Updated: Sep 28, 2020
It is hard to believe we have finally made it here. After twenty years and thirty-nine seasons, Survivor: Winners At War has arrived, pitting twenty of the most beloved winners in the show's history against one another. The whole Survivor community, myself included, is excited for what is promising to be an epic season. Two hours in, and the show is already delivering on that promise.
Though excitement has run rampant since the cast reveal, the reality of this moment didn't quite set in until all twenty winners were standing next to each other on the beach. Seeing many of my childhood idols and favorite players of all time feels like a fever pitch. I got legitimate goosebumps watching all of these people together. Not only is this a monumental moment in the history of the show, but a monumental moment in reality television history. So let's get started with the marooning.
As the Survivor's hit the island, some had trouble getting out of the boat, with Adam, Danni, Amber, and Denise all falling into the water. Considering the events of this episode, this was quite a metaphor for their games. All four stumbled out of the gates early before finding their footing, with the exception for Amber. To celebrate the moment, Jeff proposed a toast. Of course, some were more suspicious as Ethan followed the cork to see where it landed, and Adam searched his glass for a clue. The castaways don't even know who their tribes are yet, but the fact they playing hard already demonstrates the high level of gameplay that should dominate this season.
As for the tribes, the starting tribes consists of:
Sele (Blue Tribe): Natalie, Danni, Jeremy, Ben, Michele, Adam, Boston Rob, Parvarti, Denise, and Ethan.
Dakal (Red Tribe): Amber, Tyson, Sophie, Sandra, Wendell, Yul, Sarah, Kim, Tony, and Nick
Jeff reveals the new tribes will immediately compete in their first immunity challenge. In the challenge, tribes will compete in pairs of two to swim out to pole in the middle of the water, collect a buoy, and be the first team to be touching a designated post and the buoy. The first tribe to get three points wins. The current, which was pushing contestants towards the Dakal pole, played a role in deciding the winner. Other than a strong push from Boston Rob and Ben, Sele never stood a chance, losing 3-1. Dakal won immunity and fire while Sele earned a date with Jeff at the first tribal council.
I have to stop here to discuss the big twist of the season. The winner of the season will receive$2 million dollars, the largest cash prize in reality show history. To win, though, contestants will not only have to survive each other but also the Edge of Extinction. Like most of the Survivor community, I was not a fan of the Edge when it first debuted. With that said, I'm less than enthused with the idea of seeing some of these winners leaving the game, many of whom have waited years to return. I would be devastated if Yul, among many others, is the first eliminated, and we never saw him again. So I like that we will get more time with them and will learn to tolerate the Edge.
I also think the introduction of Fire Tokens will help make the Edge feel more part of the game. The biggest critique of Chris Underwood winning after spending a majority of the season on the Edge is that he didn't make many strategic moves. Introducing fire tokens adds a new wrinkle in the strategy that allows players on the Edge of Extinction to make moves that will impact the game as they make strategic decisions about who to sell advantages too. The players on the Edge this season will thus have a stronger case for winning the game if any of them should reach the final tribal council.
Back at the camps, the castaways hit the ground running. At Dakal, the alliance lines quickly form. Yul and Sophie connected over having a lack of real connections on the island. They also pull in Nick and Wendell, who similarly aren't well connected. The other two alliances are the cool kids' alliances of Tyson, Kim, and Amber and the gritty trio of Sandra, Tony, and Sarah. It's a fun representation of the brains, brawn, and beauties theme from several years back, all taking place in one tribe.
The Tyson, Amber, and Kim alliance quickly becomes the talk of the town on Dakal. Yul is fearful of the supposed Poker Alliance, the name given to a group of four who played a charity poker game a few years back. While Survivor has reference past events on the show, I cannot remember it ever flashing to an adjacent event outside of the constructs of the island. Not only do they reference the poker tournament, but they also show actual footage of the event. While Dakal doesn't have to worry about tribal council, Tyson, Amber, and Kim already seem like they are in trouble.
At Sele, the alliance lines are far less clear. Interestingly, no one on Sele wants to name a target for the vote. Danni, who has no relationships with anyone on the island, confides in Ben and Ethan that she wants Rob to go because of how many connections he has. In one of my favorite moments of the episode, Ben awkwardly stumbles over his words as Rob questions him about who brought up his name. Ben eventually admits it was Danni, but recognizes he made a big mistake. The awe of Boston Rob strikes again!
