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Survivor: Jeff Probst reveals intel on the emergency exit and what happened next

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Timothy Kuratek/CBS

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

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: A really tough situation with Terry, who had to leave the game due to his son Danny needing a heart transplant. Take us through how you all got this information, what your next steps were in terms of informing Terry, and then what happened after Terry left his tribe beach in that boat.  

JEFF PROBST: I got a call on my radio around 1 a.m. (We keep our radios on all night and next to our beds for situations like this.) Our production office had received a call from the U.S. informing us of the situation with Terry’s son. Terry’s wife had been very clear that both she and the doctors felt that Terry needed to return home immediately. In other words, don’t ask him if he wants to come home, he needs to come home. That’s as urgent as anything that could ever happen on our show. A contestant’s family is in crisis and we need to get them home. Everything else stops and that becomes our number one priority. 

We have a very good system for something like this and within about twenty minutes a large group of us had risen from a dead sleep and we had boats and crews heading to the beach. You can’t do it much faster than that. The chatter on the radio is exhilarating to listen to at times like this because you are hearing very precise and calm communication by our most seasoned leaders directing everybody what to do. In moments like that, it’s really easy for me to get lost in the mastery of what our crew does. They’re brilliant. Simultaneously, our production office was already making travel plans for Terry so that he would be on the very first flight out. Between all of our senior executives, our Cambodian crew, and the U.S. crew, we had probably 40 people working to make sure we got Terry home safely. 

When I arrived at the beach to inform Terry of the news, I knew there wasn’t going to be a discussion. I was going to tell Terry the news and he would be on a boat immediately. But even I didn’t anticipate how fast Terry would respond. I had barely uttered the words “your wife called” and Deitz was out of that bamboo shelter and ready to get on the boat. All that military training was very evident. There was zero debate. Terry’s family needed him and there was no other place he wanted to be.

What you didn’t see in the episode was the minute we got on the boat, I handed him my cell phone and believe it or not, in the middle of the ocean in Cambodia we got reception and he talked to his son and told him he was coming home. It was a very powerful moment that I was honored to witness. And the only reason we didn’t show it is because we didn’t have a camera on the boat. I just handed the phone to him as an afterthought. The best news in all of this is that his son received a heart transplant and is doing incredibly well!  I’m hopeful we’ll see the entire family at the live reunion show in December.

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Another tribe switch! Clearly you don’t want these veteran players to get comfortable. What was the thinking behind reshuffling the deck yet again?  

That was the plan from the beginning the only thing that sped it up a bit was Terry’s surprise exit. But otherwise, there’s not much more to it than that! We used to fret a lot more about the audience not being able to keep up with the story if we switched tribes more than once. But I’ve not seen any evidence that is the case, and so in a situation with this many returning players it seemed a perfect time to truly keep them on their toes, which makes it hard to hold onto an alliance. 

So Savage constructs this plan to vote out Spencer, but tells him that they are all getting rid of Ciera. Ciera doesn’t like that so she puts a new majority together to get loyal Savage ally Woo out instead. Was this a simple case of Savage’s fatal flaw being that he dictated the action instead of asking others what they wanted to do? Isn’t it always better in the game to ask rather than telling?  

That’s such a good question — but tough to answer objectively because it really does depend on the situation and the people. My hunch is Ciera would say the tone in his delivery was part of the reason she fought back, along with just never wanting your name “out there” for any reason at any time! But anytime you are in a leadership position you risk alienating someone with your decisions. Savage was riding high, he’d come back from the dead at Angkor, and I think he lost sight of how he was coming across. In theory I like the ask instead of tell approach, but in my “Monday morning quarterback, never actually played” opinion, it really does depend on the particulars. Savage played it wrong and Ciera bit back hard.

Hook us up with a preview for next week, my man!  

Next week … a first. Don’t you love it when in season 31 you can still say a first? That’s all you get.

To watch an exclusive deleted scene as well our pre-game interviews with Terry and Woo and last week’s episode of ‘Survivor Talk’, click on the video player below. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full episode recap. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.