Survivor: Winners At War Episode 3 Recap: Now You’re Playing With Power

What started as an All-Star, all-winners season of Survivor has morphed into something even much more fascinating through three episodes. “Survivor: Winners At War” could have easily been called “Survivor: Old School vs. New School,” as much of what we has witnessed thus far seems to focus on the power struggle between those that have helped shape the game in recent seasons versus those that defined the game to begin with. It’s riveting, and at times frustrating TV, and I’d say that after just nine days in the game, one side seems to be pulling ahead.

As I do at the beginning of every recap, please heed the following: Remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s episode of Survivor: Winners at War. If you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap. It is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.


Survivor: Winners At War Episode 3 Recap: Now You’re Playing With Power

No! Not Ethan! With four former winners now having been sent to the Edge of Extinction, Ethan becomes the third bona fide “old schooler” to join the ranks. Both Ethan (on “Survivor: All-Stars”) and Amber (on her original season, “Survivor: The Australian Outback”) have had their torches snuffed before, despite having winning seasons on their resumé. Danni and Natalie had their torches snuffed for the very first time this season, but only Natalie can be considered a “new school” player. But both in the game and on The Edge, the “new school” is clearly winning out thus far…like…is it any contest? Not only have three “old schoolers” been voted-out, but that one “new schooler” on The Edge – Natalie – has been absolutely dominating this new “bartering” aspect that was introduced this season. And it’s not just the “speed” of the game, it’s that the “new school” just seems to be getting the results.

The biggest question coming out of tonight’s episode is clearly: Why Ethan? If they wanted to “weaken Boston Rob,” like Jeremy said to Michele, then here’s a novel idea: Vote out Boston Rob! Or if they were ultimately NOT going to vote out Adam, then why not “stick to the plan” and vote out Parvati? Surely she’s a much bigger “billboard” target than poor, innocent Ethan?

These are all valid questions, so let’s try to address them. While we didn’t get any direct answers within the episode as to why Boston Rob wasn’t targeted, I think it’s fairly obvious: Rob, more than any other player out there, along with Sandra, will ALWAYS be the biggest target in the game. Like Adam said, the truth of the matter is, there’s a friggin’ statue of Rob out there in Fiji. On a season full of winners, these players like Adam, Jeremy and Michele, are hedging their bets that it is unlikely Rob will be allowed to go too far in the game, let alone win, so why remove the massive targets early? That would just lead to greater risk that they would be exposed as targets. The danger in this of course, is that the longer you leave players like Rob or Parvati in the game, the more likely they’re going to eat  you alive. Still having us viewers knowing that players like Jeremy are aware of how The Edge works and how it feeds new twists into the game in exchange for Fire Tokens, it’s even more mind-boggling that Rob is allowed to remain in the game…his wife is on The Edge making him all the more dangerous!

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 3 Recap: Now You’re Playing With Power

From Adam‘s perspective, I think this was a case of underestimating Boston Rob, and perhaps getting a bit too cocky with his own abilities. Adam HAD to know that he was playing with fire, and that Boston Rob doesn’t like when the game is out of his control. Adam’s game just imploded before our eyes on national TV, going from an amazing spot of power, being closely aligned with Denise, to becoming that “shifty” guy on the tribe who is thought of as playing way too aggressively. And that’s not a good title to hold, when Ben is also on your tribe. Even still, Adam was the one that initiated the whole move against Parvati in the first place, and while the end result did weaken Rob’s core alliance, the fall-out of trying to play Rob will end up costing Adam dearly in the long run.

What was left out of the equation then, was exactly why Jeremy and Michele just didn’t go for Parvati and instead voted for Ethan. It seems like a head-scratching move at first, but I feel the question might again have a fairly obvious answer. Knowing that Amber is on The Edge might make them think that there was a good chance Rob had an Idol of some kind. Pair that with the fact that Parvati pulled off the absolute best Idol-play at Tribal Council in the show’s history. Then factor in that Rob knew the plan was going to be Parvati. If Rob or Parvati DID have an Idol or an advantage, odds are that they would have played it on Rob or Parvati, so Ethan becomes the target…nobody would suspect he’d be the target, and it still fulfills the end goal of weakening Boston Rob’s alliance in the end.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 3 Recap: Now You’re Playing With Power

Most ironically of all, Adam and Rob may end up needing each other more than ever in the short-term, now that Rob is in the clear minority and now that Adam is Public Enemy Number One. And while Jeremy and Michele enter a position of power, you’ve got to love and respect the game that Denise is playing right now. Calm, cool and under-the-radar, on a season where EVERYBODY is on the radar. She’s aligned with the power players, still has the option of working closely with Adam, she has an Idol, and she could easily turn the game on its head should she want to, by bringing in Adam and jumping on-board with Rob and Parvati. It’s not a likely scenario, but Denise has options…and plenty of them.

