Survivor: Winners at War – “Perception Is Everything”

Double the hour, double the trouble. Seven became five as two massive exits saw the game come down to the final few days, deciding five of the six who will be in the running to return in Survivor‘s biggest season yet.

With the Edge full of people crowded around their tiny bed, on rations of rice and looking more miserable by the minute, seven players were still raging in battle, hoping to be crowned the next two-time winner. There were big moves, big gambles, and big moments in history decided. This is the penultimate recap for Survivor: Winners at War.

EPISODE 13 RECAP

Michele, blindsided from yet another vote, manages to claim back her 50/50 advantage from Jeremy, who is feeling as if the game is becoming Groundhog day. Together, they hope their alliance might push them further in the season, only able to trust each other. In the morning, Denise talks about her frustration at the previous Tribal Council and that she’s got two messages for herself (since tattooed on her wrists) ‘Endure’ and ‘Let Go’. Meanwhile, Jeremy and Tony argue over what a week is, with Tony believing 10 days is two weeks. Strategically, Tony realises Jeremy is a number for him despite his threat status, as well as longtime ally Sarah from six years ago. Sarah asserts that her final three with him and Ben are concrete, but they each vary on who they want to eliminate next. With Ben targeting Jeremy, Sarah convinces him to target Nick instead, and now the trio are after Nick, with Denise in for majority and a 50/50 advantage to be flushed.

The final seven await to hear how the next Immunity Challenge will be played out.
IMAGE: CBS

At the Immunity Challenge, the players must pass through several obstacles before solving a slide puzzle. Jeremy, Sarah, Nick and Ben all get out to a slight lead, with Tony and Denise not far behind. In the end, Michele struggles to make it past the very first obstacle, breaking down at the challenge’s conclusion, while Nick picks up Immunity and two fire tokens, foiling any plan to blindside him and ending Tony’s Immunity win streak.

Back at camp, the fake plan is to blindside Denise, but Ben hopes to pit Jeremy and Michele against each other and equally break them apart. The remaining five agree to split the votes 3-2 on Jeremy and Michele, fearing what Michele will do with her advantage. Michele and Jeremy quickly realise Ben’s ploy, and hope instead plan to blindside Ben with Nick and Tony as swing votes. Tony recognises it’s better to stick with Ben and target Jeremy, but with the split plan locked in, it only takes Nick to flip and change everything. Despite Sarah’s concerns of this, it all rides on Nick’s ultimate decision.

At Tribal Council, a very raw and real discussion about the after effects at home from the game begins. With severe trust issues with close loved ones brought up. This comes at a time when four of the current final seven have left Twitter, due to such volatile comments by social media trolls. Regardless, the tribe soon votes and Michele stands to play her advantage. She wavers on whether to play it for her or Jeremy, but decides on herself and shouts with elation when the coin turns up ‘Safe’. She receives two negated votes, but Nick sticks with the split plan and Jeremy is blindsided 3-2-2 over Ben, gifting his two fire tokens to Michele.

Jeremy is finally voted out of Survivor: Winners at War, heading straight to the Edge of Extinction.
IMAGE: CBS

After yet ANOTHER Tribal on the outs, Michele is furious with Nick for cutting Jeremy. He argues they couldn’t beat Jeremy, but Michele rebuts that it’s about getting to the end first, saying there’s no path for them now. Whether Nick realises his mistake, it’s hard to say. Elsewhere, Tony and Ben agree Michele needs to go next, before Nick. The next day, Michele is extremely frustrated and views Tony as the biggest threat in the game. She tries convincing Sarah of this, but Sarah neglects to truly consider this reality and leaks her words to her alliance.

On the Edge of Extinction, Jeremy’s quickly learning of the harsh reality of the island. A final chance for tokens is given to the 13 inhabitants. A mad dash around the island to find a treasure chest is on, with everyone holding a different idea to where it could be hidden. But it’s the Edge’s longest visitor, Natalie, that has become a pro at identifying clues. She finds the chest, and shares the advantage with everyone – which is a disadvantage to a player in the next Immunity Challenge, which she can sell to anyone in the game for as many tokens as she wants.

