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Winners at War – Episode 8: “This is Where the Battle Begins”

The merge is usually one of the most intense episodes of the season, and for a season that is quite intense and promises to be more and more intense every week from now on, I found it somewhat subdued.

Usually the merge vote is where “lines are drawn in the sand,” where “the tone is set,” and things like that. However, maybe because this group of players is different from every other group, this vote didn’t really feel special.

We’ll see how things go from here, but I assume dynamics and majorities will shift from week to week.

This week, it seems that the “big threats” (or at least the “more visible players”) finally realized that they need to get together if they don’t want to end up like the old school players. But in the end, the vote was roughly everyone against this tiny alliance of three.

As I said, I expect a lot of voting blocks this season, and not too many hardcore alliances “til the end”.


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

Oh, we didn’t get to hear the origin of the tribe’s name… Well, do we care?

Adam Klein (one token): Did he dodge a bullet or what? I pretty much thought he was a goner, and yet, his upcoming boot was a bit too obvious, which kinda meant it was not going to be him. Kudos to him for having this awareness that it could be him, and at the same time, knowing where the votes were actually going if not in his direction. Still, he’s more isolated than ever, and it seems that no one trusts him nor wants to work with him.
I think that having survived this vote, he shouldn’t be a target for a little while. His best strategy now is to lay low until he becomes a swing vote.

Ben Driebergen (one token): He seems a bit irrelevant in the grand scale of things at the moment. And yet, he’s part of most discussions, he even seems to be part of the “big names” alliance – is he a big name? I think he’s not going anywhere soon, but he won’t be really leading any narrative either.

Denise Stapley (two tokens): She may have saved herself with this immunity challenge win. When she voted out Sandra, she was in a position where she kinda had to make a big move (I mean, she could have voted Tony out, but it was wiser to go after Sandra). However, it did put a huge target on her back. Her immunity win this week did the same, saved her, but put a bigger target on her back. I believe Denise can do best when she can stay at least a little bit under the radar. She will need to return there quickly or she could be going soon.

Jeremy Collins (two tokens and one “no tribal for me” advantage): He really impressed me this week. Making alliances left and right, being in the middle of a lot of conversations, winning an immunity and… seemingly being on no one’s radar whatsoever. He’s playing a very similar game as the one he did in Cambodia, and why should he change this at the moment, right? There is just one little problem. He couldn’t save Wendell, which means that his game is not as perfect as it seems. That could still play in his favor though, as to go far he must not appear too dominant.

Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (one token and one idol): Not much about Kim this week, but she’s still doing fine, and doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar at the moment.

Michele Fitzgerald (four tokens): Not much about Michelle either, except for the fact that she lost Wendell and that she was blindsided for this vote. On a regular season, that could mean she’s in a lot of trouble, but I really believe that this season we’ll see power shift after power shift, and only people who can navigate those will do well. So having lost Wendell, she has lost a lot of power, which also means that next week nobody should target her as long as she doesn’t regain some power. And even if she was blindsided, note that nobody talked about voting against her.

Nick Wilson (two tokens): A little bit like Michele, except that he was targeted, and was very close to being voted out. I think Sophie noticing Jeremy becoming too close to Wendell is what saved Nick here.
Contrarily to Michele, I’m afraid he won’t benefit much from that power shift and that very few people will still be willing to play with him. I’m afraid that he won’t last very much longer.

Sarah Lacina (one token, one “steal a vote” advantage): I feel that we didn’t see much of Sarah this week, did we? Her edit is a bit odd. She was shown to be in a very dominant position early in the game, and she hasn’t really left that position. However, her screen time really has taken a hit in recent weeks, almost becoming Sophie’s sidekick (in appearance only, we all know how hard Sarah plays).

Sophie Clarke (two tokens and one idol): Some people still doubt that Sophie is one of the best to ever play this game. She showed it again this week. Sophie sees most of what’s going on. She noticed and understood perfectly who was getting into an alliance with whom. She basically decided it had to be Wendell and not Nick or Adam, and everyone simply said yes. She impressed me when she won South Pacific, and I think she’s playing an even better game now. My only concern is that her edit lacks content, especially personal content. Every time we see and hear her, it’s about strategy. She doesn’t have much development beyond being this amazing strategist calling the shots. That is not a winner’s edit, despite the fact that she’s probably the best player at the moment.

Tony Vlachos (one token): A few months ago, who would have thought that Tony, not only would make the merge this season, but also wouldn’t be a target yet (He has zero votes cast against him so far. How is that possible?)
His strategy is paying! And on top of all of that, he seems to be involved in a lot of important conversations, even, apparently in charge of forming his new alliance. How can this lucky streak last?

Tyson Apostol re-entered the game (no token): Yeah! Tyson re-entered the game. It was not exactly a surprise; everything in his edit screamed that it’d be him. Still, when Rob was so close behind him during the challenge, I was a little afraid.
Now, Tyson is in an interesting position. He’s quite isolated, but he doesn’t seem to be a target at the moment, and in a sense, having been voted out before the swap gives him a blank slate, at least for a little while. He jumped back in a new alliance of “big threats”, but honestly I’m not sure how solid that alliance will be.
Sooner or later, people will realize that he’s already made a lot of friends in the jury. Tyson has a very narrow path from now on, but his edit still tells me that he’s winning, so I’m really curious about what will happen next.

Wendell Holland voted out: I’m not sure what happened here. I mean, beyond Sophie being a cold-blooded killer.
I really didn’t see that coming. Neither did Wendell.
I guess what happened is very simple. Sophie saw that Jeremy was getting too much power, but she can’t go after him just yet, so she needed to weaken him. Also, the Wendell/Michele/Nick trio needed to be split.
Voting Wendell out allowed to do both at the same time. I wonder how Sophie pulled that out. I suspect that she was not the only one pushing for a Wendell vote.
From another perspective, it’s really odd that Wendell was voted out now. His story seems unfinished, especially the whole deal with his past relationship with Michele. It really seemed that it would matter more on the grand scale of things. Maybe it didn’t. Or maybe… Wendell’s story is not over yet. Something in his final words made me believe that he’d still have an impact on the game somehow. Will he return from the Edge of Extinction? Will his final vote have a big impact (if Michele is in the final three for example)? Will Michele be voted out soon and their relationship will have an impact on what happens at the Edge of Extinction? No idea.

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

The Edge of Extinction

Amber Mariano (no token)

Danni Boatwright (no token)

Ethan Zohn (no token)

Natalie Anderson (one idol, no token)

Parvati Shallow (no token)

Rob Mariano (one idol, no token)

Yul Kwon (no token)


  • The “Big Threats” alliance: Tony, Tyson, Jeremy, Ben. Am I forgetting anyone?
  • Nick and Michele: They’ll need to find more people to play with. Jeremy was tight with Michele in the first part of the game. What happened to that?
  • Denise and Adam: Are they still a thing? Not so much from Denise’s perspective.
  • Denise, Kim and Jeremy: Just before the merge, they seemed to have become an alliance, but I’m not sure we even saw them together this week, did we?
  • Sophie and Sarah still seem tight. Is Kim with them? Kim and Sophie kinda sorta were together before the swap.

“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).

This week’s warrior of the week has to be Sophie. Unless the edit is totally misleading us, it really seems that Nick was the most likely boot, and it’s Sophie who convinced almost everyone to go after Wendell instead.

Special mention to Tyson for returning to the game.

Winner Pick

  • If I am to believe the edit (and when looking for a winner, I mostly believe the edit), Sophie pretty much single-handledly convinced everyone else to vote Wendell, both weakening and saving Nick at the same time (he still can be useful to her) and weakening Jeremy too. She could be the new “leader” in the list of possible winners, but I’m still concerned by her lack of “personal content”. All we see of her is gameplay pretty much. No confessional about her feelings, her story and things like that.
  • Michele’s chances have taken a hit this week. She was almost invisible. She was left out of the vote and one of her main allies was voted out. She could be on the chopping block next. However, I don’t think it will happen, and that’s her only bad episode so far. So, she’s still a potential winner.
  • As expected Tyson returned from the Edge of Extinction, but not only that, he keeps on having a very strong edit every week. Getting a “complex personality positive” (to speak in Edgic terms) edit almost every week, this week included. He is the most “fleshed out” contestant this season by far. The only player who could compete would be Adam, unfortunately for him, his edit is quite negative.
  • Jeremy is playing a very solid game. He’s having great content. Winners at War Jeremy really looks like Cambodia Jeremy.

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

  • Tony is still there. I think no one would have believed it at the beginning of the season. Not only he’s still there, but he isn’t a target and is getting a good amount of screen time, most of it positive.
  • Despite the fact that he was almost invisible early in the season, Nick has had pretty good and mostly positive content since. Even this week, while being depicted a little bit negatively, it was lighthearted at the same time.
  • Sarah: She’s had a pretty strong edit early this season, she’s still in the game and not targeted by anyone else. However, she’s been very under the radar in terms of screen time for three episodes in the row. That’s a lot.

Long shot:

  • Kim: I didn’t think Kim was going to make the merge. She did. However, despite a rather positive edit, she’s just not getting enough screen time to be this season’s winner.
  • Denise: She’s had ups and downs in terms of screen time. Her big move a couple of weeks ago, set her up as a contender to win, but unfortunately, it also put a huge target on her back. I believe that she would have been voted out hadn’t she won immunity.
  • Ben: He doesn’t really have a story, he’s just some sort of sidekick most times he appears on the screen.

Slim to none:

  • Adam: Despite having so many confessionals, Adam’s edit is too negative. He’s not this season’s villain, but he’s definitely this season’s fool. There is no way he can win with such an edit (he most likely goes to the end, though)
  • Everyone else at the Edge of Extinction

Next Person Voted Out

Wow. I have no idea.

Denise could be in trouble, though. Jeremy too?

Next Time on Survivor

The preview is very Nick-centric, and implies that he’s going to go home. So, I don’t think he does, but he could start some sort of uprising? Against the “big threats”? Maybe?

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