Top Five, Baby! - Brent Sullivan's Survivor: Winners at War analysis
Top One, Baby!
By Brent Sullivan | Published: May 17, 2020
Survivor: Winners at War Episode 14 recap/ analysis

Top One, Baby!


Welcome to “Top Five, Baby!” where after each episode of Survivor, Brent Sullivan will try to break apart and find the top five moments that made a lasting impact on the season or moments that could at least affect the next few episodes. Sometimes the moments are obvious and other times ... not so much, but after years of watching and analyzing this show to myself, I like to share the ones that I think stand out the most.


What an amazing season. I want to wish all of the top three a congratulations on making it to the end and an extra Tony-sized congratulations to Tony Vlachos on becoming Survivor’s second ever two-time winner! I still can’t believe that he pulled out a victory playing against all those top-notch players. My pre-season pick of Sarah fell one fire short of achieving her goal, but she still had a great run and also played a really good game.


This week will be a little different. Since there isn’t anything to discuss about what could have made an impact next week or down the road, I will be taking a look at all of my previous articles to pick out the five that I think I got the closest to getting correct. Plus, maybe one at the end to see how bad I did as well. Here we go one more time with a Winners At War edition of Top Five Baby!


Top Five, Baby! from Episode 1

This season's twists


1: This season's twists


This is an obvious one, but I wouldn’t be good at doing this if I didn’t point out the obvious as well as everything else. Every season in modern Survivor has some sort of twist or theme that the game revolves around. This one has quite a few, so for this last point, I am just going to mention how some of these twists may impact the game.


The first one is that the Edge of Extinction is back. This has already made an impact in the game since Natalie found an idol and then “sold” it to Sandra for one fire token. Her idol is only good for two more tribal councils since she didn’t use it this episode and you know that she will play it for sure. That is likely to make an early big impact if she plays it correctly. Plus, how many other advantages will be coming from the Edge of Extinction this season? I don’t even want to try to guess, but surely it won’t be one per episode…right…right?


Secondly, speaking of fire tokens, they are also already making an impact. Jeremy and Rob both have two of them now after Natalie and Amber bequeathed theirs to them. Plus, Natalie has one of them on the Edge of Extinction from her trade with Sandra. We don’t know exactly how they will be used to help the castaways get back into the game, but we sort of got a glimpse of how they are going to work.


Finally, as if the bragging rights and title of The Winner of all Winners wasn’t enough, this season will have a winning payout of $2 million dollars. As if these players weren’t going to play hard enough this season, now they have double the money as a reward for their hard work. That will definitely make people play differently down the stretch. If you are getting close to the end and you know that you have a possible $2 million waiting on you at the finish line, you will do whatever it takes to get there.


I for one am not against any of these twists so far this season. Let’s keep the Edge of Extinction around until the merge so that we get to see our favorites players for a bit longer this season. As far as the other twists go, let’s give them a chance to see how they work, and I will be looking to see if they make an impact in the game.


This is still an obvious one, with Natalie coming back from the Edge of Extinction and so many deals and advantages involving fire tokens the twists of the game definitely made their presence known. Sandra the Queen even got knocked out of the game because of this season’s twists.


Top Five, Baby! from Episode 2

The amazing Tony


2: The amazing Tony


There is just simply nothing else to say about him this season. He is doing everything in his power to not play like the crazy person that he portrayed in his last two times out. He even uses all of that built up energy to craft a dangerous looking ladder to climb up and get some of the breadfruit that Yul was trying to get earlier in the episode. Also, let me just say that the whole ladder scene was one of the best moments that I ever watched on Survivor. So much real human personality, humor, and real suspense wondering if he was going to fall or not.


Afterwards it looks as though the Cops R Us alliance may be back for another round. For both of their sakes, I hope it works. I like both Sarah and Tony so hopefully they can put their past behind them and keep it together till late post merge. The big issue that Cops R Us is going to have is that there is just two of them and there are seven people left in their tribe. They will have to pull in a few more in order to get the numbers. It appears that Sandra may be working with them somewhat, but I am excited to see them work together and see what sort of chaos they can bring upon their fellow Dakal members (for now).


Is there really anything more to say about this? Tony was playing great right from the start. He knew that he had to come in and keep a low profile until the time was right for him to pounce on the game and ride it to the end. He did that plus he kept his “Cops R Us” alliance intact until the final four fire-making challenge broke them up.


Top Five, Baby! from Episode 4:

Sarah is social


3: Sarah is social


We have seen Sarah play three times now and we are finally getting to see her social side that we have been hearing about. We knew that everyone loved her on Game Changers, but we didn’t get to see very many of those conversations. It has been nice to see, in the limited time over on Dakal, that she does have some pretty good social skills.


We know she and Tony have patched things up, they even have a private handshake this time around they are using. It also appears she and Sandra are good now too, even though Sarah helped vote her out in season 34. We obviously saw her hanging out with Tyson a bunch, plus she and Kim were down on the beach together hanging out. This is a good sign for her that we are seeing this side of her game. It is also good for her and her ability to be friendly to everyone on the tribe and not just her alliance.


I think moving forward, she is in a really good spot. First, her Dakal tribe has the numbers advantage over Sele. Secondly, she has been voting with the majority both times she went to tribal council. Third, the people she has aligned herself with are way bigger targets than herself. Finally, I don’t think she will have any issues making friends at the swap or merge. So, Sarah’s social game if going great right now and I think we will see that help her out over the next few episodes.


This really continued throughout the whole game. Sarah played a really good social game and made some pretty good bonds with Tony, Ben, Sophie, Kim, Denise, plus it seemed like no one ever wanted to bring up her name as a potential vote off.


Top Five, Baby! from Episode 6:

Michele is all alone


4: Michele is all alone


We knew after the tribe swap that this new Sele tribe was going to have the most straightforward vote of all of them. I don't know if Michele and Parvati were necessarily swamp-screwed, but I really don't think either of them had a chance when we saw that Yul, Nick, and Wendell all ended up on the same tribe together. They are three members of, most likely, the strongest alliance this season — with only Sophie not being with them for the moment.


So, all the talk between Parvati and Wendell was most likely just for the people watching at home as neither of them were going to budge. Parvati did her best by trying to bring up the bargaining during tribal, but I really don't think that Wendell was ever going to take that deal and I also think that Nick wasn't considering making a jump to the other side either.


Parvati and Michele were clearly on the bottom of that new Sele tribe and now that Parvati has been voted out, Michele truly is alone in the group of four. She not only has no one left to talk strategy with, but she is also still stuck on the same tribe as her ex-boyfriend. That seems to bother her more than anything else. She is trying to make something work with him, but he just keeps shutting her down. If they can win and she can make it to the merge, she has a few other allies that she can work with, like Jeremy and Ben. Otherwise, she is easily the next to go if Sele goes back to tribal council before the merge.


Michele pretty much played from the bottom this entire game. It seemed like she never had any lasting allies and was always left out of votes. Now, she does have a decent social game, so that helped her out in some of the situations. Eventually she was able to navigate and make it all the way to the end.


Top Five, Baby! from Episode 7:

Tension on Yara


5: Tension on Yara


Adam is really struggling this season. After coming back from so many missteps early in the season, Adam is once again making things tough on himself. He is so sure that either Ben or Sarah has the Yara idol, he can’t focus on anything else. I mentioned last week about how he felt like he was on the bottom, well he is making it way worse on himself.


He has had issues with Ben this whole game, and now he is pushing Sarah away. The only person on Yara that he seemed to talk to was Sophie and she is closer with the other two than she is with him. The tension is so bad that I can almost guarantee he will be a free agent come next week. At the same time, him being a free agent could make him an extremely easy target for the first post merge boot.


Adam has definitely had a tough season and it doesn’t appear that it is going to get much better for him for the remainder.


Adam had a rough start to the season, sort of bounced back, but ended up stumbling too many times. He knows the game so well, but he tried a little too hard this time around, and unfortunately the podium wasn’t an idol and his luck eventually ran out.




Now for one that I completely was wrong on. Ok, honestly I was wrong on lots of other ones, but this one really stood out to me because I was clearly way off.


Top Five Baby! from Episode 3:

The Sandra stock is rising


6: The Sandra stock is rising


I can’t believe it. If you would have told me four votes into this season that both Sandra and Rob would still be in the game, I would have told you it was a false premonition and couldn’t possibly happen. Well, here we are four votes into Winners at War, and both Sandra and Rob are still in the game. Wow. Not only are they in the game, but the players on Sele are actively trying to not vote out Rob. He is definitely on the wrong side of the numbers at this moment, but that really doesn’t seem to matter for him this season.


Over on Dakal, Sandra is in an even better situation. Early on, it seemed like she may have something going with both Tony and Sarah, and now Yul wants to keep her around. In fact, when Tyson started throwing her name out as the next to go, Yul went to Sandra and told her. So, not only are they not trying to vote her out, but they are “chomping at the bit” to work with her.


This week, she was able to raise her stock a little higher by coming up with the idea to catch fish, or in this case, a shark. She has never really been shown as a big provider in the past, but she seems to be playing the role this time a little bit. Also, if things weren’t going pretty good for her on her own, remember that she has that idol from Natalie too. Overall, Sandra is in a pretty good spot on her tribe with some bigger targets in front of her and the fact that her tribe doesn’t know how to lose a challenge will only keep things looking good for her in the near future.


Maybe this was more hopeful thinking than anything else. I really was hoping to see Sandra make it further this season. Ultimately a botched big move was her downfall and then she even raised the flag on the Edge of Extinction.



So, there you have it for this season. I hope that you enjoyed reading and interacting with these as much as I did writing them. I was so glad and honored to even be such a minimal part of this season. Thank you to everyone who visited this weekly article and hopefully we get Survivor back in the Fall and I can start this up all over again.


But, one last time, I want hear from you as well, let me know if I missed any moments or if you think I’m way off base, the interaction is part of what makes this fun!


Were you happy with Tony’s win?


What was your favorite part of the season?


What do you hope to see in a future season?


I may be back every so often with something fun, but in the meantime. I hope that everyone enjoyed the 20th year and 40th season of Survivor! It truly is the greatest show still after all these years.





Brent Sullivan - Top Five, Baby!Brent Sullivan is a long-time fanatic of Survivor and has been writing about it for years. When he is not writing, talking about, or applying to be on the show, he spends his time with family, doing nerdy IT stuff, and watching movies. Follow him on twitter: @BSully_13