Ethan and Yul meditate together while on the Edge of Extinction, before the final fire token opportunity is given to the 13 inhabitants.
IMAGE: CBS

Nick is given the advantage, and it costs eight tokens! With six in his possession, he needs two more to take the advantage home. He reaches out to ally Michele, who happily gives him the tokens so he can secretly disadvantage someone in the majority. At the Immunity Challenge, the players must step through trip obstacles to stack a line of dominoes on a teetering bar. It’s revealed the disadvantage is played on Ben, which is a 30% extra length on the bar for him manage. It seems like Tony, Sarah, Michele and even Ben, despite the setback, are in it to win it. But it’s Michele who successfully wins the challenge, winning two fire tokens (on the last day to use them), but most importantly saving herself from certain elimination.

On to Plan B with Michele’s win, Denise decides to put on an act to everyone that she feels on the bottom and offers to buy rice with her tokens to, “go to the Edge with a full belly”. Hoping Ben, Tony and Sarah are tight on voting Nick, the plan it set in stone. But in Survivor, it never is. Tony’s back in his spy nest, and overhears a conversation between Sarah, Ben and Denise, where Denise brings up voting out Tony soon and making them the final three. This leads Tony to target Denise for not wanting to work with him, and despite Michele and Nick having an idea to blindside Ben because he would be unbeatable in the fire-making challenge at the final four, the two agree to vote for Denise with him and Sarah. But with Tony and Sarah the swing votes, they are unsure whether they should go with the blindside or stay strong on Nick.

At Tribal, Michele’s place on the bottom is discussed as she expresses the sheer necessity to win Immunity. Ben questions where his disadvantage came from, either in the game or from the Edge. Fire tokens is also highlighted, as the currency is tough to manage among the other dynamics within the game. With Denise still playing the facade that she believes she’s going, Nick expresses a fear with exactly what the game will do and that it’s never as easy done as it is said. The first four votes are read, two for Nick, two for Denise. And in a blindside, Nick is voted out 4-2, with Michele on the bottom, again. He arrives on the Edge, guttered coming so close, but confident he’ll return tomorrow.

Jeff snuffs Nick’s torch as he is voted out of Survivor: Winners at War.
IMAGE: CBS

On Day 35, it’s the last day on the Edge of Extinction, and everyone’s preparing to say their goodbyes and buy their advantages. Amber gets emotional over leaving her home for a month, because despite how hard it is, it’s a simple way of living. Something no one ever gets at home. Rob’s still got a good idol from the last Edge challenge, Wendell buys one advantage in the challenge, so do Yul and Parvati. Natalie, who has 14 tokens and an idol still good from the last challenge, buys a jar of peanut butter and all three advantages, still with change and six tokens in her possession. Rather than wasting them, she buys an idol for Tyson, hoping that if one of them gets back they can manage to cause some chaos. Any other transactions made aren’t televised, although it is known Tyson and Sophie also possessed two tokens and likely bought an advantage too (although not confirmed).

REVIEW

DOUBLE JEOPARDY

While this week’s two hour episode had a massive dose of serious Survivor strategy, one player just can’t seem to find a way in. Michele has been on the wrong side of the votes numerous times this season, and for the last three Tribal Councils as well. She’s the underdog, nobody wants to play with her and nobody wants to take her up on what she wants to say. But is she still a threat to win? She’s got a few friends on the jury, so maybe they’ll swing enough votes her way. Only IF they are still happy to vote for her and not someone who played a possibly better game, cough, Tony, cough. Additionally, the Edge returnee will also have favour over Michele. I think her chances might be shot because her game just hasn’t been to a standard that jurors might believe should represent this season. Being on the outside of a number of votes since the very first Tribal, it’s not a great look. And I’m not saying Michele hasn’t played a great game, I think she’s played a very good game. But she’s gonna have to have a big moment in the finale, there’s only been an Immunity win and a successful coin flip – which she didn’t need anyway. She needs to take out someone like Tony, or idol out a threat. But I don’t believe she’ll have the toolkit to do it. While I think Michele can be a great challenger to Tony at a Final Tribal Council, she’s ultimately fail. If Tony isn’t in the top three, her best chances are Ben and possibly Sarah or the Edge returnee. I think a lot of the jury see Denise favourably, and even then, Sarah’s game hasn’t been half bad either. It’s a tough road, but I think I’ll be rooting for Michele out of pure underdog story. But I think she’s got big competition if she wants to call herself the champion of champions.

NICK’S STRATEGIC BLUNDER

I’ll start by saying we don’t see everything, it’s always important to note we don’t understand the full complexities of everyone’s game. But Nick seemingly made a huge mistake when he chose to vote out Jeremy, only to target Ben the next day anyway. WHAT?! Yeah. you can’t beat Jeremy at the end. But you also need to get to the end! Come on Nick. You know this. Jeremy was the biggest threat, a for sure target next Tribal anyway. Nick had a perfect opportunity to make a big move, add it to his resume, and take out a number of the Ben/Sarah/Tony trio. Now, it’s that very trio that caused him to go home. Nick also had an unknown opportunity to flush an idol, and I’ll give him the benefit of a doubt on that one. But damn. Really? Jeremy was a shield and now Nick firsthand saw how it backfires. And it sucks only because Tony is such a huge threat and this was an avenue to weaken him. Also, by disadvantaging Ben in the Immunity Challenge, he inadvertently made Michele win (because Ben was close to winning even with the disadvantage), which sent himself home. It was just a disaster episode for Nick as it has seemed all season. But I don’t buy all of it. Some of it is editing, for sure. So I think while we can criticise Nick all we want, there’s always more to it. Nevertheless, turning around and targeting someone you just had a perfect sole opportunity to get rid of, it’s a bad look.

THE TONY STEAMROLL

I mean what?! Who even mentioned his name this episode? Michele, that’s it. She’s the only one who had a thought to take Tony out now and even then she didn’t act on it. Even when she had a perfect power position to make a move while possessing Immunity. Denise is happy to cut Tony at four, and while I usually commend Denise on her analytical strategy, you gotta cut him sooner. Always strike while the iron is hot, and with Tony, you would think everyone would know when he’s not safe the iron is certainly hot. After three Immunity wins, a known idol, how is he still safe? It’s just insane. Sarah and Tony are also the most obvious duo besides Rob and Amber this season, so I imagine they’re really selling it to the tribe they ain’t close… even when Tony goes to play an idol for her. It baffles me how no one tries to take him out. I didn’t think losing Kim meant this plan would fail. Like I thought we back burned it… right? Right? Ben has fallen for Tony and Sarah and is proud to take 3rd place to them, because I simply can’t see how Ben’s game is positive enough to win the game. Great guy? Sure. But he hasn’t been gifted a single fire token all season, and that’s because no one wants Ben to win or do better than them. He’s been paranoid, he’s lied, he’s played double agent. The only thing that’ll save him is taking out Tony but even then, that’s a stretch. Kim was what we needed to get this tribe to vote out Tony, and now Denise is in tight with that faction. When?! HOW?! I seriously want to know what everyone’s plan was to do with Tony and when they thought they would cut him. The guy’s on track to steal the two million. It’s a golden opportunity. And the jury better give it to him. Even with so many great games amongst the cast, Tony’s social and strategic power has been phenomenal. Unstoppable. No votes all season. It’s incredible and a great game to represent this monster season.

Jeremy and Tony discuss how many days are in a week, as one considers 10 days as two weeks instead of 14. Hint: It’s the cop.
IMAGE: CBS

THE EDGE SUNDOWN

Only 14 players are left to fight for one last shot at getting back in this game. While I love everyone here, like truly do. Let’s look at who has a real shot at getting back into the game. Both edit, and physical prowess wise.
Natalie – Absolutely a huge player this season from the first out. She’s stacked in advantages in this challenge, it’s hers to lose. Somehow, I don’t think she will. But if she does, it’s a stellar performance but she’ll equally need a stellar performance to make it count once she’s back. While Natalie winning would be cool because she’s a great person and fought so hard. I think being the first boot just isn’t what we need for this season.
Amber – Her narrator edit on the Edge has been great to watch. But Amber neither has the physicality or the likely edit to make it back in. I’m so glad she played and stayed on this season. She’s been awesome to watch. But coming back? No chance.
Danni – For some reason I have a small, tiny, remote feeling Danni might come back. I don’t know what it is, it’s unlikely given her physical strength and how depleted she looks. But, it would be interesting. I don’t think she could go on to win though.
Ethan – I mean how awesome would it be if Ethan came back into this game! That would be pretty epic. I don’t think he’d make it to the end though, he’d probably get the win. Which would be sweet, but the other five won’t let it happen. I equally don’t think it will.
Rob – I mean it’s highly possible. But not probable in my eyes. I see Natalie getting in before Rob. I just think his time has passed. It’s a feeling, the edit isn’t there for me. And we’ve had a lot of Rob in the last year. I don’t think he’ll make it back but given how close the last re-entry challenge was. Maybe.
Parvati – I mean the edit’s there. It really is. She’s had great content on the Edge and her story didn’t seem to wrap when she was voted out. There’s only two things in my way. Firstly, I don’t think she’s got enough physical juices in the tank to beat the likes of Natalie or Tyson. But she also just did the Instagram takeover for the Survivor CBS account. And, I don’t know, if it was me, I wouldn’t want the person that still has an influence in the game, if not sits at the end and wins, taking over my Instagram. So I think it works against her. But damn, I hope and pray it’s Parvati.
Yul – The edit’s fallen behind a bit but I can see a path for Yul. He’s not that down physically, he did well in the effort task. So if we can see Yul taking out a victory, and then manipulating his way to the end. We might have a winner. I don’t think it’s likely though.
Wendell – Still, the edit isn’t there I don’t think. And Wendell’s a strong guy who could win the challenge. If it is Wendell who comes back, I think he’d be taken straight back out. Although the unfinished Michele/Wendell dynamic would be fun.
Adam – Up against these physical beasts, Adam doesn’t have a chance! I also don’t think he’d get the jury votes at the end if he somehow managed to get there. But it’s just an extremely unlikely scenario anyway.
Tyson – Yeah. I bet it’s Tyson who comes back. He’s won one. He’s still great physically. And the idol scene with Natalie could be a red herring, but I don’t think it is. I’m still thinking about that odd Sarah/Tyson dynamic we saw way back when. It disappeared. Maybe it’ll be reborn in the finale. My money’s on Tyson.
Sophie – I mean after the effort task, I’d say it’s possible. But the edit isn’t there anymore. I doubt Sophie will return, and even win for that matter.
Kim – Kim’s edit at the merge was super strong, with only a one episode break, perhaps it picks back up for a strong finish. Given how close she is from leaving the Edge and coming back, she probably can win it too. If she still targets Tony maybe she will win. What’s unlikely for me is actually getting back in without any advantages. Pure physicality is all it takes.
Jeremy – See above with Kim. Although I think Jeremy’s more likely to just turn around and come back.
Nick – I don’t think the edit is there enough, but it wouldn’t be surprising for Nick to come back given the physical torture is least on his body. It’ll be interesting what he can do to change it up if he does return, which is a possibility.

THE FINAL FIVE

The players in the Final Five include:
Tony Vlachos, Sarah Lacina, Ben Driebergen, Denise Stapley, and Michele Fitzgerald.
IMAGES: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

TONY VLACHOS: It’s got a winner’s edit all over him. Tony’s played a fantastic game all season and has done a lot to get to where he is. But with only a few Tribals to take him out, will anyone topple him? He’s a beast! I’m betting Tony takes this all the way home!

SARAH LACINA: Sarah’s had a very decent gameplay. But a failure to neutralise Tony just might cost her. If Sarah takes out Tony, hands down she’s a great player. But this one fatal flaw of not recognising him as a threat and overestimating her own game just might cost her.

BEN DRIEBERGEN: It’s been a messy road for Ben all season. He can’t pick sides and when he does, he doubts his decision and sneaks off elsewhere. He seems loyal to Tony now, but he’s gotta change something if he wants to reign supreme. I give Ben the least probability of winning the whole thing. Neither the jury or his gameplay will allow him to win.

DENISE STAPLEY: Denise has a lot of pros on her resume, she’s got a great case to make to the jury no matter who she’s next to. What hurts her the most is the edit. Since the merge, we’ve struggled to see Denise’s game truly blossom. Which is why I think she will be one of the boots in the finale. But if not, Denise for the win! Topple king Tony!

MICHELE FITZGERALD: Only a few more Tribals to survive and make something happen, Michele’s got to be hoping all the cards fall perfectly for her to really stand a chance to lock in enough jury votes. If she manages to make it to the end, I see something huge happening. It’ll be a fight to the finish for Michele.

But with the final place in the finale up for grabs, it really could be anyone’s game. Who do you think will return from the Edge and will they change the course of the game right when it matters? The three-hour Survivor finale is coming this week! Don’t miss it!

I’m super excited to watch this thing pan out. There’s no denying this season has been epic in so many ways and it’ll take a truly satisfying and incredible finish to cement in my top two, if not the greatest season of all time. Opinions may vary, but I have no doubt this cast came to play hard and I’ve enjoyed what we’ve received every second. It’s sad it has to finish, but Survivor has and always will, deliver.

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Survivor: Winners at War has a three-hour finale on Thursday, live at 10:00am and again at 7:30pm on 9Go! in Australia, and at the usual time of 8:00pm Wednesday on CBS in the US, otherwise check your local TV guide!


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