“Survivor: Winners at War” Premiere Recap with Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits

“Survivor: Winners at War” (CBS)

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Set Your DVR to Record “Survivor: Winners at War”

Oh man…we kick things off with an awesome montage of classic moments from our winners as they race toward an undisclosed location in speed boats.

First off, Parvati threatens to burn down somebody’s house…literally. Oh good, she absolutely has my address.

Next up, Ethan tells us about how he kicked cancer’s ass and is back to show this game who’s boss. OK, maybe those weren’t his exact words…but I love me some Ethan.

And finally Amber appreciates how much “Survivor” has given her, and now it’s going to give her a chance to beat her husband again.

Maybe she should rephrase that.

And finally, Jeff Probst says something about…

39 Days, 20 People, 1 “Survivor Blog

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: The sandspit where the players landed was very hard to predict. They changed the shooting schedule several times as they weren’t sure when it was going to be above water.

The gentlemen arrive first, with the women just behind them. Ethan gets in the first dig saying to Rob, “Your wife’s here, huh?”

Also, Sandra is not pleased that she just spent 36 days on the Island of the Idols and Rob had bet her that he’d never return to the game. Hey, at least she won the bet.

JPro leads the group in a bit of chit-chat, but no shots are fired.

From there, Jeff gives a champagne toast to celebrate their 40th season.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Handing out the champagne took forever because everyone was convinced that there was some kind of advantage hidden in the flutes.

Afterwards, Jeff breaks the news that it won’t be men vs. women. It’s an understatement to say that Natalie is not pleased. I don’t blame her, she would have a been a challenge force on an all-female team.

Alright, let’s take a look at the tribes as they currently stand.

The Dakal Tribe (wearing orange)

  • Amber, 40 – “Survivor: All-Stars”
  • Kim, 36 – “One World”
  • Nick, 28 – “David vs. Goliath”
  • Sandra, 44 – “Pearl Islands” and “Heroes vs. Villains”
  • Sarah, 34 – “Game Changers”
  • Sophie, 29 – “South Pacific”
  • Tony, 45 – “Cagayan”
  • Tyson, 39 – “Blood vs. Water”
  • Wendell, 35 – “Ghost Island”
  • Yul, 44 – “Cook Islands”

The Sele Tribe (wearing blue)

  • Adam, 28 – “Millennials vs. Gen-X”
  • Ben, 36 – “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers”
  • Danni, 43 – “Guatemala”
  • Denise, 48 – “Philippines”
  • Ethan, 45 – “Africa”
  • Jeremy, 41 – “Second Chance”
  • Michele, 29 – “Kaôh Rōng”
  • Natalie, 33 – “San Juan del Sur”
  • Parvati, 36 – “Fans vs. Favorites”
  • “Boston” Rob, 43 – “Redemption Island”

The pre-game festivities continue with Jeff explaining that everyone will get a Fire Token that they can use to purchase goods and services. However, if they’re voted out of the game, they’ll have to bequeath their tokens and head to…


The Edge of Extinction.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Jeff announces the final twist (so far) with the prize money being bumped up to two million dollars. As you’d imagine, everyone lost their minds.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: My understanding is that the additional prize money was a very last-minute call. As in, we were on the boat on the way to the drop and they were asking us if Jeff could say it was the biggest prize in reality history.

Immunity Challenge Time: A pair from each tribe will run into the water to retrieve a ring. The first team to wrestle that ring to their post will win a point. The first team to get three points wins immunity and fire in the form of flint. Also, the losing tribe will not get rice.

Oh…he did say immunity, didn’t he? That’s right, the first Tribal Council of the season will be on day two.

Jeff unveils a creepy immunity idol that seems to have two Fire Tokens for eyes. I wonder if you can pry those off and use them in the game?

Round One: Tyson and Yul bested Ethan and Jeremy.

Round Two: Kim and Sarah defeated Parvati and Natalie.

Round Three: Rob and Ben topped Tony and Wendell.

