Every single week on Survivor: Winners At War, it feels like a championship heavyweight fight. Well of course it does…this season features nothing but champions, and each week’s vote-out feels like a knock-out punch. As excited as I am to watch this season each and every week to see some of the best-of-the-best play the game head-to-head, there’s a sense of dread that comes in knowing that one of these favorites is going to go home. Taken a step further, NINETEEN of these champions are going to be down for the count when all is said and done at season’s end. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s an exhilarating rush of adrenaline knowing that these contestants are going to leave it all out in the ring.
Continuing the boxing analogy, this week’s episode featured not one but two underdog, come-from-behind miracles that would have made Rocky Balboa proud. It also – if my Survivor-senses are serving me proper – contained a LOT of foreshadowing of what is to come down the stretch as Season 40 heads towards the final bell.
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.
CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON FOR MORE, AND THIS IS YOUR LAST *SPOILER* WARNING!
Tonight’s episode began as most episodes of Survivor do, shedding a bit of light on the fall-out following a tumultuous Tribal Council. In this case, we got to see the affect of last week’s events as they relate to Adam, the previous winner of Gen-X vs Millennials who had seemingly been in a good position before his game was blown up from all sides last week. We saw him this week kissing lots of ass, and trying to make amends for his “hubris” getting the better of him. Anyone rooting for Adam can breathe somewhat easier knowing that he has made the first milestone of the season – next week’s tribe swap – so his game has a chance to rebound. But it’s unlikely that any of his previous tribe will forget the kind of player he revealed himself to be this season.
Because of the looming tribe swap next week, we’ll never get to see if Boston Rob and Parvati would have been able to work their magic, but damn are they good. In fairness – and as much as I love her – the credit for this week’s move goes mostly to Boston Rob though. In a tactic used far to infrequently in a game where you are meant to “outwit,” Rob made up a flat-out lie about Adam that was based on enough of a kernel of truth that Jeremy and his alliance seemed to buy it. Would Adam have gone home before Parvati or Rob? Still unlikely. But it’s quite incredible and a weekly treat for us to watch the likes of Boston Rob play the game of Survivor. He’s simply got a knack for this game and is one of the best that ever, or will ever, play.
Speaking of the “best” that has ever played, anyone who has read my stuff for any length of time knows what I think about “Queen” Sandra…that, by default, she’s the greatest player in the game’s history, an opinion that is rooted in statistics. See, for all of you who want to hate, two is larger than one, and that’s how many wins and millions of dollars Sandra has earned from this game in comparison to every other winner. Until the end of this season, where there finally WILL be another two-time winner (or if Sandra wins a third time there’s no debate anymore…), Sandra reigns supreme and is in a league of her own. Why am I gushing about Sandra…again? Because I’m about to keep it real and – as this week’s episode showed – I think Sandra is showing some MAJOR strategic weaknesses this season that make it IMPOSSIBLE for her to win this game.
Why? Well, Sandra‘s whole “Queen” schtick I don’t think holds much water with this group of players. When they rename the sit-out bench the “Sandra sit-out bench,” that might be cute and funny but I don’t think it earns her any sort of respect among this group of champion players. Add to that, her “anyone but me” strategy has proven to be one of the best strategies the game has ever seen – see previous paragraph – but is Sandra really trying to apply her same-old tried-and-true strategy of “anyone but me” to this group? Not only is it predictable and shows her inability to adapt, but I once again don’t believe it’s going to gain even an ounce of respect, even if Sandra somehow did manage to sit at Final Tribal Council. Not in a season where we have players taking 20 trips up a mountain and back to get firewood to earn a Fire Token, digging deeper than what is even conceivable to prove something to themselves and to the fans watching. Honestly, as much as I love Sandra, watching that entire AMAZING “Ethan on the Edge” segment in the same episode as watching Sandra gloat about sitting out yet another physical challenge, just put into perspective how dated her approach to the game is. If Sandra is really the Queen and wants to prove herself as the “greatest” that ever was, she would be approaching the game humbly the way that Michele has thus far, not resting on her past laurels but wanting to prove herself to the Survivor world at large.
Circling back to Parvati for a quick sec, has she…lost some of that fire? The fire that made her one of the deadliest Survivor players in the game’s history? It could very easily be blamed on the editing, but thus far Parvati has not been shown doing much other than riding Boston Rob‘s coattails. She has said in confessionals that she “isn’t going to go down without a fight,” but we haven’t been shown her doing anything to help her own game. Perhaps the mere fact that Rob has aligned with her at all is something she should be given strategic credit for? She swooned Russell Hantz during Heroes vs. Villains to the point that he played an Idol on her. And now she’s got her hooks in Rob…is perhaps one way to interpret it? We definitely know what Parv is capable of, we just haven’t seen much yet from her to hang our hats on.
