Each week during Survivor: Winners at War, RHAP blogger Matt Liguori will rank the players to determine who is playing the best and worst games, alongside Survivor: Edge of Extinction contestants Victoria Baamonde and Gavin Whitson.
Survivor: Winners at War Power Rankings – Episode 1
And we’re off! Survivor: Winners at War is officially underway with a premiere episode just as epic and historic as we had hoped for. 20 winners have returned to compete for a $2 million prize and crown the ultimate Champion of Champions. Emotionally, the premiere hurt just as much as it brought joy. As a guy currently sporting a twitter header with cast pictures of Amber, Natalie, Parvati, Michele, and Kim… this episode was rough!
Natalie played one of the most impressive winning games we’ve ever seen. I had high hopes for her coming into this season but when you put the best of the best into one ring, some will fall before getting a chance to recreate the magic they’re capable of. Natalie has a great shot of re-entering the game; she’s obviously built for any challenge and she’s already got a head start on accumulating fire tokens.
Losing Amber this early hurts just as bad, if not worse. The news of Amber coming back to play again left us all with our jaws dropped back in May. Amber first played 20 years ago and it would’ve been incredible to see how she adapts to the modern game. We all knew coming in that one of Rob and Amber would probably be out early (that target was just way too big) but I wish it wasn’t this early. I do look forward to hearing more from Amber in her segments on the Edge.
Side note: how strange is it that these two women are already out and we can be pretty sure they’ll still make it to a family visit and probably cast a jury vote?
A little over a week ago, I made an announcement on Twitter regarding this blog for the season. Incase you missed it, I am VERY excited that for this season’s power rankings I am going to be joined each week by two players from the original Edge of Extinction (though they never did go to the Edge itself) — Victoria Baamonde and Gavin Whitson! Make sure to follow the whole team on Twitter! You can find me at @mattliguori, Victoria at @veebaamonde, and Gavin at @gavin_whitson.
A reminder for anyone missing the ol’ 3-2-1, I’ll still do some color coding in my rankings to highlight the top 3, bottom 2, and 1 to watch.
If viewing on mobile, turn your device sideways for the best reading experience. Rankings may be best viewed on desktop.
Scrolling all the way down for a Quick View of all our rankings side-by-side.
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18. Kim Spradlin Wolfe
Kim Spradlin being on the bottom and begging for her Survivor life was something I never thought I would see. And I’m not sure I ever want to see it again. You have to think Kim will use every second of the next 3 days to find herself a spot within this tribe and fight for her life. It seems like Yul may be open to future plans, so KimSquad… let us manifest that.
18. Michele Fitzgerald
We really didn’t see too much of Michele this time around. One of the only lines she said was about how paranoid she was. She was not included in the Natalie vote, and therefore isn’t in the majority of Sele, creating a minority that only includes her and Jeremy. She isn’t necessarily a huge immediate target however- as she said herself, she feels like she has something to prove. I’m not counting her out, but she has some work to do to get herself in a secure alliance. Her talk with Ben about removing an old-schooler can potentially lead to something next week.
18. Ben Driebergen
Ben, Ben, Ben. Don’t be so mesmerized by Boston Rob’s gold chain and big brown eyes this week. I’m afraid if Ben keeps spilling the beans on everything said at camp, fingers are going to start getting pointed back to him. I want to see Ben win some immunities this time, but if that’s going to happen he needs to be a little more tight lipped.
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17. Tyson Apostol
Tyson did a great job pivoting as soon as he realized things weren’t going his way. It’s the kind of maneuvering that comes naturally after three seasons of experience. He escaped this time but Tony is not going to forget hearing his name come up. Tyson currently has zero control and that leads to his low ranking, but he’s more than capable of finding a way out of this.
17. Jeremy Collins
Jeremy lost his tightest ally and has had his name brought up a good amount. He was one of only two people left out of the vote, the other being his other potential ally Michele. It can be a tough position to recover from, but now that Natalie is gone he’s no longer a part of a power couple and therefore has some hope to attach himself to a majority as a free agent. Ben did say that they’d talk. He also has 2 fire tokens- we’ll have to see how much power that will give him as the game goes on.
17. Adam Klein
It hurts me to put my father and fellow superfan this far down on the list. It could’ve been the edit, but let someone else fill up your canteen this week! Stay with the numbers at camp! I want you to be Denise’s Malcolm also, but we need you to be Philippines Malcom and not Game Changers Malcom. I believe in you Dad.