Round Four: Amber and Sarah won against Denise and Natalie to claim immunity, rice, and flint for Dakal.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: This was actually a first-to-five challenge, but it was such a blowout they didn’t show Sophie and Sandra beating Danni and Michele or Yul and Nick beating Ethan and Adam.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I gave the matches star rankings like you would a pro wrestling match. The Kim/Sarah vs. Parvati/Natalie bout was easily four stars.

At Dakal Beach

The tribe immediately finds the Fire Token menu that gives them the chance to buy luxuries or an advantage in a challenge.

Later, we meet up with some of the parents (Tyson, Amber, and Sarah) as they’re talking about how hard it was to leave their kids. Tyson in particular (and somewhat surprisingly) gets super emotional over leaving his daughters. Aww…

Then, Sandra gives Tony a big ol’ hug to try to make peace after voting him out of “Game Changers.” They should be fine, right? Didn’t they have the whole pre-jury trip to hang out?

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: When we visited Dakal beach on day two, things were pretty chill except Sarah seemed very depressed. She was sitting by herself with her head down under a shady tree.

We finally get to some strategy talk with Yul and Sophie breaking down the factions like this; you’ve got the fabled poker alliance with Tyson, Kim, and Amber. They even cut to a video of Tyson, Rob, Kim, and Jeremy playing poker with Tyson referring to them as a “power alliance.” From there you’ve got the gritty alliance of Sandra, Tony, and Sarah. (How are they not calling that the “Game Changers” alliance?) And, you’ve got the second timers club with Yul, Sophie, Wendell, and Nick.

At Sele Beach

“Boston” Rob immediately points out that they’re the first tribe to ever have to figure out who they’re voting out on their first day. Should make for some interesting shelter building conversations.

Elsewhere, Parvati and Jeremy are congratulating each other on their new children. Man, these winners are a fertile bunch.

In alliance news, Adam approaches Denise with the idea of being her new Malcolm. Umm…nobody is a suitable replacement for Malcolm, Adam.

Unfortunately for that duo, the others have noticed their absence. Jeremy is blown away that two winners would make such a rookie mistake.

Speaking or rookie mistakes, Rob’s name is put out by Danni. When Ben tells Rob that he’s heard his name being tossed around, he tells Rob that he doesn’t remember who said it! C’mon, Ben! Rob, rightfully tells Ben that this makes him question his honesty, so Ben tells the truth and outs Danni.

CUT TO: Rob asking Danni if she threw his name out. She admits to it, but she says she threw a lot of names out. So now, Rob trusts Danni and not Ben. If you live near Philadelphia you might’ve heard me screaming at my TV.

In other Rob news, he and Parvati agree that it’s in their best interest to work together. So…the Internet just exploded.

Pre-Tribal Politicking

Early on it looks like Adam and Denise are still in trouble for being caught talking alone. However, Ben and Ethan both seem willing to work with Adam. So, Adam floats the idea of splitting up Jeremy and Natalie.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I managed to tag along when Parvati and Denise went for a chat before Tribal. It was hard to make out exactly what was said, but they seemed to be talking about their connections on the other side. (Parvati with Sophie and Denise with Sarah). When they split up, Parvati said, “I’ve got you.”

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I hung out with Rob, Jeremy, Natalie, Ben, and Ethan as they were building their shelter. Nobody would throw out a name. Finally, Natalie said that she’d go for Adam because he isn’t helpful in challenges.

Tribal Time

Jeff tells them to get fire because in this game fire represents your life and when your fire is gone, so are you.


Denise admits that her and Adam went off for a chat a little too soon.

Adam thinks it’s ridiculous to worry about his two-day relationship with Denise when some people are married to other cast members. Touche.

Parvati doesn’t think anyone should feel comfortable. Jeremy disagrees, saying that Tribal is where you learn who you can trust.

