“Survivor: Winners at War” Finale Recap – And the Winner Is…

“Survivor: Winners at War” (CBS)

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Watch Full Episodes of “Survivor: Winners at War”

Last Week: Jeremy’s second, second chance wasn’t the best, Tony made use of his sky-high spy nest, and Nick’s attempt to boot Ben left his game messed.

39 Days, 20 People, 1 “Survivor Blog

Alright, let’s take a look at the tribe as it currently stands.

The Koru Tribe (wearing black)

  • Ben, 36 – “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers”
  • Denise, 48 – “Philippines”
  • Michele, 29 – “Kaôh Rōng”
  • Sarah, 34 – “Game Changers”
  • Tony, 45 – “Cagayan”

Alright, we’re not messing around. We’re immediately off to…

Edge of Extinction Return Challenge: The challenge exists in five sections. First, the players will have to maneuver themselves around a fence obstacle while attached to a rope. Second, they’ll have to maneuver around a post while still attached to the rope. Third, they’ll have to dig up a rope. Fourth, they’ll have to use ropes to create a bridge. And finally, they’ll have to get two balls through a table maze and into holes. The first person to get both balls in their holes will return to the game.

Advantages: Natalie will not have to complete the first and third portions of the challenge and part of her rope bridge will be completed. Parvati, Yul, and Wendell have earned a pass through the first part.

Result: Natalie almost squandered her many advantages as Wendell was able to reach the table maze first. But, she was able to come back and earn her way back into the game.

When it’s all said and done, we get some really nice moments with Kim and Tyson talking about what the show has meant for them. Then, Amber breaks my heart by saying that she doesn’t think she deserved to win “Survivor: All-Stars.” Aww…and they cut to Michele while she said it.

This is where I’m going to officially go on the record saying that the right person wins every season of “Survivor.” As a viewer you can say that you wouldn’t vote for someone based on what you saw from the edit. But, managing the jury and their needs and wants and expectations is part of the game.

Oh wow…Rob’s voice is getting so high as he’s trying not to break down as he defends his wife.

Also, it might be getting dusty in my living room.

Finally, Ethan wrecks me by saying that the money raised by “Survivor’s” relationship with Stand Up 2 Cancer went to a drug that helped save his life.

What a cast. Alright, go enjoy your well-deserved showers and sundaes.

I’ve Gotta New Nat-itude

Natalie first order of business is to let everybody know that the jury thinks Tony’s playing the best game. Tony tries to downplay this information, but it’s kinda hard to deny.

Sarah isn’t so convinced that people think Tony is running the show because she’s been calling her fair share of shots. That may be true, but Tony will always have one thing over Sarah; he voted out Sophie.

Immunity Challenge Time: The players will race across a series of bridges to retrieve bags of puzzle pieces. When they have a bag, they’ll have to run it up a tower, then take a water slide back down. Once they have all three bags, they’ll have to put together the BLOCK AND RING PUZZLE THAT MICHELE KICKED IN HER SEASON! The first person to complete the puzzle will win immunity. They’ll also receive my eternal love and respect if they kick the puzzle immediately afterwards.

Result: Michele was way behind, but managed to come back and win immunity. Oh…and she kicked the puzzle!

That’s my girl.

Pre-Tribal Politicking

Tony is rightfully concerned that Natalie has an idol, so he wants to throw two votes Denise’s way to set up a three-way tie. But, Sarah and Ben won’t hear of it. Ben won’t do it because he’s so close with Denise. And Sarah won’t do it because she thinks she can read Natalie.

Oh…oh Sarah…

Later on, Natalie and Michele decide to partner up, with Natalie even telling Michele about her idol. Probably not the worst move as there’s no way she’s not going to have to play it tonight.

Hmm…the dominant alliance is going to target Natalie tonight so she has to play the idol no matter what. They know Tony will play his idol if Natalie plays hers.

Buuuut…what if Natalie went up to the alliance now and showed them the idol. Maybe she could freak everyone out and get someone to flip.

Tribal Time

Aww…look how handsome and clean this jury is!

Natalie admits that she told everyone that the jury thinks Tony is running the show. This bothers Sarah because in the game a woman who lies, cheats, or steals is viewed as a fake or a phony or a bitch while a man is respected for good gameplay. She’s got a point. And unfortunately, as we all know, it works like that everywhere, not just on this show.

Sarah continues by telling us that she’s carried a lot of hurt over the years because of how people treated her after “Game Changers.”

Tony isn’t surprised by any of this, because he’s seen the same treatment happen to women in his real life.

Jeff even chimes in admitting that if we were to go back and listen to some of the things he’s said over the last twenty years that he’d find the same bias inside of him. In particular, he mentions his habit of buddying up with guys by referring to them by their last names. Sarah lets him know that he’s welcome to start calling her “Lacina.”

Voting Time: No votes are shown.

JPro tallies and returns. He asks if anyone wants to play an idol and…Natalie does for herself. As you’d imagine, this displeases Mr. Vlachos.

From there, Tony plays his idol for himself. And to everyone’s surprise (and Natalie’s disappointment) Ben plays his idol for himself.

