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Survivor's Old School Alliance Just Shot Itself in the Foot

The all-winners season continues to be a gold mine of Survivor strategy.
  • Danni Boatwright and Rob Mariano on Survivor. (CBS)
    Danni Boatwright and Rob Mariano on Survivor. (CBS)

    Perhaps inevitably, these first two weeks of Survivor's "Winners at War" season have seen the tribes divide up into comfortable factions. It's the ones who played poker together versus the ones who were on "Game Changers" together versus the ones who know each other from years of alumni events and season finale gatherings. On the blue-buffed Sele tribe, the divide had become starkly Old School versus New School, and entering this week, the promise was that Boston Rob would be more fired up than ever, knowing that his wife, Amber, was voted out to the Edge of Extinction at the end of last week's episode.

    Rob's Old School alliance consisted of himself, unlikely ally Parvati, fan-favorite Ethan, and Survivor: Guatemala winner Danni Boatwright, who had initially tried to form an alliance against Rob before coming clean and being usurped into his foursome. But when Sele lost the immunity challenge, and Danni saw her three alliance-mates caucusing without her, paranoia set in, and she started dismantling her ties to the old-schoolers and, ultimately, setting in motion the chain reaction that got her eliminated. Narratively, it seemed we were meant to take away that Danni, as an old-schooler, couldn't keep up with the newer, faster, more advantage-laden way Survivor is played, but honestly, Danni also failed at the more rudimentary, old-school ways of playing Survivor, like not revealing the existence of your alliance to people who aren't in it.

    So Danni is the third person voted to Extinction this season (the third woman, not for nothing), where she will be able to search for advantages and sell them for fire tokens like Natalie has been so successful at thus far. While the Extinction women count their coins, here are the major developments in episode three, and who's looking best situated to make a long run in the game.

    Winner of the Week: Adam Klein. This might seem strange on its face, since the editing strongly leaned on Boston Rob as the prime mover on Sele. But look at how things worked out: Rob's alliance began the episode at four members, now he's down to three. And while Adam and some of the other players like Jeremy and Michelle seemed to get cold feet on their plan to topple a stronger player like Parvati, Adam is definitely being set up as Rob's major antagonist on Sele. He and Denise even managed to keep their idols hidden after Rob got everybody to empty their bags at Tribal Council. Of course...

    Co-Winner of the Week: Rob Mariano. Because he got everybody to empty their bags at Tribal Council! In his fifth season as a player, we may finally be seeing Boston Rob's truest super-skill as a Survivor great: his ability to get other people to follow his lead to their own detriment is unparalleled. We saw it last week when he got Ben to cough up the name of who was scheming against him. Rob says jump, and these guys — even the ones who talk about what a threat Rob is — ask "How high?"

    War of the Week: Old School versus New School. It's tough to say who triumphed. Danni made a move against Parvati and was immediately snuffed, which is good for Rob, but he's down to just him, Parvati, and Ethan now. He's going to need to dip into that pond of New Schoolers for allies and hope that they all don't realize that as long as Amber is on Extinction Island, she's gonna be sending him advantages, so the time to get rid of him is precisely now.

    War of the Weeks Ahead: The way the show kept cutting from Rob — stung by the confirmation that Amber was voted out — and Sandra — stone-faced and unrepentant — before the immunity challenge seemed to guarantee that last season's idols are headed for a huge clash down the road.

    Alliance Report: Sarah and Tony have re-formed the Cops R Us alliance from Cagayan, in the hopes that no one will expect them to team up again. Tony's getting a "crazy like a fox" edit so far this season, which could portend a long stay for the cop alliance.

    Advantage Report: Sandra still has the idol that Natalie sold to her last week, though it's only good for one more tribal council. This week, Natalie sold an advantage to Jeremy that will allow him to leave tribal council and return to camp before a vote is held (essentially immunity but you don't get to vote). Denise found an immunity idol that exists in two halves, which she shared with Adam and which must be played in tandem. Similarly, Kim found the same kind of idol on her beach, sharing it with Sophie, despite their having no previous alliance (and with Sophie's interviews indicating she might be more inclined to vote Sophie out now).

    Next Week: Adam and Denise flirt with making a big move, which is either a tease that they're going after Rob/Parvati, or there will be fireworks. Yul rats out Tyson for targeting Sandra, which ought to result in fireworks of its own. And Tony's lovable-lunatic edit continues, as he catches a baby shark by the tail.

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Survivor, CBS, Adam Klein, Amber Mariano, Boston Rob Mariano, Danni Boatwright, Ethan Zohn, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Reality TV