Survivor: Winners at War "It's Like A Survivor Economy" (Episode 2) Recap

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

Wait, we are doing what now?

After forty seasons, few things happen at tribal councils that would be considered surprising. That's what makes the actions of this past Wednesday so astounding as something happened the audience has never seen. In a season full of winners, Boston Rob ordered them all to empty their bags in front of the whole tribe. What is flummoxing is that EVERYONE WENT ALONG WITH IT! Only Adam pushed back against Rob's wishes, but only while he simultaneously displayed his empty bag.

Quite frankly, this was a genius move by Boston Rob. He is arguably the biggest threat on the island, and he knows it. His fellow tribemates already see him as a Mob boss-like figure who controls everyone's actions. Why not lean into if people feel that way about you. Heck, painting the target on your back isn't the worst idea for a player like Rob. People may be more inclined to keep him simply because he is such a large threat/meat shield.

He isn't changing other's perception of him, so why not be an amped-up version of the player they think you are? In this scenario, you either find out if someone has an idol or paint a target on someone's back if they refuse to show the contents of their bag. Had Denise and Adam been sitting closer to Boston Rob, they very well may have been caught. So keep on doing you, Boston Rob.

Of course, the tribal council brought an end to Danni's game, at least for now. I honestly thought she was going to be in a good position after last week to at least make the merge. Dani was a member of a major alliance while seemingly maintaining decent relationships with those on her tribe. So what happened?

Like so many castaways before her, Dani's paranoia got the best of her. Fearful she was on the outs with Rob and Parvati, Danni approached Ethan about breaking up the old school alliance. The kicker is she did so right in front of Ben, you know, one of the five people not included in their alliance. Ethan may have made things worse by pointing out that Ben isn't apart of that old school crew, but at this point, there was no fixing her mistake. Had she just approached Ethan, she may have been able to salvage the situation, but that hope got thrown out the window once Ben was in the loop.

It is hard to criticize someone for feeling ostracized. But all Danni had to do was keep her head down, and she would have skated by until at least the inevitable tribe swap. It didn't make strategic sense for her alliance to turn on her. Maybe it was the time off between her last season and this season, but Danni just panicked far too quickly and overreacted herself out of the game. She will have an opportunity to get back into the game as she heads off to the Edge of Extinction. Elsewhere, a lot happened this week outside of Danni blowing up her own game.

Idol Times

No one may have noticed, but there was an idol at tribal council. Denise, with the help of Ben, found a hidden immunity idol on the Sele beach. Interestingly, the immunity idol was not a traditional one. Instead, Denise had to give one half of the immunity idol to a fellow tribemate for the following tribal council.

I like this twist with the idol, even if it isn't necessarily a new one. It emphasizes the most fundamental aspect of Survivor: building social relationships. Far too often, players lacking a social strategy make their way to the end of the game by finding and playing idols. Ben won using this strategy. This twist helps to course-correct if you will, putting the emphasis back on the social aspect of Survivor over being able to find things hidden in the jungle.

Of course, Denise doesn't just want to give the idol to Adam. They want to use it to the best benefit of their alliance. For Adam, that means giving the other half to him. For Denise, it means giving it to Parvati. Denise thinks it will help build a stronger relationship with Parvati. Adam thinks it's a terrible idea, which it is. Adam also doesn't like Ben knowing about the idol because he is an agent of mayhem on the island. His actions at tribal confirmed that, so Adam has every right to be worried. Ultimately, Denise and Adam keep the idols for themselves.

Speaking of Ben, he is employing some interesting strategy so far this season. He is using his reputation as the idol guy to his advantage by essentially selling people on the idea that he can help you find idols. Ben seems committed to showing people his game is more than just idoling his way to the end. With all that said, Adam seems wary of working with him, and Ben was the most vocal about the old school vs. new school alliances at tribal council. Despite all he is trying to do, his reputation may be too much to overcome.

On Dakal, Kim also managed to find the tribes idol, though she was almost caught by Nick and ladder enthusiasts Tony (more on that in a second). Kim was a target last week, so she desperately needed something to get her game back on track. Kim chooses to share the idol with Sophie instead of alliance member Tyson. I think this is a good move for Kim long term, even if Sophie doesn't think it is. Sharing the idol with Sophie means Kim is willing to use it with Sophie to benefit both of them. Sure, Sophie can vote her out, but she loses her idol if she does. That could be the deciding factor between voting Kim or Tyson out. She wants to leverage this moment to build trust, and Kim has now made it known she is willing to work with Sophie going forward.

Chaos is a ladder

The idol may have been the focus for Kim and Sophie, but Tony's ladder was the talk of the town. After Yul designed a device to secure breadfruit from a tree, Tony had to one-up him by fashioning a large, unstable ladder out of bamboo. Okay, 'unstable' may be a generous description, but this doesn't stop Tony from marching that ladder up to a tree, risking injury to get some breadfruit. Everyone is amazed at Tony's sheer craziness, but I am here for it as a fan. Tony is his unapologetic self.

The other development in his game, though, was the reformation of the Cops R Us alliance with Sarah. The last time these two worked together, it didn't turn out well for Sarah. This time around, Sarah and Tony seem happy to work together. They bring a unique history, with both being cops and having played together twice before. While they've had a rocky relationship, there is genuine respect for one another. As long as they can stay under the radar and can avoid the negative ramifications of advantage plays, they should be able to make some waves going forward.

Life on the Edge

The edge found Natalie and Amber tasked with solving a riddle. Neither of them could, even though the answer (water well) was right in front of their face. After hours searching for the answer to this mysterious clue, both women seemingly gave up.

That is until Natalie went to get water. Inside, she found an advantage, Safety without Power. Essentially, the player in possession can get up before the vote and leave the tribal council, making them immune though they cannot vote. It was an advantage that Janet turned down on the Island of Idols last year, so we have yet to see it at play.

Natalie sold it to her friend Jeremy, who she thinks is on the bottom of the Sele tribe. For the first time, players are starting to recognize the new economy these Fire Tokens are creating. Using your Fire Tokens isn't just about buying food, but you can also buy the necessary advantages that can help keep your game alive. It's an interesting wrinkle in the strategic component in the game.

They Should Vote Him Out First, but They Never Do

Finally, let's chat about Rob, who had an up and down episode. It was clear he wasn't in the right space after the Amber vote. His performance on the puzzle during the immunity challenge was lackluster, to put it mildly. His head just wasn't in the game, which ended up costing his tribe.

He was able to rebound at tribal council with a good showing. He cost his tribe the challenge and is the biggest threat, yet he still isn't the target for being voted out. Then he pulls the bag stunt at tribal, and everyone goes along. I am still not sure if he has a chance to win, but he has more agency in the game then he probably should. It will be interesting to see how he performs moving forward and if his tribe will ever move to vote him out.

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