What you DIDN'T see in the Survivor: Winners at War season premiere
We were in Fiji for the first episode and provide behind the scenes intel on what went down.
Not all Survivor seasons are created equal. I suppose this is somewhat obvious by virtue of the fact that I provide (highly-debatable) season rankings. Some seasons are, naturally, better than others. When all is said and done, I have no idea where Winners at War will fall. But I can tell you this: Being out there for filming, it felt special. It felt like a milestone for the show. The fact that it was season 40. The fact that 20 winners were standing side by side on a sandspit in the middle of nowhere. The fact that there was a $2 million prize. Watching them learn about the prize money. Watching them toast with champagne. And then launch immediately into a physical battle in a heavy current. It felt like the type of thing you have waited years to see.
I’ve been on location 17 times for Survivor now, and there are few instances where I’ve had that feeling before. My first trip out was for Survivor: All-Stars and I was, quite simply, in awe. Hatch! Rudy! Tina! Colby! Jerri! Ethan! Rupert! All together! I couldn’t believe it was happening. Day 1 of Survivor: Micronesia started simply enough with each of the returning favorites coming around a bend to be introduced one by one, but then the skies opened and a torrential storm erupted as the players had to race across to another island to grab immunity idols. I was soaked, but also stoked, knowing I was there for something incredibly special.
Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains would be, bar none, the most epic opening in the show’s history. The cast flew in on New Zealand military choppers and then engaged in the most physical battle imaginable. Stephenie separated a shoulder. Rupert broke a toe. Sugar flipped people off while topless. The entire scene was electric.
In all those instances, you knew you were witnessing something special, and Winners at War had that same feeling. The theme (all winners) was something we had been pining for for years. The list of winners they got was insane. The setting was gorgeous. Of course, there was one teensy weensy tiny little cloud in those otherwise perfect skies…
Edge of Extinction was back.
[Pause. Deep breath. Find your happy place. Repeat after me: Serenity now… Serenity now… Serenity now…]
You all know my stance on the Edge of Extinction twist. I am not into anything in which voted out players are still in the game, and the reason is simple. It neuters the most powerful and important moment of the entire show: the vote-off. If the person voted off is not actually voted out, then you have diluted the impact, and that moment and impact should be sacrosanct.
There are, of course, other reasons to dislike it. The fact that you can get voted out and then befriend jury members in a non-game setting and all bond in unity against the people that voted you out — and then use those bonds when you get back into the game to go and win it — is just insanely unfair and goes against the entire purpose of the game which is: How do you vote people out and then get them to award you a million dollars? That’s something Chris Underwood never had to do.
I usually spend Redemption Island or Edge of Extinction seasons going on ad nauseam about their inherent evils, but outside of that mini-rant above, I am not going to do that for this season. Why? Because it’s happening. And now it’s time to make the best of it. I can tell you this: Members of the press were in stunned delight when we saw the names of the people competing. Even as someone who has lobbied for all-winners for years, I never thought they would get this many great names back. We were all riding high. And then we found out Edge of Extinction was back as well. We were bummed. Sad trombone noises started wailing in our heads.
Producers will tell you they think Edge is a good thing because it keeps dynamic players and personalities like Parvati or Boston Rob in the game and on the show if they are voted out. I get that. I do. I would counter, however, that watching an all-time great get snuffed and sent out creates MORE drama on its own. And yes, I recognize I am the same guy that complained about all the best people going early in Game Changers, but I’d still rather them go early than sit around at Edge, or get back in later and then have a tarnished victory.
Nobody wants a tarnished victory in Winners at War. The season is too big and too important. Jeremy Collins said exactly that to me when we spoke before the game.(Keep reading for reactions from other players to EOE later.) It should also be noted that Jeff Probst told me before the game that some of the winners would not have come back without Edge. That opens up a very interesting debate: Would you rather have this stellar cast with the Edge twist, or risk possibly losing a few big names to get rid of it? Personally, I would take the latter, but I do understand both sides.
But what’s the point of me harping over and over about EOE week after week? I also don’t want to be so arrogant as to assume that my feeling about EOE reflects the feelings of all. It’s okay to like it, and if you do, you don’t want me constantly talking smack about it. One of my favorite things about Survivor is the way we can all RESPECTFULLY discuss and debate and often disagree about the show. That diversity of opinions is a good thing, not a bad thing. Jeff Probst likes Edge of Extinction. I do not. That’s fine! I know he loves the show with all of his heart. And so do I. That’s what matters. And that’s the common ground we all share. Passion always rules over apathy in my book.
