Winners at War’s merge episode features the return of one player from Edge of Extinction, as well as the tenth vote-out of the season. Here, we discuss what went wrong for this week’s unlucky winner.
This merge episode is a lot. We start with the Edge of Extinction win-back challenge, which Tyson barely snatches away from Boston Rob. Then two winners earn individual immunity, and the show sets up not two but three possible targets for elimination. In the end, a tenth winner is sent to Edge of Extinction.
Wendell dodged one bullet in episode 6 when he outed himself as the most untrustworthy member of his alliance and survived anyway. In episode 7, he scraped by again when Nick and Michele voted Yul out instead of him. This episode, the Wendell survival trilogy comes to a close, and he is finally sent to Edge of Extinction as the season’s tenth casualty.
Earlier in the episode, he tells us that “at this point in the game, I really want to work on my relationships.” It appears he’s successful, as he quickly makes friends with Jeremy. In a confessional, Jeremy tells us, “I like Wendell…I want him to come and work with me.” However, there is an obstacle in the way: Nick. “Wendell has Nick as his right-hand man. I want to be that person … if I get rid of Nick, I could be his number one.” So, Nick becomes our first candidate of the night.
Things get complicated when Tyson, Ben, and Tony discuss their targets. Since they are “big threats versus little threats,” as Ben puts it, they feel that more low-key players should be voted out first. “People like Wendell, Nick, Adam, and Michele…There’s no target on these people. So now’s the time for me to try to get rid of all of them,” Tony tells us. This is our first hint that this won’t be an easy all-in tribe vote for Nick.
In a strikingly perceptive take, Sophie guesses precisely at the pulse of the tribe: “My sense of what’s happening is that a bunch of the ‘big guys’ – Jeremy, Tony, Tyson, and Ben – all got together and said ‘Maybe Wendell, maybe Nick.’ But a lot of power on this tribe is coming from Jeremy, and I think Wendell is Jeremy’s man.”
From our perspective, there are two important things to see here: one, how Sophie has apparently been watching the episode with us, as she knows exactly what’s going on in her tribemates’ private conversations; and two, how Wendell is a legitimate target to at least one strategist on the tribe.
An Adam blindside reaches peak plausibility when Denise tells Jeremy she could “go either way” between Nick and Adam. Denise has been a close ally with Adam. This casual offer for a betrayal shows us how vulnerable Adam is this season.
When Tribal Council time comes, the vote feels unpredictable. On a second watch, the biggest hint at Wendell’s fate is Tony’s response to Jeff about the anyone-but-me strategy: “I think we’re all looking at it that way…This is the ocean, and you just gotta stay with the flow, and if you want to swim against the current, you’re putting yourself in danger. So right now, I think we’re all willing to go with the current.”
Although Jeremy wanted to keep Wendell around and assume Nick’s place as his right-hand man, Tony’s comment suggests that, once the tribe had reached a consensus, Jeremy probably didn’t work very hard to change its mind.
In the Venn diagram of all our winners’ targets, Wendell seems to be in the shared area between the most circles. His closest allies are wary of him. The “big threats” identify him as a low-flyer in the “little threats” majority. Sophie, with Jeremy in her sights, sees Wendell as the greatest blow to his game (and likely communicates this to her allies as well). Basically, Wendell’s time has come.
By a vote of 9 to 3, Wendell becomes the tenth winner sent to Edge of Extinction. Michele and Nick were apparently out of the loop on this vote, which plays to their advantage: Wendell rewards each of them one fire token on his way to the Edge.