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'Survivor' host Jeff Probst reveals how he orders the votes at Tribal Council

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Every week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water.’

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So no hidden immunity idols played all season, and then all of a sudden it starts raining idols with both Jon and Keith using them — and they were both saved as a result. By the way the votes were stacked, you must have at least guessed that they might play them, but what were you thinking was going to go down with the idols as you walked the votes back to reveal them? And did Natalie just save Jon’s butt in this game by telling him to use his?

JEFF PROBST: Okay, so here’s the truth. Any time someone who I know has an idol also receives votes, I have to be prepared for them to play the idol. So I stack the votes prepared for them to play the idol, as that is the assumption I always make. If they play the idol, I read the votes as read and we usually eliminate their votes off the top so we can delay the reveal of who is going home. If they don’t play the idol, then I have to pull the votes out in an order different from the way they are stacked. In this case it was a bit more complicated because we had two potential idols that might or might not be played. It’s definitely the only time I am ever slightly stressed about reading the votes simply because I don’t want to mess up the drama. In the end, from a game point of view, it doesn’t matter how you reveal them — an idol negates votes. We just want to present them in the most dramatic fashion, so we pay close attention and try to think through every scenario. And yes, I think Natalie made a huge move in the game. She not only saved Jon, she may have ultimately saved herself. That could have been a game changing tribal council.

The general rule is that minds are made up and decisions are pretty much set in stone before people get to Tribal Council. But it feels like we have seen more last minute switcheroos or scrambling at Tribal in the past few seasons. How much do you love it when you see people frantically whispering like Reed, Jaclyn, and Natalie just minutes before the votes are cast?

I LOVE IT!  How’s that? All capital letters! You’re right, it’s been happening more and more as the level of game play has been elevated. Nothing makes me happier than seeing panic start to spread because that reminds everybody that the game is a-l-w-a-y-s on. If you ever come to Tribal certain you know the outcome, you’re a fool. And yet you have to trust your group because without trust you would simply lose your mind. So it’s inevitable. You can’t trust anybody, but you must trust somebody. There is a reason this happens season after season. It’s not because players aren’t smart — it’s simply the design of the game. Someone is always being had. You can only hope it’s not you.

You took the food temptation taunting to a new level this time, walking the plate of sugar candies right over in front of each of them, and then eating some of it yourself. Well played, sir. But what’s the difference between quitting the challenge because you want to eat vs. knowing you can’t win so at least trying to get a meal out of it before you fall off, and could you tell which contestants were doing which?

It doesn’t matter to me what your reason is for stepping down. Every time you voluntarily give up you send a signal to the other players. If you voluntarily step down, you are letting them know you are comfortable enough in the game to give up a shot at immunity so you can eat. If you step down because you’re too “tired” you are saying to the rest of your alliance, “Please try to win for us, I’m too tired so I might as well get something to eat.” A very risky move. Or another clever move is trying to convince the rest of the tribe you are out of gas for challenges by feigning exhaustion, while still getting something to eat. We’ve all seen it many times when players voluntarily step down from an immunity challenge and are then voted out. There is nowhere to hide in this game.

BONUS QUESTION! Including season 30 (which you shot last summer and will air in the spring) you’ve filmed four seasons now in San Juan del Sur, so you definitely know the area there and the people. How nice is it when you are able to give back like providing all that baseball equipment to a bunch of local kids?

Ah, that was a really fun reward and one that our team put a lot of effort and energy into making really special. We didn’t have enough time to show everything that went into it but there were a lot of smiling faces — not only the kids but from our crew as well!

Okay, tease us up for what we can expect next week.

Next week you get a double header! Two episodes of Survivor! And Blood vs. Water shows just how tough it can be to play with someone you love.

Check out an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as our pre-game interview with Keith and Wes in the video player below. Also, make sure to read Dalton’s full ‘Survivor’ recap. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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