Survivor: Winners at War Premiere Recap: The $2 Million Battle Begins

Survivor Winners at War Premiere Recap Season 40 Episode 1

The season fans have been waiting for is finally here and as Jeff shouts via voiceover: “Twenty winners, everybody wants it, this is not going to be easy!” May the odds be ever in their favor.

Survivor‘s 40th season kicked off Wednesday on CBS with a jam-packed, two-hour premiere of its highly-anticipated all-winners season aptly titled: Winners at War. Is there any chance this could suck? I think not. These 20 have all outwitted, outplayed and outlasted; they’ve back-stabbed, hoodwinked and manipulated! (Well, maybe not Ethan.) The hype is real, so lets dig deep for another 39 days of rigorous water challenges, exhaustive sand battles, cutthroat tribal councils and, of course, Jeff Probst‘s signature dimples.

As the cast speedboats into the game, Tony reminds us that fans have been waiting 20 years for this (we know, dude!), while Parvati calls herself a “phoenix rising from the ashes, ready to burn down your house!” Ethan tells us about his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “I remember dreaming and praying that I’d be alive long enough to play Survivor again,” he says. “It is a miracle I’m sitting here today.”

When the tribes finally reach land to size each other up, Sandra is baffled. “I spent 36 days with Boston Rob on Island of the Idols and he never told me that he was playing again,” she says, “and so I definitely feel betrayed.” Get used to it, Queen!

They find Jeff ready to go with a bottle of champagne and glasses. Glasses are passed around and the cast celebrates with a toast. Buffs are passed out and here’s the breakdown:

On Dakal (the red tribe): Tony Vlachos, Wendell Holland, Amber Mariano, Kim Spradlin-Wolfe, Sophie Clarke, Nick Wilson, Sarah Lacina, Yul Kwon, Sandra Diaz-Twine and Tyson Apostol.

On Sele (blue): Boston Rob Mariano, Natalie Anderson, Ethan Zohn, Parvati Shallow, Ben Driebergen, Michele Fitzgerald, Danni Boatwright, Denise Stapley, Jeremy Collins and Adam Klein.

Probst then announces the new Survivor currency: fire tokens. Each person starts the game with one token. When they’re voted out, they must bequeath it to someone else. He also tells them that Edge of Extinction is in play (ugh). Oh, and the money? It’s $2 million. The cast doesn’t have long to celebrate because Jeff is ready to throw them into action.

GET FIRED UP | For their first challenge, the tribes battle for fire in the form of flint and immunity. It’s a classic water challenge where groups must duke it out to drag a large ring tube back to their team colors. It’s a brutal physical feat as the ocean swell knocks them around like rag dolls. Dakal takes the win, sending Sele to the season’s first tribal council. It’s about to get real.

Dakal gets to their camp and finds a fire token menu which allows them to buy food, challenge advantages and other goodies. This is a huge twist! It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out, but hey, at least it’s not a Medallion of Power, right?

Yul tells Sophie he wants to work with her. The two discuss how Tyson and Rob are best friends, and how those two played poker with Kim and Jeremy.

At Sele, Denise strikes up a quick bond with Adam, who wants to be her new Malcolm, but the tribe quickly realizes the two are missing. Meanwhile, Rob and Parvati meet to discuss their “checkered past.” Parvati had a hand in getting him out pre-merge in Heroes vs. Villains, so Rob tells her they should get on the same page from the beginning. That could be a powerhouse duo.

Danni throws Rob’s name out and Ben (stupidly) runs and tells Rob. He goes and confronts Danni who comes clean. Rob says there could be an “old school” alliance of Rob, Parvati, Ethan and Danni.

STRATEGY SESSION |  Denise and Adam are on everyone’s radar, but Ben wants to protect Adam. (Man, Ben really can’t keep his mouth shut, huh?) Adam tries to flip the script and suggest Jeremy and Natalie, but he and Denise have some work to do. Oddly enough, Rob and Parvati seem to be sitting pretty, which causes them to get paranoid. “It doesn’t seem to be a fully-baked plan,” Parvati says.

THE TRIBE HAS SPOKEN | At the first tribal, Adam deflects attention from him and Denise and says there are way deeper relationships to worry about. Everyone starts to twist everyone else’s words, which leads Jeremy to wonder if Rob and Parvati have something planned. Before we know it, nothing makes sense and it’s time to vote! (Aside: There are so many interconnected histories at play here that it’s literally impossible to guess what’s going to happen. I LOVE THIS SEASON ALREADY.) Jeff reads the votes and Natalie is the first one sent to the Edge. On her way out, she anonymously gives her fire token to Jeremy.

LIVIN ON THE EDGE | Natalie gets to the Edge where a sign tells her she can win fire tokens to help her get back in the game. Seems like another twist is brewing… will there be multiple ways to earn your spot back in? The next day, she receives an Edge price list. She finds a clue inside a bottle which tells her to go to where the sun last sets. She hikes what seems to be miles and finds an immunity idol. It has no value on her beach, but she can sell it to someone from the losing tribe in exchange for one token. That… is cool!

At Dakal, Sandra is still trippin’ over Rob lying to her, which causes the Queen to set her sights on Amber. Yul, Nick, Wendell and Sophie seem “locked and loaded,” as the players who are disconnected to others. Yul plans on controlling the game with his squad, plus Sarah and Sandra.

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT | It’s a good ol’ fashioned boat-brawl where tribes have to row out to collect number tiles. Players then swim to a barrel roll, then a net crawl, before running up the beach to complete a lock combination. Dakal gets it first, but they must complete three ring tosses in order to win. They can’t do it and Sele comes back from behind to snag immunity.

STRATEGY SESSION | Dakal has a big decision to make back at camp. Nick and Sandra’s names are thrown out first, promises are being made… and Amber is lost. It’s going to be hard for some of these OGs to keep up. “I’m just going to spread truth, lies and rumors,” says Sandra. But plot twist: Natalie sends her idol Sandra’s way and the Queen takes the deal.

Elsewhere, Yul is still scared about “the poker alliance.” Tyson eats some crow in order to avoid a target, which he then indirectly places on Kim and Amber.  Kim is on the outs and isn’t taking it well. She knows the poker club is putting her in danger, but there doesn’t seem to be anything she can do about it.

THE TRIBE HAS SPOKEN… AGAIN | Jeff focuses in on the different eras of players at hand. Tony’s name comes up for his hyperactive strategy, but Amber is having trouble staying afloat. Sandra says you have to keep up with the pace of the game or get out of the way. Kim tells Jeff about the poker alliance, which she says doesn’t exist, while Tyson tries to lean away from it. The $2 million comes into the conversation and it seems that friendships miiight be lost this season because let’s be honest: the price is right. Jeff tallies the votes and Amber becomes the second player sent to the Edge.

What did you think of the Season 40 premiere? Grade the premiere, then drop your comments below!