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Winners at War – Episode 2: It’s like a Survivor Economy

Episode two is a wrap.

Of course, it was incredibly entertaining, and I assume that every episode will be this season, however, we saw some pretty disappointing gameplay. I was expecting more from a lot of these people.

Let’s see what I mean.


  • Adam Klein (one token, half an idol): He had another interesting week. He’s really solidifying his position in the tribe. His alliance with Denise seems rock-solid, Ben wants to work with him for some reason. Adam doesn’t seem too excited about that prospect, probably because he wants to play under the radar and Ben is not exactly under the radar. Adam shouldn’t be too annoyed by that, though. Ben is a pretty nice meat shield to have on your side. Also, Adam was part of many discussions and seemed to have been central to deciding who was going to go home. My only criticism is why on earth didn’t they voted out Parvati or Rob? Who chickened out? Someone must have chickened out. One more thing against Adam. While Rob demanding that everyone empties their bag at tribal council really rubbed me the wrong way (more or that later), Adam got a bit too defensive for his own good there. Sometimes I wonder why not more people stand up to Rob, but Adam did it at the wrong time I believe. Luckily, Denise and he managed to keep their two halves hidden (there is still the possibility that Adam attracted attention to himself so that Denise can hide the idol as she’s emptying her bag).
  • Ben Driebergen (one token): I have to admit that I’m starting to like Ben and I never thought I’d ever say that. Maybe that’s because he’s a little bit of the viewer’s proxy on the island, so excited to get to play with all of those amazing players, and it kinda makes me more likable. Maybe. However, it doesn’t make him a better player. He didn’t try to get Denise’s half-idol (he could have leveraged the fact he almost found it for her), but I think that he doesn’t want to have idols, at least not so early in the game. Also, he got starstruck with Parvati at tribal when he was saying something pretty innocuous and she turned it against him and almost got him into trouble. Ben could use his apparent weakness (not being really respected as a winner) into an advantage as he’s not a threat right now. However, he needs to learn to shut his mouth at the right time. On the positive side, he seems to be learning about the whole social aspect of the game, making friends, not enemies, all that.
  • Danni Boatwright voted out: Have we seen anyone self-destruct so fast in recent memory? She was in one of the best positions, not a target nor a threat by any means, and she just got herself voted out in just a few sentences. I think the paranoia really got her. Yes, sure she was at the bottom of the old school alliance, but as this alliance was a minority in the tribe, it’s not such a bad position to be in. You won’t be targeted first by the majority and you have very good chances to eventually become a swing vote and by the time it happens, a swap or the merge arrives. When she started talking in front of Ethan and Ben about the old school alliance (which wasn’t really common knowledge at that point), I thought that she had a plan – either reel in Ben to get a majority, or actively planning to blindside Parvati or Rob and bringing Ethan on board. Nope. She was just panicking and messing up badly. From then on, she just dug her grave a little more at everything she tried to do. I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed in her, she had everything to go very far and she blew it up. Oh well.
  • Denise Stapley (two tokens and half an idol): Is anyone reading this still underestimating Denise’s social game? Look where she is in just two episodes. She started with a rookie mistake that could have sent her home first, and now she got Ben helping her finding idols, Danni giving… uh… sorry, I mean bequeathing her token to her, a very strong alliance with Adam, no target on her back whatsoever, and we can assume that she’s a part of most discussions. The only thing not going for her is that she’s on the losing tribe again, she’s going to tribal council again. But you know what? As long as you’re not voted out, it’s a great place to get a pulse of the game and know what’s going on. How many dominant pre-merge tribes got destroyed when came the merge because of that lack of knowledge of where everyone stood in the game? I’m not going to mention her silly silly idea to give half the idol to Parvati. I see it as one of the advantages to have someone you can totally trust like Adam with her: you can brainstorm every idea, even the silliest ones, your partner-in-crime is there to help you sort them out. If anything that scene was to show us that she can trust Adam, he prevented her from making a horrible mistake.
