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Survivor: Jeff Probst explains why the Jeff Varner situation hurt Zeke's game

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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.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start off with a very difficult reward word puzzle, “Reinventing how this game is played.” It totally stumped the contestants, and then, after about 50 minutes, you started to give them some subtle clues by saying things like “You guys are changing,” and “Everything is always changing in this game” — which Andrea then picked up on and led her team to victory. How does that work in terms of when you decide to sprinkle some clues in there? Is it when they hit a certain time limit, or if you just sense both teams have hit a wall?
JEFF PROBST: It’s a pretty fluid system.  Our goal with a word puzzle like this is to continue to find phrases that are within the Survivor world and are difficult to figure out… but can ultimately be solved! With each season it gets tougher to pull off. So I am always armed with a few key clues that we think will help them, but I don’t put them into play until it’s clear that both tribes are stonewalled.

I watched your challenge department test out an early version of this immunity challenge where contestants have to stack blocks without hitting a trip obstacle.  Were you surprised how fast the contestants — being mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted —  were able to do this without hitting the obstacle? (Which, of course, disappointed me a bit because I am a terrible human being and enjoy watching blocks come crashing down.)
Every challenge is unique, even if we’ve done it several times in previous seasons, because the players and conditions are different each time. This season was surprising in that they were so light on their feet! We built that challenge to fail and they beat us, despite running on fumes! But that’s the way the game goes. I appreciate the unevenness of it all because it reminds the audience on an unconscious level that Survivor is not scripted. You can’t predict it because it’s happening organically every single day.

We already talked a lot about how Zeke handled being outed by Jeff Varner. How would you assess his strategic game this time around? What are his strengths, and what are his weaknesses that he would have to work on should he play again? Speaking of which, do you think we will see Zeke again on Survivor?
I love Zeke as a player and as a person. I loved him the first time I met him in casting because of how he sees the world. He’s very clever and yet at times can detach and just observe without commenting. That is a rare skill, at least in my circles, and it serves him so well. It’s almost like he is able to count to 10 before speaking, and then when he does finally speak, he has either A) filtered out the regrettable stuff or B) turned the regrettable stuff into unforgettable stuff and lets it rip.

Hard to gauge his weakness yet because I think the elephant in the room was that what went down with Varner made it hard on Zeke to get to the end. Nobody will say it out loud, but Zeke’s story is a tough “story” to beat at the final three. As a result, Zeke became even more of a threat. But that’s Survivor. There are no rules for protection on any level other than the morality decided on by the society. In this case, the society dealt with Varner and then fairly quickly also dealt with Zeke. I don’t know if he’d play again. I haven’t asked him. I imagine that is a question that he can conveniently tuck in a corner of his mind to be dealt with at a later time.

Finally, what do you have on tap for us next week, sir?
My favorite thing:  L-O-V-E.

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