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Survivor: Jeff Probst offers insight into that tearful loved ones visit

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Monty Brinton/CBS

Each week, Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Ah, the loved ones visit, where tears flow like the Nile. Give us your on-the-scene report into how emotional this was and your big takeaway from the family reunions.

JEFF PROBST: Well, the trained Survivor eye could probably tell I was a bit teary eyed at several different moments. Am I just getting old or what? Man, some of those stories really touched me. My big takeaway was two-fold.

1) The loved ones visit really helps bring some depth to the personal lives of the players. For most of the game, we only see them in one very competitive and, at times, harsh light. They don’t have the luxury of showing their softer side because they don’t trust anybody. So when we see them with a parent or a sibling, it really shows the audience another aspect of their personality, and that is one of the reasons I think it is so important to the journey.

2) This is one of the most likable groups we’ve ever assembled. You can moan and groan and find things about everybody that you don’t like — but when you think about what Survivor requires and how hard it is to remain likable in a game that forces you to betray, it’s pretty amazing how many people still left in the game have a lot of redeeming qualities as evidenced by their family members visit.

BONUS QUESTION: How much do you think of what Adam did in making the big proclamation about not using his reward steal advantage was genuine, and how much of it was a game move and just for show? Because he could have just NOT used the advantage. He didn’t need to make the big speech.

Funny, this kind of implied criticism is what I referring to earlier. This is not directly only at you D. Ross — I do it all the time too — but there is a bit of backseat driving that goes on at times like this. Yes, Adam played up the drama for weeks about how he might steal the reward. I think he did that because I honestly think he was GOING TO STEAL THE REWARD NO MATTER WHAT and he wanted everybody to know in advance to lessen the pain when it happened.

He was desperate to talk to a family member about the health of his mom. This was 100 percent legit. Not 99.9, but 100 percent. When he left, his mom was sick. They talked. His mom wanted him to come play Survivor because she thought she would gain great energy from knowing he was out there playing the game they both loved. So he was in a really delicate situation, and maybe he blew his trumpet a bit loud, but hey, wouldn’t you?

And to the heart of your question — was there strategy in what he was doing? Probably. Was he trying to gain some sympathy? Probably. What was really powerful to me was watching two adversarial millennials (Adam and Jay) form a temporary bond over the reward steal. Gen X players would have probably been less emotional about it. But Jay and Adam are in their 20s, and those emotions are much more surface. I liked the moment as a producer and a human.

I don’t think you have ever had such a short endurance immunity challenge. That thing with the two handles keeping tension on a steel bar was over in just a few minutes. Did you know from your tests that it would be that quick? And what made it so difficult?

As you know from visiting and participating, no matter how many times we test it, it’s hard to fully predict how a challenge will run. We didn’t think it would last for hours, but… we weren’t sure how long it would go because it only needs two people to figure it out and lock in, and we could have been there a while. The guys in our art department who built those handles are pretty good and can go for quite a while. So we always prepare for the worst and then hope for the best.

First off, how did you feel about handling the hidden immunity idol that had been hidden in Adam’s crotch? And what do you make of all these idols being used for different people — this time with Adam playing his to save Hannah — especially when alliances keep shifting from week to week?

Ha! I had forgotten about that until we started editing the episode. I do remember in the moment thinking, “Is he pulling that idol from his crotch? Ah man!” And no matter how “in the moment” I am, there is no denying that we are trained as humans to avoid at all costs those kinds of situations. But I had to grin and bear it and then quickly wash my hands after Tribal. As for the idol play — I love it. I would have this entire group back again to play tomorrow. They are true gamers. That’s how you play Survivor in 2016. You go for it. It’s so easy to sit at home and say, “You idiot — you blew it!” I pay no attention to those criticisms. I look for people willing to make the move in the first place. Those are the people who end up on the show. Those are the players who evolve the game with their risky moves.

Okay, tease us up for next week!

We are getting down to the end, and next week we lose two people. I love/hate these episodes because I hate losing people, but I love having Two Tribals and two votes. Then the following week, it’s our finale and it’s going to be great!

Check out an exclusive deleted scene from the most recent episode of Survivor above. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full episode recap. And for all the Survivor scoop you can handle, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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