Survivor Winners at War episode 5 recap: Bluffed by a buff

The first mix up in tribes brought along a heightened level of gameplay and intensity in episode 5 of Survivor: Winners at War.

Contrary to what we saw in the past two all-returnee seasons, Survivor: Winners at War has gone five straight Tribal Councils without a tribe switch of any kind. As teased by the latest promos after last week’s episode, we know that a swap of some kind is coming. So far Sele and Dakal have two very different tribal dynamics. Especially after the first “big-name player” in Tyson was voted out, it will be fun to watch the remaining winners adapt to their new situations.

Surviving ALS

Episode 5 started off on a somber and moving note. Yul opened up on his close relationship with Jonathan Penner since playing with him in Survivor: Cook Islands and they’ve become really good friends. Penner’s wife, Stacy has been battling with ALS and it has been a struggle for the couple. Yul, who already vowed to donate his prize money to combating ALS, took the opportunity to shine a light on this terrible disease. It was a sad but touching moment to see just how genuine of a person Yul is.

Right back to the start

After that scene, we went directly back to the beach where the 20 winners began their journey. Jeff wasted no time in handing out the new buffs, and as expected, the fifteen players were swapped into three tribes. The new tribes are as follows:

Blue (Sele): Michele, Wendell, Yul, Parvati, and Nick

Red (Dakal): Jeremy, Denise, Tony, Sandra, and Kim

Green (Yara): Rob, Ben, Adam, Sarah, and Sophie

The best part of this episode was the fact that there was no Edge of Extinction content to prevent us from getting a good look at these new tribes. First up is the new Dakal tribe, who entered their camp in awe of Wendell’s shelter building. Jeremy and Denise come to Dakal in the minority, but it doesn’t take Jeremy very long to work his magic.

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By feeling out Kim, Jeremy was quickly able to discern that she was on the outs with her old tribe. It didn’t take long for Kim to also go to Denise, and it looks like we have a new alliance on our hands. Meanwhile, realizing how nice of a meat shield Kim could be, Tony and Sandra wanted to focus on keeping Kim with them. That means Kim went from being on the outs to now in a powerful swing position with a Hidden Immunity Idol up her sleeve.

Let the awkwardness begin

While the Dakal tribe seemed to be vibing alright, I couldn’t say the same about Sele. We know that Wendell and Michele dated before season 40, but this segment gave us further insight into their relationship. Their first conversation alone together felt very awkward as Michele wanted to talk while Wendell was like “no way.” After confiding in Parvati and the fact that Michele still calls him babe, it’s pretty clear that Wendell was the one who broke it off.

The uncomfortable conversations didn’t stop there, as Nick couldn’t hold back telling Parvati what he said last Tribal Council about her being his high school crush. Although Parvati is great at diffusing difficult conversations, even she couldn’t deny how awkward it felt. That said, if anyone made a big impact in these scenes it was Parvati. She had a strong conversation with Yul and is continuing to bond with Michele even though the three guys seem tight.

Last but not least, we got our first look at the new Yara tribe wearing green and Rob got down to business right away. He interrogated the two old Dakal members about Amber and Sarah wisely put all of the blame on Tyson. Then it was Sarah and Sophie’s turn to ask the questions, and with a great job of editing, we got see just how uneven these three former Sele members were. You started to get the feeling that it would take a miracle for Adam, Ben, and Boston Rob to stick together.

That said, that didn’t stop anyone from looking for an idol. The women began the hunt first but the three guys got into it as well. The editors continue to have fun with this new tribe, as they spliced Rob’s comments about searching for an idol with a split-second scene of Sophie actually being the one to find it. Similar to the idols found on the other two beaches, she had to give half of it to someone else by sundown for it gain power. She decided to loan it so Sarah, and that cemented their relationship.

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Blocks “R” Us

On Day 14, the three tribes got their first chance to see just how well and how poorly they can work as a team. The castaways had to make their way through a two-phase obstacle course, knock down blocks with sandbags and use the four colorful blocks for the final stage. The first two tribes to stack their four blocks without any repeating color on each side wins Tribal Immunity.

