Survivor: Winners At War

Episode 8 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not after Week 8?

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 Wendell as a Not. Looks like they’re getting back on track after their Yul blip. Only time will tell if they can keep it up this week.



I have to give Tyson so many props not just for getting back in the game but for not immediately getting voted out after the fact. Though I’ve often maligned the Edge of Extinction twist, I’m very excited to see Tyson back. I still think the critiques of the twist are entirely valid (and I think even Tyson would agree that the Edge is a questionable twist), but in a world where we need a laugh, it’s good to see Tyson in the game.

Tyson hit the ground running once back, creating a big threats alliance with Ben, Tony, and Jeremy. I’m also assuming that Kim will be included in this alliance going forward, but perhaps Tyson wants to distance himself from Kim, given the “poker alliance” fiasco. It remains to be seen whether this alliance can go the distance. As Tyson himself said, they are outnumbered at this point. But I’m encouraged with Wendell’s boot this week as it’s a step in the direction of evening out the numbers.

I do wonder if there’s a chance Tyson threw the immunity challenge this week in order to lower his threat level. He’s won that challenge before and abruptly dropped pretty early on. He’s been known to exaggerate injuries and throw challenges in the past. I think Tyson’s aware that he has to diminish his threat level, and he’s already implementing strategies to do so.


Tyson won his way back into the game by the skin of his teeth (apparently) and was never a target for a second. I think that might have been because the rest of the players expected him to have an idol (a la Chris Underwood and Rick Devens), but hey, a win is a win in my book.

We didn’t see a ton of Tyson strategically after he got back in, but that’s not a terrible thing—his main priority right now has to be to stay alive not to make huge moves. Once he’s got his legs back under him, he can start working on getting things done. On the bright side, he and Tony seem to be together for the threats alliance—which is maybe going strong?—but we’ll see.



Adam’s having a rough go of it this season. He can’t seem to hold onto any allies. Even Denise was willing to cut him this week. Now, it’s possible Denise was just posturing in front of Jeremy, but it still looks bad for Adam. If Denise wants to work with other people, Adam may be left in the dust without a close ally. That puts him in a very vulnerable position.

I’ve also mentioned several times that when one is the decoy target, it usually indicates one is on the bottom of the tribe. People were open to booting Adam, which means he’s expendable. If he can’t make some inroads quickly (and stop fighting with Ben), he’s going to be hanging out with his heroes on the Edge of Extinction.


Adam has been becoming more and more of a cartoon as this season goes along and he loses control of the game, and honestly, I am loving every second of it.

He was one of the targets this week, and the fact that he didn’t go home is obviously a good thing… but the fact that nobody except Sophie seemed to care enough to save him, and that even Sophie was less saving him than she was undermining Jeremy, is concerning. Adam has no close allies—he and Ben seem to hate each other, his day-one ally in Denise has declared him “not a day-39 ally,” and his swap tribe of Sarah and Sophie definitely have each other’s backs far more than they have his. I really feel bad for the guy: he’s out there all by his lonesome with not a shoulder to cry on.

I don’t know what the next move is for Adam. He seems totally isolated and alone, which can be a good thing, but I don’t see anyone wanting to work with him even if he did introduce himself into a group as a potential extra vote or some kind of lever. He doesn’t have much in the way of routes forward, so he’s got to take this Not.



Ben got a win this week when he found himself in the threats alliance. At first, I was a little taken aback that he would include himself in that list. I don’t mean that Ben played a terrible game last time or anything, but when comparing him to the legends of Boston Rob or Parvati, he’s not quite there yet. However, as I reflected on the direction of the modern game, Ben’s idol prowess looms large. Should Ben stay roped to the more under the radar players, he’s a goner. Kudos to him for reading that situation correctly.

And yet, I hesitate to give him a Hot for one reason: his relationship with Adam. Much of Survivor, even the modern game, depends on one’s ability to foster positive social relationships. Ben and Adam are oil and water, and Ben has done little to mitigate the situation. As tension grows between the two, one or the other will have to go. I predict Adam will be the loser in the battle. But Ben’s inability to play nice has been a constant throughout both of his games. He may have been able to get away with it during his last season, but I doubt the winners will look kindly on his behavior should his animosity turn on them.

Historically, players in rivalries tend to leave one after the other. The same may be true for this dueling duo.


This is mostly because I’m out of Nots. Ben is actually doing pretty well in the game. He’s playing a somewhat wild and crazy flail-fest, but his biggest detractor at the moment seems to be Adam… and Adam’s not going to be influencing anyone’s votes any time soon. He also proclaimed himself to be parts of the “threats” alliance, which on the face of it is patently ridiculous, but in practice is a smart move. It both expands his somewhat goofball-y clown attitude and locks him in with the bigger threats, who might otherwise want to vote him out. This puts him in a good place for the coming weeks.