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16. Denise Stapley
Guys.. Denise FINALLY got to skip a Tribal Council! But of course that didn’t come without one more late-night date with Jeff to make sure things felt like normal. Surviving that first vote was huge but it was a lot closer than Denise surely would’ve liked. So many people wanted to work with her, so I’m hoping once nerves calm down a little, Denise will become an asset rather than a target.
16. Kim Spradlin Wolfe
As part of this poker alliance, Kim found herself in an unfavorable position. She was laughed at by Sandra right in her face when she asked if her name was out there.. yikes. Walking up to groups and having a silence wash over them is probably the worst thing in Survivor. She did end up voting for Amber (technically making her part of the majority) but that certainly doesn’t put her in a tight alliance with anyone. Receiving three votes herself sure makes it seem like she was plan B, had Amber pulled out an idol.
16. Denise Stapley
Congrats to Denise on finally having a night off from tribal council, but now stop wandering off with Adam!
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15. Tony Vlachos
That was as good of a start as you could ask for from Tony on his third time out. He didn’t get any votes and he’s got people who seem willing to work with him for now. His pregame plan of laying low and not running around looking for idols sounded nice, but he’s Tony Vlachos and that target will always be there. He’ll need to get creative to stay alive each and every round.
15. Tyson Apostol
Tyson is obviously very likable, which in this game can be a disadvantage. People have started to notice how much he makes others laugh. He’s viewed as part of the poker alliance thanks to Yul, which doesn’t bode well for this notorious villain. Tyson’s name came up quite a few times and he found himself alone. However, him being a father along with the poker alliance starting to be broken apart gives him a good chance to reposition himself. As he said himself, he wasn’t controlling the vote and needed to play “anybody but me”.
15. Sarah Lacina
I think it is just a matter of time before Sarah the cop/criminal is sent to edge. She might find herself in the numbers, but when push comes to shove, I don’t think people will trust her.
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14. Sarah Lacina
It was surprising not to see Sarah’s name come up yet given all of those pre-game votes. She seems to be flying under-the-radar, especially with things looking good between her and Tony. That pair plus Sandra could be a deadly combination, but now that the “poker alliance” has been chipped at, does the Nerd Herd shift their sights to the Game Changers? If so, Sandra’s got an idol, Tony seems close to Yul, and Sarah may stick out as an easy vote.
14. Danni Boatwright
Being an old school, fairly-unconnected player immediately places Danni at a disadvantage. She tried to gain some traction by putting the target on Rob, but was too bold too soon. Her name dropping backfired and she got publicly chewed out by Rob. However, she did turn it back around by telling the truth and regaining his trust, landing herself in what could be a solid old-schoolers alliance. She also voted correctly, so she’s doing something right.
14. Kim Spradlin Wolfe
We saw a different side of Kim in episode one. Luckily her husband wasn’t on the other tribe or she might’ve been the one going home. I know Kim is capable of creating a new alliance, so let’s just hope she has time to do that.
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13. Parvati Shallow
I have always believed in Parvati, but I hope her and Rob aren’t letting the newbies gameplay sneak right by them. The two old-school players laughing about the newer kids not knowing what’s happening was fun and all, but it does have me worried that the new-schoolers could come together and pull off a blindside. If that happens, Ethan is probably safe thanks to Adam, Rob helps them win challenges, Danni isn’t much of a threat, and I suddenly become super worried for Parvati.
13. Denise Stapley
When Boston Rob says you and your current ally aren’t trustworthy, you have a problem. People know how tight Denise was with Malcolm, so forming another alliance in that same vein just shows people you function best in a power couple. Might be time for another game plan. Denise managed to change the tides and throw Jeremy and Nat under the bus. Hopefully next week someone else will do something stupid, leaving Denise running off into the woods with her new jungle boy as old news.
13. Jeremy Collins
Jeremy definitely took a hit losing his girl Natalie, but now he has someone who can help him out on Edge. I don’t see Jeremy being in immediate danger anytime soon. He’s a huge asset in team challenges… similar to Joe in our season who we knew we wanted to keep around while we were still able to play with him instead of against him. I think Jeremy will find his footing this week and shoot to the top of the power rankings.
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12. Boston Rob Mariano
It would’ve been so fun to see Rob and Amber back on the beach together. We probably still will once Rob gets to the Edge, for now let’s see how long he can hang around in the actual game. Rob’s been a huge help in the challenges (as expected) so it’s possible he’s not in immediate danger… but that target is so damn big. By my count, there are four old-schoolers in his alliance and four new-schoolers outside of it, with Denise attached to Adam. Rob better keep that magic going with Ben to ensure majority at the next vote.
