It's proving very dangerous to be a living legend in the game of "Survivor" when winners go to war -- plus, a powerful moment touches hearts from Edge of Extinction.
This may be the most cut-throat season yet with "Survivor: Winners at War," but there was time for one of the most touching moments we've ever seen on this show, and it shockingly happened on the controversial Edge of Extinction.
We get that the main argument for the inclusion of this element from a couple of seasons ago was to keep these winners around longer on our television screens. Especially because Jeff Probst and everyone playing had to know that the best-known players -- the legends of the game -- were also going to be the biggest targets.
That's definitely proven to be the case as four of the first five inhabitants on the Edge began their "Survivor" journey more than a decade ago and the current inhabitants have played the game a total of nine times. Apparently when everyone has won a million dollars, you have to look for other reasons to target them early on.
This season, those targets include players who share long-standing connections with others from previous seasons, players who've played the game more than once and -- quite bluntly -- the older players who did this a long time ago. The problem is that the newer players, who outnumber the older ones overall, idolize many of the legends and who doesn't want to put on their resume that they took out a legend?
That whole notion came up again this week, with Sandra and Sarah reminiscing when Sarah was able to do it to the Queen of this game. It is a big deal to someone who grew up watching some of these people play, and it's making the island a very dangerous place for some of those legends. And so far, they are losing bad at finding ways to stay in this game.
That said, some of the biggest of all time are still in there, but how much longer can they last without a major shift happening? Could that major shift be next week's promised tribal swap? Those have been know to flip things on their heads.
We don't usually expect big moments to come from Edge of Extinction. So far this season, it's been mostly about watching Natalie kick some serious butt out there, amassing the most fire tokens in the game. But this week saw something different happen, as everyone had equal opportunity to score a fire token.
They were given a monumental task of transporting firewood up and down the mountain one at a time for twenty rotations before sunset. Natalie, as expected, was an absolute beast at this, while some of the older players struggled. But it was Ethan's journey that would prove the most touching and powerful.
He actually had medical called to check on him as he was pushing his body beyond its limits. He was warned to take breaks if he insisted on continuing and listen to his body. It was up to him to continue, or accept that it was too much. No one was going to judge him, but the cancer survivor wanted to prove to himself and everyone who's been through a health issue like his that there are no limits after except those you set on yourselves.
In an incredibly moving gesture from his competitors in this game, Natalie, Amber and Danni -- who had already finished the emotionally and physically draining challenge -- all joined him for his final trek up and down the mountain. It was a bonding experience like no other and proof that the bonds and relationships the newer players are so scared of are real out here if you let them be.
BLOWOUT TO INCREDIBLE COMEBACK
It so looked like we were on the verge of watching another "WaW" blowout as Dakal dominated the early portions of this challenge. Parvati, Denise and Adam were tasked with jumping up to snatch a key in the mid-challenge before the inevitable puzzle and they absolutely could not get it done.
After Denise and Parvati missed, Adam finally managed to snag a single key out of three. Parvati would go on to miss two more times while Adam got the second. And then, they put all their eggs on an exhausted Adam's back who missed three more times before getting that last key.
Jeff was ready to call a third straight Dakal win, and especially when Rob and Michele again took on the puzzle task. They blew the last challenge here (Rob had bombed the previous two puzzles) and they were painfully behind. But then something amazing happened as piece by piece they pulled it dead even and then, miraculously, won.
It was an incredible thing to see and a testament to perseverance. Adam never gave up and got the key, finally. Rob got his redemption and both of them needed this win, as did Parvati. Rob and Parvati are the last remaining old-schoolers on their tribe and at the bottom, while Adam got caught playing both sides last week.
All three are huge targets right now for their tribe, but the win allowed them a breather and the chance to change their fate ... at least until that swap.
Yul Kwon (Cook Island-2006) is absolutely running his tribe with his cool manner and no one seems to realize just how much power and influence he has, even outside of his almost secret alliance if disconnected people. He's in an interesting place because Dakal is more interested in players with connections while Sele has been about legends and older players. Tribal swap could upset his apple cart, but he's proven adaptable and up to the challenge of the new way of playing this game. Grade: A+
Michele Fitzgerald (Kaôh Rōng-2016) has emerged as one of the strongest players on her tribe. With everything to prove after her controversial win in Kaôh Rōng, Michele is playing hard and building relationships with new-schoolers and old-schoolers, bonding on a personal level with Rob. This gives her options and not just at this stage in the game. Grade: A
Sarah Lacina (Game Changers-2017) remains a huge unseen threat in her tribe. Her alliance with Tony is bearing fruit, and even though she wasn't able to dictate the course of this week's Tribal, it's worth nothing that she was savvy enough to go with the flow for now. She's a master at this game, at reading people and she knows where the threats are. Grade: A
Denise Stapley (Philippines-2012) is sitting pretty in the same position right now that she was in her season. She's in with the right numbers, she's influential around camp and in talks and no one is paying any attention to her. She's laying low from a power position and has bigger power targets by her side, and in front of her. Grade: A
Jeremy Collins (Second Chances-2015) is the de facto leader of the Sele tribe, but the problem is that everyone knows what a huge threat he is and everyone knows he's the de facto leader. That's a much worse position to be in, even though Jeremy is a savvy enough player to navigate it. Plus, he seems to be aware of everything going on, which is dangerous and advantageous. Grade: A-
