By Dalton Ross
April 08, 2020 at 09:00 PM EDT
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Survivor

S40 E9
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Hey, everyone. Before we get into this week’s Survivor recap, I just want to make sure everyone is doing okay out there. As someone who lives in New Jersey and works in New York City — the two places hit hardest so far by this insidious virus — I can attest to the severity of what we are facing out there. I hope everyone — no matter where you live— is staying safe and staying home to protect not only yourself but to protect others as well. I’m not exactly sure why I just morphed into a #CBSCares PSA, but there you have it.

Okay, as for episode 9 of Survivor: Winners at War, let’s get into it. One thing I’ve meant to weigh in on when it comes to the Edge of Extinction is that whenever the group there receives a message…ß˚∆µ∂“œoF@*#J)^VZQi85hf߬˚∂πeie…

Whoa, what the hell?! Why is Adam Klein barging into my house and grabbing my laptop, forcing me into typing gobbledygook that makes even less sense than what I usually write? YOU KEEP 6 FEET AWAY FROM ME AT ALL TIMES, ADAM KLEIN! The dude is trying to rip the brightly-lit Apple logo right off of my machine, even though it clearly does not rip off! Wait, what’s happening? Now he’s walking over to my Mr. T action figure collection and attempting to rip the mohawk off of my talking Mr. T doll. I PITY THE POOR FOOL THAT TRIES TO RIP OFF MR. T’s MOHAWK! Dude, do you want to get beat down like Rocky Balboa and his dearly-departed trainer, Mick?  Hold on, now Adam is destroying everything in my house while simultaneously tearing into his own chest and ripping out his own beating heart and holding it aloft like he is Mola Ram from the Temple of Doom. Dude, that is NOT an idol either!

Obviously, we all got a good laugh out of Adam trying to dismantle Jeff Probst’s voting podium in the hopes that the fleur-de-lis symbol was actually an immunity idol because he noticed the same symbol on the idol Denise found at the start of the game. And we were right to laugh. Because it was hilarious. But here’s the thing: As much of a doofus as that made Adam out to be — as he demonstrated not only that fleur-de-lis was not an idol, but also that he did not possess the strength to separate it from the plank of wood it was superglued onto — and as much as he became the butt of the joke as Probst hilariously offered him a glimmer of hope that perhaps it could be the idol (“You’re convinced it’s not?”) before slamming the door shut on his Survivor hopes and dreams, here’s the thing… ADAM WAS RIGHT!

I mean, no, technically he was not right. He was wrong. That’s what was so funny about it. But the instinct was still spot-on. First off, a bit of history. We saw Adam earlier in the season pause and gaze around at objects in the voting room, apparently looking to see if there might be an idol present. And he wasn’t the only one. While it did not make it onto air, at the first Tribal, Boston Rob started full-on examining the shelves in the voting area looking for an idol while Ben looked under objects on the voting table to see if there might be any secret messages. Many players felt there was a chance that an idol might be hidden somewhere at Tribal Council.

Now, let’s go back to this last Tribal Council. Clearly, Adam felt vulnerable. He knew he was in trouble at the first post-merge vote but escaped. However, a lot of the chatter at this last Tribal focused on him, and he had already been busted by Ben for voicing his concern that Sarah and the Marine were too close. Adam had to know he was in major danger. And when you are in major danger, you have nothing to lose. I mean, except your dignity in terms of looking like a buffoon to millions of people on national television. So Adam could have sat there and worried about looking foolish on TV, or he could have taken a chance and attempted to tear down the entire Tribal Council set in the hopes of getting 3 more days on the island. Give me the player who is less concerned with looking cool and more concerned with doing everything imaginable to stay in the game. Give me the player willing to risk his pride for another shot at the title. Give me the guy hovering awkwardly around Jeff Probst's crotch level in the hopes of obtaining a special surprise. Give me Adam Klein!