12. Adam Klein
Adam made a bonehead move by isolating himself with Denise right off the bat. Even if he truly was only looking for a water-well, he should know better that in Survivor PERCEPTION IS REALITY. He’s lucky that Ben told him that the tribe was targeting him and that stronger bonds existed in their tribe. It was a smart, albeit obvious, move to rally everyone against Nat and Jeremy. He filled in that hole he dug for himself fairly well and executed the plan he put into motion.
12. Danni Boatwright
I thought Danni had sent herself home after targeting Boston Rob, but she was able to recover well and that move might have actually put her in even better position than she was before she threw out Rob’s name. If you’re working with someone who has a shrine dedicated to them a couple islands over, you sure aren’t going to be the first one targeted in your alliance.
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11. Danni Boatwright
Danni’s game got off to a rocky start, but thanks to the forward-thinking gameplay of the Robfather, she ended up in a four-person alliance when all was said and done. Danni would’ve fit in great on the other tribe where smaller threats stuck together to target the top dogs, but with Ben running off to Rob with all her secrets, Danni won’t be able to try out that strategy.
11. Ben Driebergen
Ben just seems confused about why he’s here. You can’t blame him too much, who wouldn’t be starstruck around these power-houses? But he needs to be able to control himself. Ben immediately told Rob that his name was being thrown out, and then seemed to regret it in a confessional. But then, he did it again with Adam?! I was just waiting for people to catch wind that Ben couldn’t be trusted, and I’m honestly kind of shocked that didn’t happen. If Ben keeps this blabber-mouth behavior up- I don’t see anyone trusting him.
11. Nick Wilson
Nick is in a fairly good spot right now. His downside is that he’s the new kid on the block. He doesn’t have the pregame relationships a lot of these other players had, so for now Nick needs to solidify an alliance with numbers and turn on the southern charm. If he can do that, he’ll be just fine.
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10. Adam Klein
Not the most ideal start from the super-duper fan, but Adam finding a way to save himself from what seemed like an inevitable first-boot was impressive. The passion behind his words as he reminded everyone “Denise and I just met YESTERDAY” worked well against the obvious duo of Jeremy and Natalie. Adam may actually be in a decent spot going forward if a new-school group comes together, in addition to the Ethan connection giving him some exact security.
10. Sarah Lacina
As the most recent female winner out there, and having changed her game-play style in the past from good cop to criminal, Sarah is going to have some preconceived notions about her to overcome. Being aligned with Sandra, she has somewhat of a villain shield to keep her safe for a bit. That is… if you can trust her.
10. Sandra Diaz-Twine
Sandra is another huge name who managed to go to Tribal Council without being a real target. I loved Sandra coaching from the bench and telling Tony to keep his head in the game. My biggest worry for Sandra is a) Tony (a wise man forgives, but never forgets, he’ll eventually want revenge for Game Changers), and b) Rob, once Rob finds out Sandra had a hand in voting out Amber, it’s going to be a battle for the ages and I am here for it. Good luck Queen.
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9. Ben Driebergen
On Ben’s Survivor baseball card, his strategy rating would likely be around a 1/5 stars. I get that Boston Rob is very good at the game, but if you’re folding on day 1, you’re not doing much to show me you can beat 19 other former winners. Despite all that, I still see Ben lasting a while. Everyone thinks they can persuade him to vote with their side and his idol-finding reputation won’t make him a threat until closer to the merge.
9. Tony Vlachos
Tony has some interesting connections in the game; he’s played with Sandra and Sarah, but it’s not like they were best friends. This season, having past connections seems to be putting people in the hot seat. Tony at the very least has some self-awareness this time around, knowing he can’t run into the jungle by himself. After hearing Tyson threw out his name, he put 100% of his force into trying to get Tyson out, but clearly didn’t get his way. We’ll see how long he can bite his tongue and stay put, and if his connections will help or hurt in the long-run.
9. Wendell Holland
Wendell honestly shouldn’t be this low, I just think a ton of people had a great first episode. I think Wendell is going to do the same thing he did his first time. Strong social skills get you far in this game and Wendell has just that. My boy is going deep!
