Survivor: Winners at War - Episode 13 Recap
The Penultimate Step of the War
By Jim Van Nest
May 12, 2020
Hello good people and welcome to the penultimate episode recap of Survivor: Winners at War, aptly named, "The Penultimate Step of the War." What began with 20 past winners has been whittled down to 7. And after tonight, we'll be down to 5 (with, of course, 1 more set to join in the finale).
After a fantastic pre-merge where all of the biggest names were dispatched early, the post-merge has been pretty much all about one guy - the Survivor unicorn, Tony Vlachos. Tony has taken hold of the game with immunity wins and daring strategy (I mean, he orchestrated a 4-3-2 vote at 9, for crying out loud). But in doing so, he has made himself the biggest target in the game. After his ouster of one of the all-time greats in Kim Spradlin last time out, even Boston Rob was calling him a "boss". And with 7 people left and only Sarah locked in with him - you have to wonder if his time isn't running out - especially since we will have 2 Tribals and 2 people sent to the Edge tonight.
We begin tonight's episode after tribal. For about the 40th time this season, Michele is lamenting how the tribal didn't go the way she planned and now everyone knows she has an advantage. Speaking of which, Jeremy DOES give the 50/50 back to her. Jeremy and Michele are really in a bad spot with no one they can trust. And in a 7 person game, that will likely spell the end for one of them.
The next morning, Denise is doing her best to get her anger out of the way. She's not happy with how things are going and she is putting herself into a different mindset for the end of the game. The next scene is a hilarious discussion between Jeremy and Tony discussing whether 9 days is 1 week or 2 weeks. Hey guys - it's neither! Tony tells us that Jeremy is a big part of his plan and he needs him to stop the hyenas from getting together. He locks it in with Sarah. They've been playing together for 6 years - even though Tony burned her the first time. Sarah tells us that Ben is their number 3 and he wants Jeremy gone. But she doesn't want to get rid of Jeremy just yet. She wants to target Nick but even she knows that it's not best for Ben's game. So she sets out to convince Ben that Jeremy is good for his game and Nick is bad. Ultimately, she's trying to get Ben to make the decision to vote out Nick, so he has some agency in the game. The next scene is so perfect - Ben goes to the beach to try to talk Tony into voting for Nick instead of Jeremy. Which, of course, is exactly what Tony wants to do anyway. As we head to break, Ben is feeling pretty excited about this great new plan he's brokered but is also worried that it could all blow up.
We come back from commercial to our first Probst sighting of the night. Today's immunity challenge is kind of a fun one. Players will through a ball up into a chute, then go through an obstacle and catch the ball on the other side. They have to do that twice, then dig under a log with the balls and finally finish a slide puzzle. First to finish wins immunity and 2 fire tokens. Wanna take odds that this will come down to everyone working on the puzzle at the same time? There's a bit of a learning curve on this one, but everyone figures it out pretty well. Well, except Michele. Spoiler alert - she never even catches the first ball. At any rate, as expected, it comes down to the puzzle. And slide puzzles are really hard to recap as they usually come together very quickly after several minutes of nothing. And that's exactly what happens as Nick. Wins. Immunity. This is the second time in a row that the locked in pick to go home has won immunity. Things don't look good for Denise and Michele now.
We get back to camp and Ben is ready to start coming up with a new plan. Jeremy, Sarah and Nick are good with Denise. They bring it up to Ben and while he agrees with them TO them, he really doesn't want to take out his ally in Denise. So, he hatches a plan to bust up Jeremy and Michele and it's really bad. Hey Survivor, where's the dodo music for this montage? Ben asks Jeremy to see if he thinks Michele would give him the 50/50 again. Jeremy and Nick talk about the Denise plan, but Jeremy isn't buying it. He says it's too easy and things are never easy in Survivor. He knows that either he or Michele is the target, because he doesn't trust Ben at all. And we flip to a scene where Ben is "predicting" to Michele that Jeremy will ask her for her 50/50 advantage again to which she says she won't give it to him again. But he is SO transparent that when Jeremy and Michele talk, they don't talk about transferring the 50/50 - they talk about how Ben approached both of them about the 50/50. I mean, for real dude, that was SO see-thru CBS almost had to censor it. Anyway, the result is that Jeremy and Michele now want to blindside Ben. So, way to go Ben. Ya know, it occurs to me that some of these folks are just way out of their league. But, I digress...
Jeremy takes the Ben plan to Tony. Tony doesn't like that plan, but he agrees to it. At this point, he thinks it's best to stay strong with Ben and Sarah. So, he takes this plan back to Ben and the group. He organizes a split vote. The 3 guys will vote Jeremy. Denise and Sarah will vote Michele and Jeremy and Michele vote Ben and Jeremy goes home. If he plays the 50/50, then it's a tie and Michele goes home on the revote. It's a pretty ingenious plan. It'll also never happen. These kinds of splits never do. Sarah is worried that Nick could flip on this plan and cast that 3rd vote for Ben and ruin everything. Nick lets us know that he is the swing in this vote tonight. He says he's making his decision tonight based on what will help him win the game, not just live through tonight.