Each tribe got through the first over and under obstacle with ease, while the ladder climb was another story. Yara got off to a great start by ascending up their ropes fairly quickly, while the other two struggled. That gave Ben and Boston Rob extra time to knock off their blocks, and they didn’t waste any of it. New Sele was maintaining their second-place spot as Nick, Wendell and Yul worked on their sandbags. Dakal was bringing up the rear as they found it a challenge to get their members up the rope ladders.

Adam and Sophie were on the color puzzle for Yara, but they couldn’t make any progress despite their strong lead. Parvati and Jeremy got to the final block puzzle phase for Sele not too long after, and they came into it with a purpose. You could tell that Parvati practiced a puzzle like this ahead of time because she was on it right away, winning immunity for their tribe. And then we had another remarkable comeback as somehow Sandra and Jeremy were able to get their uneven tower of blocks to go, giving Dakal another win. Yara, the expansion tribe, blew their massive lead, sending them to Tribal Council.

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Too many buddies to call it a system

When Yara got back to their camp, the Godfather implemented his plan right away. Pulling Adam and Ben aside, they determined which one of the women they wanted to vote off. Adam recommended Sarah and the other two guys seemed ok with that. However, Boston Rob wasn’t going to let them off the hook that easily. Implementing his buddy system 2.0, Rob set the law down. He decided that in order to prevent suspicion, it was in their best interests to stay together at camp the entire day. Nobody is allowed to leave!

That got Sarah and Sophie quite irritated, as they saw their potential to work with Ben and Adam slipping away. However, Adam and Ben’s confessionals revealed how much they disliked Rob’s restrictions as well. They did end up complying though, as all three guys stayed together at camp the entire day until Tribal council. The only reassurance the girls got was a wink or a thumbs up, so Sarah gave Sophie the second half of the idol, while Sarah was seriously weighing the idea of using her Vote Steal Advantage.

At Tribal Council, the early comments about the fluidity of the game contrasted with Boston Rob’s old school mentality of sticking with the numbers. Sophie then questioned Jeff’s idea of finding a crack, as she was looking for an entire alliance. She basically extended an open invitation to Ben and Adam to reaffirm their willingness to blindside Rob. She went as far as calling out Rob’s buddy system and how he is taking control as he did in Redemption Island.

Neither Sarah nor Sophie budged with their respective advantages, as they trusted in the boys’ abilities to see the need to take out Boston Rob when they got the opportunity. Despite the lack of communication, they picked up on that plan and it turned out to be a unanimous vote for Rob. He was visibly upset and casually speechless as he walked out of Tribal Council and gave his two tokens to Parvati. Just like in Marquesas, the buff didn’t suit Boston Rob well as his godfather-like run comes to end… at least temporarily.

The Buddy System on Steroids

Survivor: Winners at War

B+

It’s not hard to see the difference when Edge of Extinction scenes aren’t featured in an episode. The pacing felt perfect for a tribe swap and we got to see a ton of social dynamics grow and develop without the need of advantages and twists. Overall, a solid swap episode with a fun challenge and an entertaining Tribal Council, but nothing that made it stand out.

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Key Observations:

  • Parvati now has four Fire Tokens, which is by far the most out of the players who aren’t on the Edge of Extinction
  • Kim is a big winner from the swap, as she has an idol plus four people who want to work with her
  • A new school vibe of young players has taken over Yara, as Ben, Adam, Sarah and Sophie seem to be gelling even without communicating before Tribal Council
  • Tony continues to produce the goods with his confessionals, as his lions and hyenas analogy was too good!
  • Step aside Tony, Kim is the new fisherman of the tribe. Could the way she snagged that large eel with calmness be a foreshadowing of her gameplay to come?
Next: Survivor winners: Ranking the best Sole Survivors by season

It’s going to be fun to watch these new tribes in action next week, with eager eyes to the merge that is only a few weeks away!

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