Tribal Council turns into a screaming match and brings the boldest and quite possibly stupidest move we've ever seen -- but does it work?
There have always been wild and crazy days in "Survivor," but there has never been anything like what went down on Day 23 of "Winners at War." There's scrambling, there's shifting strategies and then there is total pandemonium.
It was a chaos so complete that it took just the tiniest spark for it to erupt all over again at Tribal Council. It's hard to say if it ultimately influenced the final decision, because we genuinely had no idea what the consensus was going into Tribal Council.
We can say definitively that we heard so many names being tossed about we almost expected Jeff to get a few votes. The only person who could feel totally safe was Kim, who scored the third individual immunity idol of the season after surviving what is ultimately a pretty dull competition: balancing on a triangular platform in the water.
Like the pole challenge last week, this one is all about who can withstand the pain the most, with the added twist of trying to balance in wind and rocking waves. It's a "Survivor" classic, but doesn't lend itself to much strategizing, nor does it leave anyone exposed as a huge threat for winning.
In this case, seemingly within seconds of moving to the last stage, where they're standing on a narrow beam atop the triangular platform, four of the remaining six players toppled into the water. And they were still swimming for the main platform when Ben fell, giving the win to Kim. In other words, when it ended, it ended in a hurry.
The bigger moment, that could prove problematic down the road for Sarah, was when she had a vulnerable human moment after her arbitrary team won the reward challenge of Chinese takeout. Out of nowhere, she decided to give up her spot and hand it to Nick, who'd just been blindsided the day before, which also happened to be his birthday.
She explained to Tony that it was a genuine moment -- and even affirmed it in a confessional video -- but Tony was right in reminding her that every move you make out there is seen as strategy. And as they were talking, that's just what Jeremy, Denise and Adam were discussing, calling it a big game move.
Losing that killer's edge has cost many a player their game, and some would argue it's one of the reasons the entirety of the old-school players were voted out of the game.
To Tyson's credit, he absolutely leaned into the chaos, knowing that the longer he can keep the target off of his back, the easier it'll be for it to stay away. He's an easy vote these first two tribals after having come back from the Edge of Extinction because he'd already been voted out. Often, that's enough to kill anyone's second chance.
But Tyson is very good at this game, and even though he admitted he doesn't love a chaotic game of "Survivor," he recognized that in this case, it would be to his benefit. As we've said before, old-school players need to adapt to survive in this game, and Tyson seems to be doing just that, while staying true to his own strategies.
While his name did still get tossed around a bit, there was much more interest in names like Nick and Michele (because of their allegiance with last week's victim, Wendell), Adam (because he's tried to play every side and plays way too hard) and Sarah (because of her human moment).
Nobody remembered either of the challenges, which is indicative of the higher level of gameplay happening right now. Denise has even managed to survive the target on her back as the Queenslayer as she played the same game as Tyson, stirring the chaos away from her growing legacy.
At Tribal Council, Jeff couldn't even finish asking Adam a question before chaos exploded again. And right in the middle of the whole thing were Adam and Ben in a full-blown fight. It was a continuation of an earlier conversation where Ben asked Adam a question and Adam hedged his answers. As usual, he was trying to play too many things at once.
Ben saw it simply as someone he's working with not being able to deny saying something that threatened Ben's game. Honestly, Adam is playing such a paranoid and crazy game, it's crazy to think he won before. The difference, we think, is that he's terrified of these winners and it's reflected in his scatterbrained and over-stressed gameplay this season.
The most powerful moment came when Adam lamented that he worried his name was going to be written down tonight to the tribe and as he looked at them pleadingly, a dead silence lingered for several moments. Earlier, Ben point-blank told Adam he would not write his name down, which turned out to be a lie.
Kudos to Danni this week for figuring out the clue referred to the previous season that utilized Edge of Extinction, and Parvati for figure out where the advantage was. Parvati snatched it up and she and Danni concocted a plot to sell it to Michele in the game for all of her remaining fire tokens. At four, Michele had the most of anyone.
The advantage was a 50/50 coin that could mark her "Safe" or "Not Safe" at any tribal council, depending on the results of a single flip. And it's good until there are seven people left in the game. Remarkably, they decided to be greedy and ask for all four of her tokens. Michele, reading into fortunes telling her to empty her purse to fill her heart and to take big chances, agreed to the deal.
The plan was to get food (a jar of peanut butter) for those on Edge, but not everyone. Originally considering hoarding it just for her and Danni, as Tyson had done his jar, Parvati said her heart wouldn't let her. But it does look like they maybe excluded Yul and Wendell from it, as they'd just gotten there and Wendell even enjoyed the merge feast.
As a final note, Jeff Probst recently clarified that any advantages or Idols players have on the Edge will return with them to the game, which is good news for several of them ... and possibly a hint as to who might come back. Natalie and Rob both have Idols, while Parvati has an Idol Nullifier, all of which can be brutal if played properly. Is he setting up Rob's big return?
Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (One World-2012) is a challenge beast dating back to her first time on this game, and yet people still aren't looking at her as a threat either in that realm or strategically. And yet, she is in the heart of every move and knows what's going around in camp. We're giving her the slightest edge this week because not only did she win that immunity challenge, but she hand-picked the winning reward team, too. She's a lot savvier than anyone is realizing. Grade: A+
Sophie Georgina Clarke (South Pacific-2011) continues to be incredibly dangerous in this game for many of the same reasons. Even as the "lions" and "hyenas" go to war, no one seems to be seeing either of these women in either category. What they are, though, is boss players with the keenest eyesight on the island. They seem to be seeing every alliance, every connection and every shifting tide as it happens. Grade: A+
Jeremy Collins (Second Chances-2015) is in the driver's seat right now, but still from a very public position. He might find himself blindsided if he's not careful. But right now, no one is looking at him seriously as a problem that needs to be dealt with. He's playing it cool and quiet and observing the chaos around him, which is smart so long as it's there. **Grade: A-
Tony Vlachos (Cagayan-2014) is playing a remarkable game considering his legacy and his problematic moments. We still worry he'll dig out a spy bunker and go crazy again, but when he's level-headed he is remarkable. Right now, he's in a great spot in the game as he's steering the attention away from the "lions" without making it quite clear to everyone that this is his strategy. He doesn't have the numbers yet, but it is working. Grade: B
Tyson Apostol (Blood vs. Water-2013) is an incredible player and he has done an amazing job of ingratiating himself back into a game that didn't want him. Now he is the last old-schooler standing, but it almost seems like those old labels no longer apply. That would be huge for him, as that was his biggest problem in a game with so many new-schoolers. Now, he's adapting and aligning and shifting the chaos to benefit his game beautifully. Grade: B-
Denise Stapley (Philippines-2012) is doing the same work Tyson is doing, but we're not so confident everyone has forgotten she's the Queenslayer. That mark on her resume will haunt her the rest of this game, so she can never rest on her laurels. But this week, she did a good job again of keeping the flames flickering toward targets other than hers. Like Tyson, the longer she can hang in there, the better it will be for her as her achievement and legacy will fade in memories (at least a bit). Grade: C+
Ben Driebergen (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers-2017) went toe to toe with Adam at Tribal Council this week and it was uncomfortable to watch. He's such an emotional player and can be an absolute loose cannon and showboat in this game, we fear he'll become his own worst enemy. Right now, he's on the right side of the numbers and the alliances, but he is always his own worst enemy in this game. And he's at his worst when he's not in the majority. We suspect others might come to see him as a liability, though he does make a nice shield for Tony. Grade: C
Sarah Lacina (Game Changers-2017) is now in the position Tyson and Denise were recently in. Her "human" act this week for Nick only painted a huge target on her back, with the other players seeing it as a strategic move either for favor with Nick or as jury management. Either way, they're already thinking she's going to be a problem. She needs to lay low and shift targets for a couple of votes if she wants to survive this. Grade: C-
Michele Fitzgerald (Kaôh Rōng-2016) is still on the wrong side of all the alliances, though she might be starting to make some inroads. The problem is that she and Nick are seen as the easy votes for now, along with Adam. It's about picking off these "hyena" players, and because of their strategizing with Wendell, they're seen as easy follows. She needs to fix this and change her fate in a hurry. Grade: C-
Nick Wilson (David vs. Goliath-2018) may have survived this week, but he is still next on the chopping block, and nothing he did this week appears poised to change that. He needs a lot more chaos to erupt in next week's episode if he wants to survive another vote, or for someone to do something really, really stupid and make themselves a bigger, more immediate target. Grade: D-
Adam Klein (Millennials vs. Gen-X-2016) said it himself, he made one too many mistakes and it got him voted out. He made mistakes from Day One trying to play all sides way too early. He played too hard all of the time, he overthinks everything and he seemed to be playing from a place of paranoia and fear that he couldn't contain, which was enough to make him a huge liability and target over and over again. Grade: F
Edge of Extinction didn't offer too much this week, but we are raising the grades of Danni Boatwright (Guatemala-2005) and Parvati Shallow (Fans vs. Favorites-2008) to D- for figuring out the clue and brokering the deal with Michele for four fire tokens. Now, it just depends what they do with them and if it makes a difference. Was it peanut butter that got Tyson back in the game?