The much anticipated fortieth season of Survivor, Winners at War, is finally here. This was an amazing first episode of the season to start off on almost all of the right notes for Survivor after the horror story of last season. Let’s get right into our episode recap and analysis for Episode 1 – “Greatest of the Greats.”
ALLIANCES AND RELATIONSHIPS
One of the dominating themes of the first episode was just how big of a role prior relationships were going to play in these early stages of the season. Having found themselves on the same beach, Natalie and Jeremy, best buds from San Juan del Sur, instantly found themselves in trouble on the newly formed Sele tribe. Similarly, from having played seemingly one game of poker together, Amber, Kim and Tyson found themselves in trouble on Dakal. It seems as though a relationship built out of what I would call “enemy-ship” such as Sandra, Tony and Sarah or everyone’s dream alliance of Rob and Parvati was to have much greater success in the early stages of this game than a relationship formed out of actual friendship. This may because a relationship that has a more negative history is far less threatening to others than a relationship that has positive history. I also think Sandra, Tony and Sarah did a great job playing up the series of events that happened in Game Changers to make it seem like they would want nothing to do with each other, when in reality, they instantly gravitated toward each other and seemingly had an unbreakable bond right from day one. But because they were sworn enemies from the season before, any potential relationship there undoubtedly appeared to be less threatening in the eyes of players like Yul and Sophie, who were more worried about this poker alliance going on with Amber, Tyson and Kim. Interestingly enough that didn’t have any role to play on Sele for Adam, Jeremy or Rob, who also have famously played poker with the likes of Tyson. Now that Rob and Jeremy have been on different sides of the first vote and Adam was actively involved in Natalie’s elimination, it is unlikely that their poker relationship will catch up to them to the same extent that it did for Tyson, Kim and Amber.
On both beaches there were also some extremely interesting newly formed partnerships and alliances. Adam and Denise formed an instant bond and nearly got themselves in trouble from having done so. This seems like a match made in heaven given Adam’s relationship with Jessica Lewis in Millennials vs. Gen X and Denise’s relationship with Malcolm in Philippines. Luckily neither Adam or Denise paid the price for their early “rookie mistake” so it will be interesting to see this relationship continue to develop and blossom over the next few weeks. Meanwhile on Dakal, another dream alliance formed between Sophie and Yul, who eventually found friends in the form of Wendell and Nick.
Yul just seemed to have a complete lock hold over the happenings of Dakal, having formed an early bond and partnership with others that he noted as potential outsiders with no already existing relationships in the game like Sophie, Nick and Wendell. Sophie and Yul could be perfect partners in crime in the game, but let’s not underrate just how bright Nick and Wendell are as well and how strategically astute both of them are at this game. Some fans of the show were a bit aggrieved that Nick was going to be on this season, but hopefully tonight he proved all of his doubters wrong as again in confessional and in the game itself, he proved just how intelligent and aware he is in the game of Survivor. I also thought it was interesting that Sophie and Nick were so quick to team up, and then I remembered that Sophie said Nick was one of her favourite ever Survivor players in her last appearance on Rob Has A Podcast before going out to play the game. I also thought that Yul played the first few days of the game absolutely masterfully. He seemed to be having conversations with everyone, and was used as a sounding board for players like Tony when he wanted to eliminate Tyson, and Kim when she was worried about going home. Yul recognized his position in the middle of the tribe and used the information that he had about the “poker alliance” to impose his will without going overboard in convincing others to follow. For me, Yul might be my pick for Player of the Week, but we will have to see if the Twitterverse agrees in our latest poll.
After Episode 1 the established alliances and relationships we have in the game are as follows. Those with more power in the happenings of the game are ranked higher than those who were at the bottom of the totem pole.