Don’t mistake what I am saying for a single second. Please, by all means, make fun of Adam for that ridiculous bit of theater. It was absurd, and you should have all the fun in the world at his expense. Because what’s the fun in watching Survivor if we can’t laugh at a poor sap going head-to-head against a fleur-de-lis? But, at the same time, recognize and respect the cojones it took to go up there and do that. To do it front of the biggest legends in the history of the game. To do it in front of millions of viewers. And to do it in front of Jeff Probst, and I mean right in front of Jeff Probst.

And can you imagine if it had actually worked? Forget about a Ben Bomb. That would have been an Adam Bomb! Or… wait for it… an Atom Bomb. Get it? Adam Bomb, Atom bomb? Because atom sounds like Adam? Oh, you did get it? And over-explaining it just ruined it? Gotcha. Well, it didn’t work — either Adam’s ploy or my lame name pun. But respect for trying. It would have been so much easier for Adam to sit there, play it safe, and do absolutely nothing. Instead, he gave it a shot. And the people who are not afraid to fall flat on their faces are the ones I love the most.

The most hilarious thing about the attempted robbery of a fleur-de-lis is the fact that IT WAS NOT EVEN THE MOST HILARIOUS THING AT THAT TRIBAL COUNCIL! No, the most hilarious thing at Tribal was the brilliant silence that followed Adam’s desperate plea for intel after scrambling and whispering amongst everyone.

“I’m trying to figure out is it me, is it him, or is it somebody else?” he asked after Nick said he felt safer post-scramble. This question was answered with complete silence. And then more silence. And then awkward looks in the complete opposite direction as far away from Adam as possible. And then more silence. Adam finally pleaded again, “Anyone?” More silence. More awkward looks. The entire thing was glorious. I loved it. And I love it when Survivor lets a moment like that breathe. There’s an old adage in writing going all the way back to Chekhov that states: “Show, don’t tell.” And sometimes, a scene with absolutely no dialogue can tell you the entire story without a single word spoken.

Go back to episode 3 of this season on day 9 of the game. Sele lost the immunity challenge, and when we returned from a commercial break, instead of immediate scrambling, we saw a good 20 seconds of the contestants all just sitting there in silence. The tension was so thick, and you saw everything you needed to see on the faces of the players. It was the most powerful moment of the entire episode.

And this week, these 18 seconds of silence at Tribal told you everything you needed to know about Adam’s relationship at that point to the tribe about to vote him out. That’s it! That’s all you needed. And I love that producers devoted that much time to it. Remember: Every second is precious on this show. It’s why there are no longer opening credits, or “previously on…” segments, or reward challenges on many weeks, or Rites of Passage. Producers have tried to mirror my old mix-tape motto of “all killer, no filler,” and therefore have trimmed the fat as much as possible to cram as much as they can into 43 minutes. So to take 20 to 30 seconds and devote it to absolutely nothing happening is not done lightly. But it’s the right thing to do! And not just because it also made Adam look silly, although that was a nice side-benefit. Scenes like that do such an incredible job of transmitting the mood and the tone of what is happening, and make viewers feel like they are actually there because they can feel what it feels like to be on that island. So kudos to the editors and producers for leaving it in.

I, however, am seemingly never at a loss for words in these recaps so let’s move on to hit on some other big moments from episode 9 of Survivor: Winners at War. (Also, I asked each of the returning champions to name the best player to never win the game, and you should check out their answers.)

War of Words

If there has been anything missing on this season, it has been a well-placed parcel of animosity. I’m not talking to the point where things get ugly like we have seen on a few previous seasons, but some bruised feelings and egos in moderation are always nice. I mean, nice for me. Maybe not for the contestants themselves. But since they are there solely for our viewing entertainment, I guess they’ll just have to file that one under T for Tough Noogies.

In any event, Nick and Michele brought the heat after being blindsided on the Wendell vote at Tribal Council. “I hate these people,” said Nick. (Yes!) “I do too. I hate them to death,” responded Michele. (YES!) “I’m ready for some revenge,” went Nick. (YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!) “These people are all bumbling, fumbling idiots. I can’t stand them,” stated Michele. (INJECT EVERY SINGLE WORD OF WHAT SHE JUST SAID DIRECTLY INTO MY VEINS!!!!)

