‘Survivor: Winners at War’ battlelines: It’s Tony’s war to lose as partner Sarah wins the battle

Survivor: Winners at War” sees 20 winners return to duke it out. It’s the greatest crop of contenders the game has ever seen. In my weekly “Battlelines” recap I will diagnose the casualty, declare who I think won the episode’s battle and who is best positioned to win the war. Please feel free to give me your thoughts in the comments below.

Battlelines re-calibrated and cemented
Last round, Tony Vlachos, Sarah Lacina, Ben Driebergen, Nick Wilson and Jeremy Collins voted together. Denise Stapley and Michele Fitzgerald were on the wrong side of things. This week Denise snuck into the group. Michele survived with an immunity win and Ben finally convincing his allies to cut Jeremy. Of the two tribals, Michele was the only person on the wrong side of the numbers both times. The battlelines have been re-calibrated but Michele stands alone on one side. Perhaps the returning player from extinction can provide backup.

SEE ‘Survivor’: Pssst … Are you tired of all that rude Tribal Council whispering and yakking? We sure are! [POLL]

Jeremy gets smoked and Nick is burnt out
Jeremy is a firefighter who knows a bit about smoke screens. In his winning game he kept big threats in to distract players from targeting him. This season he employed a similar strategy. He kept Boston Rob Mariano around early, worked with Tony post swap, and took advantage of a returning Tyson Apostol at the merge. Eventually, this father of four American hero was just too dangerous to take to the end. In hindsight he should have kept Michele’s 50/50 coin, but it would have burnt bridges with his closest ally.

Nick won one of the best “Survivor” seasons. His building of multiple alliances and social abilities deftly got him the title. He also proved the most adaptable in a game of multiples flips and an abundance of advantages. In the tribal Jeremy was sent home, Nick could have flipped the script and taken out Ben. Michele was pissed; thinking it left her and Nick on the outs. Nick then used his advantage to help her win immunity and was voted out. Nick had confessed he couldn’t beat Jeremy, Tony or Sarah. He realized he could not win if he didn’t remove these lions. But his game was going to struggle to garner jury votes anyway. Flipping on Ben would have given him a big move and perhaps allowed him to take control of the game.

SEE ‘Survivor’ 40 episode 13 recap: Who was voted out in 2-hour ‘The Penultimate Step of the War’?

Who won the battle?
Officer Sarah warrants attention
In this episode we saw Sarah working closely with Tony and Ben. Denise approached her and Ben about going to the final three. And Michele approached her about targeting Tony. The only people we did not see trying to work with her were Jeremy and Nick. The two people that went home. Everyone wants to work with Officer Sarah. After a successful spy from Tony, he wanted Denise out. They went with Nick, a more desirable outcome for Sarah. Coming in as such a big threat for her ruthless performance in “Game Changers,” she has done well to be a serious contender for the win. And this double episode was arguably her best performance of the season.

SEE ‘Survivor 40’ advantages: Who currently has immunity idols, fire tokens in ‘Winners at War’?

Who’s winning the war?
Tony eyes victory from above
I have been reluctant to say Tony is in the best position to win. He’s my favorite “Survivor” player, so perhaps I didn’t want to test fate. It is also true that he has played such a bold game it’s still tricky to get to the end. And while I give him an edge to win over the jury with his dynamic play, Michele and Sarah have such strong social games I would not count them out.

But I’m finally going with Tony. Heading into the final it is his game to lose. He has an alliance of Sarah and Ben. He has an idol he can play. There is also a potential new big target, or lion as Tony would say, coming into the game. And perched in his spy-nest above the well he was able to hear that Denise’s plan, so he can be prepared for what’s coming. His adaptable and bombastic game also puts him in good stead to win a jury argument. He also has enough reverence for the other winners to not get too cocky. Gold Derby users agree as he sits in our frontrunner status with 12/25 odds.

SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?

Be sure to make your predictions to influence our reality TV racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs on CBS. You’ll compete to win a spot on our Season 40 leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

More News from GoldDerby