The switch from two tribes to three creates some of the most awkward relationship dynamics for almost everyone as past relationships haunt present gameplay.
Tribal swaps are always interesting things on this show, but the swap and switch from two to three tribes proved absolutely disastrous this week on "Survivor: Winners at War" -- well, depending on which game you were playing.
Let's just say, things did not go well for arguably the three most famous names left in the game as Boston Rob, Sandra and Parvati were all put onto separate tribes, arguably making them easy first votes for each of their respective new tribes.
The other key thing is to look at how the numbers stack up. It's possible to overcome number disparities down the road, but old tribal alliances tend to dictate early votes after a tribal swap or merge. That said, relationships are so much more complicated this season, because so many of the players know each other outside of the game, that nothing is set in stone.
Case in point, Wendell and Michele. Did you know they hooked up and dated for awhile outside of the game? You wouldn't have known by how they didn't interact all season, but as soon as they were plopped together onto the same tribe, the icy tension between them was absolutely dominant.
At the same time, Wendell was sitting pretty as he was swapped into his new tribe with his two closest allies in the game, Wendell and Yul. Will this trio continue to dominate as they did while a foursome with Sophie?
She found herself one of the odd women outnumbered on a new tribe, but it was against the most dysfunctional trio of former Sele the game could have put together. Literally, Rob and Ben and Adam have been at each other's throats almost since day one. That's not something players like Sophie and Sarah (who joined her on this new tribe) were going to just let lie.
Dakal was made up of former Sele members Denise and Jeremy, outnumbered by former Dakal members Kim, Sandra and Tony. That should be a logical and easy vote for them, but Kim is more of a swing vote because she's never really connected with Sandra or Tony. Plus, they're both seen as huge targets, so suddenly Kim finds herself being courted aggressively by both sides.
Sele is also Dakal dominant with that trio of Nick, Wendell and Yul outnumbering Wendell's ex Michele and Parvati. That would seem a pretty simple situation, but already we could see Parvati working her magic and befriending Michele. Could she find a way to flip the script and make a difference for both of them?
Yara was the new tribe, and the only one where Sele saw a numbers advantage. Unfortunately, it was with Rob, Ben and Adam over Sarah and Sophie, who already saw all the cracks between them and began exploiting them immediately. Their target was obvious. But Rob saw them coming and began implementing counter-strategies immediately. It's fun when winners play because everyone plays so hard!
The top two tribes would earn immunity this week -- next week only one will score it, meaning two will get the boot -- and immediately, the new Yara tribe was dominating all of the physical aspects of the challenge. But when it came to the puzzle, they inexplicably let Rob sit this one out, despite his epic victory last week. Did they want to lose?
Yara hit the puzzle first, followed by Parvati and Wendell for Sophie and after a lot of struggle in the early part of the challenge, finally Jeremy and Sandra for Dakal. And then, the impossible happened as we saw a reverse come-from-behind victory with an epic fall-from-first loss for Yara.
Adam and Sophie could not figure out the puzzle, allowing first Sele and then Dakal to surpass them and secure immunity for the week.
Rob admitted he was out of his element when it came to searching for hidden immunity idols, it was Sophie who found the new one on the Yara beach and quickly shared it with Sarah. But he knows the game he's played so well to the finale twice before and he quickly implemented his "buddy system on steroids," as Sarah dubbed it.
Rob plays from a position of power and control, but he also plays from an old-school system of trust and loyalty (until he doesn't). Newer players don't necessarily play that way, and winners don't like to feel like others are playing their games for them. But does that mean Sele should give up numbers in the only tribe where they have them?
In a numbers game, that seems like a foolish move if you're looking long-term. But with Sophie and Sarah having begun to work their wily magic even before their challenge loss, are Adam and Ben looking long-term? Or are they looking at being the guys who helped take out the godfather of this game?
With zero time spent on Edge of Extinction, there is no reason to change any of their grades. Natalie still has a C- for her incredible work there, while everyone else has an F ... including this week's evicted player.
