Survivor: Winners at War – “The Biggest Blindside In Survivor History”

It’s the biggest loved ones visit in the history of Survivor, with so many surprises in store for the former champions. But chaos is never far from the game, as Tribal delivered, again!

This has to be one of my favourite moments in the game, watching the remaining players be gifted with their loved ones right on location, savouring every moment of the warm embrace. But Survivor took it to another level, the boss level, and it’s something we have never seen before!

EPISODE 10 RECAP

Immediately at the top of the episode, the final ten arrive at the Reward Challenge, where Jeff announces that it’s time for some love! With so truly emotional and beautiful reunions, Survivor: Winners at War does a first, bringing in families of loved ones to Fiji instead of only one. Those who visited their Survivor winner are:
Kim‘s husband and their three kids,
Ben‘s wife and their two kids,
Sophie‘s fiance,
Sarah‘s partner and their son,
Denise‘s husband and their daughter,
Nick‘s fiancee,
Tony‘s wife and their two kids,
Michele‘s sister,
Tyson‘s wife, former player Rachel, and one of their daughters,
Jeremy‘s wife, former player Val, and their four kids (including the son Val revealed during the loved ones visit in Cambodia).

After they have all embraced and Jeff jokes that the kids will be playing in the Reward Challenge, another twist is gifted to the players, in that there is no Reward Challenge and everyone will enjoy in a celebration feast. All of the families enjoy food, sand soup, swims in the ocean and more! I’m on the verge of tears here, it’s so beautiful. Watching these amazing players come back for this historic season is huge enough, to see them enjoy in this moment all together, it’s remarkable. And a true gift by Jeff and production.

Tony with his wife, Marissa, and their two kids while talking to Jeff about his family and enjoying in this massive Survivor loved ones visit.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

On the Edge of Extinction, Rob and Ethan notice a boat headed towards the island. Ethan concedes it must be something bad, because they are living miserably on the Edge, and it would be no different to what they’re used to. Natalie stands further out to see what it is, and as the boat approaches, Natalie notices her sister and calls out to her fellow Edge inhabitants that their families are on board. All nine players rush to the boat, with Amber’s sprint and Yul’s arms up high so touching to watch, seeing their excitement hit a whole new level. Danni’s breaking down, and everyone greets their loved ones on the Edge, taking them in their arms and embracing for as long as possible. The loved ones that arrived on the Edge include:
Natalie and her twin sister, former player Nadiya, and Nadiya’s daughter,
Amber and Rob‘s four daughters, and Rob’s parents,
Danni‘s mother and one of her sons,
Ethan‘s wife,
Parvati‘s husband, former player John, and their daughter,
Yul‘s wife and their two daughters,
Wendell‘s father,
Adam‘s father.

This is where I broke down. And I’m not generally a crier (I’ve done it thrice in years of watching Survivor). But it was so amazing see their shocked and surprised faces. And hearing them talk about these moments with their kids, Parvati bouncing her daughter up and down, Natalie breaking down when baby talking with her niece, Adam detailing the journey for his family is complete now that his father has arrived, and Ethan confessing his desire to never be apart from his wife. It was just incredible. Truly amazing. I’m loving this moment.

And I’m not going to dedicate a whole paragraph to the time in editing. The show DID need to be extended, but it equally deserved half the episode including these beautiful moments. What followed needed longer, not these first 20 minutes. So don’t tell me the editing was too long on this segment, the episode NEEDED longer, more than ever! Damn, CBS really robbed us of 90-minute episodes this season. We’ve missed so much!

After the history making loved ones visit, it was time for the Immunity Challenge, a classic Survivor patience test, which sees contestants attempt stack blocks spelling ‘Immunity’ on a teetering table, hung onto a rope. Early on, the girls take a slow-and-steady approach, while the boys are a little more quick to get going. Kim, Nick, Jeremy, Tony and Ben appear to be front runners, before they start to knock off, one by one. Kim and Nick are the first to go, and then Jeremy, keeping Ben and Tony in a showdown. Tony’s got a slight lead, but Ben’s catching up. As Tony places his last block and makes his slow stroll back, Ben drops, widely opening the door for Tony, who successfully wins the challenge and his first Immunity ever, in three seasons of Survivor. He also gained two fire tokens, instead of one like in the two previous Immunity Challenges.