- Unaligned/Middle/Swing: Ben
Jeremy didn’t quite follow-through with his meat-shield strategy from Survivor Second Chance. Having shields in the form of Michele, Natalie and Ben isn’t exactly as strong as what he managed in Cambodia with the likes of Spencer, Tasha, Joe, Stephen and Savage to shield him in the game. Ben meanwhile seemed to be aligned with everyone, having feared Rob’s wrath, having worked to keep Adam in the game, and also being the first one that Jeremy asked “Who did it?” to after Natalie was dispatched from the game. Ben will definitely be an interesting player to watch moving forward, having seemingly no strong allegiances and having played the first few days of the game rather scared. Without Natalie, I doubt Michele and Jeremy’s relationship will also hold the same amount of strength and she may be one already hoping for a swap so she can team up with recent winners Nick and Wendell along with Yul and Sophie.
It is interesting that eventually Tyson and Kim were filled in on the plan and voted for Amber. Now that Amber is gone, the threat of a “poker alliance” may not hold as much weight and Tyson and Kim may be able to team up with Yul and Sophie’s side of things moving forward. It will also be interesting to see if the alliance between Sarah, Sandra and Tony can hold, given their brief history in Survivor Game Changers and probably more concerning, their erratic game-play likely to follow.
STRATEGY AND GAME-PLAY
When we look at the first two votes of the season, there are a couple of key players to consider. Latching on to Denise and Adam as potential first votes because they had went to get water was a bit of a cop-out for actually playing the game. When Adam was told that his name was being brought up by Ben, he instantly threw out the idea of voting out Jeremy and Natalie, a smart move in terms of his own preservation. Through a series of unfortunate events for the San Juan del Sur best buds, eventually the information made its way to Rob and Parvati, who went along with the plan. From their perspective, I actually really like the move. Rob has a pre-existing relationship with Jeremy from all of the poker they’ve played together and eliminating Jeremy’s best friend can dispel any myth of those two working together, until they actually start to work together behind closed curtains. I don’t think Rob’s move will incur Jeremy’s wrath moving forward. Natalie is also an extremely dangerous player. Although she won the game in a more fun ruthless way rather than a cruel ruthless way, she is not one that you would want to mess with. For Parvati, Natalie doesn’t seem like someone that would want to work with her long-term, whereas Adam may be more of the type of person she is interested in keeping around.
From not having been on the island myself, this may be a bit of a bold claim to make. But I believe that the players who were more worried about being the first person voted out of their tribe played smarter and with the right amount of urgency, in comparison to the players who felt more comfortable like Tyson and Jeremy. Kim said in confessional that she didn’t think she played the start of the game very well and it really seems like Tyson was just far too comfortable with what was going on with his alliance for his own good. Players like Sandra, Sarah, Tony, Yul and Nick who maybe feared being that first person voted out a little more, played with a little more urgency in driving the direction of the vote than the players who felt comfortable like Tyson, or on the other tribe Jeremy, Natalie and Michele. But all of those who had a little more urgency attempted to drive the vote very subtly and in a way that was not over-the-top such as what Tony did when he came back for Game Changers.
When considering the second vote of the season, Tony’s disdain toward Tyson seemed to be fueled very much from Yul telling him that Tyson had floated out Tony’s name. But Sandra’s disdain toward Amber for the most insignificant of reasons was going to bear greater significance in the vote, as it was the queen who ultimately got her way.
Although I give a lot of credit to Yul and his crew for making Amber’s elimination happen, Sandra definitely deserves a lot of credit. For a two-time winner to not be the first person voted out of the game, while being feared by many players in the game, is a massive accomplishment. The same can be said of Rob and Parvati, who formed the dominant alliance of their tribe with Ethan and Danni by their side, essentially controlling the votes to go whichever way they wanted.
After the previous iteration of Edge of Extinction resulting in victory for Chris Underwood (who spent 12 days in the game), I like many others was down on the Edge of Extinction being back for Survivor 40. I do like that we get to see these amazing returning players after they are voted out. Otherwise we would have been totally robbed of seeing the likes of Natalie or Amber who we have waited for years to come back to the game. That being said, I don’t like how they can influence what goes on in the game from beyond the grave. If you’ve been voted out of the game, you should have no part in the game until you are given a chance to come back. Natalie should not be searching for an immunity idol that she can randomly send into the game in exchange for a fire token. Natalie should be searching for a fire token that she can use to help her get an advantage in the challenge to return or whatever. Let the players in the game do the idol hunting, let the players out of the game do the fire token hunting.
On the other end of the fire coin, I like the idea of immunity idols not coming into the game from traditional means. I like the idea of players like Tony and Ben searching aimlessly for idols in the forest when there are actually no idols anywhere in the forest. So if the only way for the players to gain idols and advantages is through the people that they have betrayed on Edge of Extinction and they all know or suspect this to be the case, I am more on board with the idea. I just think it’s going to end up being so random like in the case of Natalie giving the idol to Sandra or annoyingly obvious like if Amber were to give a future idol to Rob. The fans of the game are not going to like that. I also think the producers aren’t going to pass up the opportunity to hide a few idols in the forest as well.
So far I am a fan of the idea of fire tokens. I love any element of this game that can heighten strategic thinking without overtly messing with it, such as many twists do, especially in Big Brother. But I think it’s too early to tell whether or not EoE will be a positive addition to this season or whether it will leave this season with another bad taste, like the original Edge of Extinction did for many viewers when Chris came back into the game at the final six, with an idol, with all the information in the world, and won the game.
For those that don’t want to look too much into the edit, feel free to skip this section. This is merely speculation based on the edit. The Survivor producers seem to posit that a “winner’s edit” does not exist. But at the same time they made the wins of Tommy Sheehan and Michele Fitzgerald so obvious simply because of the way they edited the show. While Yul and Rob got strong strategy edits, Ethan Zohn appeared to get the most glaring winner’s edit of this episode, having a wonderful set of opening confessionals in the first episode that painted him in the best light possible.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Well, you voted on Twitter @realitytvtms, and the vote has ended up in a tie between Rob and Parvati. Both legends of the game did so well to gather the numbers around them and somehow remain under the radar at the first vote of the season. Rob was particularly masterful at getting information out of Ben and then using that information to turn that around into something great, working with Danni instead of going against her. Parvati meanwhile also had a crucial role in eliminating Natalie, which I believe is a great move for her game moving forward. She also teamed up with Boston Rob, which should be a great shield for her game over the next few weeks. Your Players of the Week for Episode 1 of Survivor 40: Winners at War are Boston Rob Mariano and Parvati Shallow!
The Twitterverse had a lot of positive things to say about Episode 1 of Survivor 40: Winners at War. But there was also a lot of hate directed at Ben Driebergen. For me, I love that Ben is on this season. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to see Mike Holloway or Earl Cole instead. However, in any season, even an all star season or an all-winners season, you need a diversity of game-players. Ben isn’t exactly the brightest game-player out there and I am loving the way he is playing right now because it is so erratic and scared. That is why many are coming for him on Twitter, but it’s exactly why I think Ben was one of the most fun and interesting characters to watch on night one. The fear in his eyes when Boston Rob was questioning him was hilarious to watch and the way he bounced around from person to person to no consequence of his game was also miraculous. So before you hate on players for not being great at the game, remember that a) these castaways are humans and Ben is one of the nicest humans around…and b) You need a diversity of players in order to make a season great. Not every player can be like Yul or Sophie and think through every single action they take. Some have to be more erratic and rash. That’s what makes this game fun.
Well this was a great first episode of Survivor 40: Winners at War. Although the eliminations of Amber and Natalie are incredibly disappointing, from a storytelling and strategic standpoint they did make sense. Next week the gameplay is likely to turn up a notch as fears of pre-existing relationships begin to die down. Be sure to see what we have in store next week and follow us @realitytvtms.
So that’s it for our recap and analysis of Episode 1 – “The Greatest of the Greats” for Survivor 40: Winners at War. Thanks for reading and see you back again next week for Episode 2 – “It’s Like a Survivor Economy”.