Jeff starts Tribal tonight with Michele and her struggles in the challenge today and about what it'll be like when that's watched back at home. She's a little concerned about it. Ben also mentions that it's hard to think that when they're completely broken, that's what people see on TV. They discuss how this season is more personal since they all know each other, at least a little bit. Jeremy talks about how you have to find the middle ground between being a game-bot and playing with your heart. The next discussion is really interesting. Michele, Ben and Jeremy all talk about how once you get out of the game, you have trust issues with the people closest to you. It messes with your head so much, Ben didn't trust his wife. Jeremy didn't trust his brothers at the fire house. He's trying to have more fun with it this time, so it doesn't get in his head. Talk turns to Michele's 50/50 advantage and she says that it expires tonight and the advantage will be played tonight. She doesn't, however, say that SHE is playing it tonight. It is time to vote.
We see Denise's vote for Michele and Jeremy's vote for Ben. We then see Tony's vote for Jeremy saying that he has to put his emotions aside and play the game. They're done and Jeff will tally the votes. Before he reads them, Michele does in fact stand up to play the 50/50 coin. She takes a minute to decide who to play it for and decides to play it for herself. She does a really super weak toss, and it lands on safe. Like seriously, I call bullshit on the toss, but Jeff did not, so any votes cast for Michele will not count. First vote, Michele, does not count. Michele, does not count. Ben. Jeremy. Ben. Jeremy. One vote left. 15th person voted out of Survivor: Winners at War...Jeremy. Are you fricking kidding me? After pulling off a 4-3-2 at the final 9, Tony just orchestrated a 3-2-2 split vote and IT WORKED?!?!?!? That is absolutely insane. He has seriously played the best game of the season. And if he makes it to the end and doesn't win, something is very, very wrong. On his way out, Jeremy drops his 2 fire tokens in Michele's box and grabs the torch to head to the Edge.
We go straight from tribal to camp after. Ben is feeling pretty solid that his side prevailed over Jeremy's. Tony takes some time at the well to tell Ben that he shouldn't be surprised, they're with him 100%. Together, they agree that Michele has to go next. She's been on the wrong side of the numbers so many times that he feels like in this season, she needs to go. We join Nick going to the beach to talk to Michele. She is pissed and a little surprised that he came down to talk to her. She tells them that he screwed both their games with this move. He tells us that while she wanted to hitch her wagon to Jeremy; he didn't have any intention of playing with him. Michele tells us that she knows she is next to go and that she has to win immunity this time around. She also plans to go out fighting.
The next day we reached the, "no one else but me is really wanting to play the game" portion of the season. It happens every season, the clear person on the outs claims that no one else is willing to play and blah, blah, blah. Look, I love me some Michele but they do want to play - just not with you. She has a conversation with Sarah and tried to suggest that she might not be in a position to win the game against Tony. But seriously, Sarah is not having it. And you have to love her for it. She plays no bullshit with anyone, ever. She tells Tony, Denise and Ben all about that conversation. She confirms for us that despite what she said, Michele has to go.
Whoa - and an Edge of Extinction check in. Looks like we have our very last opportunity to earn fire tokens today. Yul reads the riddle to everyone and then like madness, everyone takes off. Wendell is pretty sure he knows exactly where to go and he jumps out in front of everyone. Natalie is right behind him, also sure of where the clue is directing them. We see Natalie get to her destination and Wendell is nowhere to be seen. He went up to the top of the island, but the "throne of stone" is on the beach down by the water. And Natalie finds the box with the final advantage. This advantage is actually a disadvantage. It gives someone a disadvantage in the next challenge. Whoever buys this can then play it on someone else, completely anonymously. So, it's up to Natalie who to pick and how much to charge.
Back at camp, when he has a chance to get away, Nick tells us about the 6 fire tokens he's saved up and has nothing to spend them on. But wait, there's something in his bag!! And WOW - Natalie asked for 8 fire tokens for what is, in my opinion, the worst advantage yet. With only 6 tokens, Nick has to go to Michele to see if she'll work with him to buy this advantage. He tells her that it costs 8 tokens and he has 6. She's quick to agree to give him the 2 tokens, so it looks like Natalie is getting PAID and Nick will hit someone with a disadvantage at the challenge. Now, he has to decide who that's going to be.
We come back from break to another Probst sighting. Today's immunity challenge is the domino challenge. They'll have to step through a tall rig and stack pieces of wood in a line. Then knock them over like dominoes and hope they go far enough to fall of the end and hit the winning gong. Winner gets immunity and the final 2 fire tokens. We also learn who has the disadvantage. The disadvantage was played against Ben and it means that he'll have to stack his blocks 30% farther with 30% more blocks. As they get going, Tony and Michele are in the lead, with Sarah right behind. In a surprise, Ben is actually catching up and is going to be a factor in this challenge. Michele loses a block and Tony and Sarah pass her up. Nick and Denise are non-factors at this point. Michele thinks she has enough blocks and is going to give it a go. She knocks it down and, in fact, she knocks them all down. Michele. Wins. Immunity! As we head to commercial, Ben asks who played the disadvantage on him and Jeff refuses. Also, Michele's mood is completely changed now as she can't wait to watch everyone else have to scramble now.