So I’m just going to let it go. It’s an exciting season and an exciting premiere, so let’s focus on the things we’re excited about. And there is a lot to be excited about. Also, this week’s recap is going to be a bit different. I’ll still hit on all the big things that happened, but since I was on location for the events of these first three days, I’ll reveal some of the stuff I saw that did not make it to air, especially at the two Tribal Councils. Some juicy tidbits in there so I suggest you read on.
We’ll also have an exclusive deleted scene every week, so make sure to give that a look-see, and if you missed any of my approximately 8 gazillion pre-game article, interviews, and videos, they can all be found in a thread off of this pinned tweet. I can say with all certainty that this group of pre-game player interviews were the most fascinating I’ve ever done in 17 trips to location. Do yourself a favor and check them out. They’re worth it. Okay, let’s start with…
As a terrible human being that takes an inordinate amount of joy out of watching people fall on their ass, I knew this season was off to a great start when four people — Adam, Denise, Danni, and Amber — all fell getting out of their boats. Here they are, former winners, trying to look all tough and badass for the toughest and most badass season ever and… DOINK! Amazing.
I love human misery, but I’ve also gotten soft in my old age, which is why I thought the champagne toast was an awesome touch. Jeff Probst told me the idea originally came as part of a bigger devilish twist— and it was fun watching Ethan follow where the cork landed and Adam check the bottom of his glass for something — but just to have a nice, clean tribute to 20 winners launching into season 40 was a fitting tribute. I mean, it would have been nice if they had saved a glass for the guy who has been covering this show since day 1, but fine, whatever.
Probst also introduced the fire tokens, and if you were confused at all about what they can do you can read more about them right here. A lot of fans seem wary of the Fire Tokens concept, but if you are, like me, a super nerdy boardgame type, then you can envision a way in which adding a currency could be pretty cool. Societies have currencies. Survivor is a society, so introducing one is not nearly as far-out as some may have you believe. I don’t know if it will work, but I think this is exactly the type of twist that is totally worth trying. Especially if they are going to make us endure Edge of Extinction again. I’m completely on board with trying this one out. If it doesn’t play, then fine get rid of it. But you don’t know unless you try. I’m intrigued to see where this all goes.
The tribes were also officially dived up as follows:
Immediate Immunity (and what you didn’t see)
Now that we had our teams, it was time for an immediate challenge — and this one was for immunity. Doing an immediate immunity challenge right off the bat was a great move by producers. That’s the way to set the immediate stakes. Back around Heroes vs. Villains, I pitched starting with an immediate individual immunity endurance challenge with one man and one woman each winning an individual immunity. Producers were less than impressed with the idea, but I still think that would be cool. In any event, I love getting right to it.
The challenge, in this case, was a classic in which teams of two have to run out in the water to grab a ring, and the first pair to get it back to their pole wins. It’s essentially a water-based (read: safer) version of the Heroes vs. Villains day 1 battle. What you saw on TV was Dakal winning pretty easily 3-1. But there was plenty more to this competition that you did not see. First off, the wind and swells were crazy! It took an army of crew members both under and above water just to get the flags in due to the conditions. (Check out the video right here on my Instagram.)
Because of those swells, I’m not sure the Sele tribe ever had a chance, as the current kept pushing, if you were facing the water, from left to right. Probst even alluded to this at one point, mentioning a big swell that carried the competitors over towards the Dakal side. That happened constantly. Think of it this way: If you were treading water by yourself out there, the current would have naturally moved you to the right, so Sele had to battle against both that and the other team.
I want to be absolutely clear about something as I tell you this before any conspiracy theories pop up. Nothing was done to give Dakal any sort of advantage. I found out the spot on the beach picked for the contest was picked precisely because it was the most neutral. Plus, currents can be super unpredictable and change at any time. This was a random and unprogrammable natural element that had to be managed just like any other. Think about when players are lined up in an individual endurance balancing challenge. The wind can be different depending on where your spot is. One area could be buggier. There are a million ways you can win or lose due to factors of chance in this game. In this instance, Dakal definitely got the advantage, but it easily could have gone the other way. I’m sure the Sele players noticed this in the course of the competition, and I did not see one single player complain. It’s Survivor. Just like a tribe swap — some factors may favor you. Others may not. Deal with it.
