Survivor Winners at War: Denise Stapley is episode 6’s MVP

Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

It took six episodes in Survivor: Winners at War but we finally got a season-defining moment that we’ve all been waiting for, and Denise Stapley made it happen.

This article will discuss events from episode 6 of Survivor: Winners at War including who got sent to the Edge of Extinction.

When you look back at some of Survivor‘s returning player seasons, what often sticks out are those unforgettable moments. Cirie, Parvati and the rest of the gang slyly convincing Eric to give his Immunity Necklace to Natalie. Parvati stunning everyone by playing two idols at the same Tribal Council to ensure her Villains alliance captures a majority. Jeremy and Wentworth blocking every single vote with their idols, forcing the castaways to come to a consensus to prevent the dreaded drawing of rocks. All of these iconic scenes were thankfully featured in Survivor’s 20 year anniversary special.

Yesterday’s episode of Survivor gave us a moment that might fit into that category. It’s hard to compare a big move this soon after it happened, but there’s no doubting it was a special Winners at War moment, thanks to Denise Stapley. Her bold and gutsy gamble saw her take advantage of her situation and pull off an epic blindside that earns her our pick for episode 6’s MVP.

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Before the whole idol drama came about, we got to see Denise’s strong social presence continue to play a key role. She went to Sandra and Kim to feel them out and was able to get an honest and open conversation out of them. Denise excels at understanding how other people are thinking and adapting her attitude to play in her favor. That’s exactly what she did with Kim and Sandra.

Through their conversations, she observed how Sandra felt in control of her tribe. She saw how tight the three original Dakal members were and how Sandra wanted the ultimate power over the vote. In response, Denise decided to play the humility card. She openly recognized that old Dakal had the power, and although she wouldn’t want to vote for Jeremy, she said she would write his name down if that would save her.

Denise’s compelling and seemingly innocent manner of speech might have been what moved Sandra to consider giving her the idol. The way she approached Sandra and Kim made her appear to be a loyal pawn that Sandra could use. By appealing to Sandra’s quest for power, Denise was given the perfect opportunity to pull off the biggest move of her Survivor career.

Taking a page out of Kellee Kim’s playbook, Sandra decided to secretly give her temporary idol to someone who was going to receive the majority of the votes. So Sandra agreed to trade her idol to Denise for two Fire Tokens. From Sandra’s point of view, she gains two Fire Tokens for an idol that was going to expire that night. What she didn’t understand was she also traded away her control over Tribal Council.

With two idols in her arsenal, and being fully aware of where the votes were heading, Denise had ultimate power over Tribal. She wasn’t naïve in thinking that Sandra was giving her the idol out of the goodness of her heart. Taking a page out of Russell Hantz’s playbook, Denise turned Sandra’s move against her by playing both of her idols and writing Sandra’s name down.

At first thought, you might think that she wasted her own idol on Jeremy since he got no votes. However, when you want to pull off a huge move like this one, you want to be a hundred percent sure it will work. If Sandra happened to place her vote on Jeremy, then there would have been a revote and old Dakal would have the majority. So by Denise playing both idols, it guaranteed Sandra’s Day 16 demise.

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What makes this move even better is that Denise logically convinced Sandra that she was going to give up only one of her two Fire Tokens before Tribal Council. Knowing full and well that she was going to take out Sandra, Denise wanted to ensure she wouldn’t waste both of her Fire Tokens. Her remarkable performance proves that Denise can keep up with these Survivor legends. Even if she doesn’t end up making it to the end, this was a Tribal Council we will never forget because Denise Stapley dethroned the Queen in epic fashion.