There wasn’t a ton of Sarah this week, but what I saw was encouraging. Where once Sarah struggled to play the middle, she has become a middle straddling master. In one corner, she has relationships with people like Sophie, who are a bit more under the radar. In the other, she has relationships with bigger targets like Tyson, Tony, and Ben. 

If Sarah plays similarly to Game Changers, she will successfully play the middle against one another, eliminating folks as it benefits her. Does Sarah play the most flashy game? No. But her methodical gameplay and ability to create strong social bonds are her greatest strengths. From what I can see, she’s using those skills effectively.


Sarah reunited with Tony, and she’s still got her steal-a-vote. Nick is coming after her next week, but as we saw in the preview, she’s ready to come for his head in payback. Nobody’s been voting for her so far, and she’s in good with a lot of people. I don’t see her going home any time soon.



I was right in that Sophie seemed genuinely upset to see Yul’s elimination. I believe I was correct in that he factored heavily into her future plans. But Sophie is a player that can recalculate when she needs to, like a faithful GPS. She quickly got back on track this week and correctly assessed that Jeremy was trying to run the merge boot. Sophie didn’t let Jeremy have his way, and in my opinion, that was the correct move.

Wendell would always be loyal to Jeremy over Sophie. Adam, on the other hand, has formed a relationship with Sophie. As Adam’s on the outs, he’s desperate for an ally to pick him up. Sophie is in a position to pick up Adam, making him indebted to her. Adam doesn’t have a lot of other options, so Sophie will remain one of his closest allies. This move was a big win for Sophie, but without a lot of risk on her part.


Sophie ran the game this week. Someone on Reddit said that she’s so under-the-radar that Tony didn’t even think of her when he was listing off the UTR non-threats, and that absolutely rings true to me. Between that and her complete nullifying of all of Jeremy’s efforts to spin the vote off of Wendell and on to Nick, Sophie seems to be in a godlike position at the moment (not to mention that she has an idol).

It should be noted that Sophie was called out as “playing hard,” and that’s certainly true; however, the same was true of Tony before the merge, and nothing came of that, either. Hopefully, Sophie will be able to continue to puppet things gently from the shadows and keep herself out of the limelight for the next few weeks.



Against all the odds, Kim made the merge. We didn’t see a ton from her this episode, but if the Threats Alliance manages to stick together in the wake of the last vote, I think she’ll be picked up to work with them. Should that happen, she should be safe, provided the group can keep it a secret. 

Pre-merge, Kim formed bonds with Tony, Jeremy, and Denise. At this moment, it looks like she’s integrated into the majority. Weirdly, it appears her target has diminished the longer she’s stayed in the game. In the chaos that was the merge vote, no one suggested targeting her (at least from what we saw). As big players like Tony and Jeremy emerge as power players, people may forget about Kim for the time being. I think Kim’s done a nice job flying under the radar, and for that, she deserves a Hot. 


I keep forgetting that Kim’s in this game, which shouldn’t be a huge knock against her, but sadly, it’s got to be because she’s accomplished nothing of late and likely won’t be accomplishing anything in the next few weeks. She’s in some alliances and isn’t being targeted, but she’s still in the game, which isn’t enough to merit her a Hot.



Gus is going to rip on Denise for mentioning Sandra’s boot during the merge feast. Did that increase her threat level in the eyes of the other players? Absolutely. That’s why I gave her a Not. But I don’t think Denise had a choice but to reveal how that vote went down. First, she was asked about it by another player. Second, if she hadn’t revealed what happened, several other players were there who would have gladly informed everyone. It was better for the story to come from her. At least this way, she would look slightly more trustworthy and can control the spread of information.

Unfortunately, the story made Denise a giant threat. She was very much the target this week and was lucky enough to win immunity. But Denise is an impressive woman. She managed to win immunity against women 10, 15, 20 years younger (Michele is 29, Denise is 49). I also thought it was hilarious how quickly she was willing to throw Adam to the wolves to advance her game. In this case, I think it spells good things for her going forward. It gives me hope that Denise is starting to appear threatening, and the threats are mobilizing against the lower-profile players. It may be that the threats will want to work with her going forward because she raised her profile. I wouldn’t count Denise out yet, but this week definitely hurt her chances.


Denise is throwing around her Sandra vote like nobody’s business, and it’s just giving her a target, as I expected it would. She’s also cut her ally in Adam loose (wisely), and though she got a Fire Token this week, I see the game turning against her in the near future, especially with her being so strong and good at winning immunities. She’s played a terrific game so far, but I see her likely burning too bright only to fall too soon in the next few weeks.