Later Ben and Jeremy whisper to each other that they’re worried that Rob and Parvati are setting them up.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Ben and Jeremy weren’t the only ones whispering. It broke down into a full “live” Tribal with the following combinations of whisperers…

  • Natalie and Michele
  • Jeremy and Rob
  • Rob and Ethan
  • Jeremy and Michele
  • Rob and Ben
  • Natalie and Danni
  • Michele and Parvati
  • Jeremy and Adam
  • Jeremy and Denise
  • Parvati and Rob
  • And eventually everyone and everyone. When it was all said and done, Natalie was visibly freaked out. She was encouraging people to stick with the plan and keep challenge strength.

Voting Time: No votes are shown, but when Ethan voted he said, “It’s good to be back.”

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: The press watches Tribal on a monitor in a trailer about 100 yards from the actual set. When Ethan said, “It’s good to be back,” we all cheered.

JPro tallies and returns. We’ve got one vote for Denise, one vote for Adam, one vote for Denise, four votes for Natalie, and the first person voted out of “Survivor: Winners at War” is…Natalie.

Natalie is forced to bequeath her Fire Token to a player who is still in the game. She chooses Jeremy.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Natalie wasn’t so sure about leaving it to Jeremy. At one point she seemed to consider Sarah.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: OK, here’s how the voting went down. The quotes are not verbatim as I was writing in a very dark trailer…

  • Adam voted for Natalie – “If this doesn’t go my way I’ll be crying at the Edge of Extinction and nobody needs to see more of that.”
  • Denise voted for Natalie – “Please let this not be me. Hope the plan works.”
  • Ethan voted for Natalie –  “You’re the sweetest person in the world, but you and Jeremy are a superpower. It’s good to be back.”
  • Parvati voted for Natalie – “I like you a lot, but you’re the glue that sticks Jeremy and Michele together. And you said I was weak. It’s not personal.”
  • Ben voted for Natalie – “So sorry.”
  • Danni voted for Natalie – “I hate to do this, but I’m worried about how connected you and Jeremy are.”
  • Jeremy voted for Adam – “I don’t know.”
  • Natalie voted for Denise – “I think I’m part of this alliance.”
  • Rob voted for Natalie – “Sorry, somebody had to be first.”
  • Michele voted for Denise – “I hope it’s not you. But more importantly, I hope it’s not me.”

The Edge of Extinction

Natalie arrives and is greeted by the customary lonely sail. Honestly, I think she’s a solid choice to be Reem 2.0.

The next morning, she finds a clue for an immunity idol that is good for the next three Tribal Councils. She figures it out and is able to offer the idol to someone on the next losing tribe in exchange for a Fire Token.

With Fire Tokens, she’ll be able to purchase an idol (for if she returns to the game?), a hammock, a challenge advantage, a pizza…it’s like a Sears catalog.

At Dakal Beach

It seems like the Second Timers and the Game Changers are willing to work together to take out the Poker Crew. Sandra in particular is really bent out of shape about Rob lying to her on the Island of the Idols.

At Sele Beach

Michele is not thrilled to be on the wrong side of the first vote. So, her, Jeremy, Adam, and Ben start looking into ways to take out Parvati and Rob. Hey…stop it.

Also, Jeremy points out that he is the richest person on the island now that he has two tokens. Jeremy is the 1%!

Immunity Challenge Time: The tribes will row out to retrieve combination numbers. They’ll use the combination to unlock three hoops. The first tribe to throw all three hoops onto a set of oars will win immunity.

Sitting Out: Sandra…duh.

Result: Dakal jumped out to a big lead, but Sele was able to come back and win it.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Dakal considered buying a challenge advantage, but they wanted to see what the other tribe was going to do first.

Pre-Tribal Politicking

OK, before we get to the scheming…we learn that Natalie has offered the idol to Sandra. Sandra happily accepts it. Holy cow. Why would Natalie pick Sandra? Maybe she just wants to watch the world burn.

A ton of names are being thrown out. Nick mentions Amber. Amber wants Nick or Sandra. Tyson calls out Tony.

It’s the last one that seems to kick up the most trouble. Sandra tells Tony that Tyson mentioned him and the llama (expletive deleted) hits the fan. Tony goes all Tony and starts rattling off scenarios where they can send Tyson home.

