Survivor Winners at War episode 7 recap: A brand new game

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

The big names have fallen one after the other in the past few Tribal Councils. With the merge in their sight, the winners in episode 7 of Survivor are ready for war.

Coming into Survivor: Winners at War, one interesting connection was the fact that four legends from the same tribe in Heroes vs Villains were returning. In four consecutive Tribal Councils, these huge targets have been shipped to the Edge of Extinction. With this episode being the last we see of pre-merge action, who knows what to expect next from this talented cast.

The Villains are together… but not for long

Episode 7 opened up on the Edge of Extinction where a group of disgruntled Survivor legends discussed their failings. Boston Rob and the rest of the gang took turns trying to understand why Sandra pulled out a J.T.-like mistake. Sandra humbly explained how she got duped and didn’t think Denise could have pulled it off. It was fun seeing these four original villains together again, but it didn’t take long for Sandra to split that apart.

It was clear that Sandra came to the Edge of Extinction with the pre-determined plan of waving the white flag. Her justification is certainly logical, given her lack of participation at challenges and her unwillingness to spend days in poor conditions on the Edge if she doesn’t think she can make it back in. That does make sense, but I still find it tough to stomach anyone quitting when they still have two opportunities to get back in the game.

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Uncomfortable times continue at Sele

Following his aggressive comments at Tribal Council, Wendell had some damage control to do. First up, Yul pulled him aside to try and figure out if he could trust him moving forward. Although Wendell did seem appreciative of Yul’s comments, he wasn’t fully sold. Then it was Michele’s turn and let’s just say that didn’t go as smoothly.

He first apologized to her but immediately became defensive, which got everyone thinking that it was time to take out Wendell. That being said, the fact the Michele gave him a Fire Token to “make up” indicates that she’s not going to give up on him easily.

Scavenger hunt on the Edge

And just like that, we’re right back on the Edge of Extinction! We got to see a pretty raw moment where Ethan opens up to Parvati about the challenges on the Edge, but his hope is lifted by a new message. The island residents read their clues together, indicating that there are four Fire Tokens hidden somewhere towards the top of the island. Immediately everyone broke off in a sprint with Boston Rob taking the lead.

However, it was Tyson who seemed to get to the area first, snagging one Fire Token. Tyson was surprisingly open and honest about his token and showed it to everyone as a reference. Once nobody could find anything, the Edge residents were clamoring for a strip search to ensure nobody was lying about finding the other three. Then the editors turned to their new favorite trick of showing the advantage find after the fact, as Boston Rob sneakily had all three of the remaining tokens. I got to say, determination seems to be one thing Sandra didn’t pick up from Rob during season 39!

Jeremy owning Dakal

There’s no better way to go back to in-game action than showing us Tony Vlachos on an island. This segment began with Tony showing off his “blistering speed” in front of his tribe, but this light-hearted moment turned into a very telling next couple of scenes. Tony talks about feeling solid with Kim and Jeremy, while being glad that Denise showed herself to be a threat. In fact, in a typical Tony Vlachos manner, he persisted in making over the top comments about Denise being the biggest target now.

It didn’t seem like the rest of the tribe was buying that, as Jeremy still believes Tony’s anxious gameplay keeps him in the middle of the crosshairs. Kim got in with this conversation and expressed how much she trusts Jeremy. It seems like everyone in this tribe loves the firefighter. You also get the vibe that Kim is definitely not going to stick with original Dakal at the merge.

Idol interrogation

Before heading to the challenge, we got a peek into the dynamics over at Yara. Relying on his gut feeling once again, Adam strongly believed that either Ben or Sarah discovered that Yara idol. Adam was straight up asking everybody if they had it, frustrating everyone in the process. By the end of the segment, it appeared that Adam was going to give up with his witch hunt even though he still felt that Ben or Sarah had it. Sophie somehow escaped his notice, showing off her calm and effective social presence.

Jabeni Redemption?

Unlike last week’s Immunity Challenge, two tribes have a shot at avoiding Tribal Council in this episode. The three tribes are tasked with carrying a large and heavy saucer through a few obstacles including a balance beam in order to fill it up with water. Then the castaways will carry the saucer all the way back to dump the water in a well. Once the well is full, the tribe will release a set of 2D puzzle pieces. The first two tribes to complete their puzzle wins immunity.

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This is only the second time we’ve seen this challenge, the first being in David vs. Goliath where Nick’s Jabeni tribe struggled to even hold up their saucer without water. It didn’t start off well for Nick’s tribe, as Michele fell flat on her face on the balance beam seconds into the challenge. It was interesting to watch the two different strategies going on. While Sele and Dakal were going fairly quickly but losing water along the way, Yara was taking their time, trying not to drop anything.

Despite Jeff’s persistent badgering of Yara’s strategy, they just continued with their slow and steady pace. Sele and Dakal got to their well around the same time and delivered quite a bit of water, but they were both shy of lowering their bag of puzzles pieces. Eventually, Yara got to their bucket with their saucer and proved Jeff wrong by dumping in plenty of water to drop down the bag in just one try.

That gave Yara a much-needed head start on the puzzle, and Sophie and Ben whipped through it to win their second tribal immunity in a row. That left Dakal and Sele to battle it out. They were going back and forth exchanging leads, as the dysfunctional pair of Wendell and Michele actually had some chemistry going. When they were getting close, Wendell was tauntingly beckoning Probst to come closer to them. That was just enough of a distraction to allow Jeremy and Denise to complete their puzzle literally a second before Wendell put in the last piece. No redemption for Nick today.

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New School is here to stay

As four dejected Sele members got back to camp, Nick and Yul were pissed at Wendell’s behavior during the challenge. The early plan was to vote off Wendell, but this Ghost Island champion wasn’t done playing yet. He worked on securing Michele, and it didn’t take long to convince her and the rest of the audience that she wasn’t ready to vote out her ex. That left Nick in the pivotal swing position.

Yul wanted to see if Michele was still on board, and she opened up about wasting one of her Fire Tokens on Wendell. As a result, Yul attempted to come up with a slightly convoluted plan to try and get at least one of his tokens before they voted him out. The only problem is that Yul approached the situation very strategically when he was dealing with an emotionally driven player. That got Nick worried about Yul’s deceitful intelligence, and that took us to Tribal Council with a pretty good indication of who was about to get their torch snuffed.

The night opened with Wendell feeling the heat from Jeff, but he was firm in saying that the challenge wasn’t a factor in the decision. It quickly transitioned into a discussion about the power of Fire Tokens, led by Yul. The beef continued between Michele and Wendell, giving away that on and off again relationship vibe. Nick felt the love for this four-person tribe, while the rest weren’t sold on trusting everyone. In the end, the inevitable happened and the new school players finished their annihilation by taking out Yul, the last definitive old schooler.

C. This episode is a perfect example of why production decided to institute early merges. The tribal dynamics are just not entertaining enough for a returning players season. Plus, the vote felt extremely telegraphed by the edit, taking a lot of the fun out of Tribal Council. Hopefully the merge can bring along some fresh energy and more interesting gameplay.. Survivor: Winners at War. . We're in the Majors

Key Observations

  • Jeremy’s excellent social game has allowed him to overcome a Sele deficit, putting him in a solid position entering the merge despite his threat level
  • The modern and upbeat soundtrack the editors used during Michele and Wendell’s confessionals felt like a way too obvious hint at Yul’s “blindside”
  • Looks like they’re out of ideas as production sadly resulted to a literal scavenger hunt on the Edge of Extinction
  • That being said, it is fun to see Rob’s superhuman determination to get back in
  • Each of the 11 castaways still in the game has played in the past ten years. Only Kim, Sophie and Denise haven’t been on the show in the past five years, as the rest have.

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We made it to the merge! The next episode will be a big help in determining how good Survivor: Winners at War will turn out to be because as of right now, it’s been great but not quite to the level of Heroes vs. Villains.