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Entertainment Weekly

TV

Survivor: Jeff Probst says 'I was wrong by several thousand miles' about Ozzy

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Each week host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the most recent episode of Survivor: Game Changers. Also, make sure to check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode above and read our full episode recap here.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The merge episode is always an exciting one as a lot of jockeying for positioning goes down. What was the thing that surprised you the most once everyone got on the same beach and started feeling each other out?
JEFF PROBST: At the beginning of the season, I briefly compared Game Changers to swimming in an area of water where you knew there was a shark lurking, waiting to strike. That’s the feeling I had again at the merge. There are alliances and they are shifting and getting ready to strike. We chose to tell it from Cirie’s point of view because she has so much experience with knowing everything that is really happening the moment the merge kicks in.

As you know, I was one of those people who openly questioned why Hali was brought back for Game Changers. Now that she’s been eliminated, what did you make of her second go-round?
Hali has a very odd playing style and also an unusual social style. It’s not always easy to talk to her because she listens so intensely (which is so rare) that even I sometimes get a bit uncertain around her and I’m not playing against her. But as you saw at Tribal Council a few weeks ago, when she literally stopped us from voting because she wasn’t done talking, Hali is not a push over. On a perfect season of Survivor, you want a variety of approaches to the game. So long as everybody is actively playing and willing to play large, then you have the potential for great dynamics. Hali has fallen on the wrong side of the numbers twice. But I still like what she brings.

We had an epic showdown between Tai and Ozzy in that immunity challenge on the poles. Tell us what it was like being there watching that clash of the endurance titans go down.
That was AWESOME. Sometimes the best moment in a hero story is when the hero falters because you are reminded they are human. Ozzy comes into every challenge with the burden of his amazing Survivor challenge history dragging behind him. People always expect him to be a contender. So seeing Tai — the oldest and smallest guy going toe-to-toe with him was about as good as it gets. Tai is playing a much quieter game this time, but just as committed. It showed in that challenge. He is in it to win it. I also loved that final moment when Tai went to check on Ozzy even in victory.

Watch PEN Fan Forum: Survivor, on the new PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) here, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.

You were pretty candid before the season that CBS had to convince you that Ozzy should be on this season. After watching him out there, what was your take on how he did and what he added to the show?
I was wrong. CBS was right. Ozzy is a game changer and I’m so glad he was included. Honestly, the ONLY reason I didn’t initially think Ozzy should be on was because I felt he had been on too many times. I thought fans were tired of him and needed a break. But when we introduced him at the live finale for Millennials v Gen X, he got the loudest ovation. I was wrong by several thousand miles. It told me that when Survivor fans invest in you and really root for you, they will continue to root for you until you win. And one more side note: Ozzy is a true team player when it comes to being a part of the show. He just gives you everything you could ever want and more. I found myself respecting him even more than I had previously and I was also reminded why kids love him so much. He is that cool.

Okay, looks like we may have some fallout from Zeke’s decision to defect away from Andrea and company. What can you tease up for next week?
Next week offers one of my favorite moments in 34 seasons of Survivor.

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