Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor: Winners at War recaps
Worth a shot
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: April 10, 2020
Survivor: Winners at War Episode 9 recap/ analysis

Worth a shot












Jeff Probst is a failed TV talk show host and now all but officially a failed music producer. I believe I recently saw that he wrote the lyrics to the song we’ve heard obnoxious snippets of up until now which makes all the more sense why it’s being shoved into our ears (anyone else hear a kazoo?). That may be the one good thing about us (more than likely) not getting a live finale in the studio — we’ll be spared from Sia dancing up on stage singing the same 10 words over and over again (nothing against Sia, just the song).


This week had a fun finale of its own, but this was the first episode that felt to me like there was too much to fit in and left the story seriously suffering. This is Winners at War (as was sung above), and I feel like we’re only seeing the tip of all the top-tier social strategy at play — a huge disappointment given that this has to have been the most anticipated season of all time. We got all of 6 minutes spent on strategy, and most of that was just playing the name game. The show can try as it wants to cover up the rushed edit with an exciting ending, but the nights would be a lot more exciting to me if we got to see more of these incredible players play.



Bumbling fumbling idiots


Nick and Michele weren’t happy to be blindsided, sharing that they hated everyone who was playing like “bumbling, fumbling idiots.” One common theme that Nick would stick to this episode was not liking how no one would say a name as if they were afraid. News flash Nick: if no one’s telling you a name, it doesn’t mean they’re afraid to give a name — it means you’re the name. His later speech at tribal about wanting to “play” showed a little of his new school naiveté, because the game was clearly being played around him, but just not with him.


You know you’ve lost your rocker when Tony has to be the one to come calm you down. I mean Nick, you’re a newer winner, but you’re not a newer fan. This game is all about lies. I think he was right to feel betrayed and be bloodthirsty for revenge, but Nick’s whole idea of everyone being afraid to play? Please spare me.


Feeling a little on edge himself still, Adam shared with Michele his conspiracy theory about this “fleur-de-lis” immunity idol being planted on the front of Jeff’s podium at tribal council. We’ve been wondering for a while when an idol would be hidden at tribal council, and Adam bringing it up here made me think this is finally when we’d see it. His logic was completely sound and admittedly impressive — the thing on the podium was the exact shape of the idol he’d been shown by Denise.


I think the show wanted us to see Adam as silly for thinking there’d be an idol in such obvious plain sight, but more plausible would be them trying to save face, truthfully thinking, “Damn, that’s clever — why didn’t we think of that?”  That “twist” wouldn’t be game-breaking or gimmicky, so thus not on Jeff’s short list — squashed like the speculation that the tribal immunity idol had two fire tokens for eyes. Again, way too clever.



When history repeats


What an incredible use of the drone there — I like to imagine that’s what all the members of the Black Widow Brigade did every morning when they were together back in 2007.


While the old winners are most of my favorite ones, it was the same old story on the Edge – literally more than any other visit. The riddle that the Edgers had to solve this week essentially spelled out that the show was too lazy to find a new hiding place for an advantage, so they told everyone to go look for one of the spots used in season 38. I was surprised to see Danni be the first to figure it out, but it was still a total shame on the show and somehow a new Edge of Extinction low — not to mention the other next-level Edge moment of Parvati’s “talking head” just being a talking mouth.


Parv's mouth


No editing there on my part – that was the entirety of our screen for a few seconds. I know this is a cinematographic choice, but how soon until the camera just goes completely inside the mouth?


Parvati pointed her way back to the place Aubry found an advantage when she was on the Edge, and waiting for Parvati was the opportunity to sell a “50/50 coin” to someone still in the game — naturally, she chose Michele who had the most fire tokens to spend and asked full price in exchange for the coin. What’s funny is that Parvati’s immediate thought was to buy some peanut butter for herself to share with Danni — and later the rest of the Edgers — rather than save up for challenge advantages. It worked for Tyson, so I guess this decision shouldn’t be shocking. I’m just still tickled to no end that peanut butter has become Survivor’s hottest commodity.


Questioning Michele


Later when Michele found the coin offer in her bag, her mind was 50/50 on whether she should spend all four of her fire tokens on it. This seemed like a terribly lopsided trade especially when you consider that Sandra received a whole immunity idol in exchange for just one token earlier in the game. For one or two tokens, I’d maybe have done this, but for all 4?  Hell no. Michele should’ve at least been given the chance to make a counteroffer, but her entire fortune on a coin flip?  I really hope Michele didn’t just waste all her winnings like that.


Relieved Michele


God darn “power”.



Happy birthday


Was this the first reward-only challenge we’ve seen this season?  I can’t say I’ve missed them, as we’re already short on episode minutes as is with the Edge. It’s not like this challenge was something so spectacular that we just had to see it. The only amusing thing about it was the fact that Denise sat out, so not only did she assassinate the queen, but then she sat on her throne. Incredible.


Ghost throne


The bench has been passed.


