Survivor: Winners at War Episode 13 Recap

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

It's hard to believe next week is Survivor's finale. I'm interested to see the mechanics of it, considering traveling and large gatherings are non-existence. Will the reading of the winner votes and the reunion all be over zoom? Will. Nick be lurking in the background of someone's Zoom video, trying to listen in on their conversation? More importantly, though, I am sad we may not have a new Survivor for a while due to the pandemic. So enjoy these last few supersized episodes of the show because we don't know when it will be back again. The end game is starting to take shape for our castaways. After all the dust settled this week, only Tony, Sarah, Ben, Denise, and Michele are left. Of course, whoever reenters the game from the Edge will most likely disrupt this group, but it's certainly not a group of five that I would have predicted to reach the end.


So how did we get here? Let's dig into both tribal councils to examine the game moves that left us with only five winners. Tribal Council #1: Ben Finally Catches His Whale The first tribal council saw Jeremy leaving for the Edge as he received three votes, Ben two votes, and Michele two nullified votes - more on that nullified part in a second. This decision to vote out Jeremey impacted both tribal councils this week and is possibly the vote that paves the path for Sarah, Tony, and Ben to make it to the final tribal council together.



For Jeremy, his game comes to an end after fighting from the bottom for several weeks. Jeremy's season has been a roller coaster as he never really gained a solid footing, especially after the merge. He has been a target at each of the previous three tribal councils, so to see him go isn't overly surprising. What is surprising is that he wasn't the original target. Ben, Sarah, and Tony intended to vote out Nick. Unfortunately for Jeremy, Nick won immunity, subsequently forcing the trio to shift the target back to Jeremy.


He didn't go down without a fight, though. Ben made a mistake this week by trying to play Jeremy and Michele against one another. I don't get his logic here. Michele was literally willing to let Jeremy use her 50/50 advantage last week to save himself. One should assume they compare notes regularly to get a pulse on the tribe. It feels like an odd mistake for Ben to make.


Jeremy was already skeptical of Ben, to begin with, and this just confirmed he could not trust him. The two decide they aren't voting for Denise like Ben is telling them. Instead, they want to throw their votes on Ben but will need at least one more to give them any shot of flipping the game, so they approach Tony and Nick about voting out Ben.


And Tony, who has a final three deal in place with Ben and Sarah, is not on board. Based on this conversation, Tony knows that he has to target Jermey and Michele if he hopes to keep his final three intact. The rest of the tribe agrees to split the votes between the duo in case Michele plays her 50/50 advantage on Jeremy.


Let's segway to Michele for a minute. I think her fellow castaways are underestimating her this season. I know she has been on the wrong side of the vote pretty much every week, but she is playing hard. She made the right decision this week to use her 50/50 advantage on herself. If Jeremy had used it instead, this week would have seen a revote that resulted in Michele going home. Even if she is on the wrong side of the vote again, she is displaying an astute understanding of the social dynamics within the tribe week after week.


We cannot say the same of Nick, who fails to recognize that he is at the bottom of Tony's alliance. As has been the case over the last several weeks, Nick finds himself in the swing vote position here, a strategy I theorized a few weeks ago that could work well for Nick. While it did for a while, his poor strategic decision making ends up costing him later in the night.


Nick chooses to vote Jeremy over Ben. First, he doesn't believe he can beat Jeremy in the final. Second, Nick wanted to work with Michele but felt the best way to do this was to vote out her number one ally.


I like Nick, but I don't get the strategic logic in his thought process, especially considering he was targeting Ben throughout the second hour of the episode. If your goal is to work with Michele to vote out Ben, why not just take the shot when you have the chance? Voting with Jeremy here doesn't mean he has to work with him till the end, but he can if he wants or needs to down the line. Plus, Jeremy is still a threat that doesn't have strong bonds with the majority of the tribe. There would have been plenty of opportunities to vote Jeremy out later. Those same opportunities aren't available when it comes to Ben.


To be fair to Nick, he is probably being fed a bunch of lies from Tony that are informing his reasoning. And it is still possible Nick was the next target anyway. Nevertheless, it's hard to justify a move based on who you don't want to sit with at the end when that move eliminates virtually all pathways to get to that final tribal council.

Tribal Council #2: Nick Reaps What He Sows The Survivor gods have a funny sense of humor as Nick's decision comes back to haunt him at the very next tribal council.


After the events of the previous night, Michele is understandably pissed at Nick for voting against Jeremy. She had no problem telling Nick that the move he made was a big mistake, pointing to the obvious fact that Michele and Nick are the next to go unless they do something to change that. Nick knows Michele is in trouble but doesn't seem too concerned about himself. Foreshadowing moment number one that he is going home.


Sensing her game may be winding down, Michele tries to plant the seeds of dissent into Sarah's head about Tony. She lays it on thick here, claiming no one can beat Tony. After realizing he has yet to receive a single vote against him all season, I am more than convinced Michele might be right. Sarah doesn't listen to her, but maybe she should. Either way, I am loving this fired-up Michele who is throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.



Anyways, the turning point for Michele comes via an advantage from the Edge. Nick receives a note allowing him to disadvantage one person during the next immunity challenge. Natalie, who found the clue on the Edge, got to dictate how many fire tokens the advantage was worth. She asks for eight. Nick only has six. Michele agrees to give Nick two fire tokens because she doesn't have any other moves she can make.


The immunity challenge had castaways placing blocks in a straight line while maneuvering around tripwires. The castaways then must push their blocks to fall like dominos to ring a metal drum. Nick decides to disadvantage Ben, meaning he has a 30% longer line of blocks to fill.


This advantage ends up playing a huge role in the competition as Ben comes in a close second to Michele, who wins her first individual immunity. For Michele, this could be a game-changing moment as she manages to save herself from elimination, guaranteeing at least one more day on the island. In a confessional of doom, Nick declares the plan worked perfectly, and everything is in place for them to make their move. Foreshadowing moment number two that Nick was going home.



With their intended target of the block, Ben, Tony, Sarah, and Denise all shift the target back to Nick. Denise makes the intriguing decision to act like she is defeated and ready to go home. The jury saw right through this, but Michele and Nick seem to believe her.


Nick and Michele do make a pitch to Tony about voting out Ben. I have to give them credit as Tony seemed interested in the move until he used his spy nest to catch Denise trying to get Ben and Sarah to agree to take her to the final three over Tony. Tony declares he can't vote Ben out because he is someone who will take him to the end.


The vote comes down to Nick and Denise with Sarah and Tony as the swing votes. A stunned Nick has his torched snuffed by Jeff for the first time in his Survivor career as Cops R Us keep their solid four alliance heading into the finale.


Honestly, this is the result of some poor decisions throughout the episode by Nick. Voting out Jeremy limited his options to make a move later. Michele used the fire tokens given to her by Jeremy to help purchase the disadvantage used against Ben that allowed her to win immunity, resulting in Nick getting sent home. Ultimately, Nick only has himself to blame.

Edge of Extinction: Wait, Natalie Bought How Many Advantages? The last few minutes of the episode set up next week's battle back challenge. Several of the players living on the Edge have accumulated quite the cache of fire tokens and are ready to shop for some advantages.


Natalie has to be considered the queen of the Edge. She has gained a whopping 14 fire tokens, making her the equivalent of a Survivor billionaire. And she uses her fortune wisely. Natalie purchases three advantages for the challenge and a jar of peanut butter. Much like Rob, Natalie has an idol from the first battle back, leaving her with six tokens still left.


Since she isn't allowed to take more than one idol into the game, she buys Tyson an immunity idol in case he wins. It's a touching moment that also highlights one of the issues with the Edge of Extinction. Natalie, who was the first voted out, accumulate more fire tokens than anyone, allowing her the best shot to get back into the game. Don't get me wrong, she had to earn them, but her length of stay on the Edge gave her a distinct advantage over everyone else (this week's Edge challenge is the perfect example of this).



Plus, her time on the Edge lets her build relationships with the jury the rest of the castaways can't. If Natalie gets to the end, who do you think Tyson is more likely to vote for? The person who tried to give him a shot if he got back in or the people who voted him out twice?


I know Jeff Probst has said the Edge is facing a temporary extinction for a while, but hopefully, they can address some of these issues if it ever does.

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