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Survivor: Winners At War Episode 13 Recap - The Penultimate War

*SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY AHEAD*

Two hours for the penultimate episode of Survivor last night. After a couple more tribal councils, we're now down to 5 with one set to return from Edge in next week's finale. Last night certainly wasn't the most entertaining episode of the season, but it had its moments. Let's get into it. 

Hour 1

After the Kim vote, Michele was feeling very left out. She told Jeremy that she would've been down to vote with them, especially since she gave Jeremy the safety coin. They talked it out and Jeremy gave her the advantage back. Elsewhere, Denise was trying to decompress from the craziness of the last tribal and gave herself a couple of tattoos, "Endure" and "Let Go." It's pretty clear that this season has been very mentally taxing on the castaways, probably more than any season ever. 

Tony, Sarah, and Ben were cementing their Final 3 deal and planned to target Nick next. However, Tony and Sarah realized they needed to make Ben think he has any power whatsoever in the game, so they incepted the idea of voting Nick into his brain and made him think that it was his plan. It was a funny shot sequence. You really have to wonder why Ben wants to sit next to Tony and Sarah in the end. He would get precisely zero votes. But credit to Tony and Sarah for playing him correctly. So the plan going into the challenge was that Nick would be the target. You won't believe what happens next!

Immunity Challenge

The challenge involved throwing a couple balls up to yourself and catching them over your shoulder. I feel like I would've nailed that. Basing that off of nothing really. Then a slide puzzle. The winner would also get two fire tokens. Jeff was chirping Tony during the slide puzzle because he botched it badly in Cagayan as Spencer came back to beat him. Tony fared better this time, but was still beat out by Nick winning a much needed immunity. 

I used the "You won't believe what happens next!" line because the edit has been annoyingly obvious at points lately, and this was another example of that. They showed footage making it clear Nick was the target, and Nick then wins immunity. I would like the editing to be a little less obvious than that, but it is what it is. Nick was safe and added two more fire tokens. 

Elsewhere, Michele was crying because she performed so poorly in the challenge. 

Pre-Tribal

With Nick safe, the plans had to shift. At first, it seemed like everyone would come together for an easy vote on Denise. But there are no easy votes on this season. Ben had plans of his own. He had a plan to split up Jeremy and Michele over the 50/50 coin. He was telling Jeremy he should ask Michele for the coin. Ben then went and warned Michele that Jeremy would be asking for the coin. The plan blew up in Ben's face spectacularly, as Jeremy and Michele discussed how Ben had spoken to them both. 

Jeremy became convinced something was up. He thought Denise was a smokescreen and wanted to target Ben instead. So Jeremy's new plan was to get Michele, Tony, and Nick to finally vote out his rival Ben. But when Jeremy brought the plan to Tony, he wasn't having it. Tony definitely wants Ben at the end, knowing he can easily beat him. This forced Tony's hand to finally turn on his pal Jeremy. The new plan was to split the vote between Jeremy and Michele, to negate the coin. Three votes on Jeremy (Tony, Nick, Ben) and two votes on Michele (Sarah, Denise). 

This left Nick in the middle. Sarah feared Nick would flip and vote Ben. Tony insisted they had him on their side. Only tribal would tell. 

By the way, I know he has an idol, but it's absolutely insane that nobody brought Tony's name up. After seemingly needing immunity to save himself for a couple weeks, he now just wasn't even mentioned as a target despite being such a clear threat to win the game. I guess he just keeps taking everyone out who brings his name up. You need to have an incredible social game to not have your name brought up when you're such a dominating player. Tony does. 

Tribal Council

At tribal, there were a couple of interesting discussions. One was about how since this was a returning season with players you already know and have relationships with, it's a little harder to play like your original season and think "I'll do whatever I gotta do and backstab whoever." People want to be a little more truthful and look at each other as real people instead of just robots. I don't buy this, but it is an interesting tightrope to walk. The other fascinating talk was about how hard it is to adjust back to the real world after playing Survivor. Ben didn't trust his wife. Jeremy didn't trust his firefighters. Michele didn't trust people giving her directions to the bar. A little different but the theme is the same. When I get back from winning Season 43, I apologize in advance if I don't act like myself. I'll be mentally drained after mentally dominating people for 39 days. Anyway, it was now time to vote. 

Michele got up and played her coin on herself, after seemingly debating giving it to Jeremy. She flipped it, and it landed on "safe." I will say that it didn't seem like much of a flip, but Jeff had no issues. Made sense for her to play it on herself, especially since it was the last chance to play it. So Michele was immune and did a dance to celebrate. 

The votes were read and Jeremy went home with a 3-2-2 vote. Nick stuck with the majority alliance. Now some may think, "Michele should have played it on Jeremy" but that's not true. Then there would've been a tie and she would've just screwed herself on the revote. So playing it on herself was the right move. 

Jeremy asked "who did it?" and Tony said "Sorry J." Jeremy told him "Bad move, dude." Not sure I agree with this. It made sense for Tony to get the second biggest threat to win out. And I don't think Jeremy seems like the type to be a bitter juror, but we'll see.

The person who made the wrong move was Nick. This move made zero sense to me. He was looking for a big move to cement his resume, but this wasn't it. It just gives Tony, Sarah, and Ben the numbers to get to the Final 3. This was his last chance to break them up. The right move would have been to vote Ben off. Then him, Jeremy, Michele and Denise take out Tony and Sarah. Sure, Jeremy would be tough to beat in the end, but you just hope to get him out at Final 4 or be able to outperform him at FTC. Nick was thinking too much about the end of the game instead of focusing on how to get there. So voting out Jeremy was just a terrible decision. Also, why not target Tony? That would've been the perfect time to do it. Nick had the safety of immunity so he could've afforded to act a little more recklessly. Try to convince Jeremy, Michele, and Denise to pull off the blindside. I'm glad he didn't because I like Tony, but if I was Nick at that point in the game, that would've been my move. Not everyone is as good as me though.

Hour 2 (technically 8:50 but whatever)

They got back from tribal, and Michele laid into Nick, rightfully so. 

"I was wondering if you'd have the balls to come talk to me." 

"I'm genuinely curious what you think our path to the end is from here. There's no path to the end for us. Literally none."

She's right. Realizing she was on the bottom and getting left out of every single vote, she decided to just start playing all out to save herself. She was doing some painting and telling Sarah how nobody will beat Tony in the end. Even if he's not the one calling all the shots, "perception is everything." And the perception is that Tony is The Godfather right now. Michele really showed some good game awareness this episode. But Sarah, being Tony's closest ally, wasn't having it and told everyone about it, putting Michele firmly on the hot seat. 

Edge Of Extinction

There was a clue to another new advantage on Edge. This involved a "stone throne." After an all out search for it, Natalie was the one to find it. She's spent over 30 days on the island and knows every inch of it. 

The advantage was actually a disadvantage in the next immunity challenge that she could sell to someone in the game to use on another player. After discussing who has a lot of fire tokens, she decided to use it on Nick for EIGHT fire tokens. He only had six so he needed to add a couple more. This led to some more questionable decision making from him. He went to Michele for help and got two tokens from her, not telling anyone else. They decided to play it against Ben. So Nick decided to help the one person ahead of him on the chopping block (Michele). Nick should've either gone to the group and had everyone pool their tokens together against Michele, or just not used it at all. Personally, I think 8 tokens is too much for that. It's barely increasing your odds of winning, and there wasn't one person that Nick was dead-set on targeting. If he wanted Ben out so badly, he should've voted for him last time!

Immunity Challenge

This challenge involved stacking dominos on a beam and being careful not to trip and make them fall. Jeff announced that the advantage was being (anonymously) played against Ben. Nick's acting wasn't great. 

Not exactly award-winning acting there, but nobody seemed to pick up on it. Also, it's easy enough to just assume that someone from Edge played it. Ben's disadvantage was that he had 30% more beam. 

It didn't matter much though, as he was still in at the end with Michele and Tony. Michele ultimately pulled out the much needed victory and did some celebratory dancing. 

She didn't even get an applause at first when Jeff gave her the necklace, until Probst pointed it out and said something. Really showed how much she needed it. Also, another classic editing example of "Set up Person X to be in trouble. Person X wins immunity." 

Also if I heard correctly, Jeff said that this challenge was the last time to earn fire tokens and it was the last day you could spend them. That seems crazy to me. Everyone kept thinking they'd have such a big role at the end of the game, but I guess not. Must suck if you saved up a bunch. I imagine some players used them for food and luxury items at camp that we just didn't see. Overall, I'm glad they won't have any more impact on the game and would hate to see them overshadow the end of the season. 

Pre-Tribal

With Michele safe, it was time for more scrambling. Initially, Denise was acting like a sacrificial lamb. She was willing to use her six fire tokens on rice so she could go to Edge with a full stomach. This was a little confusing because she didn't seem to really be on the hot seat, but it made sense to spend them anyway. The actual plan was going to be voting Nick. 

Nick and Michele were pitching the idea of getting rid of Ben to Tony. They talked about the fire-making twist and how he could easily win that again. Tony seemed to be considering it, until .... SPY NEST. 

The spy nest worked to perfection this time. He overheard Denise pitching a Final 3 deal to Sarah and Ben. Those are Tony's Final 3 plans, so Tony had a new target in Denise. He switched Michele and Nick's votes to Denise and told Sarah he overheard the discussion. More proof that Tony is just on another level. Uses an innovative method to overhear someone mention his name and then puts the target on that person. 

So heading into tribal, Tony and Sarah were the swing votes. Denise or Nick? Both could be dark horse threats to win. Denise might be the bigger threat, but would voting for her alienate Ben and their Final 3 deal? It was a lot to consider. 

Tribal Council

It was a pretty tame tribal council. No whispers again which was good. Probably makes sense that they happen less when there's fewer people left in the game. Michele had a funny line about how she needed to win immunity like Jeff needs a blue button-down and khakis. Eventually, it was time to vote. Tony and Sarah stuck with Denise, sending Nick out with a 4-2 vote. He seemed blindsided, but he really sealed his fate in the previous tribal council. Michele was once again left out of a vote, but she's staying alive. 

Edge Sendoff/Montage

There were still about 15 minutes left in the episode, making everyone wonder what was coming next. The Edge challenge? But it felt like that might have been rushed. Instead, they wrapped things up on Edge with people buying advantages and having emotional goodbyes, like Amber who gave this powerful speech. 

The big winner from Edge has been Natalie, who not coincidentally has also been there the longest. She had FOURTEEN fire tokens. She bought the maximum of three advantages for the challenge and also some peanut butter. She already had bought a hidden immunity for herself and couldn't have two, so she bought another and gave it to Tyson just because. Credit to Tyson for building a strong relationship with her. 

The show ended with a 10 minute season recap. This annoyed a lot of people online. I didn't love it and would've preferred seeing more actual gameplay, but it did hype me up and give me goosebumps for the finale. It also means that they don't have to start next week recapping everything, like finales usually do. We can just get right into the challenge to return from Edge. There will be a lot to squeeze in: an Edge challenge, three immunity challenges, three tribal councils, and Final Tribal Council. Good thing we have three hours. I'm sure the reunion show will be shortened to like 40 minutes or so. I can't wait. 

Final Thoughts

-This was a big episode for Michele. She's had an interesting arc all season long. I liked her chances early on. She was playing a good game and was getting a lot of positive airtime about wanting to avenge her "undeserved" win. But then we had all the Wendell drama, and she's been a non-factor since the merge. She's just always on the wrong side of the vote. She's definitely not playing a good game but she did show good game awareness last night (yelling at Nick, targeting Tony) and is becoming the plucky underdog. She's also good at jury management and should have some friends voting for her. There were other positive moments in her edit last night. She had some funny lines, was doing some dancing, and was just shown to be a fully fleshed out character. These are all positive signs for a possible winner's edit. 

-I'm a fan of Jeremy so it was sad to see him go. He just couldn't get the target off his back. He lost Natalie early on and never really recovered. He played too dominating of a game in Cambodia for people to forget. He probably could've saved himself for at least another vote if he just stuck with the Denise plan instead of flipping the vote to Ben, but he still was going to have a tough time getting to the end. I don't think he played a great game this time around, but he did what he could and proved that he's one of the most complete players ever. For the record, he was my preseason winner pick. Michele was my winner pick when the cast was first announced. So pretty solid guesses, if I do say so myself. Tony is my overwhelming winner pick right now. 

-I like Nick. I think he played really well in Season 37. He showed promise at points this season. But he really screwed himself last night. Just a terrible performance from start to finish. He botched the Jeremy vote. Then helped Michele win immunity and put himself on the bottom, despite thinking he was in a great spot. He's been taking a lot of heat online for his game, and I feel bad for him. It's easy for us to be armchair Survivor players. Nick made some bad decisions but that doesn't take away his win, and I still think he's a good player overall. 

-This episode didn't have the best editing. As I mentioned it earlier, it seemed to be a bit formulaic. 

Player X is in trouble

Player X wins immunity

And I don't think either tribal council was that blindsiding to the viewers, although they did set up two plausible options for each (Ben and Jeremy, Nick and Denise). 

Also there's the fact that the last 15 minutes were lackluster. Could've given us more episode early on or given us the Edge challenge which gives us more time next week. But whatever, it's just going to be a really packed and unfortunately rushed finale. 

-Just another shoutout to Tony for the incredible game he's playing. No necklaces tonight, but his name was still not even uttered. Plus, he still has an idol. I'll be rooting for him hard next week. If he pulls it off, he's the unquestioned Survivor GOAT.

-Like a lot of Survivor fans, I'm annoyed with all the advantages on Edge. You get rewarded for being there the longest. Natalie has the most fire tokens and advantages because she got voted out first. She has THREE advantages in the challenge. Nobody else has more than one. Recent boots like Nick and Jeremy don't have any. How is that fair to them? They're getting penalized for playing a good game and lasting longer? Just not right. I'd be a lot more excited for the challenge next week if everyone was on even playing ground. But now Natalie winning just seems so obvious. Hopefully, we never see the Edge of Extinction again. But if we do, it needs to be drastically reworked. 

Winner Rankings

This is a running ranking I'll keep all season long of who I think is most likely to win the game. The person ranked last isn't necessarily my prediction to go home next, but I just think they have the least chance of winning the game. It's based on "edgic" which is a mix of "logic" and "edit."

Previous Week Rank in ( )

1. Tony (1)

2. Michele (3)

3. Sarah (4)

4. Denise (5)

5. Ben (7)

On Edge

6. Natalie (8)

7. Tyson (9)

8. Boston Rob (10)

I feel pretty confident that it will be one of those three coming back in the game. We'll find out. 

THREE HOUR SEASON FINALE NEXT WEEK. See you then.