All of this and we didn’t even get to Tony. You just have to love this dude. From the shark (and his amazing Tony-rendition of the “Baby Shark” song) to his camouflaging of Sarah during her secret night-time mission, we’re all so much better off when he’s on our screens and on this show. He’s a clown, that’s for sure, but oddly enough, these antics are putting him in a better spot than one might give Tony credit for thus far. With bigger fish to fry like Sandra and Tyson, if Tony makes the merge and happens to team up with a desperate Boston Rob and Parvati? OMG one can only hope for such a scenario.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 3 Recap: Now You’re Playing With Power

Legacy Watch: Since the game of Survivor will forever be changed as this season rolls along, I’ve added a new segment where we’ll take a look at whose game legacy’s have taken a hit, and whose have risen, based on the actions of this week’s episode. Clearly, Ethan falls in that “untouchable” legacy category of Survivor winners, and overall players. It’s impossible not to like Ethan and to eternally root for him. He’s battled and defeated cancer, and as he stated at the end of the episode, this guy knows what it feels like to be on and battle back from the edge of extinction, let alone the Edge of Extinction. I was shocked to see him go so early, and I felt he had a lot more game left in him. But in no way is Ethan’s legacy tarnished. If anything this episode, Natalie‘s legacy went up a few ticks, because she is clearly a savvy player who is positioning herself more than anyone else thus far to make her way back into this game.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 3 Recap: Now You’re Playing With Power

Saving Private Zohn (Stay in your Bunker!)


Episode Take-Away: Another solid episode in a spectacular season that makes me pinch myself each and every week thus far. I just can’t believe all of these great players are playing against one another, and each and every week it hurts knowing that someone will be voted out. It will only get harder from here.

In addition to all of the drama between Adam, Rob and their Tribe, this episode gave us a great, exciting Immunity Challenge finish, some great moments (like Sarah and Tony‘s secret mission) and some next level strategy. It also might have planted a few seeds between Sandra and Tyson.

Speaking of Sandra, she was definitely The Queen tonight. I know a lot of my readers strongly dislike Sandra (to put it mildly) but I have always been a huge fan of Sandra’s and defend her “Queen” status. She won twice dude. Until the end of this season, she is the only player ever to have done that. If she wins a third time, debate over. Sandra also sits out of more challenges than nearly any other player in the show’s history, has NEVER once won an individual Immunity Challenge, and yet still has players referring to her as “Queen” during the game. Now that’s royalty!


Natalie: 3 FT (Fire Tokens)

Boston Rob: 2 FT

Denise: 2 FT, two-halves of an Immunity Idol

Parvate: 2 FT

Jeremy: 1 FT, 1 “leave Tribal before it begins” advantage

Everybody else: 1 FT

Sandra: 0 FT, 1 Immunity Idol (expires after 1 more Tribal Councils)

Sarah: 0 FT, a “Steal a Vote” Advantage

Ethan: 0 FT

Amber: 0 FT

Danni: 0 FT

Voted Out This Week: Ethan

Won Immunity Challenge: Red Tribe

Vote: No advantages or Idols played. 4 – Ethan (Ben, Denise, Jeremy, Michele), 3 – Adam (Ethan, Rob, Parvati), 1 – Parvati (Adam)

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 3 Recap: Now You’re Playing With Power

Next Week’s Episode: We know Adam is on the outs, and next week’s preview proves it. Over at the Red Tribe, could Tyson be forming the most unlikeliest of alliances, with Tony and Sandra? And The Edge of Extinction is a brutal place, and next week’s episode will drive that point painfully home.

Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Those that have followed me also know that I am also a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic, and I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews as I am the film critic and Executive Producer of the TV show, “Movie Show Plus,” the #1-rated local program in the Detroit-market (episodes are also available online at the website, As always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.


[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]