Survivor: Winners at War: And the winner is...
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Wednesday’s season finale of Survivor: Winners at War.
Survivor’s 40th season — a battle of the champions that pitted 20 former winners against each other for ultimate bragging rights — came to a close on Wednesday night as another player joined Sandra Diaz-Twine as the franchise’s only two-time victors.
The Winners at War finale started with Tony Vlachos, Sarah Lacina, Ben Driebergen, Michele Fitzgerald, and Denise Stapley waiting for another player to join them after winning the battle back challenge to return from the Edge of Extinction. That player turned out to be Natalie Anderson, who was the first person voted out of the game back on day 2 and used three advantages to defeat the field.
Natalie then used an immunity idol she bought with Fire Tokens, another one she found in the jungle, and a final immunity challenge win to get herself into the final 3. Denise ended up being the first victim when Natalie played her first idol, and then — in the most shocking moment of the finale — a teary Ben (probably realizing he stood little chance of getting jury votes later) gave Sarah permission to vote him out so she could boost her résumé after they learned Natalie had another idol.
Then, after Natalie won the final immunity, she brought Michele to the end with her — forcing Cops ‘R’ Us allies Tony and Sarah to do battle at fire, with the winner heading to the final 3 and the loser heading to the jury. It was an emotional face-off that began with lots of fist-bumps and ended with tears, kisses, and plenty of “I love yous” after Tony defeated his best friend in the game.
The final Tribal Council was absent of any of the bitterness that has marked other jury questioning sessions and mirrored the celebratory nature of season as a whole as players were mostly very complimentary and respectful of the games of all three finalists. Natalie did take a little heat for a lack of a social game at the Edge of Extinction, and that may have cost her as Tony ultimately sailed to an easy victory to become the show’s second two-time winner.
It was a fitting conclusion for a dominant run by the Cagayan champ in all three facets of the game. Not only did Tony win four immunity challenges and find an immunity idol, but he played an instrumental role in almost every single vote he was a part of without upsetting any jurors, and did not have a single vote cast against him all season. He now has earned his place on the Survivor Mount Rushmore next to luminaries like fellow season 40 players Sandra, Parvati Shallow, and Boston Rob Mariano.
My full finale recap will be up shortly, along with interviews with the final six as well as host Jeff Probst. But see what the final five had to say going into the finale, and for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.