To prove what an advantage Dakal may have had, this was not actually a first tribe to three challenge but rather a first tribe to five, and Dakal won the two rounds you did not see. After Boston Rob and Ben won their round to bring Sele within 2-1, there were two other rounds that did not make it to air. In one of them, Sandra and Sophie defeated Michele and Danni relatively easily, in just 1 minute and 20 seconds. After that, Yul and Nick destroyed Ethan and Adam in just 40 seconds. (For perspective, Sarah and Kim’s victory in round 2 over Parvati and Natalie took 2 minutes and 13 seconds. I do think had the current been even on that one that Natalie and Parvati would have won.)
I shouldn’t have to say this (because it’s obvious) but will anyway. The reason those two unaired rounds were not shown was solely due to time constraints. Survivor routinely edits out inconsequential rounds in challenges (and sometimes does not show a reward challenge at all). Much in the same way they film way more at the tribe camps than they can show on TV, challenges are condensed because sometimes if they showed an entire challenge, that would be the entire episode! Nobody wants that. I would have cut those rounds out as well. But at least now you know what happened in them, especially if you were wondering why it appeared that certain players did not compete.
Last thing I want to mention about the challenge. Love the shot from the camera placed inside the ring. It really made you feel like you were right there in the heat of battle. The crew of this show never ceases to amaze me with the incredible work they do. We like to talk about players and twists, but the boots on the ground production on this show is out of this world and should be recognized as such. It’s something that Jeff Probst — as the guy who steers the ship — should get a lot more credit for. Survivor, as a television show, has never looked better.
Poker Player Alliance
Let’s start with what happened at the Dakal beach, because if you are a long time Survivor viewer, this was pretty fascinating. I remember attending the second Tribal Council last May and thinking to myself: “Well, how are they going to edit that?” The reason was this: a major topic of discussion was the alleged “poker player alliance,” which — depending on whom you talked to — could consist of people like Kim, Tyson, Rob (and, by extension, Amber), Jeremy, and Adam.
But even though these are all returning players, and even though most of them have mingled outside the game, the show usually likes to contain game talk to stuff that happens on the island. Yes, what happened in the past in previous games is often discussed, but what might have happened outside the game is usually off-limits in terms of what is shown to us. There have been plenty of times where contestants have dated outside the game (perhaps even on this season) or had other connections and you never hear them even mentioned on the broadcast. So how would the producers handle all this poker talk, because that is usually the first stuff to hit the editing room floor?
This time, it wasn’t. In fact, they leaned right into it. Not only did they show the talk at Tribal, and not only did they show how it became the main talking point back at the Dakal beach, but they even at one point showed a clip from an actual poker tournament with Kim, Rob, Tyson, and Jeremy, as Tyson said how they would all be in a power alliance out on the island. Why did they show this clip? Because Yul referenced it. And why did Yul — arguably the most removed person from the entire Survivor community and could probably care less about a poker tournament — even know about this clip? Because Yul is the freakin’ man and did his freakin’ homework. He scouted his opponents, found something to use against them, and then applied it with devastating results right out of the gate.
Damn, Yul is good. He told me before the game all about the poker alliance and his fear of it and his hope to use it against them. And that is exactly what he did, painting immediate targets on Kim, Tyson, and Amber. It was brilliant, and it worked. As a result of Yul’s effort, three distinct groups started to form on Dakal. Sophie dubbed Kim, Amber, and Tyson the “cool kids alliance,” Tony, Sarah, and Sandra (who all played in Game Changers), were the “gritty group,” and then Sophie, Yul, Nick, and Wendell were the free agent “unconnected alliance” who all aligned and then appeared to be running the show.
It helped that Sandra was mad at Rob for not telling her during their 36 days on Island of the Idols that he would be playing in season 40. “It’s very rare for me to take something so personal and feel so hurt about it,” said Sandra. “But on Island of the Idols, Boston Rob told me he would never come out here.”
With Yul targeting anyone connected to Rob, and Sandra now wanting revenge, the die seemed pretty cast on Dakal for what they would do when it was time to vote someone out, but that would not be until later. One other thing worth noting before we head over to the other beach, and something else you did not see on TV. Sarah was definitely in a funk on day two. When I was at the camp, she had retreated into her own little space around the bend from the shelter and was sitting there alone, seemingly not in a good emotional place.
