‘Survivor: Winners at War’ battlelines: Yul overplays allies as Michele outplays the boys

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.

Casualties
Old school Yul overplays his way to extinction

In last week’s blog I wrote that Yul Kwon was in one of the best positions to win. I also believed he was one of the safest people in the game. Yul voted out has made me quite the fool. What went wrong? Perhaps it was a mistake to not just simply target Michele Fitzgerald and keep the old Dakal tribe numbers for the merge. But you never know if old tribes reform. Wendell Holland had also indicated at last tribal he was prepared to flip; this would give calculating Yul good reason for concern.

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Yul went wrong by overplaying his strong hand. He concocted a plan where Michele votes for Yul to get Wendell’s fire tokens which she would then share with Yul. Complicated, right? And too cute. It exposed Yul as both self-interested and a huge strategic threat. In “Survivor” you have to understand how others perceive you.

Nick Wilson and Michele would have felt like pawns in his game rather than agents of their own. They took that control back by sending Yul to cool on extinction. Yul quickly lost control of a game he dominated 14 years ago when he won “Cook Islands.” That season he was the master by using intimidation with a superpowered idol and leading one of the greatest alliances in the game to control the vote every time he went to tribal.

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Who won the battle
Michele has the boys taking shots at each other

There is no good reason why Michele should have survived this week. She was coming up against three guys who had voted together as an alliance from the beginning of the game. She also has connections on the other tribes, so is a high risk of flipping at the merge. Not only did she survive, she didn’t receive a single vote. It could be a testament to her social charm. It could be a testament to her ability to conceal threat. It could also be a testament to the male ego. It probably was a combination of all three. Nick and her chose who went home and she decided to keep her ex-boyfriend Wendell in the game. A questionable move for Nick but a good move for Michele. It gives her more options.

Michele has said a few times this season how people thought she didn’t deserve to win the game. Now she’s showing that her gameplay is subtle but socially strong. This is the best answer to her critics from the past.

Who’s winning the war?
Jeremy Collins is on fire

In my opinion best placed to win all season has been Sophie Clarke, who is sitting pretty in first place at Gold Derby with 16/5 odds. The removal of her strong ally Yul hurts a little. But, she found an idol and has made strong bonds on her new Yara tribe. Threatening her position this week is Jeremy Collins. He’s currently 8th at Gold Derby with 25/1 odds, but I think he’s being undervalued.

Heading into next week’s merge he has arguably the most connections. He’s working well with all three others on his current tribe. He was working closely with Michele before the tribe swap. He also worked with Ben Driebergen and Adam Klein earlier in the game. Including himself that’s 7/11 remaining players. Unfortunately, he is a threat and people are unlikely to want to take him too far. He does have a safety without power advantage, but there is still a steep hill to climb for him. Hopefully, unlike Yul, my touting of this target’s strong position won’t result in his untimely demise. Because anything can happen at the merge.

SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?

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