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Survivor: Jeff Probst on sabotage as strategy

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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.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We saw Scot, Jason, and Tai hiding the machete and ax and pouring the tribe water all over the fire to put it out. Is that a legitimate method of strategy or are they just being a sore loser babies? And what are we to make of Tai going to the dark side and putting out the fire himself?

JEFF PROBST: It’s a great question. Putting aside my own personal feelings, I’d say yes, it’s a legit strategy. Trying to instill fear, chaos, hopelessness, or any emotion that takes someone out of their best self is a strategy. As for whether it’s sore losers, I’m not sure it has to be one or the other. It can be both. There is a bit of sore loser playing out. I am fascinated by what happens when Scot and Jason are together versus when they are apart. Both were really nice guys in casting. I liked them very much and never saw this coming. It’s a thin-slice look at the many nuances of this game. One personality can shift another personality and that can shift an entire tribe dynamic. I imagine that right now Scot and Jason are bummed that they are seen by some of our audience as bullies, because I don’t think they see themselves that way. Scot is a former pro athlete — those guys play for keeps. They have huge stakes, millions of dollars on the line, plus personal pride. Jason chases other humans for a living. It doesn’t get any more personal than that. So I think both of them were triggered by their fight or flight instincts and this is the result. The bigger question from a game point of view can it work?

Playing both sides can work if you have strong partners and nobody realizes you are doing it, but all Julia seems to have done is put herself on the bottom of two different alliances. At the reward challenge, you allowed the players to see if they could make their own teams and I’m sure you all were curious what would happen. What was your reaction when Julia volunteered to go with the guys?

I loved it. I can’t say enough about Julia. So young and so mature and so brave. She’s playing a reckless game and that is to be commended. She is playing one of the most aggressive games of anyone still left. She’s a contender. Every move comes with a potential negative consequence. But as you and I often talk about in this column, Monday morning quarterbacking is for couch potatoes. If you are a true fan who has imagined actually having to play this game you can only admire the attempt. Many, many, many winners have played two or even three sides. And many, many winners needed a second shot, or more to make it happen.

There were a lot of different ways Jason, Scot, and Tai could have handled this super idol situation, and they appeared to do the smartest thing possible by threatening to use them individually, but then not using them at all before the reading of the votes, yet keeping it as a double-idol post-vote-reading safety net, which they ended up not even needing. If that alliance stays strong, as a player can you even target them with all that idol power?

It’s a great question. I agree, they played it beautifully and with extreme confidence. We never know how a twist is going to work but this one has given us so much story and layered game play. Just looking at this from the stand point of “generally speaking” — it would seem that if they stick with their agreement to use it, then one of them is guaranteed safety. No matter which one of the three you pick, they will be safe. And you have to assume they will throw their three votes on one player. But Survivor has so many crossed lines and blurred alliances that all it takes is one stray decision to throw everything off. And … the other big question is what happens after you’ve used it? Because now both the idols are gone and you’re vulnerable again. Survivor is a never-ending series of what ifs.

BONUS QUESTION! Debbie is one of the more unique characters we’ve seen on this show, and I’m guessing there was even more out there in your interactions that did not make the final cut. What was it like interacting with her at challenges and Tribal Council and how sad are you lose her?

Debbie is one of a kind. I adore Debbie. She is wacky and she owns it. She knows a little about a lot. She has a tremendous sense of humor and a self-deprecating view of the parts of herself that make us laugh. He was gold every single time she said anything. But I think the biggest surprise to our audience was how much of a big time player she turned out to be. Many of my friends wrote her off in the first episode as the lady with a hundred jobs, but she turned them. She earned her keep out there and should be proud. I miss her already.

Okay, sir. Tease us up for next week’s episode!

It’s getting more difficult to tease because so much happens. So how’s this? I think the audience will be screaming at their TVs by the time it’s over!

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 listen to our podcast interview with Debbie.

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