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8. Michele Fitzgerald
It was a tragically quiet week for Michele, but what we saw in the second hour has me feeling optimistic. Being left out of the first vote must’ve been a bummer, but Michele going to Ben and recognizing it’s not too late for the new-schoolers to take control of their tribe is crucial. This ranking feels high, but going forward I just don’t think she’s a target. Also, I’ll be super bummed if Parvachele (Michvati?) never comes to be.
8. Nick Wilson
Thanks to Yul, Nick found himself in a solid four. Having played and won recently, Nick should have the right mindset for all the twists of the season. He had his name thrown out by the poker alliance, but was quickly told about it and it was shut down. He’s finding himself included in a lot of conversations, so he has a lot of room to grow.
8. Sophie G. Clarke
I am here for the Sophie/Yul tag team. That is a lot of brain power in one corner. If something happens where a move is made too early, Yul is going to take the bullet, leaving an open path for Sophie to keep moving forward.
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7. Jeremy Collins
Jeremy suffered a massive hit losing Natalie after only two days. Much like Kim over on the Red tribe, seeing Jeremy on the bottom felt very unfamiliar. But Jeremy is nowhere near out of this game, and in fact I imagine losing Natalie will actually help him for the time being. He’s no longer seen as part of a tight pair while many others on his tribe are.
7. Wendell Holland
It could be dangerous how Wendell’s tribemates were looking to him for guidance in shelter-building, but he removed himself from the leader role fairly well. People knowing his role in creating comfort is also far from a disadvantage. He’s set up as a free agent with Nick, Sophie, and Yul for now and was included in the vote. His name hasn’t been thrown out at all, so he’s looking pretty solid.
7. Ethan Zohn
Another old school player coming out hot! I think Ethan is in a great position aligning with Rob and Parv. Ethan is a huge threat, but Robert and Parv are some great shields to use as protection to get a few votes further and make some new alliances.
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6. Nick Wilson
Nick being brought up as a possible first boot from his tribe is nothing new, but just like he did well on his original season, Nick has found tentative allies and pledged his loyalty… which right now seems like more than enough. What is it about aligning with the smartest guy on the island that works so well for him?
6. Ethan Zohn
Ethan is someone we’re all rooting for. He’s so well-liked within the game and has an amazing come-back story. Whether he means it to or not, that’ll work in his advantage in the beginning of the game. He’s been out of the Survivor world for so long and the game’s “warp speed” pace seems to have thrown him for a loop, but in the chaos of the first Tribal he held his own. Finding himself in an alliance with Rob, Parvati and Danni puts him in a very safe place, having multiple big targets ahead of him on the chopping block.
6. Michele Fitzgerald
Although Michele had a quiet episode, with a theme like EOE you can’t read into people having quiet episodes, or so I have heard. The content that Michele had stood out to me. She has something to prove to herself, and I think she’s going to do just that.
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5. Sandra Diaz-Twine
Sandra really has evolved her game from the gameplay she won with twice. But it’s a much needed change as her threat level has skyrocketed post-2010. Watching Sandra play those first few days was as fun as it was frustrating (as a Kim/Amber/Tyson fan). The confidence gained from having an idol should continue to do her well as she plays from a position of assured safety for the next two rounds.
5. Boston Rob Mariano
Rob has played approximately 8,793 times and I thought for sure he’d be out first, but he immediately had Ben spilling the beans for him (the Boston Rob spell is alive and well). He even felt confident enough to confront Danni as soon as he found out she was bringing up his name. Instead of people rallying against Rob, people are looking to him for decisions and asking his alliance members if he has any voting preferences. He and Parvati said it best- are people dumb or just scared? Either way it’s working for him. Even though his wife got voted out, I think it’ll benefit him long-term. He’s not a part of a duo anymore, and he gained a second fire-token. I am slightly nervous for him with some of the foreshadowing though. Jeremy wants revenge for Natalie and Sandra is bad-mouthing him like crazy as a straight-up liar to everyone on her tribe.
5. Yul Kwon
It’s so refreshing seeing all of these old-school players hit the ground running. Yul is just as sharp as he was years ago! My biggest concern for Yul, as someone who is always working numbers in his head, is that he’s eventually going to make a move too early and shoot himself in the foot.
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4. Wendell Holland
Being included in the Nerd Herd is a great spot for Wendell. He’s ranked this high because of his current position, but I have to say I do have more concerns about Wendell despite ranking him #3 in the preseason. I worry he may get so caught up in being around all these legends. For the time being, his options are wide open and it seems his building skills are being put to good use, even if that’s not what he wanted.
