Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor: Winners at War recaps
Son of a B
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: May 1, 2020
Survivor: Winners at War Episode 12 recap/ analysis

Son of a B


I knew it was coming, but I was hoping I was wrong about this one more than any other boot this season. Tony vs. Kim was a plot too perfect to play out for too long — one or the other had to go soon. This was another week with a lot of Tony but it lacked the same wild and zany flavor of the last, perhaps because I felt like I was watching Kim die a slow and painful death. The poker alliance powerhouse just never had the right cards dealt to her this season making her swan song all the sadder but the good news is that her status as a legend remains intact as I sit here and ponder how some other players even made it onto this season.



Don't be pissed


“Usually you blindside somebody, you go back to camp, you hash it out, and everybody’s like it’s okay; it’s all good.” Tony thought this one would be “simple as that” but the post-Sophie show was not exactly what he imagined it would be. I understood why Sarah was pissed at Tony, but what the hell was up with Ben giving Jeremy the silent treatment?  Ben voted for Jeremy — what was Jeremy supposed to do? Quit? Jeremy was totally right — this is Survivor 40. Grow up.


Despite telling herself to not lose her cool or get pissed, Sarah proceeded to blast Tony and point in his face like he was a bad dog who had just peed on the carpet. After the heated exchange heard all the way back at camp, Sarah finally agreed to get over it but only until she got voted out. If that happened, she’d never be speaking to Tony again. After all that, if he sends her to the jury, that’s going to be one “live” final tribal for sure.


Tony also had some bridge repair to do with Ben and I guess what he thought would be the best way to do that was to tell Ben he had an idol (because telling Ben secrets has never blown up anyone’s game before). As if some kind of bad omen calling Tony a dodo for that, something that seemed like bird shit dropped from the sky onto Tony’s arm moments into his talk with Ben. Tony asked, “What bird is in the nighttime?” which actually had me wondering the same. Any bird I’ve ever known has been one to wake me up at the ass crack of dawn, so unless Fiji has an unusually high owl population, I too would like to know what kind of bird shat on the spymaster.



Spy nest


Enacting what I can only assume was revenge on the very bird that bequeathed the contents of its lower intestines onto Tony, he climbed a tree and claimed it as its own, dubbing it the Spy Nest, the latest evolution of the Spy Shack.


This was peak psychopathy for Tony. He had to have just been doing this for show because there’s no way he could actually expect to perch up in a tree for hours to gain intel from the well area. In his defense, Sarah even knowing he was up there couldn’t see him, so maybe this wasn’t completely crazy after all. It seemed it would take a trained ornithologist to track Tony’s whereabouts.


Ornithologist Debbie


This funny bit reminded me of a scene from too many comedy movies that’s shown in the trailers only for me to realize I had already seen the best the movie had to offer and that the moment passed far too quickly. This was literally all we saw of Spy Nest, something I was hoping would be a major new character at least this episode. The rest from here was more or less typical of the season — lots of potential but just left me wanting more. I was hoping Tony would attempt making bird calls ala the Amanda Kimmel, but alas ....


Sharp Kim


Kim was sharp to sniff out Tony’s shenanigans and made it her mission to rally troops against the crazy cop. She saw Tony and Sarah together as a problem for her game, and with at least a salvageable relationship with Sarah, Tony taken out of the game would’ve left Kim with better options.


After an initial awkward display of Ben’s social game, or lack thereof — refusing to talk to Jeremy still because Ben was bitter Jeremy didn’t send himself to the Edge? — Kim made her rounds with the remaining players to stress the importance of taking out Tony. He’s Tony, so any suggestion to vote him out shouldn’t require much explanation. Ben even said that Kim made some valid points, and all of him, Nick, Denise, and Michele seemed to agree — Tony was running the show and needed to go.


