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Survivor: Winners At War Episode 1 – The Edit Bay


What is the edit telling us after episode 1?

Photo: CBS

Hello all, welcome to the Edit Bay, a swanky island resort located just south of the Edge of Extinction. As you may know, I’ve decided not to write Edgic this season due to a mix of fatigue and not having the time or desire to do a deep dive edit analysis on a season with the EOE in play. 

However, because readers have been asking for some form of edit-based content, and because I enjoyed the Winners At War premiere so much it brought back some of my enthusiasm for Survivor, I’ve decided to create the Edit Bay as a happy compromise. I won’t be assigning ratings or breaking down every character, instead, I will offer some short “hot takes,” if you will, on the narrative arcs and top winner contenders. So let’s see how this goes.

THE STORIES

“MAIN HEADLINES”

FIRE TOKENS REPRESENT YOUR LIFE — The latest twist from Jeff Probst’s never-ending bag of tricks looks like it will play an important role in the season. The fire tokens are not only going to affect the gameplay, but they’re going to be crucial to a player’s success. One of the first confessionals of the episode, when the Dakal tribe arrived at camp, was Nick speaking about the tokens and their potential impact.

“In my opinion, these tokens are going to end up being a huge part of the game,” Nick said. “And I think the winner of this season will be the person who is able to use the currency correctly.” That’s a big statement and one that felt intentional. If we take it at face value, then the champion of this season will be someone involved with fire tokens to some degree. So anyone that makes a successful move with the tokens will be someone to keep an eye on as a top contender. 

FAMILY MATTERS — There was a lot of talk of family, particularly children, in the season premiere. On Dakal, we saw Amber, Sarah, and Tyson discussing their kids, with Tyson opening up in confessional about his pride in being a stay-at-home dad. Over on Sele, Jeremy, Parvati, and Rob all bonded over their children, with new mom Parvati talking in confessional about her change as a person and a player. “Being a mom is an absolute new life change that can help me relate to people in a totally different way,” she said. “So I’m totally using the mom card. Are you kidding me?”

While I’m unsure if this narrative will tie into the winner’s game, I do believe the family talk will be a recurring theme throughout the season. For those that read the pre-game press, you will know that this season, the players will have their children visit as part of the loved one’s challenge. Bringing the castaways’ kids out to the island is sure to be a huge, emotional moment that the show will no doubt milk for all it’s worth. And so, for that reason, I suspect the family/kid talk will continue to receive focus in the weeks to come.

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OLD SCHOOL VS. NEW SCHOOL – Similarly to the early episodes of Second Chance, there was a spotlight on old school versus new school. This was seen primarily on the Sele tribe, where Danni, Ethan, Parvati, and Rob formed an old school alliance. Rob talked about not wanting the new schoolers to dictate the game while criticizing their rapid-fire style of gameplay. “This is what they don’t do, the new school people, they don’t have conversations and get to know anybody,” Rob said.

The differences in old school and new school gameplay was also highlighted by the likes of Amber, Ethan, and Yul. Amber talked of the game moving fast at Tribal Council. Yul referenced how long ago it was that he played. And Ethan was playing catch up over on Sele. “The pace of the game is warp speed. I’m so unaccustomed to this; I have no clue what is going on,” he said. “The game has evolved, it’s now at a lightning pace, and you either get in line or get out,” Rob added. 

But who will come out on top? Old school or new school? It was the old school alliance that got their way in the first vote at Sele, but an old-schooler in Amber was voted out at Dakal’s first Tribal. Also, if we trust what Nick said about the fire tokens playing an important role in the eventual winner’s game, then perhaps what he said about the new school is vital too. “I am from the new seasons where we’re used to twists, we understand there’s unpredictable facets of the game, so I think my chances to win the game got much higher,” he said.

Much like with Second Chance, I think this old school versus new school battle will be a pivotal story early in the season, even if it doesn’t carry through until right until the end. 

THE COMPLEX TRIBE – I know not everybody subscribes to the complex tribe theory, but it’s something that has served me well in recent years. In my mind, there is no doubt that Dakal (red) was the most complex tribe of the premiere. Not only did we follow the Dakal tribe after the first Immunity challenge (despite Sele losing), but the dynamics were far more fleshed out and intricate on the red team. 

You had the whole poker alliance story, the free agents formation, the Tony/Sandra/Sarah trio, the underdog Kim story, Tyson the dad, Wendell the builder, Nick and the fire tokens, Tony on probation, Sandra feeling betrayed, Amber on the outs, etc. If you just compare the pre-Tribal scrambling from each tribe, you can see the difference. Sele had some interesting stuff too, no doubt, but a lot of it boiled down to old school vs. new school, and outside of that delineation, we didn’t get a true sense of all the alliances and relationships, outside of Adam and Denise. 

“SIDE STORIES”

SANDRA FEELS BETRAYED – Amber’s elimination can be credited in part to Sandra, who felt slighted by Boston Rob. In confessional, Sandra revealed that Rob never told her he was coming back to play, despite spending 36 days together on Island of the Idols. Sandra took this personally, as she admitted, and getting rid of Amber was somewhat a revenge move. It will be interesting to see Rob’s reaction to his wife’s elimination and if this feud with Sandra continues. 

UNDERDOG KIM – It was so unusual to see the dominant Kim Spradlin on the outs, but it did provide the One World champ with an intriguing narrative. While Kim was certainly playing on the backfoot, she recognized her position, and the edit gave her the time to talk through her thought process. She could have quite easily being buried here. Instead, Kim’s edit now has the potential for a rags to riches story.

TONY ON PROBATION – The crazy Cagayan winner got a story early on about maintaining a low profile. He recognized his mistakes from Game Changers and was focused on rectifying those errors. Whether he can keep this up is a story to watch going forward. 

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THE FREE AGENTS – On Dakal, we saw the formation of a “free agents” alliance between Nick, Sophie, Wendell, and Yul. Both Sophie and Yul talked about being disconnected, especially compared to many other players who have played together previously. The term “free agent” was used a bunch of times, and the edit shined a spotlight on this alliance, so again, it’s one we should keep a close watch on.

ADAM & DENISE – This partnership received a fair amount of air-time, but it’s hard to say right now whether it’s a long-term storyline or not. Adam and Denise did become targets after they got lost in the woods together, and so, it could have been a necessity to highlight them. That said, we did hear their strategy talks. Adam mentioned being Denise’s new Malcolm. And they survived the vote—not only that, but Adam was the one to put the target on Natalie and Jeremy.

BLABBERMOUTH BEN – It seemed like Ben was all over the place in the premiere. Firstly, he spilled his guts to Rob about Danni throwing his name out, and later, he clued Adam in on the fact he was a target. Now, Ben admitted that he was starstruck by Rob, hence blabbing all the info. And he did explain his reasons for talking to Adam. But the edit sort of painted Ben as an untrustworthy, chaotic player. 

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MICHELE HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE – This was a smaller story of the premiere but one that could become more relevant as the season moves on. Michele was pretty much absent from the first hour, but in a way, that could have been editorial protection, seeing as she was left out of the Natalie vote. In the second hour, Michele acknowledged her bad position while talking about her past season and the surprise over her win (we even got flashbacks). “I went into this feeling so much pressure because I feel like I have something to prove,” she stated. This could set-up a sort of redemption arc for the Kaoh Rong winner.

THE POKER ALLIANCE – The infamous poker alliance was a central focus of the Dakal vote, but I’m not sure whether it will remain a key narrative of the season. The topic was already broached at Tribal Council, and with Amber’s elimination, plus Tyson and Kim jumping ship, that could be the end of it.

THE CONTENDERS

The below list is just the edits that stood out the most to me after the premiere. It doesn’t mean that all those not mentioned are out of contention. 

TYSON 

Pros: 

  • He received a really personal confessional early in the episode about being a dad. This helped flesh him out as a character. 
  • While he was on the outs, he acknowledged his position and explained his strategy, which was moving into “survival” mode, which meant throwing Amber and Kim under the bus. “It’s worth it to me to forfeit this battle to hopefully win the war,” he said, which is very “winner quote-y.”
  • He received a lot of positive comments. “Tyson’s very powerful, and he’s dangerous,” Tony said. “He’s a very funny guy, people love him.” This was backed up by scenes of Tyson making everyone laugh about his rice cooking, and, even earlier in the episode, he was complimented for starting the fire. “Just when I think you’re only here for good looks and laughs, you do this?” Sarah said.
  • Also, despite Tony wanting to take him out, Tyson didn’t receive any votes at Tribal Council.
  • Is part of the complex tribe.

Cons:

  • The personal confessional could simply be tied to the family theme and the eventual loved one’s visit. Also, confessionals like this sometimes to point to a growth or journey edit, rather than a winner story.
  • Even though he didn’t receive votes here, the fact others recognize him as a threat could suggest he will remain a target.
  • There was no real alliance-building scene, other than being dragged into the “poker crew” thing. However, this can be explained by the “survival mode” comment, meaning a solid alliance right now isn’t a top priority.

SOPHIE

Pros:

  • Sophie is part of a clear alliance in the “free agents” group and received a confessional talking about that alliance and the rest of the tribe dynamics.
  • She had a partnership-forming scene with Yul. And while Yul led the conversation, Sophie, in confessional, expanded on the benefits of this pairing, describing Yul as a potential “nerd-shield.” 
  • “I’m excited about the money (laughs),” could be a funny little winner quote.
  • Is part of the complex tribe.

Cons:

  • She kind of disappeared in the pre-Tribal scrambling, other than describing everyone as a threat. But this is a minor con, as it’s not the worst thing in the world to be quiet this early on, especially when you already have established your position earlier in the episode.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Yul was the driving force of the partnership, so it could potentially paint Sophie as secondary. However, I’m not sure that is the case with the follow-up “nerd-shield” confessional. So this is one we will have to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks.

YUL

Pros:

  • A solid part of the “free agents” group and was the one credited for putting it together. And we saw that at least Sophie and Wendell were on board. He also explained his reasoning for putting this group together.
  • He is part of a defined duo with Sophie, and, again, was the one leading the conversation. 
  • He received a lot of credit for putting the focus on the poker alliance and influencing the direction of the vote. 
  • Is part of the complex tribe.

Cons:

  • He’s perhaps a little too out in the forefront. He led the duo talk with Sophie, he was credited for forming the free agents alliance and was the main person pushing the target onto the poker crew. 
  • Sophie calling him a “nerd-shield” could suggest he will ultimately be voted out ahead of her. 

DANNI

Pros:

  • She didn’t receive any negativity despite getting caught out for throwing Rob’s name out. Instead, she owned up to what she said and earned Rob’s respect and an alliance in the process. 
  • She talked about not having connections, which ties into the whole free agents theme, which could be important for the season’s narrative and/or winner. 

Cons:

  • Her content was perhaps a little too focused on Boston Rob. Her first big scene was throwing Rob’s name out. Her first confessional was mostly about taking the opportunity to vote Rob out. And then, her alliance-building scene came after Rob confronted her. 
  • Sticking with the Rob talk, her aligning with him could suggest she made a mistake not voting him out at the first opportunity like she stated. Or it is laying the groundwork for her to turn on Rob in the future. It should be noted, she was also subtitled, saying, “We were gonna pull someone in to vote Boston Rob” to Denise later in the episode.
  • Isn’t part of the complex tribe.

NICK

Pros:

  • He gave that confessional about the person who wins this game will be the one who correctly uses the fire tokens. 
  • In that same confessional, he suggested that the new schoolers have an advantage because they’re used to the twists and unpredictable modern game. “I am from the new seasons where we’re used to twists, we understand there’s unpredictable facets of the game, so I think my chances to win the game got much higher,” he said, which could be a winner quote. 
  • He was namechecked as part of the free agents alliance. 
  • Is part of the complex tribe.

Cons:

  • He was really under the radar after that first confessional. 
  • The whole thing about the winner being the one who can correctly use fire tokens could be a broader theme statement, rather than directly applicable to Nick. 
  • While he was named as part of the free agents alliance, we never heard Nick’s perspective on this group. In fact, we didn’t hear where Nick was at in terms of the vote, which is somewhat concerning given that he received a vote at Tribal Council.

TONY

Pros:

  • He received an intro confessional, which is almost essential for a male winner, especially in a returnee season.
  • He laid out his strategy of wanting to lower his profile, and we saw him attempting to put this into action. “I want everyone to get nice and comfortable with me, because their guards are here right now (gestures with fists), and they’re slowly coming down as they see Tony’s around camp all day, all night. It’s coming down like this, and when it gets down to here, BANG!, that’s when the sucker punch comes in.” 
  • He showed the ability to bury the hatchet with Sandra. And, while we didn’t see him in an alliance-forming scene, he was namechecked as part of a trio with Sandra and Sarah.
  • Is part of the complex tribe.

Cons:

  • Despite his goal to lower his profile, signs of the old Tony came out before the Dakal Tribal Council. He did explain the reasons for this—because his name had been thrown out. But he was called out by Amber at Tribal for running around from person to person, though, again, he did get the chance to defend himself.
  • He wanted to vote out Tyson but didn’t get his way. 
  • Didn’t receive a defined relationship scene outside of the hug with Sandra, but that could be enough.
  • He’s Tony.

WENDELL

Pros:

  • A very similar opening scene/confessional to his first season, where he was highlighted for his skills in building. “I wanted to build relationships, I didn’t necessarily want to build the whole shelter again,” he explained. 
  • Wendell laid out his early strategy in his first confessional. “I know this talent pool is different. It’s all winners. So I’m gonna play my position and be cool, chill out a little bit, just get a read on them.” This means Wendell can afford to be a little under the radar at the beginning.
  • And, despite chilling out, Wendell was still brought into the free agents alliance and told us he is “locked and loaded” with that four while keeping wary of everyone else. So we know Wendell’s position in the tribe. 
  • Is on the complex tribe.

Cons:

  • He said he didn’t want to be the shelter builder, and yet that is what happened. That could suggest he isn’t able to change his image, which could make a threat.
  • Even though he was brought into the free agents alliance, we didn’t hear him talk about the group in confessional. He was also sort of presented as a number for the group.

Martin is a 31-year-old writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously ET Canada and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull.



  • Survivor Fan

    Love this if we can’t have edgic! Thanks for listening to your fans Martin!

  • JennyWren

    I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty bummed about there being no Edgic this season, so maybe you can address Kim not having a real confessional during the premier? I thought it was really telling.

  • Great analysis as usual Martin.
    And I agree with pretty much everything you said.

    In terms of potential winner edit, I felt that – as unlikely as it seemed – Ethan could be in the list. He had the most “positive complex personality” edit in his tribe if not in the whole cast. But that also could be because he’s just one of the most popular contestants and winners ever (and I admit I had forgotten how much I loved him, so his edit just could have been a reminder of that)

  • UKDanJames

    Great segment Martin! Curious how you feel about Rob and Parvati as a duo, and Parvati’s winner chances? Some have suggested they were portrayed negatively but I don’t necessarily see it that way.

  • patti renshaw

    My winner pick yul

  • Zack

    Edgic Extinction!

    This is a fine substitute though. Thank you for your efforts, Martin. (“Cons: He’s Tony.” hahahaa)

    It seems like the main narrative being crafted now is of Old School players out-social-gaming the New School. Ethan and Yul had great premieres, though I agree that they both seem a little too “out there” to last. Rob is getting the screen time because he’s playing hard as ever and is fun to watch, but I imagine he’ll get sent to the Edge sooner rather than later.

    My winner pick right now is Parvati!

  • Michael DiPietro

    Thank you so much for giving us some of your insight! Question, if I took a crack at a full edgic write up like you usually do… would you consider giving it a read?

  • Kai Lei

    Thanks Martin! Love this new weekly

  • Jacob Daniel

    Per the point about Sophie being secondary, didn’t she win playing this same game in South Pacific? Linking up with one guy who stands out as the figurehead, while being the soldier who reins in and directs the alliance without receiving the flack or blame for it, and using said figurehead as a shield?

  • Anuris

    “Cons: He’s Tony” lol 😀