Survivor Winners at War: How Kim Spradlin can win a second time

Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

How can (possibly) the best to ever win Survivor do it again in Winners at War? Kim Spradlin will need to draw upon her excellence to pull it off.

There’s always something you could say to tear down the best at what they do (especially in Survivor). “Sandra wasn’t even the best player on Heroes vs. Villains.” “Adam would have lost Millennials vs. Gen X against Hannah and Ken (somehow) if he didn’t tell his sob story.” “Kim Spradlin only dominated One World because she played against a weaker cast.”

Any of these statements are as ridiculous as they are incorrect, as nobody gifted Kim Spradlin her win. She had to earn it from the start, forming a strong bond with Sabrina and Chelsea in what would eventually become the Final Three. The core of their Salani alliance spread to Alicia and Kat, proving to be a dominant force after the medical evacuation of Kourtney and Nina’s departure.

Kim tried to play under the radar in the pre-merge part of the game, keeping her options open at the tribe swap by aligning with some of the men of the new-look Salani tribe. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have to go to Tribal Council until the merge, as establishing those bonds helped her navigate a merge where her merged tribe was stronger than the power of a Hidden Immunity Idol she found.

With Colton evacuated before the merge after presumably “running the show” over at Manono, a huge power vacuum would immediately be absorbed by Kim. She reunited with her Salani five alliance and brought Christina in while convincing the men she aligned with at the swap that Manono would be targeted.

All it would take is Jonas and Tarzan getting into an argument for Kim to get Troyzan to get the men to vote out Jonas at the merge for Kim’s plan to take effect. After convincing Troyzan that Michael was targeting him and convincing him he was a threat to be dealt with (and subsequently voted out), Kim and the women had the numbers to Pagong the men (minus Kat) through to the Final Five.

The run to the end of the game solidified a masterful Survivor control the likes have never been seen, with Kim absolutely puppeteering the social game, employed a sound strategy, and tied the women’s record for four individual immunity wins in a season to take over the physical game. She treated others as she would like to be treated while still playing as cold and calculated as an assassin.

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She even managed to go to the end with her closest allies within the core, as she could have very well allowed for an easier path to the end by getting Chelsea out. The way she won Survivor: One World was with relative ease despite this being a severely difficult game, and the impressiveness in which she accomplished her task will only put a target on her back entering Winners at War.

If there’s as lucky a break that Kim could get, it’s that the one woman she’d most want to work with, and feels had the best winning game besides her, is Sandra, and they share a starting tribe. The two of them need to work together in order for them both to go forward, and as explained in her ET Canada interview, she will be the Lord Varys to her Tyrion if she has to.

Should the two work together, I would think the two would swap roles, as Sandra is more of the kind of player that has a network of little birds telling her the rumors and whispers. Kim seems more attuned to work as a strategist, and if she can bring in a likeminded individual like Yul and work with a fellow poker enthusiast Tyson (that she already played with on television), that could be a core four to watch for on Dakal.

There will be questions about how Kim played compared to the game that will layout in front of her, especially with the advent of advantages, twists and turns. With Edge of Extinction back in play, I feel like Kim’s social game is geared towards voting people out while still having the possibility of a working relationship should they come back, as she’s good at being dominant without being showy or cocky.

In the same regard, she could very well be targeted before she has the chance to establish herself and is forced to visit the Edge. She’s one of the more athletically inclined players in this season of grizzled veterans, so she has a strong chance to come back at the merge opportunity should that arise.

It will be a greatly different format for the tribe compositions starting out (five women and five men per tribe), but I don’t doubt that there will be an opportunity for Kim to work with the top women and the top men to have a blended mix of groups both at Dakal and whatever tribe swap configurations happen (there will be tribe swaps, for sure) to pit one against the other again down the line.

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If Kim Spradlin can find a seam and isn’t taken out early, she has a strong chance of making a deep run in Survivor: Winners at War. However, I can’t help but feel like it’s either a short or long run in the cards for a player with such a huge threat level among the winners entering the game. Here’s hoping we get the long run instead.