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'Survivor': Jeff Probst on one of the most brutal challenges ever

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Monty Brinton/CBS

Each week host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of ‘Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance.’

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So we’re back to two challenges for the first time this season, and what challenges they were. Let’s start with the reward challenge. What I found fascinating about this one is it really doesn’t appear too difficult. Just run out in the water, grab some sand bags and run back. What’s the big deal? But that certainly was not the case, was it? 

JEFF PROBST: I’m so happy you mentioned this as this challenge prompted one of our most debated decisions — whether to have them run two or three legs. When our Dream Team tested it, it thoroughly exhausted them. Completely. And our Dream Team is composed of 20-somethings who are typically pretty fit. There was concern that three legs might be too tough for some of the contestants to complete. But after testing it with only two legs it was clear that if we fell short and it was too easy — it would not work. So we committed to three legs and it worked out really well. There was no hyperbole around that challenge — they were spent. That was a bona fide ass-kicker. I was particularly pleased that two of three [Savage and Deitz] were over 50 years old.  It was a pretty impressive display of will power and hopefully some motivation to other guys their age to get up off the couch and get back in shape!

So many questions about this immunity challenge. You know how much I love the blindfold challenges, because I am a terrible person and love to watch people star in their very own America’s Funniest Home Video. Okay, here’s what I’d like to know: 1.) Who got the worst of it with all those collisions? 2.) Did medical have to look at anyone after to make sure they were okay due to either collisions or heat exhaustion/dehydration? 3.) As you look at doing a challenge like this again, are you worried that the pieces were maybe a bit too big and heavy and likely to cause injury and would you consider making them bring back smaller, lighter objects next time. And, 4.) Have you ever seen a tribe just basically stop like Angkor did because they were too sapped of energy to continue? Feel free to answer on a point-by-point basis. 

Okay.

1.) If I am remembering correctly, Spencer took two shots to the shin on two different occasions, Tasha took a big one on the back of her leg, and Varner dropped a piece on his big toe while solving the puzzle.

2.) Medical checks everybody after a challenge just to make sure they’re okay. But nobody in particular was in truly bad shape. I think Varner had the most lasting effect with the toe shot.

3.) I was definitely on edge during the rehearsals and the actual running of the challenge. It’s really hard for me to let them race around “blind” knowing they could be injured, but much like the earlier challenge, if you make it light and fun you don’t have the same result. There has never been a challenge in which we were 100 percent certain that it was perfect. We are always experimenting and testing trying to find the perfect balance. I’d be inclined to do this challenge again and maybe ask the challenge guys to design something less square! 

4.) Never seen a tribe so depleted. In fact, I didn’t realize how tired they were until I started questioning them about giving up. But I believed them when they said they were simply out of energy. I could see it and I could feel it. They simply had nothing. To give you a bit more perspective, I think the challenge took well over an hour and even I was completely drenched and torched. All I was doing was running around yelling and I had nothing left. I drank three bottles of water, got on my boat and fell asleep for a twenty minute nap. And remember, I was heading back to base camp where I could eat some lunch and find some shade to cool off in! But this is why so many people want this experience. It’s the real deal. You are tested. 

Wow. I love the fight in both Woo and Varner to stay alive at Tribal Council. None of it was done in a malicious way; they were both just so desperate to stay and refused to raise the white flag. Talk about being there and watching these two go at it.

Woo really surprised and impressed me here. I wasn’t sure he had that in him. Nearly every Tribal this season was a roller coaster of emotions — and a majority of the time I truly didn’t know which way they were heading as they went up to vote. That was the case in this episode. Woo is really waking up and starting to PLAY Survivor. Playing Survivor is different from simply being a contestant and a “loyal vote.” Woo is showing that he is sincere in his desire to change and learn how to play the strategy part of this game. I loved seeing him go back for one more shot before he went to vote. THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT. Future players are you watching? 

I often say to the players that Survivor is such a fickle game that often if you survive the right Tribal Council you can make it to the end. The problem is you never know which Tribal is the one that gets you over the hump so you have to fight every week to make sure it’s not you. That’s what Woo did. He didn’t just “check in” — he made a big time plea. Varner on the other hand is a veteran at this. He’s one of the best at this game. He’s a very quick study, has a super sharp tongue, and can talk himself in and out of situations as well as anybody in the game. It’s easy to backseat drive on Varner’s game play, but my take is that he played “balls to the wall” from day one. That is a great approach to this game if you want to win. This time he didn’t win… and so people will say “you were too much this… and too much that…” but if Varner played again I’d still list him as a favorite. He just didn’t have the Survivor gods on his side this time.

These first four episodes have been insanely good. What happens when this train keeps rolling next week? 

Next week has a lot going on. What really stands out for me is watching Spencer continue to grow as a young person and watching Abi continue to self-destruct. She will have a lot of people shaking their heads in disbelief.

To watch an exclusive deleted scene as well our pre-game interview with Jeff Varner and our first two episodes of ‘Survivor Talk’, click on the video player below. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full episode recap and watch our new epsiode of ‘Survivor Talk’ with Jeff Varner, Eliza Orlins, and Max Dawson. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.