Survivor Winners at War episode 8 merge recap: Here’s to you

A hectic merge episode set up the first battle in the next stage of the war, as Survivor: Winners at War episode 8 brought back the anxious energy.

It never seems like we get enough time to dive into the merge. The notion is doubly true for Survivor: Winners at War, as the rush from the hopeless to the hopeful, the scramble to gain numbers, and the chaos that follows the Immunity Challenge is even more convoluted thanks to the Edge of Extinction Challenge.

That didn’t slow don’t the rollercoaster of the episode that followed, as the merge waits for no one.

Edge of Emotions

Speaking of the Edge, we begin with the players. Natalie, being the billionaire of the Edge, was able to buy an advantage in the Edge of Extinction Challenge, as well as an idol upon possible return to the game. Amber informally bequeathed her own token with Boston Rob so he could buy an advantage and an idol, as well, while everyone else seemed to be on an even keel (minus the peanut butter calories in Tyson’s stomach).

After the usual hurrah of dropping your buffs, we once again got the usual song and dance of making us feel bad for the Edgers, with even Tyson able to shed some tears as he balanced the will to stay and seeing his daughters at home. Boston Rob even through some subtle shade at Sandra, stating these old-schoolers weren’t about to give up.

Middle Edge of Extinction Challenge Survivor Winners at War episode 8 merge

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

Parvati, Yul, and Amber were the only ones not to buy an advantage in the same Edge of Extinction Challenge seen in the titular season, meaning they needed to dig for the string needed to fashion a pole to retrieve a key from behind a gate. It was honestly almost essential for the players hoping to come back, as each bag was buried Kaoh Rong levels of deep (in a smaller arena).

Boston Rob was the first to make his poll and retrieve his key, giving him a humungous leg up over the competition. Tyson and Natalie were quick to follow, but Yul beasted past most others and caught up to the rest heading into the vital snake maze. With just one ball to maneuver and a narrow beam to balance on, most of the players dipped up and around the bottom of the maze.

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Tyson was the most daring of the competitors, as he made quick moves to make up for lost time. However, coming up the final stretch towards the head, he was neck and neck with Boston Rob, both hovering so close to victory. The former pro cyclist and NCAA swimmer outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted the competition, inching past Boston Rob and earning his spot back in the game.

First We Feast

With twelve players set reunited into a group of one, we entered the merge feast with everyone hungry for more, whether it’s power or advantages found on the new fire token menu. Denise regaled everyone with her story of dethroning the queen, which quickly became the reason for others to possibly vote her out. Never tell others that you are the one with the biggest resume at the merge!

Michele Denise Sophie Survivor Winners at War episode 8

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

Jockeying for position is important at the merge, as we saw players quickly trying to establish relationships. Wendell established the Sele core as a group alliance, but he was quick to reconnect with Jeremy. It was more of an intel-sharing experience, as the Second Chance winner learned that if he could replace Nick, he could take that spot and establish another threat shield.

Tyson understood himself in the position as the odd man out, as his threat level as well as his placement as the only old-school player left in the game as a reason to vote him out. He also has the experience to know to get ahead of it, as we finally saw something we wished to happen in Game Changers occur; the big threats like Tony, Ben (?), Jeremy, and others opted to come together to take out the “sleepers.”

Come Again Another Day

Day 21 took the wind out of many players’ sails, as the cold rain seemed to dampen the spirits of everyone not named Adam, who fought through a cyclone in the first few days of his winning season. It led to minimal conversations outside of the established threats of Denise and Nick, with targets growing through inactivity.

As mentioned earlier, the game waits for nobody, as the Immunity Challenge came during the middle of a cold downpour. Poor Sophie was clattering her teeth as Jeff Probst introduced a classic challenge; sit on a wooden pole as long as you can. A new wrinkle; individual winners this season will also get a fire token, and there would be a male and female winner for the first challenge.

The rain made it easy for players to slip, as Michele fell multiple rungs down to the ground. As others slipped, Adam came crashing down while Sarah and Tyson quickly followed suit. It was certainly not a multi-hour epic a la David vs. Goliath, as players even in a good position like Sophie would suddenly fall while Tony would scrape all the way to the bottom.

