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'Survivor' host Jeff Probst explains why he stopped that reward challenge

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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: I love the fact that you called the alliance of five out for the “big charade” (as you put it) in rigging the system to decide who should win the reward challenge. What were your feelings when you saw that going down: Anger? Annoyance? Intrigue at a chance to shake-up how a challenge usually proceeds? All or none of the above?

JEFF PROBST: I’ve been in a very truthful mood this season so here’s some more: I knew when we started the challenge that initially it was going to be a landslide and I had resigned myself to the alliance of five getting rid of those who were not in the alliance. I was okay with that, but once we got down to the five, I anticipated some game play. There is, after all, still a million dollars on the line. Instead, they started nonchalantly chatting as a group about what they should do next. Just right out in the open with not a care in the world. I am always thinking like the audience and within about ten seconds I was completely bored watching them “talk it out.” My brain did a fast-forward and I realized we are going to sit here for 15 minutes and smash skulls that have absolutely no bearing on the outcome because they are deciding it right now.

So I honestly didn’t even think twice, I just listened to my screaming gut and called it off. I knew it was risky but I checked in with them and they were very open that it was going to be Missy who was going to win so there was no reason to continue. I figured at the very least we’d save five minutes of show time that we could use for Tribal or somewhere else where there was a more interesting story. Then, as so often happens on Survivor, the reality gods came into play and gave us one of the great arguments of the season when Reed called Missy a brat. That led to a great mother/daughter bonding moment, which in turn led to Jaclyn being left out of the reward which in turn led to Jaclyn rethinking her entire game. I say it all the time but I truly believe you have to swing for the fence in this game. Not only as a player but also as producers. We live and die by instinct. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. This time the story was on our side.

Clear something up for me: Two idols were played in the previous episode. Then Jon found a new one at Exile Island. We didn’t see any of Alec at Exile, but did he receive a clue to a second hidden immunity idol that was replaced after also being used? Since two idols were used, does that mean two new ones were put out there?

There is no hard fast rule on idols being replaced as it depends on where we are in the game. We start each season by determining the maximum number of idols we want in play at any given time and that dictates when we replace an idol once it’s been played. What was unique this season was how long it took for anybody to play an idol in the first place. We had expected to have idols hidden on Exile Island much earlier in the game. So once Jon played his idol we put a new idol on Exile. He went to Exile, got the first clue and found it again. Then Alec was sent to Exile and was given a second note to the same idol, even though it had been found. We always do this. It’s up to the players to figure out if an idol has been found or is still out there.

Congratulations! You had your first real Survivor lovers quarrel, and it played out in front of everyone. How did the big Jaclyn-Jon tiff add a new dimension you guys have not had before?

Well, it was pretty epic. It went from a little disagreement to a full blown “if we were back home I wouldn’t talk to you for a week” argument. I never like to see lovers argue, but from a show standpoint this is exactly what you hope for in a Blood vs. Water season. For so long, being a couple has helped Jon and Jaclyn significantly in game play. But their argument showed the other side of playing with a loved one — sometimes it has its baggage. You’ve also seen it a bit with Baylor and Missy not always agreeing on how to play. You’ve seen it with Keith and Wes in terms of how much discipline they have or don’t have (Wes) in the game. Playing with someone you love is really tricky. I hope it didn’t hurt their relationship, but boy, was it fun to watch!

So Natalie made a big move to switch her vote to Alec instead of Keith, but help me out here with something: Once Jon won immunity, why didn’t she and Baylor stick with their original plan and just vote out Jaclyn instead? Isn’t that the biggest move they could have done?

Well, that’s a better question for them because their strategy is just that — theirs.  I really can’t comment on what they’re thinking but I will say this — I think Natalie is playing a very aggressive game and making a lot of moves and I think Baylor is doing a very good job of staying just close enough to her to be able to claim some credit, but not so close to get burned. It’s going to be an interesting finish as I think the game could go a few different ways depending on who wins the next few challenges!

I think we are officially now hitting the homestretch. What can you tease up for next week?

Ah, next week holds a special place in my heart because we have a challenge that was created and designed by a very special challenge producer. Austin Russell is a thirteen year old from Texas who made a visit to location through our friends at Make A Wish. His big dream was to contribute a challenge that would end up getting used on the show and boy did he deliver! Not only is it a cool challenge involving a huge teeter-totter and buckets of water, but it ends up creating unexpected reality on the show. That is always the hope of a challenge — that it changes the game in some way. This is definitely game changing for one player. Read into that whatever you want: It’s gonna be fun!

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