OK, we’ve got four votes for Natalie and two votes for Ben. Wah wahhh…

So, we’re going to revote. The only people that can be voted for are Denise and Lacina. If there’s a tie, Denise and Lacina will have to square off in a fire-making challenge.

Quick Aside: If I’m Natalie and Michele, I’m voting for Lacina to force the challenge. If Lacina wins, you’re where you were before. If Denise wins, she could be more likely to swing to your side because the guys voted for her.

Voting Time: Once again, no votes are shown.

Probsty tallies and returns, we’ve got two votes Denise, and the seventeenth person voted out of “Survivor: Winners at War” is…Denise.

Oh boy…can someone check on Malcolm Freberg for me?

Another Quick Aside: How mad is Tony right now? Not splitting the vote cost his alliance two idols! I’m mad for him!

Tony Burns Fiji Down

Yeah, Tony is pretty annoyed with Lacina and Ben. But, being a spy-bunker-is-half-full kind of guy, he decides to look on the bright side and try to find a new idol. He sneaks off into the jungle with some coals and literally starts little fires everywhere! Fortunately, he doesn’t burn down the joint. Unfortunately his pyro adventure doesn’t result in an idol.

The next morning, everyone is out and about looking. But, when it’s all said and done Natalie claims the prize.

Immunity Challenge Time: The players will swim to shore while going through a series of obstacles. Once they reach the beach, the first person to throw two sandbags onto a platform will win immunity.

Result: Tony manages to edge out Ben to pick up the win.

Pre-Tribal Politicking

Tony is really worried that Natalie or Michele have the idol because they aren’t looking for it. So, it’s spy nest time.

And sure enough, while Lacina and Natalie are talking strategy, Lacina notices that Natalie has something stuffed in her buff. Natalie admits that she has the idol and Tony’s eyes just about bug out of his head.

C’mon…the spy nest is awesome, but this was really Lacina’s discovery.

Then things get…weird. Ben tells Lacina to vote him out if she needs to. But, she clearly doesn’t need to. This makes no sense to me. Why don’t you just try to figure out Natalie’s move and if you’re right, hooray! And if you’re wrong, then you’re out. Why would he sacrifice himself if he doesn’t need to?

But, he’s convinced. He says having friends is worth more than the money. You’d still be friends if you tried to vote out Natalie or Michele and failed. I guess his fear is that he’d get to the end and get no votes. And this way Lacina gets credit for a big move and can possibly beat Tony.

Tribal Time

Not much of consequence is said other than Ben again mentioning how important it is that some friendships come out of this season.

Voting Time: No votes are shown.

JPro tallies and returns. He asks if anyone wants to play an idol and Natalie does…for herself. This seems to please Ben and Tony.

OK, we’ve got one vote for Ben, one vote for Michele, one vote for Ben, one vote for Michele, and the eighteenth person voted out of “Survivor: Winners at War” is…Ben.

Immunity Challenge Time: The players will place a ball on a track. As it winds its way to the end, they’ll have to catch it and put it back in at the top. They’ll add more balls as time goes. If you drop a ball, you’re eliminated. The last person standing wins immunity.

Quick Aside: Somewhere Stephen Fishbach is having flashbacks.

Another Quick Aside: Right to the challenge? We don’t get to see Tony’s reaction to Lacina’s vote?!

Result: It came down to Michele vs. Natalie with Natalie picking up the win.

Pre-Tribal Politicking

Hmm…we don’t really get a good idea of who Natalie’s going to choose. It’s mostly just footage of the other three practicing making fire. Based on what we’re seeing, Michele is pretty good at it while the Cops R kinda mediocre at it.

Tribal Time

Aww…Sophie isn’t in the jury tonight because she isn’t feeling well.

Both Lacina and Michele say that if they’re going to make fire, they want to take out Tony.

When Probst asks Natalie if she’s thought of taking out Tony herself, she says she won’t because she’s not 100% confident that she can beat him.

Hmm…that is interesting. Now that there is the precedent of the final four winner stepping down to make fire, does it make all future final-four challenge winners look like cowards by not doing the same?

Anywho, Natalie tells us that Tony and Lacina will be competing.

Fire-Making Challenge: The first person to build a fire high enough to burn through a rope will stay in the game.

Result: Wow…it was an exciting back-and-forth battle with Tony eventually claiming the win. When it’s all over, the duo shares a huge hug with Tony crying because he eliminated her. She assures him that it’s OK. It’s a really nice moment and I’m sure it had an effect on the jurors.

When it’s all over, Probst snuffs her torch by saying, “Lacina, the tribe has spoken.”

Crap, now my eyes are leaking again.

Day 39

Our warring winners are greeted by the traditional Day 39 breakfast. Afterwards, Michele tells us that her victory in Kaoh Rong was difficult due to the fan backlash. But, her ability to consistently battle back has proven that she’s one of the best to play the game. Agreed. Win, lose, or draw…she’s the only one of these winners who has never been voted out.

Natalie thinks she played the best Extinction game she could. I’d absolutely agree with that as well. But, you’re never going to get me to want a player to win who was voted out. Jeff Probst and I can butt heads about this until the end of time, but that’s where I’m at.

And finally, Tony knows that he put a lot of the people on the jury. But he’s confident about how he’s played the game. If Sandra is the queen, he’s ready to be the king.

Tribal Time

Before we get underway, know that it is pouring rain at the beginning of Tribal. Maybe the jury will wrap things up quicker.

The Outwit Portion – Social Game

Denise asks everyone about their missed opportunities. Natalie says that she should have focused less on challenge strength early in the game and should have formed more personal bonds. Michele thought she had too many one-on-one alliances and not a bigger alliance. She also thinks her relationship with Wendell came back to bite her. And, Tony doesn’t think he had any missed opportunities because this time around he opened up to people emotionally.

Nick tried to call Tony on this, asking if the bonds were so he could stab people in the back. But, Tony counters by saying he went after Nick because Nick was trying to blindside him. Jeremy asks the same question. But, Tony thinks their friendship is real. Natalie tries to interrupt, but Tony won’t let her say that their relationship wasn’t genuine. Ben attempts to have Tony’s back by saying that Tony was loyal, but Jeremy points out that he wasn’t loyal to everyone.

Rob wants to know why Natalie didn’t talk to him, Amber, Ethan, Wendell, and others at Extinction. She said she didn’t want to tell everyone about the advantages she found.

Quick Aside: What’s the benefit of keeping advantages a secret on Extinction? Once the advantage is found, shouldn’t that be the end of the competition? Wouldn’t it impress future jurors if they knew what she was up to and saw it in real time?

Parvati wonders why Tony wasn’t targeted. He doesn’t really answer the question, but he does tell everyone about the spy nest, which everyone finds hilarious.

Wendell asks Michele about her game and she points out that she was on her own most of the time but she kept ducking and weaving to stay alive.

The Outplay Portion – Advantages and Challenges

Wendell gives Natalie an opportunity to list all of the things she found on Extinction. It took her about 30 minutes to hit all of them.

Quick Aside: But, doesn’t this speak to what a weird benefit it is to be voted out first? She didn’t have any competition for that first advantage. For the second one, wasn’t it only against Amber?

Ben serves up softballs to Tony and Michele to brag about their immunity wins.

Rob calls out Natalie for not facing Tony in the fire-making challenge. Uh-oh. Natalie says that she wanted to be responsible for the dominant alliance taking each other out.

If Natalie loses to Tony, I’ve got to think her bowing out of the fire challenge is going to be a big reason.

And finally, Ethan asks for their thoughts on the Edge. Tony cracks everyone up by saying it didn’t do him any favors because that’s how he got the extortion twist and when Natalie came back she told everyone that he was a threat.

Michele, on the other hand, liked it because she was sent advantages and she hoped one of her friends would come back.

The Outlast Portion – Final Speeches

Natalie thinks she adapted to a bad situation and when she got back she was able to take out the dominant alliance. She also makes a great point that everyone was going to gun for her because of Chris Underwood’s win.

Michele is very proud of how she was able to battle back from the bottom and it was tougher than her first season.

Tony tried to be more personable, he played all day and all night, he innovated the spy nest, and he survived even after Natalie outted him as the game’s biggest threat.

Nothing from Sarah, Tyson, or Sophie? Aww…Sophie looks so sick. And they made her sit in the rain?

Voting Time: Rob voted for Tony, saying that Natalie should have taken Tony out, Parvati votes for Natalie, Tyson voted for Natalie, Ben votes for Tony, and the rest of the votes are secret.

Oof…no votes for Michele? Boo…

Alright, JPro takes the urn back to his garage for his own personal quarantine reunion.

We’ve got one vote for Tony, two votes for Natalie, one vote for Tony, one vote for Natalie, one vote for Tony, one vote for Natalie, five votes for Tony, and the champion of “Survivor: Winners at War” is…Tony!

Verdict: As a reporter, I’m supposed to remain unbiased, but that just isn’t possible when talking about Mr. Tony Vlachos. I adore the man.

He’s such a delightful weirdo, wild card, ball of energy that you can never be surprised when the tribe decides to get rid of him.

But they never did. No votes against him, idols found, big blindsides, fires built, trees…nested. The crazy son-of-a-gun did it.

A fantastic winner. A worthy owner of the title “two-time champion.”

Long live the king.

Add a fantastic winner to some all-time amazing “Survivor” moments such as Denise taking out Sandra, Ethan’s Edge challenge, the everything Tony episode, Adam trying to play the podium, and you have a great (but not quite best-ever) season.

We might not be seeing any new “Survivor” for a while. But, I consider this a great note to go out on…for now.

Final Quick Aside: Thank you so much for going on this ride with me this season. I can’t wait until we can do it again!

Power Rankings Results: Malcolm Freberg received two points for getting Natalie in spot two, and two bonus points for picking Natalie to return. Gordon received two points for picking Tony to win. So, Malcolm wins by one point! Final score is Malcolm 102, Gordon 101.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes