatest wishes for him but also inadvertently helping those he loves the most.
"Now that I'm back, Survivor is something we can all watch together and all remember together," he said.
Listen: Fellow reality TV contestant Georgia Love talks about losing her mum to pancreatic cancer last year. Post continues...
"I am my mum's boy. I am her son and it's great for all of her friends and all of her family to sit down two nights a week and remember her and the family. It brings us together."
When asked about the woman Jenny was, the 26-year-old replied: "She's truly indescribable. She could push through all the bad qualities in a person and make sure she found the good in everyone. She's taught me to look for the magic inside people and realise that everyone's got it, it's just up to us to go find it."
The reason for not telling his fellow tribe members of what he had been through, Nicholson said, was two-fold.
For starters, he said he felt uncomfortable at the prospect of "chucking something like that on them," but there was also the more strategic side to the game; he understood that stories like his are the ones that make people root for you all the way to the end.
They're also the kind of stories that put targets on your back and more likely to be voted out.
"For me, I wanted to be able to play from day one," Nicholson said.
"If I didn't put up that facade and hold back I'd be thinking about my family, who were grieving without me, and not have my head in the game. And I knew that if I didn't go or if I walked out my mum would be looking down and be pissed off, " he added laughing.
The downside to the experience of a lifetime, Nicholson says, was coming home.
"For me, the best part of travelling the world and going on these amazing adventures was always coming back and sharing it with mum, so I knew the hardest part would be coming home and not being able to tell her about the person I became out there and all of the experiences I'd had.
"I'm just happy I'm back here with my family now."
Australian Survivor airs on Sunday and Monday nights at 7.30pm on Channel 10.