Denise and Kim would be a very brief battle, as Kim quickly fell after that battle began. As the attention fell to the men, Ben dropped quickly to turn this into a staredown between Jeremy and Nick, with the former giving the ole stinkeye. Nick looked to be the David to Jeremy’s Goliath, but that would quickly fall to the wayside, as Jeremy joined Denise in earning a fire token and immunity.

Sheltering communication

The pretense of getting firewood between Ben, Jeremy, and Tony allowed them to discuss who to target. Nick and Wendell became the main topics, and with so little time to dwell on sides, it quickly became a game-wide discussion on a micro-level who it should be. Ben, one of Nick’s potential allies, even noted how his sneaky ways of dropping in on conversations had the tribe on edge and was willing to vote him out should the majority feel that way.

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If you were to declare the winner of the Survivor: Winners at War merge before Tribal Council, it certainly looked to be Jeremy Collins. With Ben dropping the idea that Wendell, his merge buddy, was to be targeted (thanks to Sophie calling out the men broing it up), he sprang into action to pivot to Plan C: Adam. He seemed to have everyone flipped onto his perspective very quickly, and he looked well-informed.

I don’t know which editor Adam personally pissed off in real life for his edit to be so poor in Survivor: Winners at War (joking, of course), as he seemed to look both on the outs of conversations and so clearly the one going home. Nobody seemed to want to talk to him, and Ben was outright poor

It wasn’t until Tyson opened up at Tribal Council that I remembered he was even integral to the conversations of who’s a target. That, right there, indicates the level of stoicism that this merge episode had right up until the end, as it seemed like everyone was too antsy to make a big splash. Tony even likened the gameplay to an ocean, with players swimming against the current that would be swept up.

Somehow, Michele, Nick, and Wendell were the ones who paddled in the wrong direction, as one half of the Sele “kicked it alliance,” Wendell, was the sniped target danced around all episode. He was voted out 9-3 over Adam in what seemed so obvious with the reasoning for targeting Adam (and even Nick, to an extent) that we just had to accept what happened in front of us little explanation.

Survivor: Winners at War’s merge episode highlighted the problem that arises when you try to force the edit to make a vote shocking rather than suspenseful. We literally got hammered down to a T that Adam was going home, and how silly he looks in his lack of game awareness. By doing so, the natural build-up of the Wendell vs. Michele storyline completely fell to the wayside, as we saw nothing of their tense dynamic as one of the most prominent narratives evaporate into thin air.

This is Where the Battle Begins

Survivor: Winners at War

C-

With the challenges taking up so much time in a rushed merge episode, “This is Where the Battle Begins” felt like an exercise in telling a story that doesn’t exist. Perhaps it will fit better in the season’s whole narrative down the line, but giving so much focus to the powers that be while downplaying the female voices of power that drove the vote makes for a phantom merge where we are lavished with the voices of the incorrect.

Stray Observations

  • CBS is not only shelling out the big bucks for the grand prize but also for licensing music. That’s two tracks in one episode that aren’t part of the show’s original scoring.
  • Looking back quickly, it was Wendell that established that Sophie was playing the game, and it did serve to be ironic foreshadowing. To hide her credit for playing the game still seems to be a disservice in the grand scheme of things.
  • Adam and Ben’s sibling dynamic is an underrated joy of Survivor: Winners at War, especially with the mocking impression of Ben from Adam.
  • Michele easily fell at least 15 feet straight down into the ground. The fact that she didn’t need medical to look at her is miraculous, as even with sand to soften the blow, that sand is now wet and hardened by the rain.
  • More of Ben bumbling around in the woods, please!
  • Oh yeah, the merge tribe’s name is Koru. I had to add this as an update to our recap because apparently, naming the merge tribe is unimportant anymore.
Next: Survivor winners: Ranking the best Sole Survivors by season

With Nick and Michele earning another fire token each, we’ll see if players exiting the game and bequeathing fire tokens will reach a pressure point down the line.