At camp, Jeremy and Tony discuss what the vote should be at the well, with Jeremy wanting to break up the Sarah and Sophie pair. But Tony immediately shuts it down, yet adds it could be possible. Nevertheless, Jeremy doesn’t like not holding the power, and wants to work with allies that will vote out Sarah. Later, Tony and Sarah discuss voting out Kim, because Sarah believes she’s too dangerous to move forward with. But Tony pressures her into voting Jeremy, both because he wants to vote her out and because he’s too sneaky for conspiring against him. Sarah concedes, but also isn’t too happy about not coming to an agreement with him (even if Jeremy is directly targeting her). They work out they hold the numbers in them, Sophie, Ben and Nick. Meanwhile, Jeremy and Kim conspire to target Sophie, hoping Tyson, Michele and Denise will join them. Kim’s ready to play big, and reveals to them she has an idol and will use it to save whoever the other five are targeting to make their move work. With an even 5-5 split, Jeremy is increasingly concerned about his position in the game, and even confesses to Tyson he’s considering using his safety without power advantage to leave Tribal if he’s uncomfortable. Doing so would ruin their numbers split. Sarah equally discusses with Sophie using her vote steal advantage, and now we’re off to Tribal, with Advantagegeddon incoming.

At Tribal Council, the whispers and chatter kick off almost immediately. Jeff barely gets a word in and it’s game on. Once the chatter quietens, Jeff asks if the tribe is good to vote, and Jeremy and Sarah simultaneously gather his attention. But now neither want to proceed with offering anything up, prompting a tug of war for who should go first. Jeremy eventually plays his advantage, and leaves Tribal Council without making a vote, but immune. Now the chatter is back on, and Sophie tells her five to move over to behind the torches and decide what to do, making the alliances very clear. Sarah then decides to play her vote steal advantage on Denise, and now their side has six votes to distribute between three people. After voting, Kim plays her hidden immunity idol on Denise, and while it negates two votes, Tyson is actually voted out 5-2-2, with Michele casting a vote against her allies.

Tyson is voted out once again in Survivor: Winners at War, with Jeff snuffing his torch for a 2nd time at Tribal Council.
IMAGE: CBS

In an adorable Survivor moment in the closing credits, the jury swarms Jeff with a group hug to thank him for the loved ones gift on the Edge, something truly iconic and amazing. Thank you editors for including it!

REVIEW

That was an amazing episode, but damn we missed out on a lot! There’s not a lot to actually talk about itself. But we’ll get right to it anyway.

WE LOVE LOVE!

It’s just an amazing experience to watch. All that emotion, all of that hard work and dedication to the game just once, and now to come back and fight for more money against the best of the best, it’s a tough ask. It was so gratifying see these players ALL rewarded with their families coming out to give so much love. A lot of these players we love were single and ready to mingle when they played, now they’re parents! And they could enjoy it all with their kids! That’s just beautiful! I really felt so, simply, human. It was a rewarding feeling inside me and I couldn’t ask for anything more amazing than the large scale of this half of the episode. No challenge, all love. It really tugged on the heart strings in a game where having a heart just can’t be thrown into the strategic parameters of Survivor. I truly loved it. This was incredible and if anyone says otherwise, I just don’t want to hear it. Thankfully, there’s a large chunk of the fan community who adore these moments. But for the people who believe the Edge players didn’t deserve a visit, it was too long, too many family members, there should have been a challenge or WHATEVER. I say go suck it. Just love a damn show for what it is. Real humans, real experiences, real life. I freaking loved it. And if you want to know more about the loved ones visit through the years, check out my full analysis of how the twist has changed in 20 years, and what led to this monster episode of love, here – Survivor – The Loved Ones Visit.

