Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

It seems sort of odd focusing on, obsessing over and arguing about a Reality TV show on a day like today. This coronavirus news and how it’s impacting our lives, our country, our world is simply overwhelming and forces us to keep our emotions in perspective…and as we learned just hours ago (first reported by, this virus has now also affected our favorite show, Survivor. In case you haven’t heard, just as production was about to start in Fiji, Jeff Probst informed the cast and crew of the upcoming 41st and 42nd seasons that production on the show would be delayed at least until mid-May because of the global coronavirus pandemic (more on this in a bit). It’s a scary time, that’s for sure.

But on the other hand, watching tonight’s episode was a much-needed diversion from reality. It really felt good to lose myself in the show, especially today. So I hope this article will provide some level of escape for you too, for everyone reading this. Because really, all we can do is play with the cards we’ve been dealt…a lesson that was prevalent in many ways during tonight’s “tribe swap” episode.

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 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

So you may be asking yourself: Why would they suspend production of Survivor, wouldn’t they be pretty safe given that they are all out on a remote island? Well, I urge you all to read Dalton‘s article on (after this article of course). In it, there’s an actual letter from Jeff Probst to his crew and the reasons for the delay on Seasons 41 and 42 (which were planned to be shot back-to-back, as they’ve done for the last several years) were spelled out. Basically, the Survivor crew is made up of over 400 individuals who fly in from all over the world, so even though the coronavirus hasn’t been confirmed in Fiji, the risk of bringing all of these people in from all over the place was simply too high. It sounded hopeful that they’d be able to still produce the back-to-back seasons, just a bit later than they had intended, but with the information on this virus changing each and every day, only time will tell what will happen. Season 41 – planned to air in Fall of 2020, and Season 42 – planned for Spring 2021 – are still on pace for their scheduled air-dates even with the production delay, unless things are pushed back even further…so stay tuned.

And speaking of needing to learn to play with the cards we’ve been dealt, how about that emotional opening sequence with Yul? His good friend and original cast-mate from Survivor: Cook Islands, Jonathan Penner, is one of the most decent dudes you’ll ever come across, and a three-time Survivor All-Star by anyone’s definition. He has been very open with his wife Stacy‘s battle with ALS, and we got a first-hand look, through Yul’s eyes, when he got quite emotional at camp just thinking about his friend Penner. I just love Yul…for those that remember him and watched him play, he’s one of the all-around great-guys and great players the game has ever had, and it’s been so rewarding to get to see him again. And his emotion was pure and authentic…this wasn’t Yul trying to gain sympathy from his tribe-mates for some sort of in-game strategy.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

No, Yul was really hurting for his friend, but kudos to Probst and the rest of the Survivor team for choosing to include this vulnerable moment on the show. Survivor is one big family – a dysfunctional one at times, yes – but by-and-large they take care of their own and it was very bold to make this a part of the show. It not only brought attention to a real-life survivor and raised awareness about a terrible disease, but it played into this season’s underlying theme of past connections among all of these competing players.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

Green Tribe (Boston Rob, Ben, Adam, Sarah, Sophie). Somehow segueing from talking about coronavirus and ALS, I’ll attempt to now talk about the game of Survivor. We lost a BIGGIE tonight, no doubt, as the Rob-Father himself, Boston Rob, finally saw his torch get snuffed. He’s a legendary player, with a legendary-sized target on his back and we all knew that it would be an incredible uphill fight for him to go far into this season, but tonight also showed how, no matter how good a player you are, there is always an element of luck when it comes to the game. The “tribe swap” is always a milestone marker in the game, a turning point where it’s easy to figure out who got lucky and who didn’t. Boston Rob did NOT get lucky, much like what he described happening to him during his original season, Survivor: Marquesas. Although unlike that season, Rob was not in any position of power prior to the swap.

Rob this season really needed the Survivor Gods to help him out with a good draw of a new tribe, but perhaps the Survivor Gods were out to make Rob pay…after all, they did build a huge Idol of Rob’s face last season. Perhaps this did not please said Gods? At any rate, Rob now joins his ousted wife, Amber, on the Edge of Extinction, and things don’t look great for either of their futures in the game.

