Survivor: Winners at War comes to an end with the three-hour May 13 finale. Five former winners remain in the game: Denise Stapley, Tony Vlachos, Sarah Lacina, Michele Fitzgerald and Ben Driebergen. To kick off the episode, 14 players on the Edge of Extinction compete in a challenge for just ONE of them to get back in the game. The challenge is an obstacle course with different stages. With three advantages, Natalie Anderson starts off with a big lead against the other players, while Yul Kwon, Parvati Shallow and Wendell Holland each get a small head start thanks to one advantage each.
It comes down to a showdown between Natalie and Wendell, but Natalie pulls out the win and earns her spot back in the game. Considering she was the first person voted out, this is a huge deal. What the other players don’t know is that Natalie also used her fire tokens to purchase a hidden immunity idol on the Edge of Extinction, which gives her another leg up. Tony and Ben also have hidden immunity idols.
Natalie knows she’s coming into the game with the ability to tell any lie about the Edge of Extinction that she wants. She immediately blows up Tony’s spot by letting the five players know that everyone on the jury wants to vote Tony to win. This worries Tony’s biggest ally, Sarah, who wants to prove that she was just as instrumental in the big moves that Tony made.
At the immunity challenge, the players have to run through an intense obstacle course to collect three bags of puzzle pieces, then complete the puzzle at the end. Despite being in last place throughout almost the entire challenge, Michele comes from behind to win during the puzzle. She won the same challenge during her original season of Survivor in 2015.
Naturally, Natalie is a target, but Tony is weary that she might have an advantage in her pocket (smart — because she does)! He wants to split the votes between Natalie and Denise, but Ben is aligned with Denise, and doesn’t want to go that route. Meanwhile, Natalie teams up with Michele, who’s on the outs with the other four players. They want to force Tony to flush out his immunity idol, so Michele hints to him that Natalie will be voting for him so he (hopefully) plays the idol. Tony doesn’t want to waste his idol, so he attempts to convince Sarah and Ben to vote for Denise with him. But, like Ben, Sarah is confident that Natalie has no advantage.
At tribal council, Sarah makes an empowering speech about gender bias in the game of Survivor. Then, Natalie once again reiterates that she thinks Tony will win if he makes it to the end of the game. Natalie plays her hidden immunity idol, which leads Tony to play his, and Ben to also play his. Natalie gets four votes, and Ben gets two, which means none of the votes count. Now, there’s a re-vote, with Sarah and Denise being the only options to vote off. Jeff Probst explains that if there is a tie vote, it will come down to a fire-making challenge. It doesn’t matter, though, as Denise gets all the votes and is eliminated.
Back at camp, Tony hunts for a hidden immunity idol in the dark, and once the sun comes up, the others join in. In the end, it’s Natalie who finds the idol, and she shares the news with Michele. The immunity challenge requires swimming, climbing and balance to obtain a key. The players then use the key to unlock two sandbags, which they have to toss and land on a small table. This time, it’s Tony who gets the win.
Natalie and Michele want to do everything they can to break up the threesome of Sarah, Ben and Tony. However, Tony is once again weary of Natalie having an idol, and urges Sarah to try and find out more from the girls. Natalie tells Sarah about her hidden idol. What she doesn’t know, though, is that Tony is eavesdropping on them and hears the whole thing. Now, Tony, Ben and Sarah are ready to put their votes on Michele, to flush Natalie’s idol out AND get Michele out of the game.
However, Ben and Sarah consider the possibility that Natalie could blindside them and play the idol for Michele. At that point, if Natalie and Michele vote for Ben, like they did last time, he’ll go home. Knowing that he’s on the chopping block, Ben urges Sarah to turn on their alliance and write his name down to help build a resume for herself if she gets to the final three. At tribal council, Natalie plays her idol for herself, and Sarah takes Ben’s advice to vote him out, sending him to the jury.
At the final immunity challenge, the players have to drop balls down a chute and catch them before they hit the ground — with one hand tied behind their back. Once someone’s ball drops, that person is out. Tony is the first person out, followed by Sarah. It’s a massive showdown between Michele and Natalie, but Natalie ultimately wins, and earns her spot in the final three.
Now, Natalie can pick one player to take with her to the final three. The other two will have to duke it out in a fire-making challenge to determine who gets the third spot. Back at camp, Tony, Michele and Sarah all practice making fire, while Natalie contemplates her decision. Natalie knows she needs to get Tony out, so he’s automatically going to fire. However, she isn’t sure if she wants to put Sarah or Michele against him. Even though Natalie has been aligned with Michele, she’s worried about Sarah possibly beating Tony in the fire-making and getting another notch on her resume.
At tribal, Sarah and Michele admit that they both want to make fire against Tony to make themselves look more impressive to the jury. Natalie decides to bring Michele to the end, leaving the holy alliance of Tony and Sarah to fight against each other. It’s an intense and wildly even match-up the entire way through. Both flames reach the rope, but Tony’s burns through first and he wins.
So, Tony, Michele and Natalie are the final three. They all played completely different games to get to where they are — Natalie battled back from the Edge, found a key immunity idol, and won a key immunity challenge, while Michele fought day by day as the underdog, and Tony played with a tight alliance and with a solid strategy. Although Tony had a dominant performance, some of the jury members question his loyalty. However, others are very impressed by his performance, and interested to know how he made it through the game without a vote EVER being cast against him.
Natalie gets a chance to (rightfully) boast about herself when she lists off all of the advantages she found and won, then sold for fire tokens on the Edge of Extinction. Meanwhile, Michele makes a solid speech about her ability to get through SO many votes while being on the bottom of the pack and not making any enemies.
Finally, it’s time for the 16 jury members to vote. We see “Boston” Rob Mariano’s vote for Tony, Parvati Shallow’s vote for Natalie, Tyson Apostol’s vote for Natalie, and Ben Driebergen’s vote for Tony. Then, with the final three on Zoom, Jeff reads the results from his garage: Tony, Natalie, Natalie, Tony, Natalie, Tony, Natalie, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony — and with that, it’s enough, and TONY is the winner!