It should be noted that this is not rare, especially early in the game as the culture shock of being removed from your family hits hardest. We all remember Lisa Whelchel and her infamous #SurvivorBreakdown. I watched Dawn Meehan on day 2 in South Pacific crying her eyes out. Both of them rebounded. I don’t know exactly what was going on with Sarah here and whether it’s game-related or something else, but I expect her to rebound as well.
Rob Works His Magic
Look, after interviewing the cast before the game I’m kind of rooting for everyone. Seriously, they were all amazing in very different ways and it will be very hard for me to be disappointed with whoever comes out on top. That said, let’s all recognize that if Ethan Zohn wins this game it will be the most incredible story in the history of reality television.
First off, he won 37 seasons ago. Just that fact is amazing enough. Secondly, he went to Africa for that season and was so inspired by what he saw and the people that he met that he dedicated his life to raising millions upon millions of dollars to help combat HIV on the continent through Grassroot Soccer. Who has done more to help others after winning Survivor? Nobody.
Oh yeah, and he almost died. TWICE! The guy had to live in a bubble in the hospital and undergo multiple stemcell transplants and take experimental drugs and even then only barely survived two bouts with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The show is called Survivor and Ethan has survived and thrived more than anyone. Just to see him back on the beach and hear him talking about his “fear of relapse, fear of death” and then hear him say “this is living.” JESUS CHRIST! Tell me that doesn’t put a lump in your throat like you are a contestant waiting to jump into the arms of your stampeding loved one. I can tell you that I was able to watch the premiere on Monday night at a big Survivor event we had (and you can watch the entire panel right here) and sitting next to Ethan and watching his excitement at watching himself on the big screen back in the game was a moment I will never forget.
It’s an amazing story and I am so happy we are able to share in it. And what a weird story it is starting off to be. Ethan in an alliance with Boston Rob?! Those two also have a history on and off the show, and let’s just say them appearing to align is not what I would have expected. Less surprising is Rob and Parvati working together. Yes, they were on opposite sides in season 20, but they’ve always remained friendly outside the game, and as Parvati told us, Rob probably doesn’t have many options outside of her.
But Rob is good. Damn good. Make no mistake. Why, just look what he did to poor Ben. After the Marine was part of a conversation talking about Rob’s statue, he went and told Rob that some names were being thrown out. Why tell him this, you may ask? I HAVE NO IDEA! And, apparently, neither did Ben! Rob asked him what names. Ben said his. Rob asked who was throwing the name out. Ben feebly replied, “I’m trying to remember.” [Insert laughter here.] Then Ben added, “I think it was one of the girls.” [Insert more laughter here.] This is where Rob expertly applied the pressure, saying out loud that now he couldn’t trust Ben, to which Ben then immediately blurted out “Danni.”
Let’s be honest: This was painful to watch. It was as if Rob walked up to Ben, stole his lunch money, used said lunch money to go buy a Strawberry Yoo-Hoo, walked back over to Ben, shook up the Yoo-Hoo, poured it all over Ben’s face, and then posted the picture on Instagram with exploding Ben Bombs all over the screen. Just ruthless. To Ben’s credit, at least he recognized the error of his ways, admitting “I was starstruck and just told him everything.” Now will Ben take that lesson and apply it moving forward?
I do like the way Danni handled this when confronted by Rob. She admitted it and gave a rock-solid reason for doing it, pointing out all the connections he had while she had none. But who was the real winner in all this? Rob. Because now it appears he may have turned Danni from wanting to get him out to being in his old-school alliance with him, Parvati, and Ethan. If that is the case, then Rob did pretty much as well as could be expected for him out of the gate.
Think about this: The two players with the best résumés and most accolades in this tribe are Parvati and Rob, and by the time voting came around, neither of them was even being considered for eviction. “Do you think everyone’s just dumb or just really scared?” Parvati asked Rob. “You and I are the two biggest targets and I don’t even feel really worried,” said Rob.
Instead, the names being discussed were Adam and Denise, who made the rookie mistake of being gone too long from the camp as they had a strategy talk while looking for the water well. But the players then turned their attention to the biggest connection on the tribe: Jeremy and Natalie. The two not only played together in San Juan del Sur but were close allies. Adam started working the tribe to get one of them out instead, and as the group headed to the first Tribal Council, four people seemed in potential danger.
What You Didn’t See at Tribal Council #1
Instead of going through the events of what you did see at Tribal, where Natalie was voted out and then gave her Fire Token to Jeremy, I’ll provide some notes on what you did not see. As always, Tribal Councils go on for much longer than what makes it to TV and there is always good stuff that does not make the final cut. Here is some of what you missed.
