"Survivor" is known for iconic moments, and tonight's two tribal councils delivers one of the game's all-time best blindsides -- orchestrated entirely by one person!
There's no denying it anymore. As much as the players of "Survivor: Winners at War" want to say its about identifying threats large and small, or that the game is about pre-existing relationships, this is a war of generations.
The game has evolved tremendously over the past two decades, as evidenced by 2018 winner Wendell stating quite boldly that he will stab everyone and anyone in the back and in the front to win two million dollars. Modern players often play with their ambition on their sleeves, with shifting alliances that change day by day.
But they're playing a game with old-school players who believe in long-term loyalty and genuine alliances. Is there a place for that in the modern game of "Survivor." Should new-school players be adaptable to consider the play style of the people they're playing with, as Nick suggested, or is it up to the old-school players to get hip with the new, hyper-aggressive style of play?
This week, it feels like we got the answer to that question with a pretty epic double-elimination. But while one tribal council felt almost inevitable -- even as it felt like a mistake -- the other was easily one of the most epic and iconic blindsides crafted in "Survivor" history, and it was pulled off exclusively by one player.
(L)Edge(nd) of Extinction
Seriously, at this point they should just rename the island. Out of the first six people there, five of them played the game first more than ten years ago and became legends when the game was at the height of its pop culture zeitgeist. Only 2014 winner Natalie breaks that trend, and she was the first one out (which always feels a little random).
This week, though, saw Tyson show how he won the game and how he's so much more than the goofball. While everyone else was trying to figure out the latest cryptic fire token clue, Tyson quickly deciphered that it had to do with the tide (because timing is everthing) and scored an idol nullifier he easily sold to Parvati back in the game.
Her back is totally against the wall as one of only three iconic legends left in the game, so it was a no-brainer for her to snag any advantage she could. Especially as the boys of her new tribe were openly gunning for her.
As for Tyson, he immediately bought a giant jar of peanut butter with his one fire token, as opposed to Natalie's strategy of hoarding as many as she can toward an advantage when it comes time to try and re-enter the game. We'll see if calories or fire tokens prove more valuable.
The challenge was all about balls, transporting three of them inside two massive bags of sand through the ocean, then finding them in those bags and then solving a ball maze with them. The twist this time around was the only one tribe would win immunity (and bonus PB&J), sending the other two to tribal.
Once again, the young and physical Sele made quick work of the legwork part of the challenge, but stumbled on the maze, despite their lead. It was actually Wendell who dropped the ball (literally) after getting a little too cocky with his ball handling, giving the win to Sophie and Yara.. That's kind of what Michele has suggested was the problem in their relationship; his incredible arrogance.
Wendell spent his entire season on the top of the heap, practically, and yet his win came down to one vote. And that vote only after the original jury created a tie with him and his season-long partner Domenick, who many would argue had the better overall game. It was Wendell's relationship with one person, Laurel, that gave him a million dollars.
The point, though, is that he really doesn't know how to play this game from the bottom, so he's always been able to play with very aggressive and open confidence, and that's how he's been playing this season, too. But with his ex-girlfriend Michele on his tribe, we know it's at least rubbing one person wrong.
Sandra and Parvati are two of the best to have ever played this game, but they played in the 2000s. Rob and Tyson and Ethan and Danni and Amber have already learned that their style of play just doesn't work with new players, but it was nevertheless masterful to see Sandra and Parvati at work this week.
Parvati's ability to read other people, assess their weaknesses and exploit cracks in relationships is nothing but masterful. She totally exploited Wendell's obvious arrogance and willingness to betray alliances to reveal to his alliance members Yul and Nick that he will not be loyal to them as soon as its convenient for him to stab them.
He's not ashamed of it, either, but she and Michele did a really great job of building that wedge in the boys' alliance as Wendell confirmed everything she said about him with is brazen performance at Tribal Council.
Meanwhile, over on Dakal, Sandra was playing her brand of 'Survivor,' which is very direct and blunt. She effectively told Denise that it was probably going to be her tonight, as Sandra didn't really see her as a threat. The reality is that Denise won her game by quietly being underestimated.