When Rob confronts Danni, she admits to saying this but explains it is because she doesn't have any connections. Rob respects her honesty and ends up forming an Old School alliance with Danni, Ethan, and Parvarti. It is so much fun seeing Rob and Parvarti on the same page this season, considering Parvarti was responsible for Rob's demise in Heroes vs. Villains. In the end, though, I am not sure they have that many people lining up to work with them. I guess you can call this an alliance of necessity more than anything.
Elsewhere, Adam and Denise quickly become targets by walking off on their own for far too long. While innocent, this is a rookie mistake that puts them in hot water with the tribe; however, Ben thinks he can rely on Adam to help him get through this game and quickly warns him. Adam is shocked to find out he is a target, especially considering you have a pair on their tribe who are as tight as loved ones: Jeremey and Natalie. Adam and Denise quickly move to shift the target to duo because of their pre-existing relationship.
As we head for tribal, no one is quite sure who is going home. Rob and Parvarti are somehow in the driver seat, despite the targets on back. They even question themselves, believing something is up because neither of them feels in danger. It goes to show how good they are, especially considering the strong relationships Rob has on the other tribe.
Natalie ends up getting voted out, officially becoming the first person to head off to the Edge of Extinction. During tribal, Jeff probed the castaways about pre-existing relationships, with Adam being the driving force of this narrative. Midway through, Jeremy began to get the sense that Rob and Parvarti had switched on him, evening whispering to Ben to see if something was up. Sure enough, Natalie and Jeremy were shocked to see they, along with Michele, stuck to the original plan while the rest of the tribe switched to vote out Natalie. Natalie left her Fire Token for Jeremy and headed off.
On the Edge of Extinction this season, contestants will have the opportunity to earn more Fire Tokens by completing tasks. Castaways can use fire tokens to purchase advantages or food while living on the Edge. For Natalie, her first task required her to climb to the top of the island where she found an immunity idol eligible for use at the next three tribal councils. Of course, Natalie isn't able to use it herself, but the clue indicates she can sell the necklace to someone on the losing tribe for a Fire Token.
Before that can happen, though, we have to play the second immunity challenge. In this challenge, contestants have to paddle out on a boat to a dock where they grab numbers for a lock, swim back over obstacles, unlock three circular buoys, and then land all three on oars affixed with hooks. With one extra member, Dakal chose to sit out Sandra for this challenge.
Like the first immunity challenge, Dakal jumped out to an early lead. Sele struggled with paddling in unison out to their platform and conquering the obstacles, the most challenging of which proved to be the giant wheel that spun once you got on it. While Dakal was able to work together to get everyone over the wheel, Sele's efforts where disjointed. Enter Boston Rob, who put the women on shoulders and launched them like a rocket over the wheel. When it was just Rob and Jeremy left, Rob even tried to launch Jeremy over but was hilariously unsuccessful. Eventually, Sele figured out the trick to getting everyone over and was on their way.
By this point, Dakal had already solved their lock and had moved onto tossing their buoys. By the time Sele had unlocked their buoys, Dakal already had one buoy on a hook and was threatening to land another. Jeremy then proceeded to land all three of his buoys in short order, sealing the victory for Sele and sending Dakal to tribal council for the first time.
Back at Dakal, Sandra revealed she received the idol from Natalie. With safety in hand, Sandra could be more aggressive in her gameplay before the vote. Working with Sarah, they tried to recruit Yul into voting out Amber, Tyson, or Kim. For Yul, this played perfectly into his plan as he was already targeting the three anyways.
While everyone seemed cordial at first, Kim realized she was in danger, a much different position then she is used too. Kim dictated almost every vote her season, never experiencing any hardship like this in the game. It was clear she was out of her element, at a loss of what to do. Yul also confirmed with Tyson that the group was nervous over the Poker Alliance, which pushed Tyson, Amber, and Kim into preservation mode.
At tribal, it is clear that Tyson, Amber, or Kim will be going home. Tyson and Kim try to downplay the Poker Alliance as a thing. Amber, on the other hand, focuses on how quickly the game moves now compared to when she last played, essentially calling out Tony for playing aggressive, which Tony does not like. Had she not already been the target for the night, Tony would have probably tried to switch it to her if he could. In the end, the group voted Amber out due to her relationship with Rob. Tyson and Kim both willingly switched their vote to Amber to keep themselves safe.
And with that, the first two winners have been voted out in a jam-packed episode to start the most anticipated season in the show's history. It will be interesting to see how Rob handles Amber's ouster and how Jeremy's game changes now that his number one ally is gone. All of this will, of course, change when the inevitable tribal swap happens in a few short weeks!