• The contestants walked in at 7:54 p.m., voting was at 8:51, and then they walked out at 9:15, making total Tribal length 1 hour and 21 minutes.
• Adam could not light his torch from the fire in the middle at the start. Everyone started laughing at him. Ethan tried to help, to no avail, so Danni then jumped in to help and he finally got it.
• When Denise talked about her and Adam getting lost at the water well, Jeff asked Ethan if people got lost in Kenya in season 3, to which Ethan replied, “They would be dead if they got lost in Kenya,” referring to the lions.
• One of the most noticeable things about the Tribal was the way nobody would throw out any names. There was even talk about how nobody would say a name because the first rule of Survivor is not to throw a name out. At one point Rob called it “the best two-day poker game I’ve ever played in.”
• In the episode, you saw Jeremy and Ben whispering, but there was a LOT more than that. In fact, it was chaos. After those two whispered, then Natalie and Michele started. Then they whispered to Rob. Then Rob and Jeremy started in. Then Rob got up and went over to talk to Ethan. Then it was Michele getting up to chat with Parvati. Meanwhile, Jeremy talked to Ethan, then Adam, then Denise. Then it was Ethan whispering to Parvati, Ben whispering to Ethan, and Ethan and Rob chatting again. Everyone was pretty much everywhere, except for Adam, who never left his seat. He was pretty much alone for a lot of this, never moving as everyone else went around, but then Ethan and Rob finally went over to him. Then it was Parvati and Rob with one last whisper before everything calmed back down. Very surprised none of this made the episode, but with so many “Live Tribals” happening lately, maybe cutting it was for the best.
• Right before voting, Natalie asked Adam if he had a plan. “I’ll tell you in secret,” he told Natalie. “Not in the open.” And then Natalie, clearly sensing danger, made an open plea to the tribe: “All I can say is this: I’ll say it out loud. I hope the people who talked to each other stick to the plan. I’m sticking to the plan and I hope everyone else does too.” Jeff then asked if anyone else wanted to make a public statement, to which Natalie replied, “Guys, we do not want to come back here, so let’s stick to the plan.” They did, just not her plan.
• Here were the comments while voting:
ADAM (for Natalie)
“If this doesn’t go my way tonight, I’ll be crying at the Edge of Extinction tonight and nobody wants to see that.”
DENISE (for Natalie)
“Please let this not be me tonight,” said Denise before voting. She then forgot to show her vote and said, “Just hoping that the plan works tonight. Please let it not be me.”
ETHAN (for Natalie)
“Natalie, you’re the sweetest person in the world. But you and Jeremy together are a superpower and we can’t have that right now. It’s good to be back.”
PARVATI (for Natalie)
“I like you a lot. But you’re the glue that sticks Michele and Jeremy together. And you said I was weak.”
BEN (for Natalie)
“I’m sorry,” is all Ben said. Perhaps he wanted to keep it short because he used his time to check under the paperweight for an idol or clue. (Smart man)
DANNI (for Natalie)
“I really hate to do this, but I’m just really worried about how connected you and Jeremy are. Sorry. Hope you can forgive me one day.”
JEREMY (for Adam)
“I don’t even know.”
NATALIE (for Denise)
“If this plan doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to go…” (She also forgot to show her vote)
ROB (for Natalie)
“Sorry, Natalie. Somebody had to be first.” (Rob also inspected items on the shelf behind the voting urn. Smart.)
MICHELE (for Denise)
“I hope it’s not you. But more importantly, I hope it’s not me.”
• Natalie started putting her hair up after getting two votes, preparing to leave, and had some comments: “Alright, well, good job. And I’m hoping I see one of you guys with me next.” She then forgot to bring her torch up. “S—!”
• Even though we don’t see them on TV on Edge of Extinction seasons, Probst still delivers his final words of wisdom to the remaining contestants. This time: “Well, we’re only two days in and the battle is clearly on.” Not his best effort, to be sure. But, then again, he knows they’re not making it to air so he’s probably like, “F-it!”
Old School vs New School?
