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'Survivor' host Jeff Probst sizes up the 12 remaining 'Second Chance' players

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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: You all decided to merge with 13 people left in the game, which is a big group, and just one episode after you switched up the tribes again. Why merge here and now at 13?  

JEFF PROBST: Two reasons for such a big merge, the largest we’ve ever done. 1) We wanted to capture them off guard, which we did. 2) We wanted to keep as many players in the game until the end. This is why we also have our largest jury ever. Everybody worked so hard to get these people back out on the island and we anticipated the game being played very hard, so it made sense to let as many as possible have a say in who ultimately wins the game.

We’ve seen a lot of people talk about how they have changed their game the second time around. Kass repeatedly said she was playing a different game, but we saw her mixing it up again with Tasha, and we saw other players talking about feeling uneasy around her. Did you sense a difference in how she played this time out?  

Having gone through this with Kass twice, I’m not sure I have any better read on her than I did the first time. And ultimately, I don’t think she played a vastly different game. And the fact that she had more success the first time is also irrelevant. You play Survivor to win. That’s the only approach, and you have to do it knowing you probably will not win. That’s the most likely outcome. So you can’t judge a performance based on when someone is voted out. There are too many other contributing factors. My hunch is that Kass does have some bite to her, and it’s probably why she is so successful in her law career. But I don’t think Kass lives inside the “Chaos Kass” persona. It’s just one element of her personality. 

Survivor is such a tricky thing because you are thrown into extreme conflict from day 1 and you can’t afford to just sit back and “surf” the moments and be your best self. This game forces you to take action, and taking that action often brings forth parts of your humanity that you aren’t always proud of. You see it with even the “nicest” players. They hit a wall and they snap. What I appreciate about all of our 20 returning players is they all came out here with a real goal of changing how they behaved the first time in the hopes of having more success. Kass gave it a shot. That’s all you can do.

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Since we’ve hit the halfway point of the season in terms of the merge and number of episodes, talk a little bit about who surprised you the most — either pleasantly or not so much — in the first half of the season in terms of their gameplay.  

I hate these questions because unless I list all 20, there will be people mad at me. Then again, I’ve had people mad at me for 16 years, what’s another few months? I think Spencer is doing a good job of showing people his intention to behave differently. Whether it’s an authentic desire or just game play is irrelevant if it’s working. I think Joe is doing a good job of working within a system that doesn’t play to his strengths. He is such a dominant threat that people tend to want guys like him out, but he’s maneuvering while he can — now things will get tough as the game is individual. I like the game Jeremy is playing. He’s really just trying to pick up where he left off.  His second chance isn’t so much about changing as it is playing without the burden of a loved one. 

Same with Wentworth, I’ve been really impressed with her play and so happy to see her playing her own game this time. Ciera is playing a great social game. It’s really subtle, but she could be deadly if the merge works out in her favor. Keith is doing a refined version of what he did the first time and it can work all the way to the end because Keith is a likable person. He stays out of the way, contributes at camp, bleeds at challenges and then says, “Who do you want me to vote for?” It works because he’s easy. I wish I was more this way in life as it would make things so much more pleasant! 

Tasha is doing a good job of taking the patience she learned from her first season and putting it into practice this season.  She is not pushing anybody around, she’s gently persuading when she has to, and then she’s right back to observing and letting other people make the mistakes. Savage is playing a hard game but I don’t think it’s much different from his first time. His game is based around loyalty and he’s showing it again in Second Chance. If he picks the right people that loyalty is invaluable.

Fishbach is one of the few players that I actually think is playing a less effective game, at this point. He is definitely the kind of player that can turn it around, but until he deals with Joe it seems his focus is going to be blurry. He’s spending a lot of time and energy trying to rid the game of his nemesis, but I question if that’s his smartest move. 

Kimmi didn’t last long enough the first time for any of us to really know how she would have played, and because it’s been so long since then she has clearly grown as a person so we don’t have much to go on. In many ways this is a fresh start for her. She seems to be very involved in strategy and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. At this point she’s surprised me in a positive way. 

Then there is Wiglesworth, the original runner-up. Kelly is playing a very specific game. She has her own set of rules, she is not influenced by pace, and rarely influenced by other opinions. It’s not the kind of game I would ever play, but then again I have never played, much less made it to the end! So what do I know?

Okay, I saved the best for last: Abi. I absolutely, 150,000 percent believe that Abi came into the game intending to be different. I absolutely believe that thus far, she has failed. But that doesn’t mean she’s a failure. There is a difference in my book. She is trying, it’s just not working. I believe that Abi, like a lot of us, has a hard time seeing how she comes across to others. Even when they try to explain it to her she argues that they’re wrong. I know she drives a lot of people crazy, but she makes me laugh. She keeps the game interesting and the deeper the game goes the more valuable her vote becomes. 

Looks like someone wants to make a big move next week. What can you tell us about what to expect?  

The unexpected merge sends people into a true scramble and the game enters it’s next phase. The evolution will now slowly begin. It’s another amazing episode next week.

To watch an exclusive deleted scene as well our pre-game interview with Kass and last week’s episodes 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.

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