Back at camp, it's time to play...oh hell, I don't know. Denise maybe? Nick? Anyway, as everyone sits around the fire, Denise tells them that she knows she's on the block tonight and that if it's going to be her, she wants to go to the Edge with a full belly. So, she suggests cooking a huge pot of rice for their next meal and she'll use her tokens to buy more rice. She tells us that she is definitely still playing, but she's fine to play the dejected Survivor player. We see the Ben, Denise, Tony, Sarah alliance lock in the Nick vote. But Ben talks with Nick and Michele and they go through all the reasons that Denise should be the vote. Nick is reveling in his plan to sabotage Ben and save Michele but he has to get Tony on board with voting Ben out. And he makes a very good argument for it. He brings up Ben's win in the fire making challenge and that gets Tony thinking that he doesn't want to lose his game because of a fire challenge.
But before he can make a move, he wants to use his spy nest to see what he can hear. At the water well, he overhears Denise try to make a final three deal with Sarah and Ben. Tony tells us that if she doesn't want him in the finals, she has to go. So, he goes to Michele to try to switch up the vote to Denise, but he wants to talk to Sarah before he does anything. So Tony pulls Sarah aside and tells her that he's worried that if they bring her to final 4, she'll bring Ben and Cops R Us will have to battle it out in fire. Sarah breaks it down for us that it is between Nick and Denise tonight. She gives a laundry list of reasons to vote both of them out and when all is said and done, she and Tony are the swing votes tonight and they just have to decide which is the best way for them to go at Tribal tonight. Seriously, as the commercials roll, can we talk about how incredible it is that we're that the final 6 Tribal and Tony has no immunity and is not even being talked about as the possible vote? What kind of bizarro Survivor world is this? It's an amazing one, that's what kind.
We start at this tribal where we started the last one; with Michele's challenge performance and reaction. Ben talks about how he wonders where the disadvantage came from, especially since he was only a block short despite the disadvantage. Talk turns to fire tokens and advantages coming in from the Edge. Sarah talks about how you have to try to manage everyone's tokens to keep a hold on the game while Michele talks about the moral boost she got every time she found a token in her bag in the morning. The players are also worried about who will be coming back in the game and what they'll be coming with. Denise talks about her idea that she doesn't want to scramble anymore and just wants to relax and have a big meal. She says she is not giving up and she doesn't want to be the vote, but she didn't have it in her to do all the craziness that will come with being a target.
And with all that, it's time to vote. We see Nick's vote for Denise saying that he didn't get to slay the queen, but he gets to slay the queen-slayer. Jeff asks for idols and both Tony and Ben stand pat and hold onto their idols. First vote, Nick. Denise. Denise. Nick. Nick and Nick. 16th person voted out of Survivor: Winners at War - Nick. Jeff confirms that tomorrow, someone from the Edge will return to the game. And as he heads to the Edge, Nick has no tokens to give out since he spent them all on Natalie's disadvantage.
Wait, what's this? We're going to the Edge? It's the next morning and everyone is "celebrating" the last day on the Edge of Extinction. Um...ok. I guess the episode isn't done. Are they actually gonna run the challenge this week? We hear from Amber talking about how crazy it's been that she's been there for a month and that she's actually gonna kind of miss this place. We join the group as Tyson reads the mail that says it's time to get all their stuff and get ready for the battle. Rob tells us that the idol he bought prior to the last challenge is still good. Kim has no fir tokens and is planning to bring everything she's got. Wendell has 2 tokens and he bought 1 advantage in the challenge. Yul also has 2 tokens and he also has the advantage. Parvati uses her 2 remaining tokens for the advantage as well. Ethan has no tokens but he plans to give everything he's got to win this thing. And finally, we check in with Natalie - the Queen of Extinction. She has, you ready for this, 14 fire tokens! She uses them for 3 advantages in the challenge, plus she has her idol from the first challenge. Finally, she uses more tokens to but another idol to give to someone else. And that someone else is Tyson. And in yet another emotional moment from the normally stoic Tyson, he was blown away that Natalie would buy him an idol. He says feeling like someone else is rooting for you can really give you a boost and tells us that if he gets back in, he's winning this thing.
And ultimately, that's the end of the episode. What happens next is a 10 minute recap of the season. This is usually the first 10 minutes of the finale, but they're tacking it on at the end of the penultimate episode. I think I kinda like it. It means that the finale should have more meat to it. I mean, Jeff's all over the interwebs telling anyone who'll listen that this is the longest finale they've ever had because there was too much content to cut. I think I like the sound of that as well. So, with all that being said - tune in next Wednesday at 7pm to see who will take home the $2million and the title of best of the best as the winner of Survivor: Winners at War. Until then, kids, I'd love to hear who you think is gonna take this thing. Hit me up on twitter: @vannestjc and let me know who's taking the crown (no spoilers please and thank you.) Til Wednesday, take care everyone!