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Winners at War – Episode 7: “We’re in the Majors”

And the last episode before the merge saw the vote out of the last “old school” player.

Yes, I’m sad, just like most of you that this happened, but I’m afraid that it was unavoidable. At tribal, Probst hinted that maybe the game goes too fast nowadays for old school players, but I think that’s baloney.

Sure, people like Ethan and Amber must have needed a few days to adapt to the current speed of playing (Ethan said so himself), but while Amber was voted out too early to see if she could have adapted, Ethan definitely did. Danni’s downfall may or may not have to do with her inability to adapt, hard to tell 

The old school players got all voted out for two reasons in my opinion.

The first one is that the more you’ve played (Rob, Sandra, Tyson, Parvati) the bigger the target on your back. Or, on the opposite, the more “legendary” your win was – especially if you didn’t return or return often – (Yul, Parvati again), the bigger your target was too.
So all those people had huge targets on their backs from the get-go. And what they do in order to survive?

They went after each other!

This is their mistake, and once it started happening on both tribes, it was like dominoes falling, there was nothing they could do to make it stop.

Yul’s idea to go after the “connected people” on his tribe from day one was a miscalculation. He ignored his own legendary status that left him the biggest target once the other threats were either voted out or in another tribe because of the swap.

The same goes for Danni, when she had Rob as a target on day one. From that moment, the old schoolers at Sele could never trust each other fully, and she was the first victim. As soon as she was gone there was nothing the remaining others could do to save themselves. Rob still could have made the merge I believe, if he had accepted to vote Parvati out. That would have saved Ethan, and I believe Adam and/or Jeremy were willing to work with Rob and Ethan at least for a little while.


It’s not too different from the pre-merge part of Game Changers in a sense.

I hope this is a lesson for future players in all-returnee seasons. During the pre-merge, if you’re a legendary player, a big target, something like that, stick with the other players like you, don’t go after each other thinking you’ll be the only one left and will dominate the more “minor” (in appearance only) players.

The problem is that usually the bigger the target, the bigger the ego too (I’m looking at you, Rob, Parvati, and Sandra).


The reward challenge we didn’t see – Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment



  • Michele Fitzgerald (three tokens): To anyone still thinking that Michele didn’t deserve to win and to be playing this season, I hope you’re convinced now.
    I’m afraid that Kaoh Rong had so many trolls (bearded troll and basketball troll especially) and so many big characters (Tai, Aubry) that we really didn’t see enough of Michele’s gameplay and that’s why so many people don’t think she deserved to win. That’s not her fault, rather the editors’ (sure, the fact that she didn’t go to tribal council at all pre-merge didn’t help them).
    However, this season, week after week, we’re seeing how amazing her social game is. She’s been to the most tribal councils so far and she hasn’t received a single vote. She has voted against the person who got voted out three times, only being out of the loop for the Natalie vote. She voted with Parvati against Wendell last week, but that was mostly out of friendship with Parvati, and maybe hoping Nick changes his vote (he didn’t), she was not blindsided or anything.
    Her game is not perfect, she did make mistakes (last week, the “deal” with Wendell was a terrible idea), but it’s very very strong.
    Think about it.
    She doesn’t really have enemies, she has a strong alliance with Jeremy, she has this dysfunctional thing with Wendell that is starting to look like an alliance (one that would benefit her more than him on the long term), and we’re getting into the merge, which means that she won’t be targeted for quite a while, bigger flashier players will before her.
    By managing to survive this vote and succeeding in fracturing the three men’s alliance, she secured herself a spot to the final part of the game at least, and probably to the end.
  • Nick Wilson (two tokens): I’m very glad we’re starting to see more of Nick after he was almost invisible at the beginning of the season. We saw these past two weeks how he’s such a good player and he’s so underrated. He realized that he couldn’t win if he stayed with Yul, and as more or less a free agent coming into the merge, he can sneak into voting block after voting block until far in the game (because there will be voting blocks more than alliances in the post-merge, I’m almost sure of this).
    However, while he managed to blindside Yul, he may have made a mistake in doing so.
    While Yul was a big target, I don’t think he could have made it to the end no matter what. So, while voting Yul out was a good play right then, as well as the “safer” vote, it may have been smarter (but riskier) to vote out Wendell or Michele, as Yul would most likely be targeted by many people post-merge. Not sure.
    Now, it also makes sense for him to keep his alliance with Wendell safe (even though I’m not sure how tight it is), and that also means that Michele needs to be factored in.
    There’s a lot we didn’t see about what’s really going on between Michele and Wendell, and that is having an influence on everyone’s behavior at Sele.
  • Wendell Holland (two tokens): So apparently, Wendell’s “offer” to Parvati during tribal wasn’t something he had planned to do with Yul and Nick. Or at least not with Yul. As I’ve just mentioned there are a few pieces of the puzzles that we’re not seeing at Sele, and they mostly revolve around Wendell.
    Online, some people are saying that Michele and Wendell are fine, that they have a pregame alliance and that their tensions and bickering are all for show, but I’m not sure I agree.
    They would have mentioned it somehow if that was the case (in a confessional for example).
    Still, the fact is that they are working together at the moment, and it definitely is a tricky situation.
    I know that a lot of it has to do with an edit that is going out of its way to depict Wendell as this season’s villain, but still, his mood definitely has shifted since he got reunited with Michele. We’ll see if that storyline goes somewhere in the future or if that will be more or less the end of it now that the merge is here.
  • Yul Kwon voted out: Of course, I’m upset just like everyone else, but if it came as a surprise to you, it means that you were not paying attention. There was no way Yul would have gotten much further in the game for many reasons, one of them being that he’s the smartest guy out there and as a consequence one of the biggest threats remaining in the game. Had he survive this vote, I think he would have been the logical target next week, and I don’t think many people would have stood up to save him.
    Still, he really made a huge mistake trying to barter some tokens out of Wendell before trying to vote him out.
    Talking about old school vs new school, there’s one thing that was very old school in Yul’s mistake and it’s attaching too much importance to the tokens. Because advantages were a rarity when he played (and the only advantage in his season greatly helped him win), he was a bit too focused on the fire tokens, whereas the three other players aren’t yet because they have no use at the moment. The new schoolers understand that advantages will abound post-merge, and it’ll be the time to focus on them, just not yet.
    So long Yul. Now that you’ve been back after all these years, I really hope you return again soon. You’re definitely one of the best humans to ever play this game (and my four-year-old son will be crushed when he learns that you’ve lost, he was rooting for you and hasn’t seen the episode yet as I’m typing these lines)


Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved



  • Denise Stapley (one token): I don’t have much to say about Dakal this week. Denise is still playing a killer game now that we actually see her play.
    After getting rid of Sandra and cementing her alliance with Jeremy, she’s bringing Kim into the fold, and those three could be the “strongest” alliance in a long time. Not “strongest” in terms of sticking together until the final three and steamrolling everyone else, but “strongest” because they’re probably three of the best players to ever play the game and seeing them together is a Survivor fan dream come true.
    However, I don’t think the alliance will survive more than a few votes. They have to be aware that it’ll be harder to go to the end and win against the other two than against other players. A bit like Denise and Malcolm had to turn against each other near the end of their first season. These three will also have to do it at some point.
  • Jeremy Collins (one token and one “no tribal for me” advantage): Jeremy is probably in the best position in the game right now. He has a pretty useful advantage if he feels that he’s on the chopping block, a lot of people want to work with him (Denise, Kim, Tony, Michele, Natalie if she returns, maybe more) and no one has seemed to be wanting him out since the beginning.
    Of course, that won’t last and he has to remain careful and keep his eyes wide open. People will turn against him as soon as they realize that he’s currently playing his way to the end in a similar way as he did in Cambodia (being a cool guy, fun to be around, not playing too hard in appearance, but actually doing it – the duck metaphor).
  • Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (one token and one idol): She’s finally getting more content and seemingly building a strong alliance with Jeremy and Denise. As we’ve seen this alliance being built over several episodes, I feel that it will matter post-merge, but as I’ve just mentioned, they’ll have to turn against each other eventually. But that’s for later.
  • Tony Vlachos (one token): Tony made the merge! Who would have thought it could happen? He really managed to make his target smaller over the past few weeks. Sure, he had to pay a price for this. That is playing the goofball card as much as possible, and as a consequence, I feel that he hasn’t played the game enough at the moment (no advantage, not really in a dominant position, no real alliance). Or at least this is how the edit depicts him, which is not really in his favor.
    I mean, sure, his edit is positive, but while he has lowered his threat level, he almost became not relevant in the big picture right now. But maybe that’s the only way he can go far?
    He still had some strategic content: wanting to play with Jeremy, but wanting Denise out soon. He still has his alliance with Sarah. However, now she’s tight with Sophie. Will Sophie and Tony mesh well together? What about Ben who also seems to be aligned with the two women? Lots of question marks around Tony at the moment. We’ll see how they get answered later.
    All in all, maybe his plan is working perfectly right now after all. Let’s just appreciate that he made the merge!


Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved



  • Adam Klein (one token): He’s really isolated right now, and still depicted quite negatively (not as a villain, but worse, as a fool). While not really actually doing anything wrong, he’s definitely depicted as doing nothing right. He won’t be working with Ben, Sarah and Sophie post-merge that’s for sure, but will he be able to join new Sele? Or will he manage to put himself in a swing vote position?
  • Ben Driebergen (one token): He seems to have totally jumped on board with Sarah and Sophie. How much do they care for him? That’s an interesting question, and Ben could be in for a surprise if he trusts them a bit too much. Also, it should be noted that while I praised him last week for having a much stronger social game than before, this week he was back to his more unpleasant behavior at times (his bickering with Adam). I remember that he wasn’t that bad early during his first season, it’s mostly post-merge that he became unpleasant.
    Could it be that he has a harder time than most dealing with hunger and paranoia on the long term, and he’ll be back at being the Ben we knew very soon?
    I hope not, but this week there were a few hints that it could happen.
  • Sarah Lacina (one token, one “steal a vote” advantage): Sarah and Sophie seem more solid than ever. They may or may not have Ben with them, and they sure don’t seem to like Adam. We’ll see what happens with them at the merge.
  • Sophie Clarke (two tokens and one idol): Not much more to add. Except for one thing, in terms of edit, they both seem to be frontrunners to be the winner this season, and I know that it’s two weeks in a row that they don’t need to strategize much, but they didn’t get much content at all, and not much of a story for these past two weeks. But as I said before, right before the merge is also often the time when the winner slides a bit into the background, so maybe it’s just that.


Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The Edge of Extinction

  • Amber Mariano (one token) and Danni Boatwright (one token) have been pretty much invisible for a few weeks, and their story is clearly over. I don’t think I’ll have much to say about them until the remainder of the season.
  • Ethan Zohn (one token): I’m glad we’re seeing more of funny Ethan. His funny side has never been underlined on Survivor and that’s a shame (on a side note, you must read his “postcards from the Edge” on Twitter, you’ll see what I mean by “funny Ethan”).
    Also, his segment with Parvati was simply beautiful. They both really do have a great genuine friendship and I’m glad we saw more of it. With that being said, his negative and doubtful thoughts are making me think that after he loses the challenge to re-enter the game, Ethan will probably call it quits, if only out of concern for his health.
  • Natalie Anderson (four tokens): after being so dominant early on, she has become invisible. This doesn’t look good for Natalie. Or could she fail to re-enter the game next week, but will do so later? We’ll see.
  • Parvati Shallow (zero tokens): Not much about her, all of her content was about Ethan, and I’m afraid that her story is over too.
  • Rob Mariano (three tokens): As you know, I focus a lot on editing when I analyze Survivor, and I have a problem with Rob’s edit.
    Rob pretty much always have the “Rob edit”. What I mean is that regardless of what he actually does, he’s edited as if he’s the most dominant player out there and the potential winner. It never was more flagrant than this current season when he never was in power, he never controlled a single vote, he literally had no chance to survive until the merge, and yet, he was edited as if he was in control, had tons of screen time, and almost had a winner edit.
    Well, it’s still happening at the Edge of Extinction.
    To his credit, he did play everyone else at the “Edge challenge” this week, and just as I said about Tyson last week, he’s still playing the game even at the Edge of Extinction (because that’s what you should do). And at the moment, he has no allies there because there is no point in having strategic allies there (friends, yes, for jury management, but allies, no). We saw that this week, he lied pretty much to everybody about his fire tokens (that’s why he didn’t help Tyson or Parvati for example). The edit (with the flashback) was nice storytelling, but I would like to know how he managed to find three fire tokens before everyone else and without anyone else noticing.
    Everyone seemed very close to each other in that “race”. Well, kudos to him, he did play that very well. I also suspect that it will be one of the last things of importance he does. We’ll see.
  • Sandra Diaz-Twine leaving the game: A lot of people are criticizing Sandra online for going home (and not just a certain troll that shall not be named).
    Why is that? Yes, it is really sad to see her go so early, especially because it may be the last time she plays. But let’s be realistic here. We all know she has no chance of winning the challenges to re-enter the game, and she knows it too.
    One of Sandra’s strengths is her self-awareness. So what would be the point in suffering through 20 days or so of Edge of Extinction just to get a seat in the jury? Sure, being in the jury is the only thing Sandra hasn’t done in Survivor. Honestly, do you think she cares?
    So, yes, it is sad to see her go, but that was the reasonable thing to do for her. Adios amigo (amiga? gosh, I don’t know I haven’t heard Spanish in more than a decade).
  • Tyson Apostol (one token and an almost-empty (?) jar of peanut butter): Yes, I know, I love Tyson, I am biased towards him, but I found what we saw of him quite interesting this week. Did you notice how he had as much screen time as Rob, maybe even a little more? Did you notice how most of the story during the token race was told from his point of view? Did you notice how he could have easily been made to look like a fool, especially with his comment mocking Rob, and yet, his edit was still very positive? Sure he did find one token, but it is shown that he was played by Rob just like everyone else, and yet, I feel that his edit was more positive than it should have been.


The State of Alliances at merge time


  • Michele, Wendell, and Nick: What’s going on with these three? Are they in an alliance? It still seems that Nick and Wendell are tight but cracks started to appear. And whats’s going on with Michele? It really looked like Nick and her started playing together, and this whole Michele and Wendell thing is just confusing. They really seemed allied now despite all the bad blood between them. Didn’t Michele say that she wanted him to shake in his boots after tribal? I really took it that as a warning sign to Wendell: “Yes, the three of us are together, but don’t mess this up.”
  • Denise, Kim, and Jeremy: As I said a few paragraphs ago, this alliance could become super dominant. Could they work with the three above? It’s quite interesting. Kim was “against” Wendell and Nick at Dakal, but Jeremy was very tight with Michele. Actually I could see Michele joining them and dumping the guys, not sure.
  • Tony: He’s not really alone, but he’s in a weird position. Will he work with Jeremy? Are Sarah and him still tight? What about Sophie and him? They didn’t seem eager to work together pre-swap.
  • Sarah, Sophie, and Ben: Sarah and Sophie are tight, at least for a little while. Ben seems to be gravitating towards them, and they have no reason to reject him at the moment, he’s a vote.
  • Adam: He’s really alone right now. Is Denise (and by extension Jeremy) willing to work with him again? Hard to tell. His position is a very strange one. He could be an easy “consensus” target at the merge, but we all know better than that:

The merge promises to be crazy and unpredictable like almost every season. And what’s really interesting this season, even more than many others I feel is that every current alliance is connected to every other alliance, as:

  • Michele is connected to Jeremy.
  • Denise is connected to Adam and Ben.
  • Tony is connected to Sarah.
  • Sophie is connected to Nick and Wendell.

Am I missing any?


“Warrior” of the Week

I started this little thing during Blood Vs Water, the “don’t let that fool you” award (credit to Gervase 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).

It’s a tough one and a shared trophy this week. This week’s winners are :

  • Michele for splitting the boys and basically taking Yul’s spot in the alliance.
  • Yul for shooting himself in the foot with over strategizing and analyzing things in the open, which definitely must have freaked out Wendell and Nick.


Winner Pick

  • Michele kinda has taken the pole position now. She’s had a strong edit pretty much every week but one I believe, and she’s more and more connected to other players while not making any enemies. This is some amazing social game she’s playing now.
  • Sarah: Still not a lot of content, but she’s in the winning tribe, and we still see her, and still in a positive way.
  • Sophie: still same as Sarah.
  • Jeremy: He is in the strongest and safest position right now. He could have a little bit more screen time, but I’m sure that will happen now that all of the old schoolers are gone.
  • Tyson: His edit at the Edge still is the edit of a potential winner, not of someone who’s been voted pre-merge. He’s at least returning from the Edge next week. It’s pretty certain, isn’t it?
  • Denise was bumped up as a contender. While she was very under the radar early in the season, I believe she’ll be a dominant force post-merge and her social game is probably the best there is.

Still a chance: Those players are not on my “winner radar” for a reason or another, but things could change.

  • Kim: She finally seems to be having an opening and more screen time lately. Her story is not finished yet and could be a winner one (it’s an ascending story at the moment).
  • Nick: He’s becoming more prominent and with a rather positive edit. I doubt that he’ll win though, but you never know.
  • Tony: His chances are slim but he made the merge, and his chances to make the merge were very slim.

Long shot:

  • Ben gave me some pretty negative vibes this week, but Yara didn’t get a lot of screen time
  • Natalie: While she had an amazing edit for several weeks in a row, she’s been almost invisible since Tyson arrived on the Edge of Extinction. It doesn’t look good for her.

Slim to none:

  • Wendell: He’s this season’s villain. There is no doubt now. And he’s not doing anything really villainous. So that means for sure that he’s not winning.
  • Adam: Week after week he’s depicted as a fool and there is no apparent reason for that, but he can’t win with such an edit, which is a shame.
  • Everyone else on the Edge of Extinction. I don’t think they’ll return. Their story is over.


Next Person Voted Out

After a good winning streak, I was very wrong last week (I had Tony voted out).

Next week is the merge episode so there is no way I can predict next week’s loser, I’m not even going to try. It may be a surprising one.


Next Time on Survivor

The merge. Almost always the craziest episode of a season. We’ll see this time.



More reading

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