By Dalton Ross
February 20, 2014 at 02:42 PM EST

Survivor has had some great seasons and some not so great seasons. Sometimes the casting and creative decisions all work, and sometimes you get Survivor: Fiji. But the show has been on a recent hot streak. I have the past three editions all ranked in my top 10 seasons ever, and after 27 installments, that is not too shabby. So what gives? Why the sudden — and consistent — resurgence? Host Jeff Probst thinks he has the answer. Probst says that big players are making big moves, and it’s paying off for them in the end. And when deserving players win, viewers win as well.

“We’re on a long streak of people who come into the game with their mind set on winning — and not just making the jury — having a lot of success, and that excites me,” Probst tells EW. “Eight of the last 10 winners came in playing to win, not just finish well. They came in playing to win. And they won! Sophie, Cochran, Tyson, Kim, Denise, Rob, Sandra, JT — all of those are players who wanted to win. I like it! It’s as if the world of Survivor has created its own way of thinning out the herd. And if you’re a pretender and really not there to win, you won’t! You will be done early or midway. That is something I like because we can’t control who gets to the end and it’s almost like the Survivor world is controlling it on its own and rewarding risky play and big play.”

Okay, first things first. In case you were wondering, Probst is extending this list back to season 18, Survivor: Tocantins. And the two people in that span who did NOT make his great winners list are Natalie White (Samoa) and Jud “Fabio” Birza (Nicaragua), so that’s kind of a bummer for them. I also would argue that Parvati played a far superior game to Sandra in Heroes vs. Villains (season 20), but Sandra played twice and won twice so I can’t hate on her too much. Still, Probst’s point is that big gamers making it far — and often winning — tends to make for a better season. Is he right? Well, of course, the remarkable Kim Spradlin winning the quite unremarkable One World season doesn’t exactly support that argument, and Boston Rob’s domination of the Redemption Island season wasn’t exactly thrilling to watch. But I agree with the general assertion that there have been some very solid champs of late, and everyone likes to see a worthy winner.

While talking about the cutthroat gameplay of late, Probst also dropped a tease about the upcoming Survivor: Cagayan, which debuts on Feb, 26 at 8pm on CBS. “There’s a move early in this season that speaks exactly to why you have to play the game and not try to make friends,” says Probst. “And you’ll know it when you see it, and people at home will shake their heads and go, ‘Why would they do that?’ And hopefully future players will look at it and go, ‘I will never do that.’ I used to try to explain to people why blindsides were effective. I don’t have to anymore. They now realize I’m not blowing smoke when I say, ‘If you tell somebody they’re going home, their chances of scrambling are 100%, and when a scramble happens, your chances of being in trouble are 100%. So why would you do that? Blindside: It’s better for the show and it’s better for your lot in the game.’”

Judging by that tease, it appears someone at some point is going to make the fatal flaw of informing someone they are being voted out, sending that person into immediate scramble mode. Not a winning move in Probst’s book. What do you think? Do you agree with the host that we have had a good run of champs lately? And whom would you put on and off the list of solid Survivor winners? Hit the message boards and weigh in. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.