After the “ladies team” won the reward, Sarah decided to give up the Chinese buffet to Nick because he was just blindsided on his birthday (his damn birthday) — a decision she said was not strategic, but any winner should know that perception is reality in Survivor, and no one trusted that her intentions were genuine with Nick. Adam said, “I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her, and I can’t throw very far,” which was a rare moment this season of Adam making fun of Adam rather than the show doing that for him.



Caught up in the moment


Back at camp, Tony sat Sarah down and laid out to her how that move made her look — telling us at home that Sarah got caught up in the “mumment.”  Truly, it was strange to see savage Sarah (the cop-turned-criminal) make a kind gesture without any ulterior motives, but she swore up and down that was the story.


Nick certainly didn’t trust Sarah any more for it, so her story checked out as far as not winning her any additional favor in the game. I’d have to side with Sarah here — years ago, this kind of thing would warrant Sarah a favor, but the game has grown much more cutthroat. Sarah’s sacrifice was simply Nick’s score and nothing more than that. Sarah getting voted out over this should be just as silly as anyone else thinking she had successfully earned trust with Nick.


One more defense — the food rewards have looked less and less appealing in more recent years of the show. The pizza was so bad this season they didn’t even air it on TV, so I’d believe it if the pizza was the reason Sarah passed on the Chinese take-out.


Non-rewarded Sarah




Especially in the time of our toilet paper shortage, I can’t blame her for the decision.



Wobblers at war


I was so fucking proud of Kim here — in the moment I didn’t even realize she was setting a record and in retrospect, I wish Jeff would have recognized it, but then again, maybe it’s best for Kim’s target not to be made any bigger as she’s done a great job so far of shrinking it since the start of the season.


I giggled when Michele was the first to drop and Jeff declared, “Michele — no shot at immunity tonight,” so I guess he’s keeping secrets for everyone as Michele, in fact, still had a 50% shot at immunity that night. Riveting.


With Kim immune, that meant the lions had no reason to take their eyes off of the hyenas or “low profile” players — whichever name Tony decides to use at the time — and just like every other vote that looks easy....



Mistake, brother


... this one actually kind of was. Hear me out. I know that what broke out wasn’t uneventful, but Kim initially said the vote was “not a huge crazy vote” and that they would split between Nick and Adam. Things looked like they went wacky from that moment on, but when we look at it with some perspective, nothing actually changed despite the show wanting us to think this was one of the most chaotic sequence of events ever.


Trying to cover every conversation would be another mess of chaos, so I’m just going to touch on some highlights. First, one of the triggers to all this I think was when Nick out-of-nowhere told Tyson, “your name is out there again.” I find it hard to believe Tyson didn’t call bullshit right there as it took Nick way too long to answer who it was that said Tyson’s name, finally responding with, “I think Sophie.” He thought Sophie — really convincing.


I guess being back from the Edge, Tyson had reason to be concerned, so he decided to fight chaos with chaos, creating even more confusion in an attempt to cover himself. Adam had earlier told Jeremy and Tyson that Ben and Sarah were close, so to make sure the vote stayed on Adam, Tyson told Sarah that information, leading to a great confessional:


Sarah: Mistake, brother


Ben had some words for Adam himself on the matter but decided it would be better to approach Adam directly which led to a small fight between them — to be continued at tribal.


The names most consistently being thrown out were Nick, Adam, and Sarah — I don’t think Tyson was ever a real target — and whenever we cut to Kim, I feel like she stood out as someone getting eveyrone to stick to the plan of Nick or Adam, ultimately Adam. The targets were always Nick and Adam, and I think a lot of the Sarah talk was initially Nick trying to deflect votes off himself, but later it was just used to secure Sarah’s vote for Adam with Tyson making her feel paranoid. Tyson folded pretty quickly on an actual Sarah vote, making me think that once it was established that the vote was Sarah vs. Nick/Adam, he felt in the clear and could back off from causing confusion.


As the vote kept “changing,” I had to laugh as Jeremy barely moved from his spot on the bench, but everyone else kept moving around him and coming up to him with different names — poor dude just wanted to sit in peace.


Jeremy listens


Listening to Kim


Listening to Sarah


Listening to Tony


Tired of listening


So, was the vote really this complicated?  This is the problem when the first major strategy talk of the episode is crammed into just a few minutes before we go to tribal council thanks to the Edge of Extinction and the reward challenge. The “easy” vote was a split between Nick and Adam, and that’s exactly what happened, so none of this “chaos” changed anything. Thus, how much of it was really chaos?  I feel like I question too much week-to-week how much of the story we’re being told is true and how much is made-up for drama. A split-vote between Adam and Nick could’ve been an easy call to make as early as immediately after the last vote, and while I appreciate the show making an effort to keep a dull vote exciting, I don’t like it if it’s at the expense of reality.


Of course, to cap off the crazy, we were left with Adam wondering whether he should go for that “idol” he’d been eying at tribal council for weeks. At the time, I thought that kind of “crazy” was the exact kind of crazy that just might work, too.



Cat and mouse


Whether they were more like Tom and Jerry or Itchy and Scratchy, witnessing Adam and Ben go to their biggest blows yet was what made this tribal council for me. The whispering game is old news and when we were short on the episode already of real strategy talk, it was especially frustrating when most of the conversation couldn’t have been subtitled. The even more ridiculous thing is that even after all the shenanigans at and before tribal council, the vote was essentially what it was from the get-go, so what was all the point of showing us all the scrambling?  Manufactured chaos isn’t compelling.


Again, most of what I liked about this tribal council wasn’t what Probst would label as “live.”  In fact, perhaps the funniest moment was the exact opposite – dead silence.


Quiet Michele


Silent Kim


Non-verbal Denise


Taciturn Jeremy


Subdued Sarah


Mute Debbie


On top of that, you had Tony tell Adam how tribal council worked in an “explain it like I’m 5” way and another shot this week of Sophie looking like a mob boss:


Adam and Godmother Sophie


I’m sure Sophie would have preferred keeping Adam here, and that may be why we didn’t hear from her in confessional – she was likely looking to lose Nick instead. Of course, then we had the crowning jewel of the night:


Adam and the podium


I’ll admit that up until Jeff announced that rusty hunk of metal(?) wasn’t an idol, I thought it was.  Jeff even got me, for once, as he drew out Adam’s act instead of immediately shutting him down – I was almost waiting for the “mumment” where after Jeff was done giving Adam shit, he’d drop the bomb on everyone and announce that Adam was correct. Apologies to Adam, but I think I preferred this playing out the way it did because it doesn’t set the precedent that now everyone should be searching for advantages during tribal council – rather, it shouldn’t set that precedent, but I’m sure it will. That said, I do wish the vote would’ve been for Nick instead of Adam because between the two, Nick’s nowhere near the (unintentional) troublemaker Adam is. We don’t need this turning into “the greatest of the gamebots.”


Snuffed Adam


We should all be in consensus that this wasn’t “stupid,” right? I feel bad the show made it look like Adam was out of his mind, but we saw the deer-in-the-headlight faces everyone made when Adam went for the fleur-de-lis – if he was right, that would have been an all-time GAME CHANGER move that had everyone crapping themselves. Kudos to Adam for thinking the show could create something that clever — alas, it’s still a little behind (and apparently Jeff has said this will never be a thing because they don’t want players tearing apart the precious set?)


This wasn’t the first time Adam was crapped on as he’s been the season’s punching bag for weeks — I guess when they’ve got only winners to work with, the editors have to dig deep to find someone to bury. Adam definitely played like a little bit of a messy bitch, but maybe with one win under his belt, he felt a little more confident to call bigger shots — he ended up with bigger misses, but that’s the luck of the draw (or flip of the coin). The road likely ends here for Adam, but that doesn’t mean the excitement ends at the Edge of Extinction. I only hope he doesn’t raise the flag by accident in an attempt to find a fire token.



Next time: Sarah and Sophie


Oh great. More random names being thrown out without context. I can’t wait for another unanimous split vote that ends in a Nick boot (he wasn’t named in the preview, so that means he’s not safe like he was this week).


Description: Players of the week



Kim — Everyone was all over the place this week, so the one who stood out to me as calm, quiet, and consistent was Kim. She had a rough start to the season because no one really wanted to play with the one who many, myself included, consider to have played the best first-time game ever. Still, Kim has stayed the course, and we haven’t heard her name discussed since the premiere which shows that Kim can not only dominate the game from the top but also fly perfectly under the radar to escape being on the bottom — understanding the core “learn to adapt or be voted out of the tribe” concept of the game. This was a big week for Kim as she now holds the record for most individual immunity wins by a woman — something I totally forgot she held the tied record for because there was so much else to say about her winning game that I had overlooked her countless challenge wins. Kim may just be able to make a good run at this yet, but I think it may be a little too late for this to be the story of Kim winning again. However, I also think it’s safe to say she’s still one of the very best and being able to bounce back from her shaky start may boost her case even more.


Adam — Given that he has been the most visible player this season, no one can say Winners at War would be what it’s been without Adam. Upon his arrival on the Edge, he said, “three strikes you’re out,” which may be a bit of a lowball estimate on Adam errors this season, but I’m glad some of those mistakes gave us something to watch this season, and Adam’s antics peaked this episode. At times some of his over-the-top confessionals were a little too Big Brother-y for me with the shouting, but his rocky relationship with Ben has probably been one of the funniest relationships the show has seen in some time. We’ve had plenty of rivals, but none are more exciting than when they’re forced to reluctantly work together out of necessity. Adam and Ben are no Courtney and Shane, but every so often, they gave me small shades of that. Though, now that I say it, I’m not really sure who is who there — we’d need to know who’s lived in a shitty apartment.


You're only here because of your shitty little win


My win was not shitty


Why are you so sensitive?


In an otherwise lackluster episode until the end, Adam was a bright, burning star, for better or worse, and certainly gave us all something to talk about after it was over. It’s sad to see someone with so much passion for the game go, but at least he went out in an unprecedented way. Adam both won the game unanimously and was voted out after taking a big swing in what will go down as a memorable, meme-able tribal council — basically the best of both worlds for any super-duper-fan if you ask me.


Adam: Jeff, can I have your podium?


Probst: No


Angelina: Can I have it?


Probst: [Glares]


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