  • Ethan Zohn (one token): One thing I had heard about Ethan before from past contestants but that we had never really seen on TV is how funny he can be. We’re seeing some of that this season, and that’s great. Ethan may have trouble at keeping the pace of the strategy side of the game, but… maybe not so much. He was in the middle of quite a few conversations too, and because he’s so likable and perceived as an “old” player (who doesn’t know how to use idols and advantages?), he is not really a target now. It seems that pretty much everyone wants to work with him or at least have him around.
  • Jeremy Collins (one token and one advantage): There are a lot of duos this season if you’ve noticed (Rob Parv, Denise Adam, Tony Sarah, Tony Sandra, Yul Sophie, maybe Kim Tyson, etc) and Jeremy losing Natalie so early may actually benefit him, in a way not too dissimilar than it benefited Tyson losing Rachel in BvV, Natalie losing Nadiya, or even himself losing Val in San Juan del Sur (he just blew it later by becoming too dominant). It’s happening again. He has managed to reduce his threat level to almost nothing and he can safely go with the flow for at least a few votes. And he has a secret weapon; Natalie! We can expect her winning more advantages for him in the future (he’ll need more fire tokens, though). He’s in one of the best positions in his tribe right now.
  • Michele Fitzgerald (one token): She’s allied with Jeremy, which is another good thing for him… And I guess that’s all I have to say about Michele. I assume that she’s playing the game somehow, but it’s a bit too under the radar for my taste.
  • Parvati Shallow (one token): How close was she to actually be voted out is hard to tell. And I think he was a big mistake to not vote her out, and I’m not exactly sure why that didn’t happen. However, I don’t think it’s a huge problem either. Unless there is a swap, it seems that the proverbial line in the sand has been drawn, and the old school alliance is now down to three people against five. I don’t think that they can have anyone flip among these five, let alone two people. Once again the edit made it look like Parvati and Rob were dominating the tribe and deciding what was happening, but it seems more than obvious that they’re not really calling the shots. Production is just putting them in the front as much as possible because they’re the biggest stars of this tribe if not of the entire season, and they probably won’t make the merge.
  • Rob Mariano (two fire tokens): Yes, people are impressed by how dominant Rob is everywhere (except in the puzzle this week – his strategy of sorting the pieces is the good one if you have the lead, not if you need to catch up quickly), but all I see most of the time is the fact that Rob is a bully. And I think this is why I will never be able to like Rob, even if the way he plays can be effective, or at least seem effective, I really have zero tolerance for bullying, even in a game where lying, stealing and more is rewarded. This is where I draw the line.
    And people thinking that he’s not a bully, you’re being a bit starstruck too. He has his clique, and he will put pressure on the people not part of his group to get what he wants from them. There is no room for dissent in his own group, or they’ll get crushed. “Show me all the content of your bags” is a smart move, don’t get me wrong, but it’s an abusive one. People could stand up to him, but just like with bullies a lot of people don’t, because they’re afraid that they’ll be the ones who are going to be bullied instead.
    Adam tried a little bit, and see how he put himself in a very dangerous position almost instantly.
    However, I guess at this point, everyone else’s best strategy is probably to cave in a little, in order to give Rob a false sense of security and dominance in his tribe and vote him out when he doesn’t see it coming. I’m not exactly sure why he wasn’t targeted at all this episode, the longer you wait, the more chances you have for a swap that could put him in a dominant position. Or maybe, he was named as a potential boot this episode, but that was cut on the editing room floor so that he is shown as being more in charge than he really is?
    Now, there is one reason why I want to see him survive a little longer. Because I want to see him interact with Sandra – and hopefully she votes him out.

The State of Alliances at Sele:

  • Old school alliance: Rob, Parvati, Ethan.
  • Adam, Denise and more or less Ben.
  • Jeremy and Michelle (how tight are they, really?).

The thing is that the old school alliance seems to indeed be a real alliance, old school style. Their bond may be stronger, but in a sense, it’s less adaptable (which is ironic when Rob always talks about adaptability), which really puts them at a 3 vs 5 disadvantage. Now they need to pull in two people to get a majority. The easiest one to pull in could have been Ben, but I think that after this tribal council, this ship is sailing.


Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment



  • Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (one token and a half-idol): She rebounded pretty well from last week, and honestly, a bit like Jeremy, Amber being voted out lowered Kim’s threat level. Finding the idol was great for her, but giving half to Sophie was a big mistake. Why did she do that? My guess is that Yul told Kim he wants to work with her (we got hints of that last week, and Yul explained his intentions on Twitter this week – I’m surprised CBS let him give us so much insight on the game, not sure they’ll let him do it again), Kim knows he’s tight with Sophie, so she’s trying to secure a bond with Sophie and form a power trio. Unbeknownst to her, Sophie doesn’t seem too interested in that. I wonder how this will play out. Still, Kim seems to have a pretty positive edit despite not many positive things happening to her. She could have an underdog edit with a big comeback later in the season. 
  • Nick Wilson (one token): Did we even see him this week? Still, while an invisible edit is never a great thing, it’s not a big problem as long as it’s during an episode when your tribe won immunity and it’s not a repeated thing. Nick got a great first episode, nothing to worry about his absence from our screens this week.
  • Sandra Diaz-Twine (one hidden immunity idol with an expiration date, zero fire token): Sandra too was almost invisible. It should be noted that not only she took part in the challenge, but she was instrumental in winning it. Also, I loved the look that she gave Rob when he learned that Amber had been voted out. One of the reasons I love Sandra so much is that she fears nothing and no one.
  • Sarah Lacina (one token): So, this Cops R’ Us alliance has been resurrected for “real” this time. Can Sarah and Tony really work together? Can they trust each other? For how long? No idea. But they do need each other right now. Tony needs people he can trust, and if possible people who know him and how intense he can become. And Sarah also needs people she can trust, she must know that she had one of the biggest targets on her back coming into the game. She has another thing going for her, something we don’t see much (the same happened in Game Changers) that Stephen and Rob C. reminded us about on the Know-it-alls podcast earlier today. While Sarah is not a great TV character (I do find her very boring and uninteresting, and I know I’m not the only one), she’s actually very likable in real life and people tend to gravitate around her. So, this is probably the reason why she seems pretty safe at the moment. Even in an All-Stars season with all that heavy strategy, people still rather keep people that they like around a little longer if given the choice.
  • Sophie Clarke (one token and a half-idol): She got a half-idol from Kim in hopes to start an alliance together. Sophie doesn’t seem too interested. That’s pretty much all for this week, but that’s a lot. Sophie and Yul are more or less in charge of this tribe right now
  • Tony Vlachos (one token): Tony is slowly becoming his old self again. He can’t help it, that’s his nature, and if there is one thing Survivor does, it is to reveal your nature. The ladder bit was hilarious. I have to admit that I miss these kinds of scenes a little bit, they used to be more common in the past and seem to be disappearing in recent seasons. Such scenes have no impact on the game but they are great fun to watch. I think that a lot of people will agree with me that, right now, Tony is like a ticking bomb, a Dr. Jekyll about to become Mr. Hyde. He’s trying to stay calm, to stay under the radar, not to run around everywhere. He’s trying, he’s trying, and it’s working so far. But it’s not going to work forever and everyone knows it, himself included and it’s TV gold! I was afraid that either Tony would be gone the first episode or would manage to stay under the radar somehow, but the Tony we’re getting right now is probably the best possible Tony. I hope it lasts.
  • Tyson Apostol (one token): He was pretty much invisible this episode too, however, he got two tiny confessionals. It’s always a good sign with a player doesn’t really do anything during one episode, but he still gets confessionals, even if it is to talk about another player. Of course, the confessional was gold (it’s Tyson after all), but it’s also good for his chances (he is my pregame winner pick after all).
  • Wendell Holland (one token): Wendell, on the other hand, was more invisible than I would have liked him too. He had an almost too positive edit during episode one, but this week, he was almost invisible. I guess episode one told us to root for him, that he’d be one of the “heroes” this season, but probably his storyline will only be important later.
  • Yul Kwon (one token): The little bit we saw of Yul this episode was great in comparison and contrasts to Tony’s ladder. Yul built a tool to grab fruits. It’s very smart, very efficient, and no big fuss was made about it (some people may not even have noticed). Compare to Tony and his ladder; completely messy, involved everyone, could have ended in a disaster. However, in the end, both got the job done. They are nice metaphors about both Yul’s and Tony’s respective styles, I’m not sure if it is a metaphor for their future in the game, though.

The State of Alliances at Dakal:

  • The nerd/solo players alliance: Yul, Sophie, Wendell, and Nick.
  • The Cops R’ Us + Sandra alliance. Is it really an alliance or two alliances that Tony is part of? How close are Sandra and Sarah?
  • The free agents, former poker alliance: Tyson and Kim.

Are Tyson and Kim still together? Hard to tell, as they both scuttled the poker alliance last week in order to survive. As the nerd alliance is in control of the tribe and could take control of the game right now, their best move would be to both join the Game Changers alliance. But it doesn’t seem likely. Tyson and Tony almost targeted each other last week. This week Kim is showing signs of wanting to work with Yul and Sophie. Next week it seems that there could be trouble between Sandra and Tyson (there goes my dream of seeing them work together).
Still, both Tyson and Kim joining the “nerd alliance” could be good temporarily for the six people involved if they start losing challenges. There is no way to tell what is going to happen later in the game, but I think we’ll get a voting block style of play rather than long term alliances.


Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment


The Edge of Extinction

  • Amber Mariano: She seems surprised that she was voted out first. Really Amber? In any case, she really seems out of the loop. The way she got played by Natalie was almost painful to watch, but not out of character. Amber has always followed people when playing Survivor, always. Sometimes it benefited her (All-Stars) some other times not (last week, this week).
  • Natalie Anderson (two tokens): Natalie has understood quickly what Amber hasn’t yet, that the game is still happening at the Edge of Extinction, which makes me hate it a little less, at least until someone re-enters the game. The way that Natalie played dumb next to Amber while Amber was actually not getting what was happening at first showed us why Natalie will still matter this season and will still have an influence on the game. At the moment she remains Jeremy’s strongest asset, not sure for how long, as he’ll run out of tokens soon, and I can see her collecting a lot of tokens that could help her re-enter the game. We’ll see. One negative thing: however, she didn’t get the clue in the text, the first letter of every line spelled out WATER WELL, but I’ll give her a pass, life is hard and food is scarce on the Edge of Extinction.


“Warrior” of the Week

I started this little thing during Blood Vs Water, the “don’t let that fool you” award (credit to Gervase Peterson for inspiring the name). Every week, I give an award to the “impact player” of the week, the player who made the biggest difference, the biggest move, who affected the game the most that week. Note that it can be a positive or a negative (orchestrate a blindside or on the other hand royally screw up his game or his alliance’s).

  • This week, the Warrior award recipient is unanimous (sure I’m the sole person in charge of awarding it). It goes to Danni Boatwright who destroyed her own game, put her head on the chopping block herself and did everything she could to make sure everyone chops it off. Well played Danni, not many people managed to do that.


Winner Pick

Let’s start with the people whom I think are going to make the merge:

Adam, Ben, Denise, Ethan, Jeremy, Kim, Michelle, Nick, Sandra, Sophie, Tyson, Wendell, Yul

Of course, that’s based on the current edits and power-dynamics. Any swap will through that out of the window in seconds.

Among them, my winner picks are Adam, Denise, Jeremy, Tyson, Wendell, with still a preference for Tyson with Adam and Denise not too far behind.


Next Person Voted Out

  • If Sele goes to tribal council again, it has to be Parvati or Rob, or I’ll start doubting whether the other players can play well.
  • If Dakal goes to tribal (and I think it can), it really could be anyone at this point. Tony, Sandra or Tyson are the most in danger I believe, but it’s really hard to tell. (Yes, I have Tyson both as a possible winner and a possible next boot). Well, there is the Edge of Extinction at play… Please, please, please Tyson, don’t pull a Chris Underwood.


Next Time on Survivor

Are Adam and Denise finally making their move against Rob and Parvati? Let’s hope so.

Is Yul pitting Sandra against Tyson? Let’s hope not.



More reading

If you want to read more about Survivor, here are some of the blogs I love to follow and read:

(more may come)  


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