Yul’s family meets Rob and Amber’s family during the surprising Loved Ones Visit on the Edge of Extinction.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

AN INSANE TRIBAL – STRATEGY

Tribal was where it was at this week, so I’ve divided it into two. Let’s talk strategy. Okay so there were two factions: Jeremy, Kim, Michele, Denise and Tyson. And on the other side: Tony, Sarah, Nick, Sophie and Ben. Both sides had two advantages, Sophie and Kim with idols, and Jeremy and Sarah with the ones they played. Jeremy originally went in thinking he couldn’t betray his alliance and leave them out to dry, but after watching that Tribal play out and the whispers take off immediately, he no doubt made the right decision. You gotta work with what you’ve got and going home at ten, with the advantage in his pocket (which, by the way, could only be used up until this point), it was going to be hard to live with. He’s guaranteed to sit in the top nine this way, and work around whatever happens at Tribal. Kim needed to play that idol correctly on Jeremy, and quite frankly, we have no idea whether Jeremy was the true intended target or if Kim would have done that. We can’t work it out, and probably won’t until the season finishes and the players can talk about it. But it was crazy, so Jeremy, I think, rightfully said he’s out. Sarah taking Denise’s vote was good, although the breakdown doesn’t make sense. Why the six didn’t split 3-3 is baffling, unless they knew they had Michele on side. But even then, Michele didn’t give those vibes when she cast her vote (video available online), so I think Michele’s vote against Tyson was more a, “I’m screwed anyway so I’ll vote with them”, instead of having a side deal with the alliance. It’s possible, yes, but I believe it’s unlikely. I also think by Michele voting this way, she has a better chance at surviving later. Anyway, this current alliance of five (with six votes) split 4-2, and they locked on Tyson for some reason. If they did Denise, it may have been too obvious. If they did Kim, maybe it’s too obvious again. From the three, Tyson actually appears the more under the radar choice, although I think it’s a close 33% between him, Kim and Denise anyway. So why did Kim play her idol on Denise? Reverse, reverse psychology, maybe. It’s plausible to think that the person the vote steal is played on is actually someone safe, so if an idol is played, the idol will be played on them. I think Kim did one over on this, and saw it was too sneaky for her rivals to not do anyway, and thus played it on Denise thinking she double crossed their double cross. Unfortunately, X marks the spot, wrong. Tyson’s the one that goes. But given Michele voted against the alliance anyway, Denise would have been screwed if Kim did save Tyson. The vote would have tied 2-2, and the majority certainly had the numbers to combat it and vote Denise out. Jeremy leaving, yeah, it probably did screw his alliance. It likely forced Michele to stray, the majority to change the plan, and Kim to (maybe) play her idol incorrectly. That’s unfortunate. And it’ll no doubt have consequences, but I still think, given the circumstances, Jeremy made the right move with the information he had. There’s a reason why hindsight is such a beautiful thing.