We’ve come this far, we might as well discuss Tyson. Coming into the game as one of the biggest threats and personas in the show’s history, I knew he’d have a tough time going deep, and I was even more nervous when they featured him prominently during the episode. By the way, I think he was 100% right with his read on the game, that with him out of the way, people like Sandra and Tony were exposed. Tony’s gut – you know, the thing that led him to his winning season – seemed to realize that it was probably better for his game to vote out Nick over Tyson, yet it was nearly unanimously a Tyson vote. We’ll have to wait and see next week what Tony’s rationale was, and why the tribe ultimately decided to vote-out Tyson over Nick.
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. As far as legacies go, I don’t think Tyson‘s takes much of a hit. Yes, his winning season was one of the more impressive performances among winners, but he already has on his resumé the biggest – well 2nd biggest (sorry Erik Reichenbach!) – blunder in Survivor history when he basically got himself voted-out of Heroes vs. Villains. He had lost his first season (Tocantins) before finally winning during his third. And because of his big name in the show’s lore, I don’t think anyone will knock him for getting voted-out of Winners At War so early. Elsewhere however, I think that it should be pointed out that Michele‘s legacy is on the up-and-up after this week. After confessing to Boston Rob that her win was “controversial,” and implying she had lots to prove, Rob – Boston Rob himself, the Rob-father, He That Shall Be Known As Rob From Boston – gave her a bona fide Survivor stamp of approval when he told her “a win is a win. End of story.” If Rob approves, we all should. Now, as the man said, let’s all move along.
And if it can ever be over-stated, the word “inspiring” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what it’s like to watch Ethan. This man was a Survivor winner, a Survivor hero, and just a survivor in general. He’s awe-inspiring and an example for all humanity, and even saying that doesn’t feel like it’s quite doing him justice. If we could all just bottle up even an ounce of what fuels Ethan, this world would be an exceptional place.
A parting “kudos” to Natalie as well, whose legacy took a hit when she was the first person voted-off, but she absolutely CRUSHED it again this week on The Edge. Now with FOUR Fire Tokens and an absolute physical beast, she has positioned herself as the absolute front-runner to return to the game…and the rest of these winners better hope they don’t have to go up against her in individual challenges, or she might just will her way to the end. Now that’s a winning story that nobody would argue with.
This week, be sure to check out new art from Erik Reichenbach below…this special print is also available in black-and-white so that you can fill in the colors to your liking!
Episode Take-Away: I’m loving me Survivor more than ever right now, and that giddy feeling has re-entered my life, where I find myself buzzing with excitement for each week’s new episode. It’s sad to see someone get voted-out each week, but man it’s so cool to watch all of these greats.
Of them all, something is striking me with two players in particular, one from each tribe: Jeremy and Sophie. They’re cool, calm, collected and in control of their games so far. And, we keep getting shots of them as they silently glare at the shenanigans going on around them. I feel great about their games, but of course, that was before next week’s tribe swap, so never mind…
FIRE TOKEN/ADVANTAGE TALLY
Natalie: 4 FT (Fire Tokens)
Boston Rob: 2 FT
Denise: 2 FT, two-halves of an Immunity Idol
Parvati: 2 FT
Nick: 2 FT
Jeremy: 1 FT, 1 “leave Tribal before it begins” advantage
Ethan: 1 FT
Amber: 1 FT
Danni: 1 FT
Everybody else: 1 FT
Sandra: 0 FT, 1 Immunity Idol (has this expired yet? It’s unclear)
Sarah: 0 FT, a “Steal a Vote” Advantage
Tyson: 0 FT
Voted Out This Week: Tyson
Won Immunity Challenge: Blue Tribe
Vote: No advantages or Idols played. 7 – Tyson (Yul, Sophie, Wendell, Sandra, Tony, Sarah, Kim), 1 – Kim (Nick), 1 – Nick (Tyson)
Next Week’s Episode: Drop your buffs! The first major shake-up is happening next week with the game’s first tribe swap! Boston Rob admits he hates this portion of the game but is hoping the cards fall in his favor, and Michele is feeling uncomfortable on her new tribe because it contains…her ex-boyfriend??? If you’re wondering (like I was) who this might have been, well, there’s only Nick, Yul, Wendell and Tony as possible suspects…I’m hearing elsewhere that it’s Wendell? We’ll find out soon enough!
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, www.MovieShowPlus.com.) 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.
TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS EPISODE? WHO DO YOU THINK BENEFITS MOST FROM THE UPCOMING TRIBE SWAP? AND DID THEY MAKE A MISTAKE IN NOT VOTING OUT NICK?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]