All I can say is — About. Damn. Time. Nick and Michele are decent people, so there was really no fear of this devolving into hardcore personal attacks. They were just blowing off steam, and I was here for it. And will continue to be.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

This week’s Edge of Extinction adventure revolved around a scroll that read: “As a winner and a fan, you step back and assess. Sometimes when history repeats, it can lead to success.” Parvati eventually figured out the riddle was a reference to Aubry stepping back by the steps and finding an advantage, so she did the same thing and was rewarded with a 50/50 advantage coin that a player on Koru could flip at any Tribal Council to get immediate immunity if it landed on SAFE.

What was interesting about this particular advantage is that there was no set price. Parvati could sell it to any player for any amount she chose. Knowing that Michele had four tokens —Wendell must have told her of his bequeathing — Parvati decided to offer it to her former tribemate for all four tokens to feed her former Sele friends. But was only a 50 percent chance of immunity that was only good until there were seven players left worth 4 Fire Tokens?

I’m sure many will argue that Michele paid way too much for that advantage. And they are probably right. But here’s the thing to keep in mind: These players have no idea if they will ever be offered anything again. They don’t know for sure where these advantages are coming from, how many opportunities they will have to buy one, what they will even be if they do have another chance, or how much they will cost. So here was Michele’s choice: Overpay for an item that may or may not even grant her immunity, or hold on to her Fire Tokens in the hopes of a better offer that may never come around.

So while I think Michele definitely overpaid for that item, I also think she knows she overpaid and that, all things considered, she probably made the right move in taking what was in front of her. Because you don’t know what else is coming. Now, make no mistake: If I were her and I spent all my tokens on that stupid 50/50, made it to the final 5, and all of sudden they are handing out advantages in the challenge or a food auction for a single token, I would be PISSED! But you can’t plan for things you don’t know about. If you have access to an advantage — even one as questionable as the 50/50, you have to take it.

A Fishy Situation (Non-Fishbach-related)

What’s this? A reward challenge? I’d almost forgotten what those looked like. This one looked like two teams of five swimming and retrieving a net filled with wooden fish which they would untie and put on a pole, and then solve a fish puzzle. It was a fun challenge, and Sofierce and Michele once again brought it home on the puzzle. But the real intrigue began after the challenge was completed.

That’s because Sarah gave up her spot for the winning Chinese takeout feast to turn it over to Nick, who was blindsided on his birthday the day before. “There was no gameplay in it. It was a complete genuine decision,” said Sarah, also adding that “I hope it taught everyone a lesson that just as a world we can be nicer.” #Nope. Because here’s the thing: I believe Sarah when she says that it was not a game move and that her true intention was just trying to do the right thing, But, in Survivor, it doesn’t matter what your true intention is; it just matters how it is perceived and received.

Nothing is taken at face value in this game, so now because Sarah gave up her spot on the feast, that gives players a reason to get her out because they are obviously going to either believe or convince others to believe it was a self-serving strategic decision strictly done to gain favor. It’s exactly why an incredulous Tony ran up to Sarah on the beach asking, “What did you do, man?” and then pointed out that the others were probably saying it was all game. Cut to Denise, Jeremy, and Adam all doing exactly that.

Even worse, Nick was leading the charge to get Sarah out. “I don’t feel like I owe her anything,” he said. Of course, you don’t! (Incidentally, neither did Dawn Meehan when she cut Brenda Lowe in Caramoan, but that is neither here nor there.) The fact that a skilled social and strategic player like Sarah could not see how that move could be misinterpreted is frankly shocking, and next time I am sucking down a big bowl of hot & sour soup filled with Chinese noodles, I will shake my head in disgust at the memory of this bizarre lapse in judgment — but not in disgust at the dish I am eating, because hot & sour soup is my jam.

Get the Balance Right

That’s a Depeche Mode song title I just used as the section title there. Not their best song, mind you. That would probably be “Never Let Me Down Again.” Or “Enjoy the Silence.” Possibly “People Are People.” Could be “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Or, if you want to go deep cut, “Shake The Disease” or “Blasphemous Rumors” could do. The point is, it’s not “Get the Balance Right,” but that’s the Depeche Mode song that best describes this week’s immunity challenge so it’s not like I could just drop “Personal Jesus” in there or something.