One last note on Sele: The next day after Tribal we saw what could be a key conversation between Ben and Michele (who was otherwise doing her best Purple Kelly impersonation throughout the episode). Ben’s eyes seemed to have been opened by the Yoo-Hoo facial he received, telling the Kaoh Rong champ that Rob and Parvati were pulling the wool over people’s eyes. He wanted to form a new school alliance with her, Jeremy, and Adam. If that comes together, and Adam brings Denise in, then Rob and Parvati may be in trouble after all.
The Long Climb Up
Here’s what I know about Natalie Anderson. That woman is a workout warrior. She’s always posting videos on social media of her lifting weights that could crush me like the twig that I am. If I ever decide to actually get in shape, she’s the person I’m calling to help me do it. (The fact we both live in New Jersey helps.) So when she appears exhausted climbing all the way to the top of a hill to find an immunity idol, then I know that is one hell of a hill.
The climb was necessary because Natalie received a Fire Token price list and learned about items she could buy with them. Items like beer (yes, please), peanut butter (crunchy or creamy? I feel it should specify), or an advantage in the challenge to get back in the game. And there was also a clue to “journey to the last spot you can see the sunset.” When she got there, she found an immunity idol good for 3 Tribals that she could sell to any player from the losing tribe at the next challenge for one fire token.
This exchange raises an interesting point. While Redemption Island was a place you wanted to go to later because the later you went the fewer duels you had to win to get back in the game, at Edge of Extinction it may behoove you to get there earlier. Because by being the first person voted out, Natalie already assured herself of an advantage in the return challenge on day 3. How many other players will get the same opportunity? We shall see.
On Land and On Sea
What’s this? Sandra sitting out a challenge? STOP THE PRESSES! Who woulda thunk it?
Anyhoo, totally solid second immunity challenge with a lot of different elements. The tribes had to paddle out, retrieve a bag of number tiles, race back over obstacles, use the tiles to release three rings, and then land those rings on three paddles. The highlight had to be the barrel roll. I’ve done that one before. It sucks and is as difficult as it looks. Even with Rob launching his tribemates over, Sele could not keep up with Dakal, who only cleared it once Ethan got up on Ben’s shoulders on the other side and started yelling at people to “PULL ME!” while he grabbed Jeremy and then Rob to help them across.
But Dakal blew it on the rings. I mean no disrespect. The rings are sooooo much harder than they look. I tested this one out for Game Changers and it took us forever to get them on. So instead of dissing and dismissing Tyson and Wendell, I will instead give serious props to Jeremy, who correctly utilized the two-handed underhand approach. A lot of guys are scared of looking unmanly and don’t want to go Rick Barry style, but they should. It works. Jeremy absolutely smoked them, giving Sele the 3-1 win, as I captured on video over on my Twitter.
And now it was Dakal’s turn to vote a winner out.
Not Even Bothering to Bluff
The bad news for Jeremy in winning the challenge is he could not get an immunity idol from Natalie, so instead, she sold it to Sandra, who was also busy sowing distrust: “I’m just going to spread truth, lies, and rumors” she told us before informing Tony that Tyson called out his name. Now Tony was all about following Yul’s plan: “We gotta break up the poker alliance!”
What was interesting about what happened next is the way the folks in the majority barely bothered lying to the folks on the outs about their intentions. Yul told Tyson straight up that everybody was worried about the poker alliance, leading Tyson to go into “pure survival mode” and throw Kim and Amber under the bus. Meanwhile, Kim was asking Sarah and Wendell if it was her going out, and Sarah just laughed and responded, “I’m not saying anything.” Kim was being shunned everywhere she went, a complete 180 from her last experience when she was the belle of the ball. “This is not how I envisioned my comeback.” Nor I, but it makes sense because Kim is that good and the tribe would be fools to let her skate by unchecked. So it was off to Tribal Council to see if she would go from first to worst.
What You Didn’t See at Tribal Council #2
Once again, instead of going through the blow by blow of what went down at the Tribal, where Amber was voted out and then gave her Fire Token to her husband, I’ll provide some notes on what you did not see.
• The second Tribal started at 7:45 p.m., with voting starting at 8:45, and ended at 9:07 for a total running time of 1 hour and 22 minutes.
• There was a bit more talk about Tony’s… shall we say, exuberance? Wendell also said Tony went into speed mode on day 3, and Amber told him, “You were creating a target on yourself by the way you were acting.” To which Sarah replied, “Today was a wake-up call” for those who aren’t used to the new pace of the game. Tony got very upset that Amber called him out and then Sandra said Amber was not used to the pace and can’t keep up with Tony. (Yes, Sandra defending Tony. My how times have changed.) This subject concluded with Amber saying of Tony, “The way he operates just makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.”
