Survivor: Winners at War – “Mass Psychological Warfare”

If you want a dominant player, you’ve got it! Survivor has produced so many incredible characters over 20 years, but none have been quite like the star of this week.

In one of the most nicely cut episodes we’ve had all season, we were treated to idol finds, advantages and disadvantages courtesy of the Edge, social and strategic bargaining, an Immunity win, and a successful elimination! And that was all just one castaway! Let’s dive into Episode 11, and this week, I also talk about a fire token paradox, so don’t miss that in the Review section!

EPISODE 11 RECAP

With Jeremy back from Tribal Council early, he’s satisfied with his decision to play it instead of heading to the Edge with it in his pocket. But when the tribe comes back to camp, no one informs Jeremy of what happened at Tribal, with many criticising his decision to leave since he wasn’t the target. But Ben outlines in a confessional that Jeremy was indeed the person who would have gone home. This makes him now public enemy number one, and the majority five are sticking together to get him out. Ben and Jeremy argue over who the biggest threat is, while Kim and Michele worry over their position in the game, unable to trust anyone anymore.

Early in the morning, Tony finally makes his move to find an idol, unable to all season because of his former reputation. He searches high and low, until he’s interrupted by Nick. He’s able to save himself from getting too caught, and agrees to look with Nick but in separate locations, telling Nick to search where Tony has already cleared. To his success, Tony finds the idol and is ecstatic that he possesses his favourite Survivor safety tool. Later, Sarah’s pondering over what she will do once she retires as a cop, so the Survivor fashion world is her calling when she sews some clothe together and some of the girls put on a runway show. Tony’s not happy with the fashion show, instead wants to get back to the strategic aspects of the game. While talking with Jeremy and Michele, Tony appears as a double agent so he appears tight with the minority group, but doesn’t have any loyalty to them whatsoever. Jeremy and Michele are convinced they have the numbers with Tony, but Kim and Denise disagree, as Kim particularly sees through Tony’s act.

On the Edge of Extinction, while Natalie and Parvati are looking for firewood, Natalie stumbles upon a message in a bottle signalling the location to another advantage. They eventually decipher it as hidden under the bed at their shelter, and when Parvati manages to distract everyone away, Natalie successfully finds and grabs the extortion advantage, which allows her and Parvati to extort someone in the game for fire tokens in exchange for them to play in the Immunity Challenge and vote at Tribal Council. They discuss using it to get more tokens or to create chaos in the game, eventually agreeing to extort Tony, believing he will do whatever it takes to get the tokens. Back at camp, Tony is excited he’s finally been sent an advantage, especially the ability to extort someone… but soon realises it’s played against him and he must gather six fire tokens to pay up. With only three in his possession, he almost fairly easily manages to hustle one token from Jeremy, Nick and Ben, paying off the extortion. Long story short, this scene was hilarious, and a perfect look into how good Tony’s social game is.

Natalie and Parvati discuss how to distract everyone from the shelter to gain the advantage waiting under the bed.
IMAGE: CBS

At the Immunity Challenge, the players must balance a statue using a long pole, standing on a narrow beam, moving back at certain time increments. Kim drops in the first round, with everyone else making it to the last. As it’s more difficult, Denise, Michele and Sarah drop out in quick succession. Following them are Nick and Sophie, with Tony, Ben and Jeremy left standing. They each have a little wobble here and there, until all of a sudden, Ben drops with Jeremy almost a second after him, making Tony the winner of his second Individual Immunity, two more fire tokens, and ultimately making the extortion payment worthwhile.

After Tony’s win, the majority alliance approaches Kim and Denise to flip to them and vote in a split plan against Michele and Jeremy, with Jeremy the main target. Despite not wanting to, Kim and Denise agree to for the betterment of their game, and Sarah and Kim are tasked with voting for Michele while everyone else votes Jeremy. Jeremy and Michele instead believe they are working with the two girls and Tony, deciding to vote out Ben. But Jeremy’s unaware that he doesn’t have the numbers. Not to worry, crazy Tony’s got a plan for his and Jeremy’s game – blindside Sophie. Wanting to orchestrate a 4-3-2 vote, he needs Nick on board with him to vote with Jeremy and Michele for Sophie, with Nick agreeing to do so. Wanting to hit everyone with this information right before Tribal, Jeremy’s not so convinced he should go along with it and whether Kim and Denise are against him. Tony’s shocked Jeremy won’t do it, telling him that if he and Michele stick with the Ben vote, Jeremy will go home 3-2-2-2. We head off to Tribal unaware if Jeremy is convinced enough, or if he got word back to Michele and they will switch their votes.

At Tribal Council, the paranoia and scramble that we’ve seen in the previous two Tribal Council’s has ceased, and Sophie explains everyone’s concerned about the advantages within the game because no one knew they would be played last Tribal. Jeremy tells Jeff he believes the tribe is telling ‘half-truths’, making trust difficult moving forward. Building a resume is discussed, and whether some moves are too big to take credit for which may cost them the game. Sophie adds that a long resume isn’t credible if there’s no quality to it. The tribe votes, and no idols are played, eventually leading to Tony’s plan working and Sophie blindsided 4-3-2 with an idol in her pocket. She bequeaths a fire token to Sarah and Kim, unsure of who blindsided her but likely because she’s certain they didn’t as she can align them as the two votes for Michele.

Sophie watches her torch get snuffed as she is voted out of Survivor: Winners at War.
IMAGE: CBS

REVIEW

SOPHIE’S FLAME BURNS OUT

Ah, the supposed winner pick is out of the game. If you’ve kept up to date with my thoughts, you’d know I had Sophie pegged as the winner right up until three episodes ago, where she seemingly vanished from the main story. Sophie was a strong contender for her ability to pull of blindside on Wendell without even being seen as a threat for it. But her disappearance in the following episode told me she was out of the running, because her edit was too inconsistent to carry through the whole season as a likely winner. Instead, there’s only three realistic choices for me, and four distant ones. Given all of this however, Sophie still wasn’t even targeted for being a threat, but merely an ally to Sarah who Tony wanted gone. That’s insane! Because Sophie was playing a strong strategic game. She just became severely underwhelming through the edit within these last few episodes, and her time on this episode was dedicated only at Tribal Council, as we barely saw her beforehand. Going out with an idol sucks, especially since it’s another added statistic to this run of females finding idols (yay) to them going home with them in their pocket (nay). I loved Sophie, she was a great player and interesting character, it would have been nice to see some depth to her but show’s got 40 minutes and I get why that’s not possible. I definitely don’t think she’s a bottom-tier winner, and it was a little heartbreaking to hear it. Her performance this season proves she’s a great strategist and analyst, she just became victim to a blindside. It’s happened so many times before, it was bound to happen around 15 times this season. This is a bit of a jumble of thoughts but let me close by saying I loved Sophie. I loved her appearance on this season, especially since I wasn’t super keen on her going into it. But that’s only because I was so hyped on everyone else, I barely saw Sophie as someone who would do much damage. She surprised me, and I love being surprised. Her edit was really fascinating to watch up until after Wendell’s blindside, from there, it was just too quiet to make me believe she was a strong contender to take it out. If the show had some way of keeping this up until her vote, then I’d be really shocked. Truly. But no I thought it was a matter of time before she went home, a bit like a couple of other winners left in the game.

EXTORTION AND THE FIRE TOKEN PARADOX

Being able to just get three fire tokens forked over to Tony courtesy of the extortion advantage seemed almost too easy. But I thought about it a little more, it’d be pretty hard to say no anyway. Think about it, had Michele possessed a token, she would have given it to him. Instead, she didn’t have any and had to lie. Other than the other players doing the same, and just lying saying they bought something and have none left, it’d be a pretty stupid move to straight up tell Tony, “no, I’m not helping you”. You’d be targeted next! It’s just like when someone proposes a vote, you have to say yes. In this case, your loyalty is proven hours later at Tribal Council by casting a vote, but for the extortion advantage, you have to pay up. By saying yes, there’s an immediate gut reaction that has to follow, you gotta give a fire token. It’d be super difficult to say no, and I would say Ben and Nick (and less so Jeremy) would have thought this was the case. Telling Tony no paints a target, so does that mean there’s a fire token paradox? In this case, yes. Getting the six isn’t as difficult as it seems. Unless someone lies and say they have none, you’re gonna fork it over. Let’s say Ben said no, it’s his only token, he doesn’t wanna give it up. Tony pleads and says it’s his only chance, Ben still says no, Ben probably goes home. That’s a situation with immediate benefits for the person asking and immediate losses for the giver. Thankfully, this probably won’t happen again too often. There won’t be another extortion advantage at least this season. But it opens up an interesting theory, much like always agreeing to a vote, you pretty much always have to agree to giving up a fire token when asked. Remember that these tokens can be used to buy something like a tarp. Let’s say Tony asked everyone to give one token to get it, if someone refused, everyone would target them. How dare they keep their currency while I’m willing to give up mine. Saying no is one of the worst moves you can make in Survivor, and now the show has added a physical element other than just a vote to prove this theory as well. I expect, as future seasons play with this currency, we’ll see similar situations where people will be forced to hand over tokens when asked UNLESS they pull off a good lie to say they have none or actually have none at all and pull off a good lie about what advantage they claimed. I love the fire tokens twist, it’s an interesting element, absolutely. But now thinking about how much damage and power it can bring to one individual in the game, who just needs to ask for X, Y & Z, I’m worried it’ll break the game. I equally liked the extortion advantage itself, but it opened up the floodgates to this theory. So, are we scared?

IT’S TONY TIME

This was a Tony-dominated episode. And we know why, everything that happened surrounded him. Idol find, Edge (dis)advantage, Immunity win, blindside. I still think it could have been eased off a little, we could have had one confessional from Nick about stumbling upon Tony looking for the idol and going elsewhere instead of having Tony tell us what he did, for example. But oh well, it is what it is. Tony’s one hell of a character and damn he really brought it in every corner of the game this week. Tony’s social game is pretty good, he is playing a good double agent although Kim and Denise smelling a rat isn’t going to help this situation for too long. Also, he’s made a big move. It may be hard to bounce back. This episode was so Tony, does that mean next episode is so bye-bye Tony? The good news? He can win immunities, has an idol, and Sarah and friends probably still need him. But flying under the radar has only worked for so long, Tony’s time might be cut short soon. I hope not, I love Tony, and I think he can be a great winner. But with so much chaos, can he reign it back in for a little longer? It’s tough to say. But if anyone can, it’s probably Tony.

Jeff placing the Immunity Necklace around Tony’s neck after he wins his second challenge in a row.
IMAGE: CBS

THE FINAL EIGHT

Jeremy and Michele, bottom of the bottom. It’s not looking good, especially for Jeremy. He’s a huge threat and I do think his time is numbered. I do believe he’s got a strong edit however, and I think he’d be a winner pick for me if it weren’t for how much he is in the minority right now. Maybe with this move, he can get Kim and Denise back on side. But that’s four. We know Tony only used Jeremy for this vote, he’ll swing back and blindside him next round if he can. It’s the same strategy he used in Cagayan, the pendulum strategy. A part of me hopes Jeremy and Michele would use this move by Tony to blindside him, but I think all they have is Tony to trust, at least from what they believe. I think Jeremy’s gonna be cooked, even though I think he’s got a strong edit. Michele, maybe soon after. I don’t know, it bounces back and forth for me. She’s here, then she isn’t, is she 3rd place inbound? I don’t know. Denise has dropped pretty far from the radar since the merge too. For someone so good at the game, I think Denise has the ability to turn it around but just won’t in time. The problem with Denise is that she’s still a huge threat for the Sandra vote, so I imagine once it’s Denise’s time to go, we’ll see her a lot. But for right now she’s staying quiet, and probably not winning. I wish we saw more Denise! Kim at least has been a little more prevalent since we’ve hit the merge, and we’re seeing this arc of a Kim v Tony battle. I think this could even be a Final Tribal Council one, although I don’t like Kim’s chances edit-wise, jury-wise it may be different. I have no idea where Kim will land, but up against Tony, Jeremy and Sarah, I don’t think she’s had enough content to fulfil the winner’s edit criteria. Speaking of Sarah, we saw some personal stuff this episode from her which is a good sign to her moving forward. I think she’s the only real challenger to Tony to win edit-wise, and I also think that her social game is really good to win favour of the jury, just like in Game Changers. Now a Tony v Sarah Final Tribal would be really fun, let’s picture that. I think it’s possible too. Sarah certainly has the social game to get there. She needs a big move though, come on Sarah, now’s the time! Ben has stayed prevalent every episode this season, but I don’t know where his game is going. It’s also been fairly negative thus far, with Adam, Rob and Jeremy calling him out as someone who’s creating paranoia and being a loose cannon. I could see Ben going home soon or being the 3rd place finalist. I just don’t think his game is there compared to everyone else’s. But if he wants a good resume, he needs to do something now. But my prediction: he’s toast soon. Nick, wtf? His edit is CRAZY! There’s no chance Nick wins, but I feel like he’s getting the worst footage available of him, no strategic information at all. I just haven’t liked Nick this season and I blame the edit, not Nick (predominantly).

THE TOP FIVE

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

TONY VLACHOS: He nailed every facet of the game this week, a truly amazing masterclass by Tony this week. And a strong winner contender! This was a great episode for Tony.

SARAH LACINA: I tossed and turned over Denise and Sarah, but the social content from Sarah and lack thereof for Denise forced me to pick her. Sarah’s an amazing player, and the Winners at War Sarah is my favourite Sarah. In Cagayan, she seemed naive. In Game Changers, it was all business. This season, she’s having fun (mostly), and it’s more entertaining to watch.

JEREMY COLLINS: I love Jeremy and am super pumped he avoided the vote this week! That death stare to Ben at Tribal was killer too. He’s just a fun guy, let’s hope he dodges six more votes.

KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE: Her intuition is amazing and Kim really is one of the greatest we’ve ever had. She’s so underrated though. Like severely. We need more Kim love and I’m giving it this week. I freaking love Kim.

MICHELE FITZGERALD: While the bogus lie wasn’t too great, I applaud Michele for coming up with it and staying grounded all episode. She is a strong presence in the game, and I’m just enjoying her a lot this season.

Also HUGE LOVE TO THE EDGE QUEENS – Parvati and Natalie. Parvati snatching all the advantages is bloody brilliant. So glad she came back and I’m still reminded Natalie was the biggest robbed first boot ever. Love everyone else! This is such a good season.

What did you think about the latest Survivor episode? Is Tony headed for certain doom? And what about the fire token paradox, are we concerned? Let me know your thoughts!

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Survivor: Winners at War continues for three more weeks on 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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