4. Parvati Shallow
No longer the flirt and now the mom, Parvati is opening some new alliance doors for herself. We’ll see how long that lasts, with her already joking about needing to be given flowers and saying she’s ready to be her diabolical self again. Her unlikely pairing with Rob sets her up nicely to be making power moves with a huge meat shield. She’s taken the safe route by not throwing out any names and deferring to others. Parvati’s name hasn’t been brought up at all and I am as surprised as she is. As long as everyone remains scared, she’s safe. Once people start finding their voices, we’ll see…
4. Tony Vlachos
Tony 3.0 is self-aware. I love Tony so much and I hope he can continue to control himself and his threat level so he can get his footing in this game. I will also say, Tony never stood a chance in Game Changers. He was the biggest target coming into that game, but here there are plenty of other big dogs for people to worry about.
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3. Yul Kwon
For a guy who has been so disconnected from Survivor for the past 15 years, Yul hasn’t missed a beat. The majority alliance on the Red tribe (Yul, Sophie, Nick, and Wendell) is made up of great players with low threat levels. If that four can stay tight until a swap, it should be smooth sailing. For all that preseason talk of Yul possibly being an early boot, he sure looks set up nicely to defy those expectations.
3. Yul Kwon
If there’s any old-school player I have confidence in being able to catch up without skipping a beat, it’s Yul. As he said himself, he’s rational and strategic and uses game theories and math. He has such a solid grip on how this game works and how everyone is connected in and out of the game. He’s positioned himself in a low-key alliance and I think he’s going to have some solid footing next week. He was also smart enough to play the “sad loner” card with Sandra and Sarah, making them think he’s trying to form a loner alliance with them. Nice move.
3. Parvati Shallow
Rob and Parvati go hand in hand this episode, the fact they were able to go to a Tribal Council and neither of them were truly targeted speaks volumes to what they are capable of. I really hope we are able to see these two in the game (not Edge) for a long long time.
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2. Ethan Zohn
Ethan knew coming into this season that the game would move much quicker than it did in 2001, but I don’t think he could’ve been fully prepared for what he got himself into. The first Tribal Council was a level of intensity I have never witnessed on Survivor before. He wasn’t in any danger, yet you saw panic and fear in his eyes as the game was about to truly begin. Ethan linking up with the old-schoolers is right where he needs to be. Having Adam survive that first vote and still hoping to work together leaves Ethan in the best spot on his tribe, right in the middle.
2. Sophie G. Clarke
A powerful mind and quiet personality, Sophie reminds me a bit of….me? With her nerd shield of Yul, Sophie is in a very good position to control things while flying under the radar. She voted for Kim, which is confusing, because Yul, Nick and Wendell voted for Amber and that four seemed to form a “free agent” alliance. But it does make sense if everyone was actually in on the plan, and the votes for Kim were plan B incase of a potential idol play. Either way, I think Sophie is safe for some time.
2. Boston Rob Mariano
I never thought I would have Massachusetts Robert this high on my list, but after watching episode 1, I now understand why the man has a statue of himself in Fiji. Not only was he running circles around these other players strategically, but the man was throwing the other players over that obstacle in the water. For Rob’s sake, I was also happy to see Amber go, that’s one less thing people can use against him in hopes of voting him out.
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1. Sophie G. Clarke
I really was worried for Sophie when we first learned about this cast back in May. As the season drew closer some of those fears faded away. And now after the premiere, it seems clear that with a low-threat level and a great starting-tribe full of options, Sophie could do really well this season. Shoutout to Ali Lasher for calling the Sophie-Nick pairing, and shoutout to Sophie for finding her “nerd shield”… a very fun twist on Jeremy’s meat shields. Even looking past her own impressive start, Sophie’s biggest target coming into the game seemed to be Natalie, who ended up the first person voted out by the other tribe.
1. Sandra Diaz-Twine
I’m shocked to put the notorious Queen at the top, but her name coming up gained no traction. I’d question her safety going forward because people may quickly realize she has to go (and go soon), but with Natalie offering her an immunity idol and Sandra making the purchase, she’s all but guaranteed her safety for the next few weeks. It would be a large feat to blindside the Queen without her getting even a whiff of what was really going on, preventing her from playing her idol with an expiration date.
1. Tyson Apostol
Honestly there’s no explanation needed. I see Tyson, I put him at #1. Tyson did have a strong first episode though! I’m happy to see he is already willing to adapt when he needs to. He saw he was on a sinking ship (or poker table) and made the right decision. #TEAMTYSON
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