An objectively terrible week for Jeremy. He pushed to keep Wendell so hard, it made everyone want to get rid of Wendell even more. Jeremy got caught trying to influence the game and didn’t have the sway over the other players to get away with it. The fact that the other players didn’t want Jeremy to have his way indicates that he’s on the back foot. Even worse, he didn’t have the social awareness to realize his position in the tribe.

It’s great that Jeremy won immunity, but as a challenge threat, it brings attention to him in an unflattering way. I wonder if it may come back to bite him. The silver lining is that he was able to become a part of the threats alliance. Despite a misplay, Jeremy voted with the majority. We’ll see if he manages to wiggle out of trouble this week.


Jeremy lost a close ally in Wendell, though I’m not sure why he went to that much effort to keep Wendell in the first place. It seems to have only made Wendell’s target bigger, and his capitulation and failure to communicate with his allies puts him squarely in a place of “oh no.” On the bright side, Jeremy’s still got his Safety Without Power, and I think he’ll be wise enough to use it in the event that he feels at risk, especially now that he doesn’t really have any super tight allies to keep in the game (as far as I can tell).



Good news for Tony, there’s a budding threats alliance. If that works out, Tony might be able to make it farther into the merge than I thought. But no one is ever going to be able to forget about Tony. It just feels impossible to me. Unlike Kim, Tony is incapable of flying under the radar. There’s a big spotlight on him at all times. The fact that Tony’s still in the game is a miracle, and I just have to believe at some point, his luck will run out.

I want it to be clear, this has zero to do with how Tony is playing in the game and everything to do with the fact that his target might be too big for the merge.


Tony correctly identified himself as a big threat, formed an alliance, and even though Sophie was the one who whipped the votes together for Wendell, Tony’s alliance was (mostly) OK either way. Everyone is coming to Tony with names, and I don’t see him being taken down in the near future.



Michele had a fall this week, and it wasn’t just off the pole. Her closest ally, Wendell, was sent to Extinction. Nick, her other closest ally, is potentially on the chopping block (if Ben’s confessional and the Next Time On are any indication). This leaves Michele exposed. If the threats alliance is legitimate, Michele could easily be the next to go. It appears Nick or Adam would be the next target, but if idol paranoia or immunities come into play, I could see Michele getting eliminated as a safe vote.


I don’t know what’s going on with Michele’s game. Everything we saw of her during the pre-merge was about her getting ready to decapitate Wendell, and then she voted with him and was blindsided by his going home? I mean, I was right when I said that her and Wendell’s relationship was not as it was being shown to us, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about the conclusion of that relationship being nonsensical and discordant with what we saw. I don’t know what Michele’s best move is going forward; she seems firmly on the outside, and she’s got nothing in the way of advantages. I suppose she’s got a handful of fire tokens, which is nice, but that’s about it. And that’s not enough, especially now that the stuff you can buy is generally useless from a strategic gameplay perspective.

Speaking of fire tokens, the fire token economy was shattered last game with, what, eleven or twelve fire tokens being pulled out of the game from the Edge? And to what end? Six fire tokens were spent on idols, which would only have been good had the player gotten back into the game, and NOBODY bought more than one advantage, so in the end, in terms of fire tokens spent that made a difference, there were, what, two? And one of them was spent on peanut butter for an energy boost. 

So far, I’m disappointed by the overall impact of the fire tokens in the game, though that might honestly be a good thing considering that it also means that they’re not causing a massive advantage explosion. The exchanges from the Edge have been the primary method whereby tokens are used, and it’s been internal—the “give me a fire token” debates have been interesting, but the scarcity of fire tokens and how frequently they’ve been falling out of the game and going to EOE has made interactions like that more and more rare and unlikely. 

I honestly think that a model based more closely on Garnets from The Genius, a Korean game show from a few years ago, might have been a better choice. In that show, the in-game currency (Garnets) represents the prize pool at the end, Garnets are won at every challenge, and you can spend them for small advantages with the understanding that you’re decreasing the overall prize pool. Garnets are a fascinating core element of The Genius, whereas fire tokens have mostly been a “we’re friends so I will bequeath my tokens unto you” in Winners at War, or a vehicle for a jar of peanut butter.

At the same time, maybe it’s a good thing that Fire Tokens have been essentially useless. I don’t know.

Anyway, Michele gets a Not.



Nick got absolutely slammed this week on multiple fronts. According to Ben, he’s been sketching everyone out and butting into other peoples’ conversations (cue Rupert Boneham saying “NOT GOOD”). Ben specifically mentioned wanting to target him because of this. The threats alliance banded together, specifically to target low-level threats like Nick. He was thrown around as a possible target before the ax landed on Wendell. Lastly, he was left out of a vote in which his ally went home.

