Survivor: Game Changers host Jeff Probst weighs in on Hurricane Debbie

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Each week host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the most recent episode of Survivor: Game Changers.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I am fascinated by the whole Debbie meltdown at Brad and there’s a lot I want to get into with that. First off, I know you’re busy looking at all three tribes when you call a challenge, so how much did you notice her yelling at Brad throughout the immunity competition and then what was her demeanor like after they won?
JEFF PROBST: How much I am able to hear is really challenge dependent. In this challenge, it was so big and so loud I didn’t hear any of the back and forth between Debbie and Brad. Otherwise, you can bet I would have been commenting! And because I didn’t hear her during that challenge, I didn’t pick up on anything at the end. It’s a great example of how fun my job is — I only hear and see what I hear and see. So if I miss something, I have in essence missed an opportunity. I like those stakes. Fortunately, in this case, the stakes weren’t that high.

Sticking with Hurricane Debbie, I noted something you all rarely — if ever — do on the show yet you did it here. First off, I love it when you all show the strategy sessions between teams as they determine who should do what in a challenge. You usually don’t have time to show it unless it directly plays into what transpires, which it certainly did here. But then you went even further. After the challenge, as Debbie was talking about how it was a dictatorship with Brad calling all the shots, you went back in time to again show the footage of Debbie volunteering herself beforehand to do the balance beam — footage that directly contradicted her statement about Brad being a dictator. It’s a small thing, but something that you don’t normally do. Tell me about the decision to put that flashback in there and how it played into what appears to be Debbie’s skewed narrative — including her claim that Hali was “dicking around for 10 freakin’ minutes on the balance beam while I zoomed across the balance beam in 30 seconds”?
The decision to include strategy was, as you noted, based on how big a part it played in the challenge and aftermath. It’s always fun to show the audience something they don’t often see and remind them of all the layers of the game. The decision to show it again after that challenge was one we debated. As a general rule, I don’t like it. I feel it takes the audience out of the moment. But in this case we felt it actually put the viewer back inside the moment in a way that gave additional insight.

I’m glad you brought it up. We love being able to break outside the box when necessary. Regarding Debbie’s skewed recollection or perception of what happened… here’s the truth: The challenge was very long so we always have to condense the action. But what we ALWAYS do is condense it in a way that still accurately portrays what went down. Debbie was a bit off in where she put the blame both with Hali and with Culpepper. But she is not the first to have her perception colored by hunger, adrenaline, fear of blame, or any of the other dozens of factors that come into play when your neck is on the line on Survivor.

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Tribal Council got a little spicy as Micheala and J.T. were going at it. What did you make of Michaela pouring herself a beverage while you read the votes, and is J.T.’s fatal flaw just being too trusting of people (like Russell in Heroes vs. Villains and then Brad and his own tribe here)?

I love Michaela. I think one of the things that most of Michaela’s fans adore about her is the thing she sees as her biggest obstacle — her emotions. It’s as if she is a kindred spirit to our own alter ego, the part of us that wishes we could say what we really feel. And this season we are watching her mature and part of that maturity is how she handles her emotions. Instead of yelling at JT at camp, which could have backfired, she waited until after the vote and then took it to another level. The dramatization of pouring a cup of tea was a brilliant way of making it all clear to JT. You were had. And I’m gonna take a guess that Queen Sandra might have had a hand in suggesting that idea. Ahhh, I love where this game is. So much fun.

A very strong start to Game Changers so far as now we begin to head into the middle section of the season. What can you tell us about what’s on tap for next week?
A return visit from a former player. It’s an idea we have talked about for years and finally had the right situation and the right player! And this season is far from over.

Check out an exclusive Survivor deleted scene at the top of the post, as well as the ousted J.T.’s pre-game interview above. Also, make sure to read Dalton’s recap, and for more Survivor scoopage, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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