Survivor: Winners At War

Episode 11 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not after Week 11?

Photo: CBS

Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor Season 40 castaways into two categories, Hot or Not, based on who they think has potential longevity in the game. Hots are indicative of castaways who we think played well this week or who are setting themselves up for success; Nots are indicative of castaways who we think didn’t and aren’t. In order to avoid what Gus likes to call “hedging bets,” Nots cannot be given to more than half plus one of the castaways. For example, with twelve people remaining in the game, the maximum number of Nots that can be given out is seven.

Go ahead, hit us with your best shot. We’re probably wrong anyway, but that’s why it’s fun!

WARNING: This segment uses content from the “Next Time On” preview. If you are someone who doesn’t like watching those segments prior to the show, do not read further. You’ve been warned.

Ali and Gus both ranked Sophie as a Hot. They are speechless at the loss of this early favorite to win. Gus did predict Sophie would go home in a blindside in our predictions at the end of the article, so he saves some face. There are rare occasions where players go home even when they are playing well. In that case, the predictions stand as a way to prepare for such a scenario. Ali and Gus still assume the risk of embarrassment should they present a baseless prediction in that case, so Gus’s prediction still stands. Ali and Gus want to go on record as saying that Sophie was never a “bottom tier winner,” as she claimed. This season proved that.



Everything that makes Ben an entertaining player also makes him a liability on the island. It’s been fun to see Ben frustrate everyone around him, but it’s come at a huge price. There are some jury members I guarantee won’t vote for Ben at the end: Adam, Boston Rob, and I’ll eventually add Jeremy to that list after this week. 

This past week, Ben was personally affronted that Jeremy wouldn’t sit and get eliminated. Ben made it pretty darn obvious that the group was coming for Jeremy in this confrontation. Every season, Ben fixates on one person he dislikes (in HvHvH it was Cole, then Joe, then Chrissy; in WaW, it’s been Boston Rob, then Adam, and now Jeremy is filling this role). The problem with Ben is he’s an alpha male who hates not getting his way. It makes for great TV, but it leaves me feeling concerned about his game moving forward. On top of that, Ben didn’t vote correctly this week. And, the cherry on top, he was briefly the decoy target (brought up by people he’s working with). If they’re willing to make Ben the sacrificial lamb, he’s in some deep trouble.

At the end of the day, I think there are those still willing to work against Ben on the jury (if he can make it that far). If people won’t vote for Ben at the end, Ben doesn’t get a Hot.


Ben has opinions. Ben is energetic. Ben is a very entertaining presence on this season. Ben looks like he’s getting on everybody’s nerves within the season. Ben is a mess. Ben is voting wrong. Ben is not going to win. Ben gets a Not.



Sarah was doing so well until this week. She’s really starting to let Tony get under her skin. We knew it would happen eventually. Sarah pointed out in the modeling scene that she has a better social game than Tony. Unfortunately for her, Tony saw this too. Sarah’s relationships (especially with Sophie) meant Sarah didn’t need Tony moving forward. So, to prevent Sarah from inevitably flipping on him, Tony got rid of Sarah’s other closest ally. That’s the brilliance of Tony. He doesn’t go with the logical next vote. Rather, he goes with the smartest next vote. Does this make Sarah angry? Absolutely. 

Now, it’s up to Sarah whether she decides to flip on Tony moving forward. I’m assuming she will. The thing is, she was going to want to turn on Tony eventually, and Tony caught her with her pants down. He weakened her forces she would have used against him. She doesn’t have as many options going forward. Something tells me if Sarah tries to come for Tony, Tony has the relationships to survive the attack. Sarah is underestimating Tony’s game. Tony has never underestimated Sarah. I think this will be the big difference in their outcomes this season.


Sarah got blindsided HARD by her apparent number one ally, and she’s PISSED about it. She also lost her number two ally in Sophie, meaning that if she and Tony split up, she’s likely to be rudderless. With her Game Changers game still apparently hanging over her head, I doubt whether Sarah will be able to duck and weave in absence of both Tony and Sophie, meaning that she’ll have to stick with Tony for a while if she wants to make it far in the game… but I just don’t see her wanting to do that, meaning that either she’ll vote out Tony and then get targeted for slaying the King, or she’ll get voted out by Tony. Either way, not a lot of good outcomes for Sarah.



Kim is coming for Tony. We’ve had inklings of this for a while. Problem is, I don’t think Kim has the base to take out Tony at this point. In a secret scene, we saw her bonding with Sarah. (If you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you check it out. It’s a beautiful scene.) That’s the only time editors showed Kim with a genuine relationship this season that I can recall. Frankly, if it didn’t make air, it indicates to me that it’s not going to be super significant going forward. Unfortunately, I think her bond with Sarah is too little, too late. 

The game opened up this week. It’s about to be pretty chaotic. If Kim sets her sights on Tony, I think she may be next to go.


This is something I’ve gone back and forth on, but I’m settling on the Not because I think it’s more likely that Kim goes home this week than that one of my other two “you aren’t Tony” Hots do.

Kim was right that Tony is playing both sides, and her warning wasn’t heeded. That’s good for her in the short term, but bad for her in the long term. Worse still, even though she was right, she was party to the plan to vote out the folks who used to be in her alliance, so they aren’t likely to believe her or want to work with her.

I also worry that if Kim leads a charge to get rid of Tony (she should), it’s highly unlikely to work and will more likely just result in her getting voted out instead. Tony’s got his idol now, and he doesn’t seem likely to play it frivolously—the guy is flashy and eccentric, but he’s smart as well.



Painful as it is to make Denise a Not, she voted incorrectly this week. While I don’t think she’s playing badly, I don’t think she has a firm grasp on the pulse of the game. Denise has comfortably rested on her laurels and gone with what the majority wants each time. As the end game nears, I want to see her take a bigger command over the outcome of the vote. If she doesn’t, I fear the jury won’t respect her enough to crown her the ultimate winner.

Yes, Denise eliminated Sandra. However, several players have said in interviews that the merge resets the game. Eliminating Sandra in the pre-merge may not be sufficient for Denise to earn enough votes to win.


Poor Denise. She had a great big swing pre-merge when she took out Sandra, but since then, she’s been nothing but consistently out of luck. She’s been on the wrong side of the vote time and again, she’s been out of the loop and generally without power ever since. I don’t really know who her allies are, and so far as I can tell, she’s got no plan. I’m sad to be consistently giving Denise Nots—she’s a great player—but she’s just not part of the game right now.



Jeremy owes his life to Tony. His reads in targeting Ben were off the mark, and his myopic fixation on that plan nearly spelled doom for the firefighter. 

Once one’s name is in circulation, it becomes very difficult to disappear from the radar. I predict Jeremy’s name will be one that the cast keeps revisiting as options diminish. Though Jeremy is in with an alliance that has more protection than the other side, he will only be in the game as long as it behooves Tony. 


Jeremy did turn out to be on the right side of the vote this week, but only because Tony decided that it was time to turn on the Tony and go full llama. His decision to flip the game on its head and vote out Sophie was, in my opinion, very wise—and I think it will turn out to have been the right decision—but he didn’t do it to altruistically save Jeremy. Tony himself pointed out that Jeremy is threatening. If anything, he did it to get rid of Sarah’s other ally and keep Jeremy as a huge target out front. This does not bode well for Jeremy in the long run. 

Beyond that, all of Jeremy’s moves in the past few weeks have been scrappy and often motivated (or dictated to him) by others, and this does not a promising coronation ceremony make.



It’s rare to see a legend live up to their legacy a second time, but it feels like we are witnessing it with Tony 3.0. This week, Tony got an idol in a hilarious scene where he pointed Nick in a direction he already searched. Then, he successfully sidestepped an unprecedented extortion challenge. He proceeded to win his second immunity ever. Finally, he led a blindside of a legitimate threat. Love him or hate him, Tony is playing an incredibly entertaining game. I was one of the detractors who predicted he would be gone within the first few votes. I’m thrilled to say I was completely wrong.

The one thing I worry about is that it appears Tony and Sarah are headed for some conflict. Tony’s tentative alliance and Sarah’s are dead even. However, Tony’s side has his idol and Michele’s 50/50 coin. I’m feeling great about their odds with those weapons at their disposal. My other concern is the folks on Tony’s side may not be willing to go to rocks, but the same could be said for the other side. Regardless, Tony has some protection at his disposal. His dominance this week deserves a Hot, whether he’s in danger or not.


Oh sweet goody gumdrops. This was it. This was the Tony Vlachos experience I’ve been waiting for.

I could go on about all the incredible gameplay that Tony displayed this week. I could spend a paragraph or two extolling the strengths of the alliances he’s made and infiltrated and falsified and how he manipulated them for fire tokens. I could spend a few minutes covering his idol find. I could go on about his stupendously chaotic plan to flip the script on EVERYBODY, including BOTH of the alliances he’d been forging over the course of this episode, to push a 4-3-2 vote and get out the colossal threat that is SOPHIE against the majority of the tribe’s wishes.

I could spend 2-3 times the length of what I’ve already said about Tony talking about Tony, but for the time being, I think I’ll settle for this: he’s playing an amazing game right now, and I’m only worried that it might be *too* good.



I had a hard time with what to do with Michele this week. On the one hand, she’s always been a quiet presence on her seasons. She’s good at playing from the shadows. This style of gameplay tends to get people to the end. Conversely, I worry that on a season with such big names, she may get lost in the shuffle.

Ultimately, Michele voted correctly, which is more than I can say for many of the other folks on the season. Furthermore, I thought her quick thinking when Tony asked for fire tokens demonstrates how brilliant she is socially. Convincing a police officer to believe a lie is no easy feat, and Michele accomplished this beautifully. I’d love to see Michele come into her own, but she did enough to earn a Not.


Look, I have to give out three Hots this week. Do I want to give out three Hots this week? No, I want to give out one Hot this week. But the rules are the rules, and that means I have to give out three Hots.

Michele gets one of the two “you aren’t Tony” Hots, partially because she’s been subtly scrapping for so long (as opposed to Jeremy, who is target number one and has had to scrap his head off) and partially because I don’t think she’ll catch a lot of flak for this move. She also can’t take any credit for it, but the absence of a positive is better than the existence of a negative.



Nick had a hilarious moment where Tony completely led him astray during the idol hunt. But hey, at least he was out there looking for an idol. He’s playing the game.

He’s survived week after week of targets, managing to somehow sink back into the shadows. It’s incredibly rare to pull that off, and somehow he did. That deserves recognition. Nick worked his way into an alliance that has some protection. I can see a path to the finish line for Nick at this point. Is it a winning game? Probably not. But one has to make it to the end to win. At this point, Nick can make it to the end game provided he doesn’t mess things up for himself.


Nick gets a Hot because I dunno, he’s less likely to catch flak for the move than anyone else? He’s not Tony, but I had to give out three Hots.


ALI: So we agree. We think we’re really pretty. (Can’t resist a good Mean Girls reference). Essentially, we agree on everything. 2020 is really bringing us together.

GUS: I am disappointed that I was right about being wrong about Sophie. And before you get on me about hedging my bets, that’s what the predictions are for. 

ALI: I won’t get on you at all about hedging. As a matter of fact, I think you had every right to predict her boot where you did. There was no way to justify giving her a Not based on how she was playing. It seems only fair that there is a contingency for surprise eliminations. Good players get eliminated all the time. If anything, I’m impressed with how well you clocked that.

GUS: I appreciate that. Nonetheless, I am devastated, although I’m uplifted by our being in agreement this week that nobody really deserved a Hot except for Tony.

ALI: Tony was the MVP of this week, and it wasn’t even close. At this point, if he doesn’t win, I’ll be devastated.

GUS: I am a little bit worried that his gameplay this week might put a target on his back, but I think he sowed enough chaos that the target will stay bouncing around. If anything, it seems like Jeremy is still going to be prime target, with Kim being Tony’s target. Sarah could be in the mix as well.

ALI: It definitely will, but Jeremy has nowhere to go, and Michele and Nick have been ostracized. Tony also has an idol to protect himself. I think he’s okay for now… As I say that, my concern grows.

GUS: Oh YEAH, he has an idol too! So much happened this week that I forgot about that for a minute. That’s incredible.

ALI: And Tony is so paranoid as a player, he will use it with the slightest provocation.

GUS: Yes, but at the same time, I don’t think he’ll waste it. He’s eccentric and paranoid, but he’s been playing such a thoughtful game this season so far (even now) that it seems unlikely to me that he’ll blow it without reason. 

ALI: Yeah, I think he has his finger on the pulse of the game enough to know when to play it. I didn’t mean to imply he would blow it for no reason. I just meant he’s very aware of the shifting tides, and if he gets an inkling he’s in trouble, he won’t try to talk himself out of playing it. He knows when to take heed of what’s going on around him. He could be in trouble, but we’ve seen him get out of some impossible situations. I think he can pull this off.

GUS: One thing I will say for sure is I’m not gonna put him down as “going home” this week. That’s how he differs from Sophie.

ALI: Right. Sophie was playing well, but other people could see that. Though, I did worry about that Kim confessional this episode. She’s onto him. Only, I don’t know if she will be able to do anything about it. I think there’s definitely a chance he could go. I just see Sarah or Kim going over him if they choose to go against Tony. But who knows? It’s a crazy game. Who do you think is going home if not Tony?

GUS: I feel like Jeremy’s number is up. After an insane boot, it feels like people might need something more unified to chill them out, and I could see Tony and Nick throwing Jeremy to the wolves now that they’ve gotten Sophie out. You?

ALI: I think it’s going to be Sarah. I think she’s going to try to go against Tony and it’s not going to work out.

GUS: I could certainly see it. Who’s safe?

ALI: Michele. Just why? You know?

GUS: Yeah, I mean, she’s just kinda there now. It’s a bummer.

ALI: I think she’s playing fine. I think she’ll have to step it up soon, though, if she wants to win the dang thing.

GUS: Yeah. She won’t, though. 

ALI: Who do you think is coming back from The Edge?

GUS: I don’t know. We’ve only seen Natalie and Parvati, but they’ve been the ones finding stuff, so I couldn’t say. Probably Natalie.

ALI: I think Parvati. And is it too early to do winner picks?

GUS: No way. We’re two weeks out, aren’t we? Hit me.

ALI: Tony. Tony. Tony. Tony.

GUS: I know we’re not supposed to repeat one another, but I can’t not pick Tony. If I have to pick someone other than Tony, I’ll pick Tony. And if you say, “Gus, Tony is not not Tony, Tony is in fact Tony,” then I GUESS I’d say Sarah.

ALI: That’s all for this week. Later, all!

Written by

Ali & Gus

Alexandra "Ali" Shields is a sketch writer and playwright from Chicago and a graduate from Northwestern University. Alexandra has published humor articles with The Second City Network and Alexandra’s play, Twelve, won first place in the Jackie White National Memorial Playwriting Contest in 2018. Gus Schlanbusch is a Chicago-based playwright, theatre director and Survivor fan. His plays have been produced in Chicago, Detroit and Boston. He is a relatively new survivor superfan, his first live season having been Season 33, but Ali has caught him up pretty thoroughly on what he missed before then.

2 responses to “Episode 11 – Hot or Not”

    • Theoretically! But we just think she could return from The Edge. I think we both think that Tony is winning the game.

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