An epic battle between "Survivor" legends comes down to a photo finish between two of the best who ever played -- victory for one, heartbreak and back to the Edge for the other.
We don't think it is overstating things to say that the first vote after a merge on "Survivor" is a pivotal one, no matter how many players are still left in the game. This is the moment long-standing and newer alliances and relationships are tested. And "Survivor: Winners at War" has the most complex relationships of any season yet.
Once again, outside relationships became a factor after the tribes merged and Jeremy revealed that he and Wendell had developed a sort of friendship outside the game. Jeremy is already close with Denise and Kim while Wendell brings a tightness with Nick and Michele. Or do they?
As always, relationships were tested as conversations ran rampant after that first immunity challenge as individual players. Suddenly, it's a whole new game and every man and woman for themselves.
Another thing is huge at this stage of the game, and that's who's building the best resume. Dubbed the Queenslayer for single-handedly taking out Sandra, Denise probably has the biggest single resume in the game. But another way to build that resume is to win individual immunity challenges, and we got the first of those as well. This one came with two winners, too, to complicate things even more.
But first, there was the matter of all those "Survivor" legends hanging out on the Edge of Extinction with Natalie -- equally impressive, just a newer player. For this was also the week that they scored their first of only two chances to get back in the game. Eight entered the challenge but only one would re-enter the game.
This was one of the most impressive and epic battles in the history of "Survivor." We can assume that there was a bit of a dramatic edit, but even Jeff's shouting indicated that this victory came down to a matter of seconds as two of the all-time greatest men to ever play this game squared off in the final moments.
It was a competitive challenge all the way through, except perhaps for poor Amber, but in the end it came down to her husband -- arguably the best to ever play the game -- and Tyson, who might want to make that argument. It was such a dramatic photo finish, "Survivor" actually used a song as background music to emphasize the drama, and that's just not something they normally do.
Rob may be the sentimental favorite, and he's still getting a very healthy edit on this show, but it was Tyson who emerged triumphant by no more than a second or two. Rob can hold his head high that he did this well, and we're sure it will fuel him for the next challenge.
But he'll be facing also whichever new-school players have made their way to the Edge, not to mention the hunger of Natalie, Yul, Ethan, Parvati, Danni ... and Amber will probably be there, too. For now, though, all he can do is wait to see if Tyson is voted right back out.
Making things interesting with a classic "Survivor" challenge, Jeff Probst offered up two immunity necklaces. The challenge is the one where the players simply wrap themselves around a massive pole and hang on for as long as they can. Today, the longest-lasting man and the longest-lasting woman both get to share the glory.
Tyson had won this challenge in his previous "Survivor" career, but it wasn't to be this time around. He was the fourth one out. In the end, it came down to a showdown between Kim and Denise on the women's side, with Jeremy and Nick giving one another the stink eye for the men.
At a moment she may have needed it most, after becoming the Queenslayer, Denise scored immunity for the women, taking away the easy vote for the tribe. Jeremy got it for the men, but he wasn't really being targeted by anyone.
There was another easy vote, but remarkably there was very little talk about getting rid of Tyson again. It's as if this merged tribe suddenly realized there were threats among the new-school players. Or maybe voting Yul out last week got that whole notion of taking down your idols out of their system.
Instead, Tyson immediately started working his magic on the bigger, more flashy targets among the newcomers, pointing out that its been the big targets taken down one by one by one by one, so who do they think is next? The message was received loud and clear by Ben, who shared it with Tony and Jeremy.
Jeremy, meanwhile, was playing a very sneaky game, trying to orchestrated things underneath the radar. Was it working? That depends on who you ask, because Sophie flat-out saw what the bigger guys were doing and read right through it. We've said it before and we'll say it again, the women are slaying the game this season, and after all these guys winning in a row, we're rooting for one of these dominant ladies to pull it out.
You could tell this was new-school strategizing, too, because Denise proved adaptable in targeting her number one in Adam, while Jeremy was willing to float losing Wendell if necessary. Meanwhile, Nick's name was getting tossed around as Wendell's right-hand guy. Even Jeremy wanted him gone so he could slide into that spot, proving how many layers deep he's playing.
Alliances are so fluid in the game right now. There is no such thing as true loyatly, as it shifts from week to week. But who proved loyal enough this week? Well, there was one strong alliance of three and then there was everyone else. The question is if the remaining two just became targets, or free agents.
Sophie Georgina Clarke (South Pacific-2011) has been quietly playing this game very intelligently. Even when the other players talk about those smaller hidden targets, they're not talking about Sophie. Not only that, but she quickly saw Jeremy's moves and that the bigger players were aligning against smaller targets (and even Jeremy's bond with Wendell). She's making quiet moves but seeing everything, and that should serve her well. Grade: A+
Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (One World-2012) is playing a very similar game to Sophie, but perhaps not quite as observant. She is nevertheless a physical and strategic powerhouse that's being equally overlooked. by all the big and little dogs squaring off against one another. It can be good to ride the middle in these kinds of games. Grade: A
Sarah Lacina (Game Changers-2017) is sittin back and observing. We can only assume she's keeping her options open with Tony, which is incredibly smart, while maintaining her growing bond with the women above her on this list. She is positioned very well to strike and have the numbers to do so to propel herself forward in the game. Grade: B
Jeremy Collins (Second Chances-2015) is a little too visible at times, but he's still playing the best game he can for the biggest and most present threat still on that beach. His immunity win tonight only makes him that much more dangerous, and yet he is building strong alliances with multiple groups and showing the flexibility necessary to adjust. He could surprise everyone by defying the odds and going very far in this game, despite the obvious dangers of letting him do that. Grade: B-
Tyson Apostol (Blood vs. Water-2013) just did the most important thing of his whole season. He survived his first tribal council after coming back into the game, and he has his name on no one's lips. He's playing a much more humble game, but also stirring the pot to create divides between the flashier and more subtle players, throwing up a meat shield in front of himself. He's very good at this game and they're letting him start to play it. Grade: C+
Tony Vlachos (Cagayan-2014) is in a precarious position, and remains his own worst enemy. Right now, though, he's somewhat aligned with the big targets, but do they have any real power? It depends on how they navigate these next few weeks and what guidance they take from Tyson and Jeremy. If they can stay strong, Tony's secret alliance with Sarah could really help him out. Grade: C
Michele Fitzgerald (Kaôh Rōng-2016) now finds herself in an interesting position after falling on the wrong side of the votes. It really depends on how she reacts to this blindside and how the rest of the tribe reacts to her. She is now a free agent and a free number. She was also always a reluctant alliance member with Wendell and Nick, so if she's smart about how she tells her story, she could slide right into the invisible middle of this game. Grade: C-
Ben Driebergen (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers-2017) is still playing more like an ox than a social strategist. Tyson quickly got in his mind and got him fired up. Ben rubs people the wrong way and if they start looking at the big physical threats, he might just be an easy first one of those to get out. Grade: C-
Denise Stapley (Philippines-2012) may be hating this merge more than anyone. She has her work cut out for her over the next couple tribals to shift the target off her her back. Dubbed the Queenslayer had her on a fast track to the Edge. Winning immunity probably saved her this week, but it also increased her threat size. She needs to work very hard to see the precarious position she's in and work her social magic to flip the script or she's going to be in trouble as soon as she's vulnerable Grade: C-
Nick Wilson (David vs. Goliath-2018) was on the wrong side of the votes and seems to be an easy target for people as a player who's just always everywhere and in everyone's ears. As new alliances are solidifying, Nick is going to have a hard time landing in one after this, and he's going to have to if he wants to last much longer. On top of that, nearly winning immunity only gives them another reason to target him. Grade: D+
Adam Klein (Millennials vs. Gen-X-2016) has been floundering toward the bottom of this game ever since he got caught trying to play all sides and work the jury before there even was one. He's an over-thinker and he strategizes way too much and absolutely no one trusts him in this game. The good news is he seems to know this as he's very keen and observant. The bad news is it would take a miracle for him to change that perception at this time, so he needs to find another way to navigate this game. Grade: D
Wendell Holland (Ghost Island-2018) took all that arrogance right out the door. He was not an obvious threat to anyone right now, but was definitely one of the most visible of those less flashy players. He was also the central figure of a three-person alliance with Nick and Michele, so why not just take off the head. Then decide what to do with the other two. And it doesn't appear Wendell had any idea this was coming. Grade: F
After the challenge this week, it looks like everyone on the Edge of Extinction is back to zero fire tokens, resetting all of their grades to a big, fat F. We considered giving Rob a D- for being that close, but that close didn't get him back in the game, so what does it mean really?
"I try to find humor in everything but it's not always because it's humorous. It's maybe a mask or a wall." --Tyson
"Giving up the pursuit of a cash prize for your family is maybe even more paramount than sticking it out for a cash prize. And that's the struggle I'm having." --Tyson
"It's the worst place I've ever been. It's terrible. And I gotta know all these people sent [Amber] there first, maybe because of me. It stings. We never got off the ground, any of us. Look at everybody here. It's all the old-school players. But none of us here are quitters. We're all gonna fight to get back in this." --Rob (talking about Edge of Extinction)
"Is he good at this?" --Kim (watching Rob on final stage of competition)
"He's good at everything." --Ben
"Now we know why Sandra went home. She wasn't doing this." --Tony (watching return challenge)
"Denise's story felt like we were all in a bar and she was telling us old war stories. It just made her look really good, but I have to imagine everyone at the table thought, 'Hmm, one person out here has a resume. Good to know." --Sophie (after Denise tells how she took out Sandra)
"I played three times before most of these people even put their 'Survivor' diapers on." --Tyson (looking at his new-school tribe)
"If I were these people I would get rid of me Day 1 every time I play 'Survivor.' Because if you let me get my roots in whatever cracks are there, I'm gonna build a home." --Tyson
"I wanna vote people out who are playing a winner's game right now" --Wendell (threatened by Queenslayer Denise's resume)
"I would be the ripple, and I'm smooth." --Denise (cool with targeting her Day 1 alliance Adam)
"It's either me or you tonight. I know that. But do you?" --Adam (questioning Wendell's awareness as he casts vote for him)