Survivor Winners at War episode 9 recap: The flip of a coin

After a rushed merge, tonight’s action helped viewers gain a deeper understanding of the unique dynamics driving the Survivor: Winners at War post-merge game.

Often times, it’s the first few Tribal Councils after the merge that determines how good a season will turn out to be. After our first post-merge action last week, Winners at War hasn’t come close to Heroes vs. Villains‘ level, but there’s still time for that to change. Having eleven proven winners and a trio of veterans who have made the merge in three separate seasons, there is definitely the potential for more exciting moments to surface. With the episode 9 promos hinting at complete paranoia, this felt like the opportunity for Survivor: Winners at War to live up to its theme.

Fleur de Lis

The episode began with Michele and Nick feeling extra bitter about getting blindsided on the Wendell vote. Although Michele seemed like she could recover, Nick had a mini tantrum and made it clear to the rest of the tribe that he was pissed. Noticing that Michele felt out of the loop, Adam attempted to draw her in. It looks like there will be more idol drama coming! He decided to reveal to Michele that on Jeff’s podium at Tribal Council, there was a fleur-de-lis that could possibly be an idol. Could this actually be true since Denise’s idol was the same shape?

Aubry’s ghost on the Edge

Taking a break from the in-game action, the Edge of Extinction residents have their first post-merge advantage hunt on their hands. On Day 22, the dejected winners are given a clue that reads: “As a winner and a fan, you step back and assess. Sometimes when history repeats, it can lead to success.” As a group, the castaways voyaged back up to the mountain figuring that something will be waiting for them up there. Like every good horror movie, they decided to split up in pairs to search.

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Parvati proved that she still has the mind for the game, as she was the first person to pick up on the clue. Thinking about what happened in season 38, Parvati and Danni took a step back to assess the stairs along the mountain. It didn’t take long for Parvati to find the advantage in a crack along the steps. It turned out to be a brand new advantage in the form of a safe vs. unsafe coin.

How it works is that at one Tribal Council, the holder of the coin can choose to flip it. If it lands on “safe”, the holder wins an Individual Immunity. If it lands on “unsafe”, nothing happens. First she wanted to keep the advantage a secret, but then as everybody was coming by, she told the core Old School crew about what she found. It was up to Parvati to decide how many Fire Tokens she wanted to sell this advantage for, and she went big by sending it to Michele for all four of her tokens.

Chinese takeout time

Right after an Edge of Extinction challenge we have our first Reward in a while. The eleven castaways were split into two groups by team captains. Wearing red, Jeremy picked Tyson, Adam, Nick and Tony. In blue, Kim selected Ben, Sophie, Michele and Sarah. That left Denise on her own with no shot at a Chinese takeout reward.

Three members from each team had to swim out to a net with over a dozen fish-shaped puzzle pieces and bring it back to shore. Once they got to the beach, the castaways had to hang up their fish on a bar, and then carry them to the final puzzle stage where the other two players had to assemble it. The blue team led by Kim and Ben got off to a solid start and made it to the final puzzle stage with a sizable lead. However, anything can happen when it comes down to a puzzle.

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When Jeremy and Nick got to the puzzle, it looked like they could solve it with their eyes closed. Upon putting their final pieces together, they figured out that something was wrong. On the blue team, Sophie and Michele continue to show off their skills at puzzles, as they were able to solve the pattern and win reward. When Jeff was announcing the Reward to the tribes, Sarah asked Jeff if she could give her reward to Nick as a birthday present. Nick gladly accepted as everyone else remained silently dumbfounded at Sarah’s decision.

As soon as the merged tribe returned to camp, Tony pulled Sarah aside and tactfully asked his Cops’R’Us ally what in the world she was thinking. Sarah tried to reason that her intentions were completely genuine, but in this game, honorable intentions don’t always work out, just ask J.T. After chowing down on Chinese food including plenty of fortune cookies, Michele opened up the special package in her bag. She was hesitant about the steep price of the coin flip, but because the completely reliable fortune cookies informed her that it’s smart to take risks, she decided to pay up.

Immunity Challenge: Don’t slip

Sticking to the plan of bringing back classic challenges, the eleven castaways hit the ocean for their next battle for immunity. The winners are tasked with balancing on a narrow triangular frame that is bobbing up and down from the current. The last player standing will win an Immunity Necklace and one Fire Token. It only took a few moments for the wind to knock over Michele and Denise in the first round, while Jeremy was able to survive by the skin of his teeth.

After five minutes, the castaways were temporarily safe as they switched to a more narrow foothold. Tyson fell off almost immediately, and Jeremy couldn’t hold it any longer either, making a dramatic exit. Tony followed suit leaving three men and three women to battle it out on the highest step of the triangular frame. Adam wasn’t even able to stand up before the round began. Sophie, Nick and Sarah dropped moments later, leaving Ben and Kim. Eventually, Kim outlasted him, winning Individual Immunity and shattering the all-time female record.

War is Not Pretty

Survivor: Winners at War

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With episode 9 featuring two challenges and a scavenger hunt on the Edge, that certainly took time away from the dynamics back at camp, but the advanced gameplay from these talented winners are starting to shine through. Having a good mix of strategic thinkers and entertaining characters produces memorable moments, and we definitely got one in this chaotic episode!

Who’s on first?

As the winners returned from the challenge, Kim believed that there was an easy vote ahead of them tonight. Oh, how wrong she was! The initial plan was to split the votes between Nick and Adam. Ben was able to swap out Adam’s name with Michele. Then blood-thirsty Nick wanted his share of revenge, so he lied to Tyson that Sophie was throwing his name out, which put Tyson in game mode. Then Adam pointed out that Sarah and Ben were too tight, so they should go for Sarah.

Kim discovered this new plan from Denise, and then she confronted Tyson about it. Since Adam threw Sarah’s name out, they came to the conclusion that he needed to be voted out. Are you lost yet? The conversations continued and continued as different names kept on popping up a resurfacing. A fun moment came when Ben questioned Adam about the claim that he is too close with Sarah. When Adam was skirting around the issue, Ben tried to pull a Boston Rob and godfather-it out of him. Needless to say, it didn’t work, but it got Adam worried, motivating him to think more about the potential idol at Tribal Council.

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This group of winners entered Tribal with so many names being thrown out that they had the expectation of the vote changing throughout the night. Jeremy commented about how the level of gameplay picked up like an explosive fire, going from nobody wanting to talk last Tribal, to constant conversations this Tribal. That fire gained fuel pretty fast, as the whispering began and the excitement picked up. Amongst all of the whispering, Adam and Ben had another sibling argument about their conversation in the woods.

As the night rolled on, it became clearer and clearer that the vote was shifting to Adam, and even he picked up on it. That got his mind racing about the fleur-de-lis. Once everyone cast their votes and Jeff asked the magic question, Adam walked up to Jeff’s podium. In one of the funniest moments in Tribal Council history, Adam desperately tried to pull the furniture decoration off the podium with no success. Jeff offered him the option of wanting to play this phantom podium idol, but it held no power whatsoever. Without any protection, Adam could do nothing but watch his name come up again and again, becoming the second boot following the merge.

Key Observations:

  • Kim has won her fifth all-time Individual Immunity, which is a Survivor record for female contestants! She now has two Fire Tokens in play, along with a Hidden Immunity Idol
  • Jeremy’s comment about never experiencing a crazy day like this one is extremely telling. That’s especially considering the many shocking Tribal Councils he went through in Cambodia
  • The continuing trend of dishing out a Fire Token to go with winning immunity is a good way to up the ante for those big threats who might intentionally try to drop out of the challenge
  • Parvati proved that she could still manipulate people even on the Edge, getting her “closest ally” to cough up four tokens for a lame advantage
  • The paranoia might have salvaged Sarah’s game. We will have to see if she can recover from the backlash of her bold reward decision
Next: Survivor winners: Ranking the best Sole Survivors by season

With the promo teasing more drama, Survivor Winners at War is finally starting to feel more like the special season we all wanted it to be.