Nevertheless, she was all ears when Sandra proposed that she would give Denise her immunity idol in exchange for Denise's two fire tokens. That would give Denise full power to decide who goes home tonight, with Sandra only asking that she and Kim not be targeted. Denise countered that it be one fire token before Tribal and one after.
It was a great deal on Sandra's part, as it would have Denise doing the dirty work of taking out (probably) Tony for her, while also benefiting Denise by allowing her to stay in the game even though she was the clear target on the night.
We don't usually spoil the Tribal results here, but we have to this week because while there were two tribal councils, one of them left us frustrated and the other one left us standing and applauding our television screens at the sheer audacity and brilliance of what just played out.
First, Wendell put on his big show of arrogance and aggressiveness, with Parvati even exposing that he was willing to deal live with her right there, exchanging his vote for a fire token. Probably because he knew it didn't matter. Parvati was unanimously voted out, despite her best efforts, leaving Michele on the outside looking in.
Then, pure insanity played out with Dakal as Sandra and Denise put their plan into motion. As predicted, after the votes were submitted, Denise played Sandra's Idol to save herself. But then, just in case, she played her own Idol (that Sandra knew nothing about) to protect her OG Sele ally Jeremy. And then, for her final trick, she had written down Sandra's name.
Sandra gave up immunity for two fire tokens, only got one fire token in the deal and then got voted out. And every bit of it was orchestrated and played by Denise. And Sandra said she didn't see her as a threat?
That's probably the biggest weakness of the season in that all these new-school players are looking at the OG players as the threats, when the biggest threats are really the ones who understand this newer style of play and are ready to cut throats with the rest of them.
With Parvati and Sandra heading to the (L)Edge(end) of Extinction, there is only one player left in the game who played the game prior to 2011, and Yul kept such a low profile after winning in 2006, nobody is really looking at him as one of those flashy threats that needs to go.
Sophie Georgina Clarke (South Pacific-2011) is effectively running the Yara tribe as a two-woman show, and she's doing it from a far less flashy and visible position than Sarah is, even with today's puzzle dominance. They've got Ben connecting with them, but we can already see the wheels turning in her head as to how she can use him to her advantage. Grade: A+
Denise Stapley (Philippines-2012) just made the biggest move of the season, and it's going to be hard to top single-handedly orchestrating the elaborate elimination of the Queen of "Survivor," Sandra. The only risk for her now is that she may have exposed just how damned clever she is. But Denise is a master at not looking like a threat, so we could see her fading back into the background to await her next chance to strike. Grade: A+
Sarah Lacina (Game Changers-2017) is sitting pretty at the top of the Yara heap with Sophie, she still has her steal-a-vote power, she's building a relationship with Ben and still has her alliance with Tony in her back pocket. She is positioning herself very well for the middle part of this game. Grade: A
Yul Kwon (Cook Island-2006) slips only a little because he seemed a little shocked by Wendell's openly aggressive and non-loyal style of play and was clearly out of the loop on Denise's overall plan. But he's shown a remarkable ability to reassess and adapt to a game he hasn't played in 14 years, so we think he'll work through this and be fine. Grade: A
Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (One World-2012) is in a power position on Dakal right now, with Denise flipping the script on the tribe. With only four players left, she is in a swing position between Denise and Jeremy and herself and Tony, with Tony the clear bigger target. She's not in a great position overall, but she still has an idol, so we think she'll be able to navigate this challenge. Grade: B+
Nick Wilson (David vs. Goliath-2018) had a chance to take out Wendell this week, but opted to boot his crush. Nevertheless, his eyes have been opened, so it remains to be seen if he and Yul will still target Michele next, or if Wendell raised enough red flags for them to maybe flip on him. Either way, we feel he's in a swing spot, which is a power position. Grade: B+
Jeremy Collins (Second Chances-2015) is not at all in control of his game, but if he and Denise navigate this next phase right, he could be. He's still a huge visible threat, though, and with all the legends getting voted out, he's one of the next flashy targets people will start looking at (ignoring the real threats). Grade: B
