As a Survivor fan, the merge episode is one of many surprises. Once the players have joined together, anyone could end up being the target. Survivor: Winners at War brought together all the castaways for the first time to begin the individual phase of the game, and in a matter of seconds, the winners jumped into strategy mode. This is one of the few instances when I love having veteran players around. The veteran players know the importance of the merge episode and controlling the vote to ensure a big target is voted off. With all winners, 100% of the energy delivered a great episode.
“This is Where the Battle Begins” also reveals how the moves of the pre-merge phase affect the future. Will the eliminations, betrayals, and alliances impact which groups formed up? Pleasantly, this fact once again came true as history repeated itself. Survivor loves its ripple effect! Firstly, the decision to vote off Yul ended up hurting the group of Wendell, Michele, and Nick. If the trio of guys had decided to vote off Michele instead, they would’ve easily formed back in with their old tribe and joined in the vote with Sophie and Tony. Instead, Nick and Wendell both got blindsided – now Nick is at the bottom of the tribe. As I mentioned during last week’s review, Michele and Nick would’ve benefited greatly by keeping Yul in.
Secondly, the effects of Adam’s previous shady gameplay hasn’t disappeared. His former tribe remembered how he played the game and would’ve easily voted him out; at one point, Adam was the target. If it wasn’t for Sophie turning the vote on Wendell, the outcome would be very different. Adam is stuck at the bottom of the tribe for the foreseeable future. He can aid in an extra vote or join in some discussions, but he needs to play a behind-the-scenes game and reaffirm relationships. If he stands out too much, he’ll be an easy vote.
Ben is making a bad move regarding his perception of the game. He keeps touting that he’s one of the strong players, but he hasn’t shown that ability yet. Without the performance to back it up on Survivor: Winners at War, he could be another easy target. Also, why does he keep dismissing Adam? Sure, there is tension between them and they don’t get along, but Adam keeps offering an olive branch that Ben shoots down. Ben needs votes to stay in the game. Always accept a deal to guarantee yourself safety and an alliance! (This is one of the first lessons of Survivor.)
And lastly, Denise’s blindside of eliminating Sandra has painted a huge target on her back. The move gave her a big plus for her Survivor resume, but it has also made her a contender for the title. Before coming into Survivor: Winners at War, Denise wasn’t one of the more iconic players. She did a good job, but she’s more of a great seasonal player than a great Survivor player. Now that she’s shown her aptitude, the others are beginning to recognize her as an equal threat. Denise should be a bit cautious from here on out and make some big alliances – she nearly got the boot if it weren’t for her immunity win.
Speaking of the challenges, did you think Tyson was going to win the Extinction challenge? He was in my top theories, but I had placed my money on Natalie or Boston Rob. Though in hindsight, the editing had foreshadowed a Tyson win, especially with him eating the peanut butter supply. Survivor: Winners at War had a subtle edit that showed Tyson preparing and winning his fire tokens to get an advantage during the challenge. Plus, Tyson is a good physical player and strategic villain, so his chances of re-entering the game were pretty high. Now with him back in the game, he’ll need to insulate himself into a big group quickly because he’s an easy target right.
With the immunity challenge, Jeremy and Denise did a great job staying in the immunity challenge. Holding onto the poll is not an easy feat, and with the freezing rain in the mix, they must’ve been in so much pain. Just look at Sophie! She was shivering and freezing by just standing in the rain. Survivor delivered with the real-life elements working against the players. (Well, it’s more like Mother Nature delivered the drama.)
Wendell getting the merge boot wasn’t that surprising with all things considered. Survivor: Winners at War had set up a villain edit for him, so his longevity in the game wasn’t going to last. If a villain wins, the show tends to give them light-hearted and fun moments; opportunities for the viewers to join in the scheming and blindsides. However, the editing made Wendell look terrible! Plus, from his actions with the Parvati vote, Wendell ruined his reputation as a trustworthy person. Even if Jeremy wanted to keep Wendell around, was he really going to risk keeping someone whose vote could be bought for a fire token? Having Adam around was more advantageous for him.
“This is Where the Battle Begins” brought the momentum into overdrive. The players picked up the pieces and kicked into high gear for one of the fastest strategic rounds of the season. With all the reunited players, we’ll have to wait and see which alliances make it through the fire and which ones burn up.