Tyson catches wind of this and immediately realizes that he does not have the numbers. He quickly starts being very OK with sending Kim or Amber home.

Thennn…Kim realizes that she’s getting the silent treatment from everyone. This is a totally new experience for her.

Tribal Time

Get your torch, get fire, fire equals life. But then Probst says, “Some things never change.” It literally has!

Tony claims he was playing a slow, old-school game, but Amber disagrees.

Apparently there was a lot of talk and panic around camp, then peace. That freaks out a lot of people.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: There was a really weird part where Jeff seemed annoyed that the players didn’t like the Edge of Extinction. He eventually asked who likes it and Amber and Sarah both said that they appreciate that they can fight their way back in.

Kim thinks she’s being targeted because of the poker alliance, which she swears doesn’t exist.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: This was the eleventh Tribal I’ve ever attended. I’ve never seen so many people so scared.

Voting Time: No votes are shown.

JPro tallies and returns. He asks if anyone wants to play an idol and…nobody does.

We’ve got one vote for Nick, three votes for Kim, four votes for Amber, and the second person voted out of “Survivor: Winners at War” is…Amber.

As you’d assume, Amber bequeaths her Fire Token to Rob.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: OK, here are the votes. Again, these quotes are not verbatim

  • Nick voted for Amber – “Two shots at two million dollars is too many.”
  • Sophie voted for Kim – “You’re just way too cool for me.”
  • Tony voted for Kim – Didn’t say anything or I couldn’t understand it.
  • Sandra voted for Amber – “The majority of the tribe wants you gone because your husband is here and it’s not fair.”
  • Tyson voted for Amber – “Had to concede this battle to win the war.”
  • Amber voted for Nick – “Nothing personal, I hope I’m with the majority.”
  • Wendell voted for Amber – “In a season of pre-existing relationships, you and Rob are the deadliest combo out here.”
  • Sarah voted for Kim – “It’s not going to be you.”
  • Yul voted for Amber – “Nothing personal, neutralizing the strongest partnership before it’s too late.”
  • Kim voted for Amber – “Sorry, buddy. We’re in a sad state of affairs tonight. But I’m assuming you had to write my name down as well.”

Verdict: This really feels like the end of an era. Probably the last time we’ll ever see Rob, Parvati, Sandra, and a few others. And it got off to real solid start. It feels like the end of “Avengers: Endgame” where everywhere you look, there’s another amazing star. I’m loving it.

  • Yul and Sophie – I love this somewhat-secret power couple. A nice mix of brains and brawn. And it even looks like they have the Poker Club and the Game Changers feuding.
  • Ethan – There’s a lot going on at Sele and it looks like you’re right in the thick of it. It seems like everyone wants to work with you and you have a bunch of options.
  • Sandra – Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea to take out one of the biggest targets first, but she’s got a solid core and she managed to turn a single Fire Token into an idol. Queen still Queen.
  • Danni – You played it perfectly when Rob asked you if you threw out his name. Color me impressed.
  • Denise and Adam – You made a rookie mistake, but you recovered nicely. Now that the heat is on Rob and Jeremy, you can sit back and weigh your options.
  • Rob and Parvati – I get wanting to separate Jeremy and Natalie, but was it too soon? Adam could have been a nice, quiet, tone-setting vote. Now who knows what Jeremy will do?
  • Tony – Tony needs to keep a cooler head if he’s going to make a run at this thing. The second he learned his name was thrown out, he went after that person. Maybe his emotions need a spy shack.
  • Tyson – In pre-game Tyson said he’d flip on the Poker Pros the second it looked like they were in trouble and that’s what he did. That’s why he’s higher than Kim.
  • Ben – I can’t believe you told Rob someone threw his name out and then acted like you couldn’t remember who it was. Welcome to the big leagues.
  • Kim – There’s a famous quote from Mike Tyson that says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Kim got punched and didn’t know what to do.
  • Jeremy – There was always a very real concern that Jeremy was too connected coming into this game. Looks like it caught up with him.
  • Wendell, Nick, Sarah, and Michele – I can’t grade you if you don’t show your work.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes