Survivor Winners at War episode 1: Immunity Challenges

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

Winners at War kicked off with fast new school gameplay but brought back fierce old school Survivor challenges to give season 40 an extra edge.

In a season of all-winners including several Survivor legends, it can be easy to overlook the value of good challenges. One element that made Heroes vs. Villains standout was its brutal and ultra-competitive challenges. The premiere of Winners at War followed that same pattern, creating thrilling moments off of simple ideas.

First Immunity Challenge

Taking a page right out of season 20, Winners at War began with an instant Day 1 challenge, only this time it was for immunity in addition to flint. The two tribes would battle it out in the classic Survivor challenge that first grazed our screens in Palau. Two players from each tribe are tasked with racing out to retrieve a ring, trying to bring it back to their flagpole. The castaway who has one hand on the ring and one hand on the flagpole earns a point for their tribe. The first tribe to three points wins Immunity.

To start off the challenge, Tyson and Yul for Dakal (wearing red) took down Ethan and Jeremy. Tyson made it to the ring first and Yul used his strength to finish out the deal. Then the women were up, pitting Natalie and Parvati for Sele (wearing red) against Sarah and Kim. Natalie had no problems getting the ring and she nearly got to her flagpole before Kim proved she’s still a challenge powerhouse. Pulling off an insane comeback, Kim dragged the rest of the women to her pole to capture their second point.

Speaking of coming up clutch, Boston Rob went out trying to salvage the game for Sele who were down two to nothing. Ben pulled the ring in the right direction, and then Rob took matters into his own hands by lugging everyone to the Sele flag. However, they only ended up postponing defeat. The fourth round saw another Sarah versus Natalie battle, and once again, Sarah’s Dakal tribe proved victorious, sending Sele to their first tribal council.

Immunity Challenge Rankings:

Creativity: 1/5
Difficulty: 4/5
Entertainment Value: 4/5

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Second Immunity Challenge

The next challenge featured an interesting obstacle course. The tribes will start by boarding a boat and having to paddle out to a station to untie a bag with a number tiles. On their way back they will have to leave their boat behind and pass through a series of obstacles on foot including a crate climb (super easy), a barrel roll (incredibly difficult) and a net crawl (super easy).

Once everyone makes it to shore, one tribe member will use the number tiles to solve a combination. That leads to the final phase requiring a castaway to land three rings on three paddles. First tribe to land all three wins immunity. Sandra so graciously sat out of the challenge for Dakal.

Dakal’s steady and precise paddling enabled them to maintain a slight lead throughout most of the obstacle course. The most intense part of the challenge was that nasty barrel roll. Once Dakal managed to get Tyson over, they formed a solid system of pushing and pulling on both sides to get everyone else over.

On the other hand, Sele struggled at the barrel roll. Thinking on his feet, Boston Rob began launching other castaways off of his shoulders. When it came down to just Jeremy and Rob left, Ethan wisely decided to get on Ben’s shoulder to pull these two men over the barrel. Their great teamwork prevented Dakal from developing too much of a lead.

Wendell landed the first ring for Dakal, but their string of misses left the door open for Sele. Once Jeremy for Sele got going, the game was over. Tossing granny-style, Jeremy landed his three rings perfectly, giving Sele a clutch comeback victory.

Challenge Rankings:

Creativity: 1/5
Difficulty: 3/5
Entertainment Value: 5/5

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Challenge Takeaways

Both challenge ideas aren’t anything revolutionary or extravagant but were great fits for this competitive cast. There’s no holding back here, as nobody wanted to risk getting voted out so early in an all-winners season, and it showed!

If we were to award an MVP simply based on the challenges, it would have to go to Boston Rob. He might not appear to be the most athletic player out there, but he proved to viewers that he is still a challenge beast. The way he literally took his tribe on his back and kept them in the challenge was phenomenal to watch. Even in the first battle for immunity, he outperformed some of the younger guys. Rob is still a strong threat to dominate challenges.

Tyson and Yul also showed that they haven’t really lost a step, as well as Sarah and Kim. Even before the season began Dakal looked like the physically stronger tribe. Now that Natalie is gone for Sele, I can’t see them winning any more physical challenges. Regardless of what challenge ideas come up next, these two stellar immunities cemented the fact that this season is a special one.