I thought this merge would play out as the war between Sophie and Tony with Sarah having to either keep both sides at bay or choose one or the other, so this Kim vs. Tony story was a fun curveball. I only wish it had played out longer because the contrast between their styles of play is stark. Kim won her season with a calm, quiet control of everyone while Tony literally ran around spewing nonsense noise (to anyone that doesn’t speak Llama), similarly controlling the game but in a much more chaotic way. Kim and Tony made worthy adversaries, but sadly, it wasn’t too long before neither could live while the other survived ....



Coconut run


Someone on Production must really hate Ethan because after he only narrowly escaped death during the last running challenge on The Edge, they were making him do it all over again.


I don’t understand what’s fun about watching people run back and forth in slow motion — I barely understand what’s fun about watching them run back and forth playing catch with various types of balls. Challenges are usually my least favorite part of the show each week, so with this being one long, drawn-out, endurance challenge — on top of that Danni being brutally robbed of more fire tokens — I wasn’t the least bit entertained.


Also, maybe my Kindergarten teacher taught me wrong, but I don’t recall singing “The leg bone’s connected to the arm bone” during music time, so I’m not sure why Rob’s bleeding elbow caused his legs to give out. I suppose it could just be super uncomfortable to run with any injury, but I’d wager that Rob’s error of treating the marathon like a sprint in the beginning had more to do with him losing than his bloody booboo.


At least with this segment, we got to see Sophie and Yul together again.


Sophie and Yul


I just didn’t want their reunion to be like this…



Friendly fire


The fighting wasn’t over as Sarah and Tony still had some words to share, Ben wouldn’t say any to Jeremy, and Kim was lining up everything and everyone she could against Tony. Nick, with Denise and Michele, saw an opportunity to take advantage of all the bloodshed and possibly for a path to the end as they talked about a final three deal. Nick made me laugh listing Tony, Sarah, and Jeremy as people he “certainly” couldn’t beat in the end when I think everyone left could have a strong case to “certainly” beat Nick. He may be playing a better game than we’re being shown — admittedly, he’s almost always been able to suss out the right side of the vote — but he’s become the new Adam with the edit burying him every chance it gets.


Like Nick, Ben hasn’t been made to look all that bright either. Trying to hide that idol find in front of Tony may have been instinctual rather than intentional, but he still looked pretty foolish with Tony calling Ben’s bluff before he could even turn around. At this point, my guess at the final three remains Tony vs. Nick and Ben who will be easy wins for him. I’m sure Tony realizes that, and while Nick and Ben have shared their doubts about Tony, their voting pattern says otherwise, going along with whatever he tells them. Tony’s looking more and more like he’ll be riding off happily into the Survivor sunset, but instead of on a noble steed, it’ll be in the arms of a Marine.


Terrified Tony


Tony sounded more terrified there than when the nighttime bird surprised him with a spook.



Two million dollar dessert


Parvati has spent a combined 7+ hours in this challenge between her two times winning it (one of those alone was over 6), but these winners couldn’t last more than 15 minutes?  Because of cookies???


Yes, I know they’ve upped the difficulty of endurance challenges because old Jeff can’t stand in the sun for too long or else the plastic in his face will melt, but that time still felt low for Winners at War.


Like Jeff Varner’s million-dollar peanut butter or Coby’s million-dollar donut, Kim got the honor of first dibs on the two-million-dollar cookies and milk. Denise looked pretty sturdy, so I’m not sure Kim wasn’t just a few seconds away from slipping anyway and thought she could at least get something sweet with her loss, but forever we’ll wonder “what if” Kim hadn’t dropped — also what Jenna and Heidi would’ve done for chocolate and peanut butter and cookies and milk as came with this bribe.


Another wonder is the magic Tony Wonder now with three individual immunity wins in a row. With that immunity, Tony couldn’t be taken out directly this week, but this really should’ve sealed all support for Kim’s argument that he needed to be taken out ASAP — if they couldn’t take out Tony, the next best thing would be another vote that weakens him, i.e. “not Kim.”  Asking for a “not Kim” vote, however, was like asking for anyone I like this season to not be voted out — a lost cause.



Back burner


Kim called Tony’s challenge win a “son of a B” as it forced what she thought was her voting bloc to come up with a plan B. I would’ve thought Sarah to be the next obvious choice, but Nick quickly jumped on board for voting out Jeremy in order to prove his loyalty to Ben, and knowing how hellbent Ben was on getting Jeremy out, Kim probably realized this would be the smoothest course to take and that she’d need to save Sarah and Tony for next time.


Immediately after that conversation, though, everyone but Denise proceeded to blow up Kim’s plan. She literally cannot catch one single break this season.


Facepalm Kim




Michele made ready to give Jeremy her 50/50 coin, wanting to block the vote Kim had helped organize, and Ben and Nick directly told Tony everything. I’m not sure if Ben at least intentionally telling Tony saved him face or just made him look more boneheaded, but Nick was definitely shown looking dumb (again) when he tried to convince Tony that he couldn’t remember details of events from literally that same day.


Forgetful Nick


This was almost-first-boot Nick, not winner Nick.


Originally, Tony and Sarah were good with Jeremy leaving, but with news from Nick and Ben, they had to shift the vote to Kim so that there wouldn’t be an opportunity for Nick to be the swing vote and go with the girls at the next tribal council. Luckily, I had no doubts in me that this was Kim’s boot episode or else watching her perfectly set up plan come crumbling down would have been unbearable. It still sort of was, but less so because I expected it since this season, like Kim, I just can’t have nice things.


With Nick and Ben being roped back in by Tony and Sarah, if they ever even wandered away, and Jeremy being added to knock out Kim, I wonder if this group of five will move into the finale together. Jeremy would seem like an easy boot there and then at final four, Tony and Sarah would fight each other to take Ben and Nick to the end. Of course, the Edge of Extinction will disrupt these events, but the only question may be, “How much?”  I can’t see how Denise and Michele have a way to the end at this point unless Ben and Nick finally wake the hell up about their chances of winning against any of the other three which with it not happening this week, I don’t think it’s happening at all.



What is Tony doing?


Denise spoke to me and I’m sure many of us when she simply turned to Jeremy and said, “I’m done!” after yet another week of full chaos and whispering at tribal council. Once again, I have to ask if this even changed anything — Kim, Michele, and Denise voted for Jeremy while everyone else voted for Kim. That matches exactly what we last saw at camp, so are the players just that paranoid amongst themselves that they have to jump up and down every tribal to confirm the plan hasn’t changed?


Once the commotion died down, a little more moaning came from Jeremy before ultimately deciding not to play Michele’s 50/50 coin. I not only respected the balls of that move but also Sarah’s in declining Tony’s offer to play his idol on her. With every vote lately going as bonkers as this one, it takes some serious confidence to say “no thanks” to any sort of advantage (again, maybe that just speaks to how little actually changes during these “live” tribals ... ).


Whether Jeremy did or didn’t play the coin or Sarah did or didn’t accept Tony’s idol, I knew Kim was cooked, but at least as expected, she had a gorgeous and graceful exit like one of the G.O.A.T.s that she is.


Snuffed Kim


I knew better than to get my hopes up that Kim wouldn’t be kicked off this week, and I’m glad I did or else this elimination would be so much more painful. Kim has had it rough since Day 1 of this game, and she just was never really able to seize any major control of the game, so she approached the season a different way, instead skating by on her superb social game and maneuvering skills. To go from someone that no one wanted to work with because of her threat level, to have made it as far as Final 8 and have the correct read on how to get to Final 7 is a huge accomplishment — this will be the vote Nick and Ben look back on after losing to Tony as the one they should’ve listened to someone other than Tony and Sarah.


Kim, to me, is still one of the most perfect players to ever play the game. Even when her back is against the wall and she’s fighting for her life, she operates in such a smooth way that is still mesmerizing and masterful to watch. She never gets shaken up or loses her cool, so it’s no wonder why she held control of One World as well as she did. People respond well to someone who’s as opposite of paranoid as Kim is. She’s the antithesis to the type of player Tony is which is why watching the two go to war was a fun two-episode arch. I love that you can play Survivor two completely different ways and still win — Kim proved why she’s the best at the way she plays, and I think Tony’s on his way to proving that he’s the best at playing the way he plays, possibly the only person who can play that way.



Next time...


In attempt to thwart the dominating Danni Boatwright, Boston Rob runs on water, further proving to Probst that Rob is literally Jesus. In the main game, we see Michele and Jeremy talk about getting rid of Ben which all but officially makes Ben safe week. Sarah and Tony talk about someone (“he”) not wanting to go to the end with them which should be everyone, but specifically I’d guess they’re talking about Jeremy because he’s smarter than Nick and Ben. It’s two hours of Survivor next week, so my gut is saying they’re two episodes the show didn’t want to drag out, meaning two straightforward boots (shrouded in some bogus tribal council theatrics). Tony and Sarah should have Ben and Nick on lock, and Tony may want Jeremy in for juuuuuust a few more rounds as a shield, so I think the rest of Kim’s crew from this week, Denise and Michele, will meet their doom. Denise saying, “I’m done” will be much less fun in that context.


Description: Players of the week

Players of the week


Kim – We’ve never had to see Kim fight this hard for her life in the game, and I think she played the absolute best she could this week — her #1 target Tony winning immunity shouldn’t have meant her being the default “back burner” boot. This was a chance to take a shot at Sarah or who Tony flipped everything for to protect last week, Jeremy. Nick even admitted that he didn’t think he could beat Sarah and Jeremy, so why not listen to Kim and go for one of them? Obviously, Kim is just as if not more dangerous of an opponent at the end, but she’s been riding solo for a lot of this game, so it would’ve made much more sense for everyone to split Sarah from Tony or even Jeremy from Michele. Kim has had incredible reads all season, but sometimes you just can’t get through to people no matter how much of a rational argument you present. I look forward to Kim presenting an argument at FTC about why she should’ve been listened to about taking power away from Tony.


Tony – It’s Tony or an Edger’s game to lose right now. Sarah has played a stellar game, but I think she and everyone else would lose a jury vote to Tony — she’s just the only person who could give him a run for his money. That is, excluding the Edge of Extinction returnee. If they’re in the finals, then I think they win simply for all the support they have on that jury already, but man, a Tony win still sounds too cuckoo to be true. It baffles me how he can play the same game he did in Cagayan and get away with it. He handled the aftermath of the Sophie vote the exact way he did with his first major flip on LJ and by the next vote was squeaky clean, at least with the allies he had blindsided. It’s sort of like déjà vu but when you’ve got things like Spy Nest and Tony winning three immunity challenges in a row, it’s also somehow a bigger, better version of any Tony we’ve seen before. The show has tried to cast clones like Joe Mena and The Wardog, but it’s obvious now that the true Tony 2.0 can only be literally Tony again.


Sarah – The edit is sort of making Sarah the supporting role to Tony’s lead much like Cagayan did to Trish, the one who really had to put out Tony’s fires.  Luckily, though, we’ve seen a lot more of Sarah’s strategy than we ever did of Trish’s to let us know that this is still an equal partnership. Like with Trish, I think Tony will know to cut Sarah before they get to the end together and we’ll get a scathing roast again at final tribal council — we’ll see if Sarah holds to the “never speaking again” promise. As with Tony, I think Sarah has shown the best version of herself this season. She’s smart, she’s funny, (pretty, creative, she can make clothe ... ) she’s on top of the game, and she manages to stay mostly sane while working so close to Tony. It takes a hell of a player to keep that one on somewhat of a leash, but sometimes that strength is just simply too much for one man or woman to maintain.


Sarah and Tony


Ryan KaiserRyan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser