Survivor: Winners At War

Episode 12 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not after Week 12?

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 Kim as a Not. They’re back on their streak after the Sophie shocker last week.



I don’t know how many more ways the edit can bury the guy at this point. First, he doesn’t speak to Jeremy after the Sophie blindside, and Jeremy calls him a “child.” Then, he finds an idol in front of Tony and immediately tries to hide it… As I’ve said in past weeks, Ben has no shot to win, so I can’t give him a Hot. Props to him for finding an idol, though.


Ben seems to alternate randomly between being outraged that somebody revealed his blindside plan and running around desperately revealing other peoples’ blindside plans. This bizarre contradiction, combined with his almost offensive disinterest in playing with Jeremy at all, lead me to believe that his social game is all but nonexistent and that his jury cred is negative at best, deplorable at worst. I can’t see him pulling out the win, but I could see him getting shredded at Final Tribal Council. 

I almost forgot about his god-tier move of trying to not let Tony see that Ben found an idol… right in front of Tony. That was hilarious and needs to be mentioned as well.



I was absolutely chortling at Sarah at the top of this episode. The way she talked about calmly approaching Tony and then going full bad cop on him was just hysterical. However, because of it, I nearly gave her a Not for this week.

But Sarah was ultimately able to get it together. She reunited with Tony (after some tension) and correctly read the situation at tribal council. If Sarah can’t keep her temper under control, she may struggle moving forward. If she can tamp down her intensity and play nice, I think she’s a contender to win the game.


Sarah is playing pretty well for somebody whose last name isn’t Vlachos. She and Tony are, surprisingly, still getting along well—my prognostication last week about her not being able to let bygones be bygones seems to have been made in error. She’s tight with Tony yet again, and as she doesn’t seem to be carrying a threat level like his around on her shoulders, I think she’s got a decent chance to get to the end.

Then again, I think Tony’s the hands-down favorite to win this thing… so I do worry that he might realize this and get her out sooner than later.



Denise was DONE with Jeremy during tribal council. Putting her hand in Jeremy’s face was not a great look for the therapist. One would think, with her background, that she would have a bit more patience. I understand it was probably late, and she read the situation as Jeremy stalling the vote to avoid the boot. That being said, if Denise snaps at folks she thinks are going to the jury, she’s not going to win many points in the end.

At this point, I think Denise may be the next to go. She might be able to work with Nick and Michele going forward, but I don’t have a good feeling about that group’s chances based on what we’ve seen.


I agree with Denise that whispering and plotting at Tribal Council is overdone, but I disagree with her handling of it by throwing a hand in Jeremy’s face. Besides that, her choice to do that to somebody who she expects to be a juror (and likely in that moment expected was about to go home) was questionable at best, really foolish at worst. She’s got an alliance with Michele and Nick, but, again, Nick seems to have already jumped ship from that, leaving me to believe that she’s not actually got an alliance with Michele and Nick. I don’t really see how Denise gets to the end, or if she does, how she wins.



I struggled with what to do with Jeremy this week. On the one hand, he’s been a bit messy in his dealings with Ben. He’s also been a target for quite a while. But how can I not give him a Hot after his performance at tribal council? 

I’m giving credit where credit is due. Jeremy’s relationships with others in the game saved him this week. Survivor’s a game rooted in the relationships one can form. It’s telling that both Tony and Michele were willing to save Jeremy. If Jeremy can keep people close, he’s headed for the end game. I’m more optimistic about Jeremy’s chances this week than I have been.

Do I think he’s winning? Not at this point. But I do think he will survive this week. Tony and his alliance will need to get rid of the lesser threats in the game, so it behooves them to keep Jeremy around. The other players will now be reluctant to take shots at Tony and Jeremy because of Tony’s idol and what they think is Jeremy’s advantage. 


Jeremy had some fun with Michele giving him his very own Coin Flip advantage (which, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t have to give back to her?), but he’s been the target time and time again. With that being the case, and with other players like Ben talking him up as “the number one threat to win,” and with everybody bending over backwards to do exactly what Tony wants them to do, I don’t see Jeremy lasting much longer outside of clutching immunity wins. 

So why am I giving him a Hot? At the end of the day, Jeremy does have people in his corner, and he does have advantages, and he does have challenge acumen. I don’t think it’s likely that he wins. I think it’s most likely that he goes home sooner than later. But I think that if he manages to scrap his way to the end (or goes to and comes back from EOE), he has a decent shot of winning.



Wow, if Tony doesn’t win this season, then there is no justice in this world. Tony is absolutely killing it. At the least, I think this season cements him as one of the greatest players. Is he chaotic and messy? Totally. That’s part of his legacy!

Tony was able to get Sarah back on his side, a feat in itself. He also recognized the value in keeping Jeremy around, and in doing so, blindsided someone who had no interest in working with him. 

And who could forget one of the funniest moments of the episode, when Tony saw Ben find the idol? Now, Tony has vital information in the game that he can use going forward. He also used the discovery as an opportunity to gain Ben’s trust. That’s the brilliance of Tony’s game, he seizes every opportunity that’s in front of him to get further.


I’m really impressed by Tony’s game, and I get more impressed by the day. He managed to salvage his relationship with Sarah and make it, seemingly, as strong as ever. He bought Nick off of staying in the Immunity Challenge for a fire token (a very good use of Fire Tokens, I might add… far better than a jar of peanut butter). He won his THIRD IMMUNITY IN A ROW, and said he was “going for a record.” He’s still got his idol—and the rest of his tribe knows he has it, so they’ll be scared to vote for him. He was willing to play said idol for his partner in crime Sarah, both solidifying her role as his friend and giving her a target to rival his.

The question I have at this point is, can Tony really make it to the end? Somehow he’s got no votes against him so far, and that really feels too good to be true. He’s made it to final 7 (de facto final 8 with the EOE returnee), so he needs to make it through four more tribal councils and a fire-making challenge to make it to the end. He’s got an idol, so that drops the number to three (for all intents and purposes, though he could certainly play that idol on Sarah). I believe that there are enough other targets in peoples’ minds and that Tony’s got enough sway within his alliance, that he’ll be able to make it.

This might be wishful thinking. I fully acknowledge that. But, gosh darn it, I’m going to wish for this.



Michele wants to make moves, but she doesn’t want to receive any blowback from making those moves. She’s like the anti-Tony this season, and I think it will be her downfall. Giving Jeremy her 50/50 coin was a big move on Michele’s part, but she should have given it to him at tribal council so that she could receive any jury credit for it. Some people would be unhappy with her back at camp, but she would get respect provided she owned her moves. 

Michele is thinking along the right lines working with lesser threats, but she has the wrong combination of people. I don’t think Michele will beat Denise at the end because Denise has a resume and made friends. Michele has Parvati and Jeremy, but not much more than that. It would be wiser, ultimately, for Michele to buddy up to Ben. I think in a group of Michele, Nick, and Ben, she has a greater chance to win. I’m concerned Michele is about to become a final tribal goat, and I’d really hate to see that.


Michele’s game is in the toilet. She gave Jeremy her coinflip advantage that she paid 4 fire tokens for. She voted in the minority (even though she sort of got her way?). She has very little in the way of alliances, and she’s one of the “Hyenas” that Tony is trying to get rid of. She’s got whatever she’s got with Jeremy, but that came out of more or less nowhere, and I don’t know how firm it is. She’s got that final 3 with Nick and Denise, but Nick worked against them this week, so I’m not so sure that’s a real thing either. More than that, her game has been all but nonexistent since the merge hit, and even if she did find herself in Final Tribal at the end, I don’t know how she could convince a jury to give her the win.



Similarly to Michele, I don’t think Nick can win at this point unless he’s with Ben and Michele at the end. The problem is, he and Michele aren’t looking to work with Ben. They’re working with Denise. In my opinion, Denise would crush them at final tribal council. Ultimately, Nick flipped and voted out Kim. But, at this point, I don’t think playing the middle is going to have the same results as it did in David vs. Goliath. Even in a showdown between Michele and Nick, I think Michele would pull it out because she’s more liked by the jury. If I don’t think he can win, then I shouldn’t give him a Hot.


Nick’s in a good position between two alliances, although it seems like he’s already fully betrayed one of them. My worry is that he’ll be high on Tony’s “get rid of them” list because of that. If he’s not, though, he seems like an ideal person to take to the end—someone who’s gotten on a lot of people’s nerves and doesn’t have a ton to show for it.

Honestly, I’m giving Nick a Not only because I think his win equity is lower than Jeremy’s. It’s less likely that Jeremy will make it to the end, but if he does, he stands a decent chance of winning. I think it’s decently likely that Nick will make it to the end, but I don’t think he stands a chance of winning because so many of the other players don’t like or respect him.


ALI: What is happening?

GUS: I don’t know. We’ve been in lockstep lately, and I don’t think I like it. It might just be because Tony is playing such an incredible game in the late merge?

ALI: I was discussing this with Martin via Twitter because apparently, Twitter is something I do now. Tony and Sarah are the only people who deserve to win right now based on what we’ve seen.

GUS: Absolutely. Tony deserves to win because holy s***; Sarah deserves to win if Tony doesn’t. I suppose I could see an EOE returnee coming back and blowing everything up (because that’s just the world we live in now). Still, I don’t feel like this jury would respect a Chris Underwooding as much as the EOE Jury did. Especially not with how much more involved the Edge has been in the game so far. I suppose if, say, Parvati came back and found herself at FTC with Ben and Michele or Ben and Nick, she might stand a chance, but otherwise…

ALI: I think it definitely depends on who is coming back from EOE. If it’s Natalie, I think she’s probably toast. I don’t think many will be eager to vote for the first person out, especially given the EOE backlash from the first season. Parvati might have a shot? I don’t know. And then there’s Adam who has zero shot no matter what.

GUS: The most hilarious EOE outcome for me would be Wendell coming back in, allying with Michele, and then Tony immediately voting him out. That’s the bizarre outcome I hope happens.

ALI: Michele cannot catch a dang break, even in your fantasy scenarios. Whelp, since we weirdly agree for the third(?) week in a row, who do you think is winning, and why is it Tony?

GUS: I think Tony is winning because as Rob (the original Mob Boss) pointed out, “Tony’s a boss.” Who do you think is winning, and why is it Tony?

ALI: I think Tony is winning because he’s dominating the game, and the only other person that is even close is Sarah. Also, the fact that there was a commercial that promised us “double the Tony.” When has Survivor so blatantly signaled who we should be rooting for? The only other example I can think of is Boston Rob in Redemption Island. Who do you think is going this week? That may be the more interesting question.

GUS: I feel like it might be Michele’s time. She’s been on the outside so long, it just seems like she’s ready to go. And for the second boot, I guess, Ben? How about you?

ALI: I have a sinking feeling it’s Denise. She’s on the outs and has enough of a resume that she makes a more interesting target than Michele. And for the other one, Nick, I think he’s going to get dinged for playing both sides.

GUS: Ooh, I could see it. And, who’s safe?

ALI: Weirdly, I think Michele is safe… I just don’t see the reason to get rid of her at this point. I think Denise and Nick are more tempting targets. I don’t think Jeremy will want her to go, and he’ll try to protect her. She also has a 50/50 coin if she gets in big trouble. Who do you think is safe?

GUS: Huh! Wild. I’m going to go with Ben. He’s just too tempting of a Final Tribal Council buddy at this point for him to go out.

ALI: That’s all for this week. Join us next week when maybe we’ll disagree about something.

GUS: I hope so. Bye!

ALI: Bye!

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.

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