“Survivor: Winners at War” officially kicks off Wednesday, February 12 on CBS, but on February 5 the network aired a retrospective special welcoming back the 20 returning champions. If you don’t know your Kims from your Dannis, or your Nicks from your Bens, then this hour-long recap special was just for you. Host Jeff Probst is back yet again for this landmark 40th season (because of course he is), with the contestants fighting for a cool $2 million instead of the paltry $1 million from years past.
Below, check out our minute-by-minute “Survivor: Winners at War” recap of Season 40, Episode 0, titled “Survivor at 40: Greatest Moments and Players,” to find out what happened Wednesday, February 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaways on CBS’s reality TV show and who you think will ultimately join the “Survivor” winners list.
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8:00 p.m. — Grab the popcorn because the show’s about to start! Reminder that the 20 returnees will be divided into two tribes. DAKAL: Tyson Apostol (“Blood vs. Water”), Sophie Clarke (“South Pacific”), Sandra Diaz-Twine (“Pearl Islands” & “Heroes vs. Villains”), Wendell Holland (“Ghost Island”), Yul Kwon (“Cook Islands”), Sarah Lacina (“Game Changers”), Amber Mariano (“All-Stars”), Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (“One World”), Tony Vlachos (“Cagayan”) and Nick Wilson (“David vs. Goliath”). SELE: Natalie Anderson (“San Juan del Sur”), Danni Boatwright (“Guatemala”), Jeremy Collins (“Cambodia”), Ben Driebergen (“Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers”), Michele Fitzgerald (“Kaoh Rong”), Adam Klein (“Millennials vs. Gen X”), Rob Mariano (“Redemption Island”), Parvati Shallow (“Micronesia”), Denise Stapley (“Philippines”) and Ethan Zohn (“Africa”).
8:02 p.m. – The first deep dive into a single season was with “Pearl Islands,” featuring one of the most popular players in history Rupert Boneham and one of the least Jonny Fairplay. Rupert won the show’s first fan favorite prize at that season reunion, but Jonny’s pre-game plan with a family member to lie about his grandmother’s health in order to gain sympathy with the other players in the game remains one of the most iconic (and villainous) moves we’ve ever seen.
8:06 p.m. – Jeff also took us back to the first alliance of the series — the one formed between Kelly Wiglesworth and Sue Hawk and then expanded to eventual winner Richard Hatch and Rudy Boesch in season 1. Unfortunately none of those four will be on season 40, but two members of another alliance will be: Rob and Amber. The married couple worked together to become the final 2 of season 8’s “All Stars,” a bond that turned to marriage and now will extend into this season. Rob and Amber will be one of the obvious pre-game alliances on season 40, but I’m anticipating that there will be many more alliances formed before the players even hit the beach. A lot of these players have known each other for years and so we’ll see how those loyalties are tested within the game.
8:13 p.m. – Another thing we’ll see this season is more advantages. Tony, winner of “Cagayan,” was a master of idols and advantages in that season, but when he returned for “Game Changers,” he tried that strategy again and was voted out second from the game. How will he switch up his game this time in order to keep the target off his back?
8:16 p.m. – In the season that Ben won, the final four fire-making challenge first appeared and it proved to be his saving grace that allowed him to earn a seat at the final tribal council. That challenge has remained in every season since then and so we can expect to see it again in season 40. We’ve also already been promised the return of Edge of Extinction, offering any player voted out early the chance at redemption and a return to the game. Chris Underwood was able to win after returning from EoE!
8:21 p.m. – One of the biggest and now longest running twists we’ve ever seen incorporated into the game is hidden immunity idols, introduced during “Guatemala.” In seasons past players have been able to earn or find clues to the location of these, but some players have managed to find them without any clues whatsoever. The benefit of the hidden idols is the “epic blindside,” but managing one of those requires keeping knowledge of it secret. In “Heroes vs. Villains,” Parvati expertly played two different hidden idols at the same tribal council, saving both of her allies that were vulnerable (Sandra and Jerri Manthey) which turned the tides of the game and paved the way for her and Sandra to make the final tribal council.
8:28 p.m. – In “Second Chances,” winner Jeremy found a clue that required him to retrieve an idol that was hidden on the course of a challenge. That meant he had to step away from the challenge at one point to retrieve it, right under the noses of his allies and enemies. I hope he see another high-pressure twist like that this season. These winners need to work harder than ever!
8:37 p.m. – Also in “Second Chances,” we saw the first tribal council that ended with 0 valid votes after both Kelley Wentworth and Jeremy used hidden idols, but had received the only votes. After a re-vote was called, another tie was made and so the players had to actually debate and make deals live in order to reach a unanimous consensus on who to vote out.
8:39 p.m. – Similarly, in “Game Changers” there were enough idols and advantages at play during the final 6 that left legend Cirie Fields as the only player without protection and the only player available to be voted for. She became the first person voted out without a single vote cast against them. Ejected by default. Let’s hope that never happens again! To anyone!
8:42 p.m. – Another first happened on “Ghost Island” when Wendell and Domenick Abbate tied during the final tribal council vote, forcing the third place finisher to become the tie-breaking vote. In that vote, Wendell came out on top and so he comes to “Winners at War” as the champion who won with the slimmest of margins in history.
8:46 p.m. – The danger of Parvati in “Winners at War” was best shown by the heist she and her alliance made over Erik Reichenbach when they worked together to convince him to give up his immunity idol so that they could in turn vote him out. When we returned for “Heroes vs. Villains” it was after this move so she’s already had to fight her reputation for it, but if the players of season 40 are smart they’ll know that she will dare to make huge moves like this again.
8:52 p.m. – Sneeeeeeak peeeeeak!!
8:54 p.m. – “I’m like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Ready to burn down your house.” – Parvati. A legend returns! We also saw Amber claim that she’s out here to win again, but more important to beat her husband again. Now, that makes me think the most interesting thing that could happen is her voting him out… in a blindside!
8:57 p.m. – Wait. Rob didn’t mention to Sandra on “Island of the Idols” that he was playing again? And she’s pissed about it? Yessssssssss. We already know “the queen stays queen,” but can the king stay king? When the queen is coming for his head?!
9:00 p.m. – I can’t believe “Winners at War” begins next week! My smile was lit from ear to ear watching that sneak preview and just seeing 20 winners ride in together on speed boats. Incredible!
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