Tony Vlachos (Cagayan-2014) went from being seen as an immediate target to someone who has surprised his tribe and charmed his way into their good graces. His legacy still hangs over him a bit, but he's building strong alliances and relationships, and staying true to Sarah this time is already making a huge difference in both of their games. If he can keep the target away from him long enough, he can go far. Grade: A-
Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands-2003 & Heroes vs. Villains-2010) is amazing at this game. This week, she put aside her emotions for the better of the game, recognizing where the tides were shifting and proving that her "anyone but me" strategy can work again and again and again. Until it doesn't. Can she adapt to survive the mid-game? So far, she's done an amazing job of shifting targets off of her and onto bigger backs, but that will only get harder as numbers dwindle. Grade: B+
Rob Mariano (Redemption Island-2011) is a legend for a reason and we got to see a bit of that this week, even as he didn't need to save his neck immediately with a tribal win. Nevertheless, he took the seed of doubt over Adam and helped it blossom into a small flower in Jeremy and Michele's minds. He and Parvati are backs to the wall and Rob is masterfully keeping them around. How long can he do it? But man is it fun to watch! Grade: B
Wendell Holland (Ghost Island-2018)and Sophie Georgina Clarke (South Pacific-2011) are playing the exact same game, aligned with Yul and Nick and laying so low that people are literally forgetting that they're in the game. It's an interesting strategy, but one we can't argue with at this early stage of the game with huge targets and legends still around. Grade: B
Parvati Shallow (Fans vs. Favorites-2008) is letting Rob do all the dirty work, and yet everyone still seems more afraid of her -- or more afraid of going after Rob directly. We'd love to see her doing more to dictate her own fate in this game, but she's building bonds and relationships and charming her way through so far. A tribal shift could make or break her immediate game depending how she responds and where the numbers lie new versus old. Grade: B-
Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (One World-2012) is listening more and talking less, laying low and seeing how things play in Dakal. She is aware of the divide between connected and unconnected players, and that's enough for now because no one sees her as a threat in the near future, which is just where she wants to be. Grade: B-
Nick Wilson (David vs. Goliath-2018) is a few notches lower than his quiet alliance members simply because he exposed himself by blowing the puzzle (Sarah seems unaffected even though she was right there) and once you see your name, it can be hard to shake that off. But he's still well-aligned so he should be okay for the time being. Grade: C+
Ben Driebergen (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers-2017) is kind of floating in the middle of the game right now. He's toned down his theatrics, but he also is in danger of becoming complacent again in a position of power. The biggest problem, though, is that his own tribe is having a hard time trusting him, which isn't great. For now, though, he's doing okay. Grade: C
Adam Klein (Millennials vs. Gen-X-2016) made this bed by trying to play both sides and now Rob is using every bit of it to sow distrust. It's not going to be easy for Adam to weasel his way out of this immediate threat, and even if he does he may never be able to gain trust again. A tribal swap might be the best thing for his game. Grade: C
Natalie Anderson (San Juan del Sur-2014) continues to be an absolute beast on Edge of Extinction and we continue to wish she could get back in the game sooner rather than later because she is incredible to watch play. She's dominating the fire token game, but it remains to be seen if that will ultimately mean anything. Grade: C-
Amber Mariano (All-Stars-2004), Danni Boatwright (Guatemala-2005) and Ethan Zohn (Afrida-2001) all earned fire tokens in a community challenge this week, but we've yet to see anything from any of them during their time there that impresses us, or tells us they can beat Natalie in anything. Grade: F
Tyson Apostol (Blood vs. Water-2013) has been the target for his tribe since the moment Amber went to the Edge, so this was an inevitable result. He did what he could to make it not him, and even had people fighting in his corner. We don't know why it didn't work, but he brings his charm and physical prowess to a new field where he basically has one legitimate competitor. We'll see what he can do. Grade: F
"I was playing all sides and unfortunately everyone knows it. I'm lucky to be here." -- Adam
"Natalie, I don't think she's human. She kept the same pace the whole time." --Danni (about marathon fire token challenge on Edge)
"I wanted to set a good example for everyone who's been through a health challenge and thinks they can't do it anymore. You can do it. You can get through those hard moments ... [to self] You've got this. You've been through a lot worse things." --Ethan (finishing even after medical visit)
"On that last run, we felt like we needed to be a part of that." --Danni (as she, Amber and Natalie join Ethan for final trip)
"Let me tell you, if you win, you win. The end." --Rob (helping Michele feel better about her controversial win)
"All of a sudden ,Adam is the hardest working person on this island. Adam is acting like one of my children when they get in trouble. They know you're disappointed in them so they try to soften things up." --Jeremy
"Being at the mercy of everyone else, it's the worst." --Rob (to Parvati)
"Should we bury him? ... We could go to Jeremy and say he's already trying. I could just go and make the story up." --Rob (plotting against Adam to change his and Parvati's fate)
"What should I do about Adam? He keeps trying to talk to me." --Rob (to Jeremy and Michele -- and it's working!)
"The people who are disconnected or only played the game one time, they're not even on anyone's radar. People like Wendell, Nick, Yul and I don't even know who the last one is -- Sophie! So under the radar that I didn't even know her name." --Tyson (unknowingly naming Yul's alliance)
"We should rename the bench the Sandra Bench." --Parvati (after Sandra volunteers to sit out again)
"As long as it's not me." --Sandra (when people talk to her about the vote)
"Is it that easy though, guys?" --Tony (suspicious everyone quickly agreed to Tyson's Nick plan)
"Tyson is one of the greats, this is his fourth time playing, but he doesn't know what's going on. All of our eyes are on Tyson. He's kind of a dead man walking." --Wendell
"Tony's right. We'd be stupid to let Tyson go because he's a bigger target than we are. But I don't trust Tyson. I think he's dangerous." --Sandra (and yet they didn't do it for some reason)