• Kim said she was reeling, and the first 3 days were harder than anything she encountered on One World. Considering the level of competition on One World, that’s probably not surprising. She also called her appearance at the poker tournament “the biggest mistake of my life.”
• Edge of Extinction became a major topic of discussion at Tribal. It started when Yul called out Chris Underwood’s win as very controversial and polarizing. Sandra then weighed in on EOE, going on about how someone should be out when they were out, and now because of the twist, she had to be nice to people instead of mean. Jeff then polled the tribe, asking who among them liked Edge as another chance to get back in the game. Sarah, Amber, and Nick raised their hands. The other 7 did not. Jeff then asked Sarah and Amber what they liked about it.
• Here are the comments while voting:
NICK (for Amber)
“Two shots at two million dollars is too many. You’re a nice lady. But I’ve seen Survivor: All-Stars and don’t want that to happen again.”
SOPHIE (for Kim)
“You’re just way too cool for me.”
TONY (for Kim)
SANDRA (for Amber)
“Unfortunately, the majority of the tribe wants you gone because of your husband and it’s not fair.”
TYSON (for Amber)
“Sorry, Amber. Had to concede this battle and hopefully win the war.”
AMBER (for Nick)
“Nothing personal. I’m just hoping I’m with the majority and right with this.”
WENDELL (for Amber)
“Amber. You’re a sweetheart. You’re a great mother. But in a season of pre-existing relationships, you are the deadliest combo. Good luck at the Edge of Extinction.”
SARAH (for Kim)
“It’s not gonna be you.”
YUL (for Amber)
“Amber, you seem like a wonderful person…. This is purely about neutralizing the strongest partnership in the game before it’s too late.”
KIM (for Amber)
“Sorry, buddy. We are in a sad state of affairs tonight, but I’m assuming you had to write my name down as well.”
Amber accidentally brought Sarah Lacina’s torch at first to get snuffed. (Each of the torches has the players’ initials on them.)
Jeff’s final words of wisdom “The last time Amber was voted out was 20 years ago, and in those 20 years the pace of the game has clearly changed.” Much better! Fits in thematically with what happened and a nice nostalgic kick. Well played, Jeff!
My Official Winner Pick
So, I already revealed this on the Survivor Press Roundtable as well as my appearance on Reality Steve’s podcast, but my pre-game pick to win was Danni Boatwright, much for the same reason she was also Jeff Probst’s pick to win. Danni is an extremely well-rounded player. She’s smart, she’s social, and she can compete in challenges as well (although she does admit puzzles are not her forte). She had a very quiet but unmistakable confidence when I spoke with her before the game.
And then there is this: She is not on anybody’s radar. In the past, returning player seasons have usually been won by players that were not seen as big threats entering the game. Nobody was worried about Amber Brkich heading into All-Stars. Parvati was not considered a big threat going into Micronesia. Sandra was barely noticed at the start of Heroes vs. Villains, with most of the players considering her first win fluky. And Sarah Lacina was barely a blip on the radar for Game Changers. That’s why someone like Danni or Sophie (whom I almost picked) seem to be in a perfect place. They are both very good players who can lay low out of the gate.
Of course, that would mean a woman winning, which has not happened since Sarah’s victory back in season 34. But I am going to put my one-season prediction winning streak (thank you, Tommy Sheehan!) on the line and go with Danni. May I not look foolish for doing so.
Okay, this has gone on for waaaaaaaay too long already, so time to wrap this up. Once again, we will have an exclusive deleted from the episode each and every week. We’ll also have my weekly Q&A’s with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. This week we also have a special treat as I spoke to Probst after the second Tribal Council and you can watch that extended chat video as well right here!
I thank each and every one of you who bothered to read this far and feel like I owe you a cookie. My friend Angie Layton told me people like cookies and seeing as how entire seasons of Australian Survivor seem to be based around them, she must be right. I wish I could give you one right now. But I can’t. But I can direct you to my Twitter @DaltonRoss for lots of Survivor goodness. And if you haven’t followed me on Instagram @thedaltonross to check out all the Survivor stuff I have posted over there, then you should get to checking.
You should also get to hitting that message board to weigh in on the premiere and what you thought. As for me, I need to get back to the kitchen to check in on my scoop of the crispy. It should be good and ready by next Wednesday, and I’ll serve it up then.