SURVIVOR RECAP: Whitley County's Nick Wilson makes solid first alliance in 'Survivor' premiere

Tony Vlachos, Wendell Holland, Amber Brkich Mariano, Kim Spradlin, Sophie Clarke, Nick Wilson, Sarah Lacina, Yul Kwon, Sandra Diaz-Twine and Tyson Apostol returned to compete on "Survivor: Winners at War" on Wednesday. | Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment 

Editor's Note: Each week Times-Tribune Editor Erin Cox and Chris Harris with the Commonwealth Journal in Somerset will give a brief recap of the new episode of "Survivor: Winners at War" before discussing some of their own takeaways from the episode. Send us your thoughts on the episode at

Whitley County's Nick Wilson returned to primetime TV Wednesday night as "Survivor: Winners at War" premiered.

In the 40th season and 20th year of the show, the all-winners cast arrived to the islands of Fiji where Host/Producer/Magic Man Jeff Probst greeted the "Survivor" royalty with a champagne toast. "Just remember you always belong to 'Survivor'," he said, thanking them for being part of the legacy of the show.

The teams were split into Sele (wearing blue bandanas) which included Boston Rob, Natalie, Ethan, Parvati, Ben, Michele, Danni, Denise, Jeremy and Adam; and Dakal (red): Tony, Wendell, Amber, Kim, Sophie, Nick, Sarah, Yul, Sandra and Tyson.

Right off the boat, the teams competed in their first immunity challenge in which Nick's tribe won, and we could breathe a sigh of relief that Nick was not going to be the first voted out. But during the beginning of the episode we were introduced to fire tokens and told that the Edge of Extinction (EoE) would be in play this season, meaning that those voted out can try to win their way back into the game if they can survive the EoE.

Natalie was the first voted out and made her way to EoE where she learned she could try different ways to earn fire tokens and purchase various items, including immunity idols that she can try to sell to those still in the game.

In the two-hour long episode we got two tribals. In immunity challenge two, Nick's team appeared to have run away with another win, but in one of those miraculous "Survivor" comebacks, Sele won.

Nick's name was put out as a possibility to vote out, but Amber ended up getting her torch snuffed. Nick did receive one vote from Amber during tribal.


ERIN: I'm not going to lie, I got emotional at the beginning of the episode…and maybe like five times after that as well. These are people I grew up watching. I remember being in fourth-grade when the first season of "Survivor" aired. I specifically remember eating KFC the night of the finale of that season and my family and I were all hoping Rudy would walk away the winner.

On Wednesday, seeing these players return, some of them 15+ years after their first appearance, had me tearing up.

CHRIS: Agreed about the strong emotional response. Kentucky football fans will remember the 2016 game against Louisville. Just before UK's first play of the game -- a surprise touchdown bomb from Stephen Johnson to Garrett Johnson -- you could see the pumped-up QB mouth to himself, "I love this (four-letter word)."

I have to admit, after key moments in Wednesday's show, I just shook my head and smiled and said the same thing to myself: "I love this ****." Seeing so many of these iconic players come to play together -- including names like Yul and Ethan and Amber, whom we haven't seen in years and years -- was so freaking cool. And seeing how quickly they adapted to the new pace of the game, dealing with twists and elements that didn't exist the last time they played, was also enlightening (and despite not having played in 14 years, Yul was ready to go -- he sniffed out the "Poker Alliance" quickly and went for the jugular).

Like you, I have fun memories attached to these old seasons. The second season, the Australia one where Amber first appeared, I was a sophomore in college. Several of us would get together to watch the show and then "vote someone out of the class" (not literally of course, it was just a creative way to be catty). Hmm ... maybe we should do that again for the newsroom. (No, I'd probably be the first one voted out.)

ERIN: Newsroom tribals would be quite interesting. As the queen, two-time winner Sandra would say, "As long as it ain't me."

Now having said how emotional I was watching the beginning, I also need to admit that I was slightly disappointed in the first episode. I think I felt like it'd be more magical or a bigger celebration of the return of the greats -- but maybe that's a testament to these players, they wanted to get back and get started with the game they love. There was no time to reminisce.

CHRIS: Yeah, I was kind of the opposite -- I thought it was a tremendous first episode, and liked that they hit the ground running quickly. Again, several of the older players had some "catch-up" to do, adjusting to how the game is played now -- I think it was Ethan that said it moved at a "glacial pace" in his first season compared to where they are now, hunting for idols, strategizing in sub-groups, and whispering at Tribal Council. The "golden oldies" got thrown in the deep end quickly and it was fun to watch them try to learn to swim. Also, the show didn't shy away from acknowledging the pre-existing relationships, and dynamics that exist out of the show. I really liked that. There is a "Survivor" community that is rarely talked about on-air outside of the reunion shows, but in a season like this, it absolutely plays a role, and it was a good decision by the producers to just lean into that truth.

ERIN: I absolutely agree. Showcasing the real relationships between these players outside of the show was necessary and shows why players may play an emotional game, like Sandra and the Boston Rob situation. Sandra wants Rob's head for "lying" to her and saying that he would never compete on "Survivor" again during their 39 day stay on an island together during Whitley Countian Elaine Stott's 39th season of "Survivor".

But I'm not worried about my all-time favorite player -- Boston Rob is still the master of the game. He has played the game so many times, yet he managed to not even have his name written down or thrown around as a possibility to vote out first from his own tribe. He is such a charmer that he managed to get Ben and Danni in his alliance, even though they knew he should be out first.

Funny, though, that his wife Amber was voted out because of her relationship with him -- however, I think her lack of trying to form alliances also played into that as well.

CHRIS: My reasoning for why Sandra would be voted out first (ahem) was that she was one of the older females (historically a likely first-to-go) and would have a target on her back. Interestingly, that could have been true for Amber too -- but to show how the game has changed, only the target (which was in the shape of Rob's face) was relevant in her case. Nobody cares about who can help most in the challenge stage any more; they are gunning for big targets right off the bat. That said, they really should keep Boston Rob around through this early pre-merge stage. He flat out carried them during certain parts of these challenges. He's going to be a target the whole time, no matter what; he's not going to just coast through this time. He can be put on the chopping block later. Rob showed how good he is at this game by manipulating Ben and Danni when it could have gone off the rails for him early, and it's fun to see him excelling even among this dream roster. But I don't think he can win. We'll see.

ERIN: I am really liking the alliance with Nick, Yul, Sophie and Wendell. I think they are in the best spot moving forward.

CHRIS: Nick found the perfect alliance for him. Nick is a lawyer, a smart guy; Yul, Sophie, and Wendell are kindred spirits in that sense. They're all sort of under-the-radar as far as the big targets go. This alliance can take him far. I'm hopeful that maybe my winner pick Kim can hook on with them, now that she's made it clear she wants no part of this Poker Alliance deal. But I see this as a dynamic group that can get to the end. It was funny to see Nick react to his name being thrown out there because a) he's new and b) he's crafty. The first made a little sense, I guess, but he had to be thinking, "Why me? There are way sneakier people out here." Hopefully that's the last we hear of Nick's name at Tribal Council for a while; you never like to see it come up in that context.

CHRIS: What do you think about the fire tokens? It sounded a little silly at first, but I'm actually liking this idea. It's fun to see players make choices and weigh options against each other and this adds a whole new dimension to this. I think I read an interview with Probst that he mentioned that "Survivor" is about forming a society on this island, and societies operate with a currency. In the past, that currency was in the form of favors and strategic elements, but I'm down with the idea of a "Survivor" shop. It reminds me of the old "Legend of Zelda" game where you could go in the cave and buy a bomb or a sword or medicine, but you had to choose what you could afford. (I'm sure there are much more recent video game example of this, but I'm old school.) Nick pointed out that the fire tokens could affect the outcome of the game, and I think he's right -- I'm excited to see how this plays out.

ERIN: I am excited to see what happens with them too. I feel like there was so much shoved into one episode that I didn't really get a good feel for how game-changing they will be or how exactly they can be used. I saw where it could be used for food and my mind wandered to how awesome that would be and forgot to think about using it for things like trying to sell hidden immunity idols like how Natalie ended up trying to sell one to Sandra and Sandra bought it in anticipation of her tribe trying to vote out the "Queen" first -- as they should have.

Check out next week's episode at 8 p.m. Wednesday on CBS.

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