Anyway, I also dig this challenge where folks have to stand out in the water on a triangular platform, if for no other reason than it always looks absolutely gorgeous, and if you’re going to line people up at stations again for a challenge, you may as well do it out in the water every once in a while. This one is also great because it features lots of people falling in super-awkwardly into the water. People like Jeremy Collins.

In the end, it came down to Kim and Ben, the latter of whom appeared to be in the middle of some sort of Mr. Miyagi training session as he alternated between painting the fence, waxing the car, and, presumably, catching a fly in midair with two of Wendell’s toothpicks. I actually thought Ben was going to take this one, and like the majority of my Survivor predictions, I was wildly inaccurate. Kim for the win!

All Hell Breaks Loose

We’ve seen a lot of mad scrambles before Tribal, and this week’s episode can now be added to that list. We were treated to one of those chaotic montages where seemingly everyone’s names are being thrown out. We heard Nick, we heard Adam, we heard Michele, we heard Sarah, we heard Tyson… hell, I’m pretty sure we may have even heard Tata the Bushman’s name being called out at one point.

There was one notable exchange amongst all that madness worth pointing out, however. It occurred between Adam and Ben, who had carved out a tense coexistence all season long. The simmering pot boiled over after Ben was told that Adam said he and Sarah were too close, so he confronted the Millennials vs. Gen X champ about it. Adam didn’t appreciate the condescending tone Ben took, especially after he started to walk away as Adam was trying to answer him. “Ben talks to me like I’m a child that needs to be scolded,” complained Adam. “He plays a lot more like Boston Rob than he would ever want to admit.”

But here’s the thing: Adam was lying. Adam got caught throwing Ben’s name out, tried to lie his way out of it, and Ben wasn’t buying it. I don’t blame Adam one bit for lying (because that’s what you do on Survivor), and I also don’t blame Ben for walking away from it. Could they both have handled it better? Of course! Adam should have admitted he said it, but spun it forward and provided a half-decent reason for why he did it — perhaps pointing out that others were noticing how close the two of them were getting and that it was therefore in Ben’s best interest to get rid of Sarah to lessen his target level, while also pointing out repeatedly that he never ever said that anyone should put a vote on Ben.

As for Ben, he could have pretended to buy the lie Adam was selling. Why make an enemy when you can have him believing you are still an ally — or, at the very least, not an enemy? When Ben walked away from Adam, the lines were pretty clearly drawn, and while that did not come back to bite him, it could have had Adam mustered a vote or two and then detonated the ATOM BOMB at Tribal Council. You know what they say: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I don’t actually know who really says that, but it is advice that could have served Ben well here.

The two got into it again at Tribal Council, arguing about how much they had always been supporting each other while not writing each other’s names down. It sounded silly, but this was clearly 23 days of tension at play here. It was pretty obvious by the end of it all that Adam was the true target, and nothing on Jeff Probst’s podium could save him from his inevitable fate and the accompanying trip to the Edge of Extinction.

What a ride it is has been for Adam, filled with highs and lows. I don’t think anyone imagined that Adam Klein would be the most visible contestant of the season after 9 episodes. He has had by far the most confessional interview clips of the season. (Adam has three times as many interviews as Kim Spradlin, who only gave the most dominant single-season Survivor performance ever.) So give the guy credit for becoming an integral voice of the season, even if you may believe we heard that voice a little too often.

You’re most likely pretty sick of my voice at this point as well, but before we go, allow me to remind you we have an exclusive deleted scene from the episode, in which Wendell makes himself a comforter! I asked Jeff Probst all about having his podium attacked in this week’s Q&A and you can read his response there. If you missed the link earlier where the cast of winners named the best players to never win, don’t miss it again! And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss and Instagram @thedaltonross.

But now it’s your turn. What do you think of Adam’s idol gambit? And of Parvati sharing his Fire Tokens with the rest of her buddies on the Edge? And of Sarah giving away her reward feast to Nick? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with an online grocery delivered scoop of the crispy!

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Survivor

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.

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