As Rob alluded to when trying to hunt for an Idol without a clue, he just hasn’t been able to catch up to the “new school” way of playing the game. He even admitted that he underestimated the other players this season, something he vowed wouldn’t happen again. But when you’re playing with this caliber of player, you just can’t count on getting a second-chance. He showed flashes of brilliance this season…and showed that he deserves “legend” status for how he plays the game. But it wasn’t enough…not with this group. And while his “buddy system” strategy might have worked on lesser players, it really was his only move. He was a goner, a sitting duck at his last tribe and needed this swap to put him in a better position…he couldn’t have been put in a worse one. But Rob tried to do what he could, and probably did the only thing he could have done. Sophie made it clear she had no desire to work with Rob. Rob was the biggest threat of the five. Without an Idol, Rob simply wasn’t dealt a winning hand.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

As for the others, Sarah and Sophie played things marvelously, and both are major threats in this game…and it’s fun to watch them work. Both are over-performing, I think, based on where people might have thought they rank coming into this season, but not only did they just take down Goliath himself, Boston Rob, they did so managing not to use Sarah’s “steal-a-vote” power nor Sophie’s newly found Immunity Idol. And with Ben and Adam still an uneasy team, should this tribe go to Tribal Council again, you would think that either of them would flip on the other quite quickly…so Sarah and Sophie seem to have total control of their tribe for now.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

Red Tribe (Tony, Sandra, Jeremy, Kim, Denise). The big development on the newly formed Red Tribe this episode was the resurgence of Kim’s game. Known coming into this game as one of the greatest winners of all-time, Kim has struggled and was nearly voted-out early. But tonight, Kim is the perfect example of someone whose game benefited GREATLY due to the tribe swap. She’s been given options, coming over with former tribe-mates Sandra and Tony – two massive threats – but clicking much more with Jeremy and Denise. You may or may not remember, but Kim and Jeremy were both in that “poker alliance” outside the game, so they definitely have an inherent existing bond. And Kim seemed to find “her person” in Denise, whom she mentioned shares a similar style of game-play. Kim seems more likely to take out Sandra or Tony than align with them, but she has options…and power, for the time being at least, and it’s great to see.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

Blue Tribe (Parvati, Nick, Yul, Michele, Wendell). This was the most Parvati-like that Parvati has been the entire game so far, no? It was great to see her feel like she was “being herself,” at least as a contestant on the show. You could see her working her social magic on both Yul and Nick, so it seems that the tribe swap for her, at the very least, has possibly injected her game with a bit of hope and energy. But the main story here this week was the uncomfortable reuniting of Michele and Wendell who briefly “were kicking it together” for a while sometime after both of their winning seasons. Their squeamishness around one another was our entertainment, and I thought it was pretty hilarious to watch them interact, as I wondered and imagined exactly what might have happened between the two of them off-island that went bad. It seems unlikely they’ll pair up in-game, even though it seems like Michele was more willing to do so than Wendell. All of the above noted, Michele and Parvati still find themselves in the majority underneath a very tight three-person alliance, but we’ll have to see how things progress moving forward.

Beyond the newly formed tribes, this was the first episode that we did not get a look at The Edge of Extinction…look for that to change next week for sure when Rob and Amber reunite…they’re one or two players shy of getting their old poker group back together on The Edge!

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

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. Come on, are you kidding? Boston Rob‘s name is already etched in greatness, and even though he was taken out with a unanimous vote, unceremoniously, this in no way will tarnish his overall legacy. On the flip of this though, many players still in the game increased theirs: Sophie and Sarah mainly. We’re nearing the merge and also what is sure to be the first of two “get back into the game from the Edge” challenges, so as players get deeper and deeper into the game, I think we’re going to start to see players’ legacies only get stronger, not weaker, throughout the rest of the course of this season.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?
“Cloudy With A Chance of Boston Rob”

Episode Take-Away: Like a low-scoring baseball game, I found it fascinating to watch the strategy with the Green Tribe, despite them just sitting around and doing nothing. It was unlike any other lead-up to Tribal Council that we’ve ever seen, but it was riveting. Boston Rob is good at what he does, but ultimately he underestimated his opponents and it cost him. So on one hand, this episode might have been taken as “uneventful,” but I found myself emerged in the “quiet” strategy that played out. I was also excited to see the tribe swap and overall I like the mix it provided…although with two players being sent to the Edge next week, things are about to get very real very fast.


Natalie: 4 FT (Fire Tokens)

Parvati: 4 FT

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

Nick: 2 FT

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

Sophie: 1 FT, two-halves of an Immunity Idol

Kim, Tony, Adam, Ben, Yul, Michele, Wendell, Ethan, Amber, Danni: 1 FT

Boston Rob: 0 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: Boston Rob

Won Immunity Challenge: Blue Tribe (1st place), Red Tribe (2nd Place)

Vote: No advantages or Idols played. 4 – Boston Rob (Sarah, Sophie, Ben, Adam), 1 – Sarah (Boston Rob).  Boston Rob bequeathed his two Fire Tokens to Parvati.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 5 Recap: New Season, Who Dis?

Next Week’s Episode: Ben and Adam celebrate that the “wicked witch is dead” and look to be overjoyed that the Rob-Father has been taken out. But don’t get too happy guys, next week’s Immunity Challenge will send BOTH losing Tribes to Tribal Council where each tribe will vote someone out of the game.

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]