By Jeff Probst
November 18, 2010 at 12:13 PM EST

Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSPeople often ask me “Hey Probst! What keeps you interested in the show after 21 seasons?”

Well, I’m guessing it’s the same thing that keeps you guys interested — human nature. At its core that’s what Survivor is really all about, isn’t it? Our nature as humans and how we behave in different situations?

Holly is a great example. Five days into the show and she wanted to quit; 22 days later not only is she still around, but she could win. What changed? Her behavior. After nearly losing her mind, she rallied. She gained a lot of respect and now is considered a threat to go to the end.

Brenda is another fascinating case study of human behavior. More on her later..

Tonight, the gold star goes to Naonka and Fabio for instigating and following through with a big move.


Let’s just be clear about this idol in Sash’s pocket. (I’m referring to the immunity idol… just to be really clear.) Sash isn’t going to use that idol to save anybody but himself. No chance. Listen up future players: If you don’t have the idol in your possession when you walk in to tribal council, it is very unlikely you will have it in your hand when I ask for it. Yes it has happened on rare occasions, as when Parvati had a bag full of idols, but in most situations, the idol will be used to save the person who possesses it.


This was old school Survivor. Barrels, planks and rope. Very few rules. A group of people forced to work together and get creative. I love challenges like this. Generally speaking they don’t favor anybody, they’re easy to follow, easy to judge and they reward teamwork.

My favorite moment in the reward challenge was Benry’s “ceremonial losers backflip.” Again, another fascinating moment for my little brain to comprehend. You just lost but you still have enough energy, sense of humor, and lack of concern to do a back flip. Then again, maybe if I could do a back flip I’d have done one too!


Yes, it really happened. While they were away at the reward challenge, back at camp their fire started to grow, and evidently it caught part of the temporary structure they had made to protect the fire from the rain.

It’s one of those great moments that make reality shows so unpredictable. It was just pure luck that the entire camp did not burn down. The juxtaposition of five people enjoying their reward by “pigging out” and volcano surfing while the other five were dealing with a disastrous situation back at camp was wonderful. Does that mean I’m some form of sadist? Or just a competent television producer? Maybe they’re just one in the same?


Love it. The immunity challenge was another very simple but very effective challenge. “Hang on for as long as you can.” At first glance you would guess that someone like Benry or Chase would be in it at the end. And they were. But so was Jane. The oldest woman in the game and the frailest of all the Survivors left. Okay, I’m excluding Dan.

The reason Jane did so well? It was will power. Pure will power. Once again, Jane surprised everybody and outlasted people a third of her age and two guys who were clearly much stronger.

For a moment Jane wanted to quit. The reason I encouraged Jane to stay in the challenge was because I hate to see anybody “give up.” I love when people surprise themselves by doing better than they thought they could. She’s been through hard times in life. She knows what she is capable of and she believes it. She just needed a little reminder. But at the end of the day…encouragement only goes so far. I can encourage people but I can’t do the challenge for them.


As I was saying earlier. Another fascinating case study of human nature. She’s very bright, strikingly beautiful, and owns her own business. She has a lot going for her in life. On Survivor she has been doing a fantastic job at managing relationships and forging alliances. She was really in a very strong position in this game.

But when things turned against her and she was forced to “scramble,” she wouldn’t do it. I was truly surprised that she never did. I believe the quote was “The last thing I want to do is start scrambling. It just shows that you are desperate.”

Uh… yeah. You’re desperate. Nothing wrong with feeling desperate in a million dollar game. You should feel desperate when you believe you are about to be voted out. That’s a very rational thought. Nobody is going to look at you sideways for feeling desperate when more than half the tribe is threatening to vote for you. Desperation is often a temporary condition on Survivor. It isn’t always fatal. Lots of people have been in trouble, aka “desperate” on Survivor, made desperate moves in response, and as a result survived the vote and ended up making it to the end. Some of them even won! That’s the game. You assess and reassess every moment of every day.

It’s a beautiful and vicious cycle. Even when you feel “comfortable” you know you’re not necessarily “safe,” and when you’re truly not safe, which makes you feel “desperate” and so you make a move to try and feel comfortable again. It’s why most Survivors need therapy when the game is over!

I wonder if Brenda even cares that she was voted out. I wondered it that night. I still wonder now. Could it be that Brenda is so used to things going her way that she doesn’t know how to scramble? Maybe that’s the answer to the riddle. Maybe that is one skill that Brenda has never tested. It’s a bummer she’s gone but proves once again that in order to win this game, you have to want to win and you have to be willing to make a move… even if it means acknowledging you’re desperate.


Like her or not, Naonka is playing the game. She’s a fair weather participant for sure, but when she wants to play she is a pot stirrer. Marty would be proud. Naonka could win if she ends up in the final with Purple Kelly. Even then she would need to pray.

Fabio is also starting to turn it on. Last week he was laying back, playing “cool.” This week he was part of a very big move taking out a major power player. I think Fabio is really starting to figure out this game.

Lurking in the shade is Jane. If things keep going the way they are, people may forget Jane is even in the game. If Jane gets to the end she would very likely be a millionaire.

The Redeemer is Holly. I’m usually a pretty good gauge of what the audience is feeling and I think a lot of you are starting to like Holly and have forgotten about those first five days.

The “no chance” is Dan. I just can’t see a scenario in which Dan could win this game.

The other “no chance” is Purple Kelly. Sweet young woman. I like her. But she hasn’t earned it and unless she really turns it on, her best finish is to make herself a great person to take to the end because she can’t win.

Sash is “in trouble.” He’s going to have to work hard to stay alive now that his partner is gone. If he can do it, he could make a strong case that he deserves to win. Otherwise he could be gone soon.

Benry is a “long shot.” He could make it to the end based on physical abilities but at this point he doesn’t have a strong enough case to win it.

The wildcard is Chase. Chase is likable enough to win this game and wishy-washy enough to screw it all up for himself and somebody else. Being in an alliance with Chase is risky.

Did I forget anybody?

See ya next week.

Oh, be sure to check out several treats in the video player below, including: an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, Dalton Ross’s pre-game interview with Brenda, and my pick for favorite Survivor location ever. And don’t miss Dalton’s Survivor recap: Brenda Feels the Heat.