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Survivor: Jeff Probst debates the use of challenge advantages

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Timothy Kuratek/CBS

There are a lot of a cool things about going on location to cover Survivor. You get to talk to all the players before the game starts. You get to then go see them in person on the beach building shelter and trying to make fire. You get to take part in a challenge rehearsal. You go to the first Tribal Council. It’s all pretty rad.

But there is one thing I love above all others when it comes to my annual Survivor sojourns, and that is getting in a good ol’-fashioned game debate with host Jeff Probst. We’ve had some great ones over the years, discussing our differing philosophies regarding final two vs. final three, Redemption Island, and even things like footholds in challenges.

For our latest debate, I came to Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance armed and ready with a new topic: challenge advantages. You know, those times where a player either buys an advantage to the next challenge at a food auction or wins one challenge that automatically gives them a leg up at the next one. My issue is not one with fairness, but rather that when one person has some sort of advantage in a late-season challenge that it often saps much of the drama out of the challenge because the person with said advantage almost always goes on to dominate.

Just look at the examples of Keith and Mike in the past two seasons. Both were given the opportunity to practice beforehand and then both thoroughly throttled the competition as a result. So my argument to Probst is that the challenge is immediately sapped of drama when the track record of people with advantages winning is so strong (absent one Malcolm Freberg) that the victor is almost a foregone conclusion. I was ready for battle and for Probst to come out swinging with counter-arguments. Instead, I got this:

“Legitimate criticism,” said Probst when we spoke out on location for Survivor: Cambodia. “It’s totally legit. And it’s an example of the things we debate all the time. For instance, the long walk we used to do at the end of the episode where you said goodbye to people — I hated it, almost from the beginning. I never liked it, and finally was able to persuade Mark [Burnett] to get rid of it because I thought, yeah, it’s a romantic ending but it saps five minutes of content that is more interesting. People come to me all the time and say, ‘You killed Rites of Passage?! That’s, like, fundamental to Survivor!’”

Probst then continued: “Your point is absolutely valid. Totally valid point, in the same way that you were pushing us for five years to put an idol in a challenge — we just didn’t feel it was the right time yet. You could have, but we didn’t feel it was the right time. Your arguments make sense, and I don’t disagree. And we might not do it this season. Maybe that’s not on the board.”

Oh well, so much for a heated debate about gameplay. In any event, I still don’t like the challenge advantage. Again, I have no problems on any fairness grounds. For instance, Mike won last season’s advantage fair and square. My issue is that the fact that he had the advantage sucked all of the drama out of what could have otherwise been a pretty awesome blindfolded contest. Instead, it became a mere formality.  It seems Probst does not necessarily disagree. Whether we see it again (or in a different form) for Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance remains to be seen.

To see Probst talk more about challenge advantages, click on the video player at the top of the post. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Timothy Kuratek/CBS

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