This is an all-around terrible week for Nick, and I’m not sure if he can recover.


Nick was a potential target, and though he almost won immunity, his (admittedly hilarious) creepin’ on the rest of the players (and lack of strong ties) will likely come back to bite him. With both Wendell and Yul out of the game, the only person from his original alliance still around is Sophie, and I don’t see Sophie tripping over herself to work with Nick.


ALI: I was right that Sophie was bummed about Yul. I was right that Wendell went home (though we both gave him a Not, he was my predicted boot). You were right that Tyson came back from the Edge (though we both thought that was probably happening).

GUS: OK hold on look at the top of the article real quick, is it called “Hot or Bummed”? No, it’s called “Hot or Not.” So, you were certainly right that Sophie was bummed, but I was right that it doesn’t seem to have negatively affected her game in any serious way.

ALI: Alright, I concede your point. But it could have thrown a lesser player than she. I stand by my take last week. 

GUS: And I respect that. What I don’t respect is your ceaseless slandering of Tony Vlachos.

ALI: I’m just absolutely incredulous that he’s still in the game! Has he somehow made his target so big it’s invisible? They’re going to have to target him eventually, right? How is there any way that this guy makes it deep into the merge? As I said before, it’s not anything Tony is doing wrong, I just think there’s no way he can do anything to mitigate his target level. Even if he aligns with threats, he’s one of the more visible threats remaining. I’m praying he makes it, but how in the world could Tony pull off a unicorn twice?


1) He’s not playing a Cagayan game.

2) He’s got a Trish in Sarah.

3) He’s in a majority alliance with the people who are as or almost as threatening as he is.

4) He has received zero votes thus far.

5) The most questionable thing he did was vanish for a little while before a tribal, which in hindsight will be remembered for everything BUT that he was considered briefly to be the target by the actual target’s target.

6) He can make it deep because he’s got a TON of allies and a surprising amount of power, and he’s surrounded by meat shields.

ALI: I really want to believe. I’m just nervous that your love for Tony is blinding you to the fact that he’s a sitting duck. Also, the under the radar players still outnumber the threats. The question moving forward is how the threats are going to take out those players when they’re in the minority. I hope they can pull it off, but can they? The numbers say no. 

GUS: You’re right; they are outnumbered. But I think we might be discounting peoples’ desires to see themselves as “threats.” If Ben can self-proclaim himself a threat, anyone else could do so as well. And there’s nothing to stop Tony & co from roping in some other folks. Besides which, there’s nothing to say that the threats can lie low and pick off other folks in another way. Right now, the demise of the threats alliance is dependent on Sophie communicating to everyone else that they exist AND rallying the troops to eliminate them. I’m not saying she CAN’T do that, I’m saying that’s unlikely.

ALI: I really hope you’re right. That’s all I can say. I think Tony is playing a great game this time around. It’s a testament he’s even made it this far. But who the hell is letting him near the end? Even amongst threats, he’s a stand-out. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high.

Now let’s discuss Kim. I actually think it may be a good thing we keep forgetting about her. Maybe other people are forgetting about her too. That’s a huge feat for someone with so high a win profile. Kim also has relationships with Tony, Denise, and Jeremy. Two of those people are in the threats alliance. I think they’re easily going to pick her up. That’s an alliance for her right there where she can find a niche. Why do you need her to be making BiG mOvEz?

GUS: I don’t need her to be making BiG mOvEz. I just need to remember that she’s there. Every episode when I’m running through alliance members and who’s on what tribe moments, there’s always this big gap towards the end for about ten seconds before I go, “oh, yeah, and Kim.” It’s not that she has to make BIG moves, she just needs to do SOMETHING other than just be there. Unfortunately, she’s got no resume, no strong social game that I’ve seen, and no great challenge record. She’s not set up for a win in any way. Maybe if she got to the end, she could say “I scrapped,” but even now, she’s sort of in a majority alliance that she didn’t build… so, she’s just kinda there.

ALI: But sometimes, in the early merge, it’s enough to be “just there” in a majority alliance. It means no one is coming for her. “Just there” is better than the jury bench. But agree to disagree. Who do you think is doomed this week?

GUS: Adam would be the easy vote, but I’m going to go wild and crazy and say it’s Denise.

ALI: I’m going to go with Nick Wilson! He looks like he’s in trouble this week and in the Next Time On. He’s in the under the radar group. I think he overplays and gets booted. And as for people who are safe… I’m going to go with Sarah Lacina!

GUS: I’ll say Tony, just to be contrary and double or triple down on my guesses. So THERE.

ALI: Alright folks! Tune in next week to see whose predictions were Hot and whose predictions were Not!

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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