‘Survivor: Winners at War’ battlelines: Wendell kicked out while Tyson kicks into high gear

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 and 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.

Casualty
Wendell sent to ‘kick it’ on extinction

When the guys on the Yara tribe turned on each other, it was likely going to spell trouble at the merge. It burnt bridges with people from their old tribe and they didn’t have many other connections. And it put Wendell Holland on the outs this week. The vote could have easily been Nick Wilson, but Wendell’s relationship with Jeremy Collins put a target on his back. This season on “Survivor,” connections (even perceived ones) have proven a detriment.

When Wendell won “Ghost Island,” his confident but laid-back approach allowed him to form strong bonds. With this, he was able to control the game with his close ally Domenick Abate. This season, at times, his relaxed confidence was seen as cocky. It also didn’t help he got stuck on a tribe with his ex (Michele Fitzgerald); which added a layer of relational dynamics to navigate. Sometimes returning winners find it difficult to gauge when the game is going against them, as everything went right the first time). This was the case for Wendell who now bides his time on Extinction Island.

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Who won the battle?
Tyson roars back into the game

It’s hard not to say that Tyson Apostol won the merge episode. Going in he was 1 in 8 people vying to re-enter with a 1 in 12 shot at winning the game. Surviving the vote this week, he now is 1 of 11 people vying for the title (although another person from extinction will enter at some point). No one’s odds of winning the game has increased more. And, not only did he survive, he wasn’t even at risk of being voted out. He helped establish as alliance of lions, which seeks to protect the big threats in the game. Did his jar of peanut butter fuel him for victory? He is such a big physical and social threat, one imagines he will be targeted at some point. But only time will tell.

Who is winning the war?
Sophie Clarke stays quietly in control

I thought the merge episode would add some clarity to who was in the driver’s seat. But, the game still seems pretty fluid. Perhaps because it’s hard to convey 55 relationships in a 45 minute episode. We have at least four lions (Tony Vlachos, Jeremy Collins, Ben Driebergen and Tyson) working together. Then we have Nick and Michele on the outs (although the latter might be able to re-establish bonds with Jeremy). Adam Klein goes from being a target to a swing vote. Then there’s four women who are managing various relationships.

Since the premiere I’ve thought Sophie Clarke has been in the best position to win. And she leads at Gold Derby with 31/10 odds. This episode showed why. She wanted Wendell voted out because she was concerned Jeremy’s standing in the game was too strong. So, she quietly shared her thoughts and planted seeds about Jeremy and Wendell being tight, which shifted the vote. She got what she wanted without drawing much attention. She was able to maintain most of the relationships from her previous tribe and is well connected in the game. She’s worked well with Sarah Lacina throughout, and built bonds with others. She is not the biggest threat, but also not the easy vote. She also has an idol to save her if things go pear shaped. Her only immediate danger is if people, like Jeremy, realize she was behind the Wendell vote and blindside her.

SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?

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