Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

So how’s everybody doing? Here’s hoping everybody is safe and optimistic during these uncertain times. As for me? Well, I’m great if you consider that – so far at least – My family and myself have managed to stay healthy and we’re all just hanging in there. But ask me how I’m doing when it comes to Survivor? My answer would be: NOT GOOD. Not good at all. Tonight was one of the most disappointing, frustrating and devastating night’s of watching Survivor that I’ve experienced in a long, long time…maybe as far back as I can remember. As with everything else going on in the world, things with Survivor are simply not going the way that I want them to, and I’m losing faith that things are going to turn around.

Slow and steady? That strategy didn’t work too well during tonight’s episode, not on The Edge and definitely not in the game…well, except maybe during the Immunity Challenge. But those that acted quick and looked to make bold moves benefited this week, where others did not.

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 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

Tonight’s Episode 7 not only marks the “more-than-halfway” through Season 40 point in the show, but it marked the final nail in the coffin of the “old-schoolers” on Winners At War. The purge is complete, with Yul – winner of Survivor: Cook Islands and my ALL-TIME favorite Survivor player – being the last remaining old-schooler to have been sent to the Edge. So this is very personal for me…I was rooting for Yul through and through and it was harder than I ever imagined it would be to see his torch snuffed for the first time in his Survivor career. And yes of course, you’re thinking, “What about The Edge of Extinction?” Yes, I know that one – maybe two – of these old-schoolers may still make it back into the game and still has a chance to win, but this is not the way I imagined this season playing out. It’s not the way I think ANY of us wanted it to be. It’s been a fascinating season overall – and a great diversion from the outside world – and taking NOTHING away from the amazing cast (and I mean that sincerely), but pretty much every single person I was excited to see play this season has now been voted out of the game. But it gets worse.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

Yes, “Queen” Sandra shocked us at the beginning of the episode when she decided to raise the white flag and end her time not only on this season, but on her famed career. She was the first two-time winner of Survivor, winning in her first two tries…a fete that NO other player has yet to accomplish (until the end of this season?). It’s made fun of a lot, but her “anyone but me” strategy was more than just shrugging her shoulders and “going with the flow,” she subtly influenced a lot of what happened around her. In fact, lying has been a part of the game since the very beginning, however I think Sandra can take responsibility for creating the true Survivor “fib,” a lie that she would invent out of thin air just to get the target off of herself. As Tyson stated in an interview this pre-season, she can also be credited as the first to create lies dealing with things outside the game, little lies about pre-existing alliances or happenings outside the game that couldn’t really be proven false until afterwards (something she apparently did with great success heading into Heroes vs. Villains). Sandra is one of two Survivors to have a statue built, and if nothing else, a recent article showed that the majority of OTHER Survivor winners this season call her the greatest winner of all-time, and she’s one of the faces of the game and will be until the end of time.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

But her reign is now over. Haters can commence celebrating. And I – a staunch Sandra super-fan and massive supporter of the idea that she is the all-time greatest winner based on her two-winning seasons – am done defending her. Because it’s official: Queen Sandra, two-time winner of Survivor, is now a Survivor quitter. And yes, this is quitting. I appreciate and respect Sandra’s decision, and her directness to the bitter end. But quitting Survivor is not something you want on your resumé when people are discussing the “best” that ever have played. She may have been completely right to think that, given the fact that she is terrible at challenges (her words), and all of the other reasons she gave on the episode, that it was the right time to bow out. And in her mind, she is convinced to this very day that the “Queen stays Queen.” Well Sandra my dear, I have bad news. There are now SEVERAL open paths for other women this season to take ownership of the throne. If Denise goes to the end and wins this thing? Queen. If Kim wins? Queen. And even if she keeps her self-proclaimed title of “Queen,” there is NO scenario where her two-win season will hold up next to ANY of these other players’ two-win season after Winners at War ends. In other words, Sandra will NOT be considered the best winner in anyone’s book. Including, sadly, mine.

But it didn’t have to be that way Sandra! Had she stuck it out, had she just stayed around at The Edge…even if she would have failed miserably at the challenges to get back into the “game,” she would have shown her dedication to her own legacy, a legacy that I think now is trashed beyond repair. We never even got closure to the whole story-line dealing with Boston Rob and Sandra‘s time in the game as mentors last season, and how Rob supposedly lied to her about his involvement this season.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

Look, those that “hated” Sandra already are probably jumping up and down at the notion that she bowed out the way she did. But I think it would have meant a lot for her supporters, her fan-base, had she stuck it out. When you add this quit up to all of the challenges that she sat out this season, and I think it’s fair to say that Sandra was just tired. Tired of playing Survivor. She definitely has every right to the leave the game the way she did, on her terms, but in this very same episode we saw a guy like Ethan struggling with his ability to stay in the game. She didn’t even wait until the next morning to make a clear-headed decision, she was just like, peace out everybody! I guess it does come down to Heroes and Villains, and with Ethan and Sandra, I guess we saw how both a Hero and a Villain cope with losing.

So yeah, I’m sort of pissed. Sandra shouldn’t have gone out like that, but ultimately I admit it’s not all that surprising that she did. But to then lose Yul in the same ep? Not cool, Survivor. Not cool.

Shock and disappointment from Sandra quitting? Check. Devastation over watching Yul have his torch snuffed? Check. Now to the frustration this episode brought, in the form of the ongoing relationship drama between Michele and Wendell.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

It’s gone from awkward to annoying between the two of them, and I don’t claim to have any inkling of information as to what happened between the two of them outside of the game. But it’s evident from this season and how the editing is going at least, that Michele clearly still has feelings for Wendell. She may have been burned by him outside the game, but it’s becoming ridiculous within the game. Hold up, she gave Wendell one of her Fire Tokens? This wasn’t clearly explained but seemed to be just more proof of the pull that Wendell has over her. That emotional action by Michele ultimately led to Yul getting voted-out, which makes me even more irritated by it. But the most telling part for me was Michele’s reaction after Yul went home, when she turned to Wendell and told him “I like watching you shake in your boots a little bit,” or whatever she said. Michele seems smitten with Wendell. And it’s a bit of a let-down to watch Michele fawn over him. It’s also a bit disappointing to watch Wendell get this “cocky,” villainous edit, when he was a cool, calm hero during his winning season.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

A word on Michele Fitzgerald: Her arc this season is plainly all about her self-doubt over “not being a deserving winner” of her original season. And while I think the argument is a fair one to have based on who she sat next to during her season (Aubry and Tai), I think there is a major difference between calling her win “undeserving” and “less deserving.” You may think that Aubry or Tai should have won, but Michele was NOT a floater or an “undeserving” winner at all. Not one bit. In fact, she had a pretty great social game and was overall a very sincere player (that sort of attribute used to make players popular…think Colby or Tom Westman). So it’s been great to watch Michele come out swinging trying to prove herself this season, but watching her seemingly toxic attraction to Wendell play-out isn’t doing her legacy any favors. She has now had multiple chances to stick it to Wendell, and to show him, the others and the world that she isn’t going to be played like that, but time and time again she’s now shown us that – so far at least – she’s not been able to escape his charms.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

Shifting to The Edge for a moment, you have just got to love everything about Boston Rob. For those newer players that wonder what all the hype is about this guy? What he did tonight was vintage Boston Rob and why he’s the biggest legend the game will ever see. Rob now in possession of 3 Fire Tokens suddenly puts him at a greater advantage to be the one that returns to the game. He’s going to have lots of tough competition – the toughest of his Survivor career – just to get back into the game, but imagine if he were to return to the game with an Idol, something he now has the currency to purchase with his acquired Fire Tokens? The Edge of Extinction is still the game (Sandra!!!), and Rob is still playing it…fast and hard.

On that note, contrary to Jeff Probst‘s notion that the game of Survivor has just become too complicated and too “fast” for older players, I think it’s something else completely, which I’ve noted in the past. For sure, the game evolves and the newer players have less adjusting to do. But I think the real reason behind the demise of the old school was not the speed of the game, but simply the reputations and legacies of these older players. The newer players idolize them, heck, Nick admitted Parvati was his high school crush. They grew up and fell in love with Survivor because of these legendary names. I think that existing relationship played a big part, but also existing reputations. It’ll be interesting now to watch the game enter into the merge phase next week, with all of these new-schoolers clashing together, without any of the big legends standing in the way of their own legacies-in-the-making.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

Of all of the remaining “new school” players, I think Tony comes in with the biggest reputation and target on his back. After him, maybe Sarah seems the scariest. But other than this Cops-R-Us duo, you’re looking at a great mix of winners in their own right, and a really wide spectrum of styles, strengths and approaches to the game. While I’m devastated that Yul is now out of the game – and equally devastated that Sandra won’t even be on the jury this season! – I’m super-excited for what is still to come, and to see who ends up emerging as the “greatest of all-time.” At this point, with Sandra out of the way completely, I think it’s fair to say that the stakes for Winners At War have never been greater: The winner of this season WILL become the greatest winner that ever played the game. Period.

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. Not to beat a dead horse, but Sandra‘s legacy took a fatal blow this week when she quit the game. I don’t think Yul‘s legacy was affected too much, if at all, by his vote-out…he was the longest-lasting old-schooler after all, and hes’ such a likable dude that nobody is going to knock him…for having no outside relationships, he did quite well, and with The Edge, he still has a chance to add some more to his story.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

Episode Take-Away: Frustration, disappointment and devastation reigned supreme for me this week. I did not like how Sandra left the game (if you haven’t been able to tell by now) and I was crushed that Yul was voted out, when the target didn’t originally appear to even be on him. Michele‘s roller-coaster ride with Wendell is what ultimately did Yul in…his elaborate plot to get Wendell’s Fire Tokens – an idea that he only hatched based on the fact that Michele stated it as a problem to Yul! – ended up being too much for Nick to handle. Much like Nick did his winning season, he is pulling strings and making very strategic moves, all the while slipping further and further into the game.

Also something to watch from this episode, is the apparent “Final Two” deal between Kim and Denise, with Jeremy rounding out a “Final Three”…the continuing abrasion between Adam and Ben…and the planted seed this week that showed how Tony still seems to have a huge target on his back.

So who is looking good heading into next week’s merge? Consider this: Sophie was shown to be tight with Kim, and Kim is now in a super-tight alliance with Jeremy and Denise. Sophie is also aligned with Sarah. Between these five – Sophie, Kim, Jeremy, Denise and Sarah – they have an Immunity Idol, a “steal a vote” advantage and Jeremy’s “skip Tribal Council” advantage. Add in that Tony is closely aligned with Sarah, that could give them six…and with just 11 players left “in the game,” that gives them the numbers over the remaining jumble of Michele, Wendell, Nick, Adam and Ben.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New
“Yul Mastermind”



Natalie: 4 FT (Fire Tokens)

Boston Rob: 3 FT

Michele: 3 FT

Tyson: 2 FT

Nick: 2 FT

Wendell: 2 FT

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

Denise: 1 FT

Sarah: 1 FT, a “Steal a Vote” Advantage

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

Kim, Tony, Adam, Ben, Ethan, Amber, Danni: 1 FT

Parvati: 0 FT

Yul: 0 FT

Sandra: Out of the Game

Voted Out This Week: Yul

Won Immunity Challenge: Green Tribe, Red Tribe

Vote: No advantages or Idols played. 3 – Yul (Wendell, Nick, Michele), 1 – Wendell (Yul).  Yul gave one Fire Token to Sophie and one to Sarah.

Survivor: Winners At War Episode 7 Recap: Out With The Old, In With The New

Next Week’s Episode: Drop your buffs! We’re merging next week, and from the looks of the preview, there is no clear consensus on who the target is. And – confirmed by Jeff Probst on – next week WILL also feature the first “Get Back In the Game” challenge of the season!

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 with the current coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been putting movie reviews on hold, mainly since none are being released in theaters. In the meantime however, I encourage you to check out my past 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]