AN INSANE TRIBAL – WHISPERS

Yeah, let’s address it. I know a lot of people are sick of the whispers at Tribal Council. It stops the audience from knowing what was up, and it makes advantages like Jeremy’s useless and it screws the minority, sometimes. Personally, I love watching it. It’s exciting, thrilling, I love not knowing who’s going home. I think as a viewer, we shouldn’t be treated to knowing everything before the people inside our television box. That’s why I love shows that keep me suspense over who killed the butler MORE than shows that present to me how they’ve done it and watch every episode until the rest of the characters know what happened. It’s still enjoyable, but damn, I wanna guess and be wrong! That said, I totally see where a lot of fans are coming from. In the game, it’s a disturbance. And it allows the players to make the rules, instead of production. Which often works, but is it becoming too much? It probably should have stopped once Jeff said it’s time to vote. It’s time to vote. Y’all can’t have Round 2. But then again, what’s stopping them anyway. We’ve seen people whisper during voting. There’s a lot of precedent that’s coming into this argument but most of all, it gave the majority the opportunity to truly just come out on top by discussing what to do, rather than throwing them off after Jeremy played his advantage, just as it had intended. Leaving without power, well it actually also gives power to the majority if they can just get up and gather and say, “ok, so it ain’t Jeremy, you guys wanna do Tyson?” Where’s the chaos? Remember back in Caramoan, when Malcolm and Eddie both had idols around their neck, and they were the only two in the minority with the majority FORCED to pick off someone within their alliance? We needed those reactions! Where everyone was shocked, but literally had to just get up and vote and do whatever they felt they needed to. Not knowing if the idols would be played or if they should make a vote against their allies, but equally not knowing that by not making the vote they might go home. It was dangerous, exciting. If they could all get up and collectively agree on someone or keep their votes maintained, it would have dampened the whole experience. I do agree with fans who say the power is being taken away from producers and minority alliances, but I also see why the fact should stay intact. It’s a game. I know I’d do anything to survive and if that means pissing off viewers by me getting my ass up and over to talk to someone, I’d bloody do it. I don’t blame the players. I don’t even blame production all too much. It was fun when the whispers and chatter first happened, but it is a disturbance now. I think there’s something we all need to accept, life, and Survivor, isn’t perfect. There’s gonna be flaws, people are gonna break the rules and there will be consequences, like Tyson getting voted out. That’s unfortunate, but this is such a highly debated topic with such good cases on both sides, someone’s gotta concede and accept what’s happening, rather than trying to build their ‘perfect’ show. It’s cruel, I know. But the game is what it is now. And even more so, I don’t want the rules to change because of this, as I’ll always be reminded that Tyson was robbed because of something that was fixed later. If it stays the same, then we’re all in the same boat from here on out. Sometimes things don’t work out. We all hate it, but it’s just, it.

Kim contemplates who she should play her idol on before deciding on Denise during a scattered and chaotic Tribal Council.
IMAGE: CBS

CAN TYSON RETURN (AGAIN)?

I’ll close the Review with a quick take on Tyson. I think he’s got a huge chance to win the next challenge, and possibly even the whole game. That’d be pretty epic to see. But now that’s he out again. I just want someone else to get another shot. I’d love to see Natalie, Parvati or Rob navigate the final few days. It’s just exciting when it’s SOMEONE else. If it’s Tyson again, I’ll be really happy. But I just wouldn’t mind seeing another favourite go the distance and fight to make it to the end and possibly win. The Edge returnee becoming the winner is already something to talk about later, I’ll leave that for now. But Tyson’s a strong player, but with two eliminations, does he deserve to win now? It’s a hard position to be in. To kind of root against one of your favourites. But it’s only because I have so much love to give to other people. I don’t wanna put my eggs in the Tyson basket again. Cue sad face.

THE TOP FIVE

The players in the Top Five this week include:
Tony Vlachos, Sophie Clarke, Jeremy Collins, Kim Spradlin-Wolfe, and Sarah Lacina.
IMAGES: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

TONY VLACHOS: He picked up an Immunity win, finally got to see his wife and kids during the game. Everything seemed to go right for Tony. There’s a couple strategic issues, but Tony’s pretty much a solid winner pick right now.

SOPHIE CLARKE: A quieter episode this week, but I picked Sophie over Denise because we saw more and she was intuitive enough to A) not play her idol, and B) gather her allies during Tribal and solidify a plan.

JEREMY COLLINS: His loved one reunion was super emotional, but Jeremy used his tools in the Survivor advantage tool box to keep himself safe and head out on a risky Tribal. It was a good call.

KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE: She misplayed her idol, but she’s got hella good guts to not play it on herself and go bold making a move. I wish it worked out for Kim, but this was a great sign of her gameplay, bad sign for her future.

SARAH LACINA: Sarah’s back ladies and gentlemen. The reward hiccup last week was just that, a hiccup. Sarah really fronted her alliance, played a vote steal well enough to maintain numbers, and recognised Kim as a good player. These guys better not let her get too far.

I love the whole cast. That’s it. There’s no need to name names. They’re all good.

What did you think about the monster loved ones visit this week? And what are your thoughts on THAT Tribal Council? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Survivor: Winners at War continues Thursday, 7:30pm on 9Go! in Australia, 8:00pm Wednesday on CBS in the US, otherwise check your local TV guide!


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