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Survivor: Jeff Probst on the art of tempting contestants with food

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Robert Voets/CBS

Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.

ENTERTAIMENT WEEKLY: You know how much we all love watching people get tempted with food during an immunity challenge and seeing who succumbs to their hunger and who rides it out. How do you usually determine when you are going to start tempting? Do you have a minute mark in mind before you start the challenge (using challenge rehearsal tests from the Dream Team as a guide), or do you just go by feel in terms of how stable people look and when they are starting to struggle?  

JEFF PROBST: Yes ,it’s just a gut call. All we really want to do is make sure we establish the challenge and let it run long enough that we can see that everybody is good to go. It’s not about seeing anybody start to struggle. What was fun about this one was the twist that it was a one-time offer and it had to be shared. So the number of people who took the offer would determine how much food you would get. But the key was you had to decide quickly. The past couple of seasons we have been experimenting with the “instant decision” idea and we like the results. I felt badly for Julia, she just missed it by a moment. That’s always a tricky situation when I have to leave to go get the food; I’m always hoping that someone doesn’t fall off while I’m gone 

There seems to be a trend this season of people saying more at Tribal Council than they should, which I’m sure you LOVE, but isn’t so good for their gameplay. What do you think happened here with Tai all of sudden volunteering information about the super idol for no reason whatsoever? Is this an example of exhaustion and malnutrition making it difficult to think straight, or just bad gameplay? 

I object, your honor. The question calls for speculation and Monday morning quarterbacking! I think it’s very difficult to play this game perfectly. But saying that talking at Tribal isn’t good for game play, if I may, is coming from a fear-based approach to the game. Fear of saying something wrong, fear of upsetting somebody, etc. We could both list numerous times when talking at Tribal led to an amazing 180 and saved somebody. You cannot ever play Survivor from a point of view of “staying safe.” Tribal is alive. Votes are changing. If you aren’t a part of the conversation, you should be concerned. Tai made a mistake. That’s really all that happened. He tried to cover it but I don’t think anybody bought it. I do think you’re hitting on something, which is the more tired and hungrier you get, the more difficult it becomes. But the underlying truth in all of this is it’s very tough to play a perfect game. The key is how you recover from a mistake. 

We heard Julia and Michele talking about how they needed to start building their résumés with a big move. How much does that play in to the game now, where people are constantly thinking about making moves, even if those moves don’t necessarily put them in a better place, because they serve the purpose of allowing them to later make their case of how they dictated the course of play? In other words, is a lateral move often preferable to no move at all because it demonstrates you are actively playing? 

Question of the day. For sure. This reflects back on the previous question about why you can’t just stay quiet. The game shifted years ago and now more times than not, the jury votes for game play. Not always, sometimes bitterness comes into play but most often it’s rewarding those who made moves. So yes, if you are in a great spot in the game but can’t think of a move you can claim credit for then you need to get on it. Getting to the end is one thing, but winning requires a “story” that you can use to persuade the jury that you are deserving. I think all three of your questions share the same theme — how do you do it? How do you play the game without having the game turn inward and play you? 

RELATED: Ranking Every Season of Survivor

Looks like we have a battle of the sexes brewing. What can you say about next week’s episode? 

I’m gonna give you a different tease … the compass of morality stares Tai straight in the face. 

Check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode above. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full episode recap. For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss, and check back soon for our exit interview with Nick.