Ben Driebergen (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers-2017) may be getting in buddy-buddy with Sophie and Sarah, but we feel like they're just toying with him, using him as a vote and a meat shield. Perhaps he can create a genuine bond that will hold, but we think they'll see him as too flighty overall as the game moves forward. Grade: B
Wendell Holland (Ghost Island-2018) laid out his hyper-aggressive loyalty-free style of play in front of two OG players, and one of them is still in the game. It's hard to imagine a group of winners ever trusting him after what he said, even from one vote to the next. We'd be surprised if that performance didn't doom his game, though he's still playing from a power position from the time being. Grade: C+
Tony Vlachos (Cagayan-2014) had been doing so good until Dakal had to go to Tribal, and then his paranoia kicked in and he was back in a spy shack. The problem is, everyone here knows that trick. He's going to be his own worst enemy as his paranoia gets the best of him and makes him look like a bad partner. If he can hang until he reunites with Sarah, he might be okay, but on his own he's a loose cannon and all the bigger targets in front of players like him and Jeremy are disappearing fast. Grade: C
Adam Klein (Millennials vs. Gen-X-2016) should have maybe not been Captain Ahab with Rob as his White Wale, because he's actually in a worse spot now with Rob gone. Plus, he can't even take full credit for getting the master of this game out. And now, he's the odd man looking in at Sophie, Sarah and Ben, who also knows he's a flipper who tires to play all sides at once. He's going to out-think himself out of the game. Grade: C-
Michele Fitzgerald (Kaôh Rōng-2016) doesn't deserve to be in this position, so she needs to use every tool in her disposal to start working on Yul and Nick. She's pulled some masterful moves already in this game, but if the boys stay tight she could be in trouble. It's an uphill battle, but one she's capable of conquering if there's any flexibility. Grade: C-
Parvati Shallow (Fans vs. Favorites-2008) and Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands-2003 & Heroes vs. Villains-2010) were both brilliant at playing their games. We may never know if it was just that they're old-school players in a new-school game so their old-school tactics don't work anymore, or if it's because they're legends and these newbies want to be able to say they took out a legend. Grade: F
On Edge of Extinction, Natalie still sits at a C- for her impressive fire token collecting, while Tyson rises to a D for nabbing his first fire token, only to immediately spend it. Everyone else is still at an F.
"Don't treat me like I'm some rookie newbie out here. And that's what it came down to, a lack of respect. And for that reason alone, I couldn't live with him anymore." --Ben (after Rob's eviction)
"The general sense of the tribe is that the Wicked Witch is dead and we can do whatever we want now." --Adam (after Rob's eviction)
"Eating the little bit of peanut butter each day would A) boost my spirits mentally (and the fact that I'm doing something sneaky and hilarious) and get me the extra calories that will prepare me for the challenge." --Tyson (using his fire token to buy a jar of peanut butter)
"Sandra, take a spot on the Sandra bench." --Jeff (Sandra sits out another challenge)
"Watch this, Jeff." --Wendell
"It drops; while talking smack, he loses the ball and all the progress, starting again." --Jeff (narrating Wendell's arrogance)
"Yul's not gonna budge. Every time I talk to him, he's like crossing his arms, crossing his legs, not open at all." --Parvati (reading body language to perfection)
"I'm not concerned with fire tokens, I'm concerned with numbers." --Wendell (rejecting Michele's idea to throw a vote his way to try and get Parvatie's fire token)
"I offered to betray Parvati and he still doesn't trust me. And I'm pissed, because when I dated him, I was the one who got burned, so why would I move forward with somebody who I'm giving, giving, giving and they're taking, taking, taking." --Michele (about Wendell)
"I need that information and there's only one way to get it and that's the spy bunker." --Tony (at it again by the water well)
"Sandra is very direct and very honest and she thinks she's in charge of the game. That's not how I play." --Denise (after Sandra told her OG Dakal was probaby going to stick together)
"I'll stab everyone in the back. I'll stab 'em in the front." --Wendell (at Tribal Council)
"It won him a million dollars, it won me a million dollars. If we're playing with people that don't value that philosophy of 'Survivor,' then maybe that's not the right approach this season." --Nick (at tribal council, but maybe it is?)
"I want to throw up." --Denise (after single-handedly orchestrating Sandra's elimination)