Yul Kwon (Cook Island-2006) opened up emotionally this week, talking about his pal and Cook Island pal Jonathan Penner and his wife's struggles with ALS, sharing the story with Sarah and Wendell. Adding real, meaningful human connections to his brilliant strategic mind and he gets two of his alliance members in a dominant position on his tribe? Yeah, Yul is doing just fine. Grade: A+
Sophie Georgina Clarke (South Pacific-2011) not only found a hidden immunity idol, sharing it to solidify her underdog bond with Sarah, but she then helped manipulate Ben and Adam into flipping the numbers script on the new Yara tribe, turning a near certain defeat into absolute control of this new tribe. From the bottom to the top! Grade: A+
Sarah Lacina (Game Changers-2017) was right there by Sophie's side, though not quite as deft and manipulative with her words, as the women orchestrated an incredible flip from a vulnerable position to having total power and control over their tribe, and the boys don't even realize fully just what they've given up. They got outplayed so hard! Grade: A
Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (One World-2012) benefited tremendously from the tribal swap, landing in the swing position between her former tribemates Tony and Sandra, and newcomers Jeremy and Denise. While we don't know for sure which way she'll go, we have an idea about it. And regardless, she's in the power position for now. She just has to use it wisely. Grade: A-
Nick Wilson (David vs. Goliath-2018) and Wendell Holland (Ghost Island-2018) are currently in the same position, aligned with Yul and with all the power in the world on their new tribe. We put Nick ahead of Wendell marginally because of how poorly Wendell seems to be handling having Michele on his tribe. It may not ultimately matter, but it's rubbing some people the wrong way. Grade: A-
Denise Stapley (Philippines-2012) is using her social skills to woo Kim toward her side in a tribe where she's outnumbered, and so far it appears to be working. Both women like to work below the radar and could prove very dangerous together. On top of that, she remains tight with Jeremy who is a big shield in front of her, so she's in a good spot right now, despite how it may look. Grade: B+
Parvati Shallow (Fans vs. Favorites-2008) is in a very precarious position, but it's amazing to watch her charm offensive at work ... and it appears to be working. She's in a terrible position in her tribe at the moment, but it's also a strong tribe and she is very, very good at what she does. With Rob not at her back, she quickly took matters into her own hands, solidified Michele and has started working on the boys. If she can make the merge, she could be trouble. For now, she's hanging in there. Grade: B
Jeremy Collins (Second Chances-2015) has lost his leadership position, and is working from a place lacking in power, and yet he's still working and working hard. With Denise's help, they appear to have wooed Kim into at least considering betraying her former tribe to work with them instead, which would be a huge win. He's rallying strong for the moment. Grade: B-
Tony Vlachos (Cagayan-2014) would seem to be in a good position with the tribal swap, but he doesn't have a strong enough relationship with Kim to secure her to his side, which could spell disaster. He's one of the most well-known threats out there, which makes him a huge target. If he can't lock down Kim, he'll be in trouble sooner than later. Grade: C+
Ben Driebergen (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers-2017) doesn't even realize how much control he and Adam just gave up to Sarah and Sophie, not to mention former Dakal overall. They now technically have the power in all three tribes (though Kim could change that). Ben has played impulsively and always more focused on the short game, which could prove his downfall. Grade: C
Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands-2003 & Heroes vs. Villains-2010) is in big trouble if she and Tony lose Kim to Denise and Jeremy because she is the queen and she is the biggest target on this island. She's not much of a threat to win an individual immunity, and her deflection tactics will only work so long. And with tribes so small right now, there's no one for her to hide behind except Tony ... and we think they'll see her as the bigger threat. Grade: C-
Michele Fitzgerald (Kaôh Rōng-2016) is in huge trouble the next time her tribe loses unless she and Parvati can work some magic. Wendell was so cold to her, we could easily see him convincing his alliance to go ahead and cut her loose first. Parvati may be able to work on Yul's compassion and humanity, but we're not sure we see Yul abandoning his alliance, unless Wendell is truly awful. A lot is in flux, but for now it looks bad for her, and through no fault of her own. She was killing this game just last week. Grade: C-
Adam Klein (Millennials vs. Gen-X-2016) just put himself in a terrible position without even knowing it. Ben will throw him under the bus in no time flat for trying to play all sides and generally being a sneaky little liar, which means he's probably first on the chopping block if his tribe loses. These guys have no idea how hard they just got played by the ladies. Grade: C-
Rob Mariano (Redemption Island-2011) learned that his way of play just isn't going to work with winners. They're too savvy. He admitted in the episode he underestimated them, but like Ethan and Amber, he proved unable to modify his style of play enough to deal with this new style of short-goal player. On top of that, he was the biggest target out there so everyone was gunning for him. This was almost a matter of when and not if. Grade: F
"Stay true guys, Stay true." --Ben (to Sele before tribal swap ... the irony)
"This is the part of the game I don't like very much. The first time this happened to me was in 'Survivor; Marquesas.' I had complete control of my tribe and they did a tribe swap. The next thing you know, I'm on the bottom and that was the end." -Rob (still doesn't like 'em, we'd bet)
"How did I get stuck stranded on an island with my ex-boyfriend?" --Michele (regarding Wendell)
"I should be ecstatic about this swap, but I"m not because this is a really fractured trio of Ben, Rob and myself. We burned a lot of bridges with each other and that could be catastrophic to my game." --Adam (after tribe swap)
"I'm George and Denise is Weezy because we're moving on up," --Jeremy (after seeing Dakal's impressive camp)
"This shelter is cracking me up." --Wendell (arriving at Sele's "fixer-upper" camp)
"What's you're wife's name?" --Parvati (to Yul)
"Sophie. It's funny, she's actually a big fan of yours." --Yul
"Really? I like her already." --Parvati (working her magic)
"Nick told me that he had a crush on me in high school, so that was awkward." --Parvati (she's very good)
"I'm cringing for her. I can't imagine dating someone, having it end badly and then ending up on the smallest tribe with them. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to go." --Parvati (about Michele and Wendell)
"Wendell right now is sending me the 'you up' text and I just wanna be like, 'New season, who dis?'" --Michele
"I have a decision to make. I can stick with the guys, keep my mouth shut and listen to the godfather, or I can go with the Dakal women. But either way, I have to trust my gut." --Ben (his gut just screwed him)
"This is the buddy system on steroids. It's basically babysitter Rob and put all the kids in the playpen. And I'm sorry, but you ain't putting me in a playpen. So I'm hoping we vote Rob out tonight." --Sarah
"I am dreaming of a glorious blindside tonight." --Sophie (sometimes dreams do come true)