Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Each week Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Worlds Apart.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There has been a lot of unfortunate behavior and comments by men (Will, Dan, Rodney) towards and about women this season. I’ve heard from a lot of fans that are very upset about that, and I’ve also heard from some others who appreciate that we’re seeing a forum in which these people are called out for their attitudes. Talk a little bit about the show’s responsibility in terms of casting so many people that have been acting and speaking in such a disrespectful fashion, and then also your decision making in terms of how much to show of this type of behavior.

JEFF PROBST: One of the key elements in the premise of Survivor is that the game is to be played with people from various walks of life. In a perfect world, it’s a tapestry of people from different parts of the country, raised with different religious and political beliefs, with a range of IQ’s and physical abilities. You then put them in extreme conflict, in this case, being abandoned on an island, deprive them of everything else and force them to work together while voting each other out. It’s a tremendously stressful situation and typically, the tougher it gets, the more a person’s façade is stripped away and the more truth is revealed.

And because Survivor is ultimately a game about social politics and the relationships you form with others, it’s only a matter of time before personal opinions and points of view begin to clash. Those battles can be funny, annoying, cathartic, deeply personal and at times incredibly hurtful. They often evoke strong reactions from the other players and from the audience.

While I certainly don’t think of Survivor as a social or moral compass, I do believe strongly in doing our best to tell the contestants stories accurately— flattering or not. There is obviously a touch of bias in every editing decision you have to make about what to put in the show and what to leave out, but our primary goal is to always to reflect the essence of their adventure. That includes moments that show them at their most heroic as well as moments that expose a less than attractive side of someone’s personality.

I really can’t imagine a scenario in which we would not show a scene like the one between Will and Shirin simply because we were afraid that viewers would be upset. That’s just not the way we approach the show. There is no denying that was a very difficult exchange to witness and no matter how many times you watch it, it does not get any easier or any less emotional. But, that level of honesty and vulnerability from people who have been stripped to their very core is a large part of the reason I am still excited to be a part of the show.

For me it often comes down to one question: Does an action that we take under duress define us? Does it speak to the truest part of our character? If so, does that mean we live most of our life behind a mask of social politeness that belies our natural tendencies? Because, to be fair, I have to share that Will was nothing but delightful throughout the entire casting process and most of the show and I imagine in the bar where he works he has a lot of regulars who love him. Rodney would argue that his comments about women were never meant to offend—in fact he feels the same way about his own mother who is the light of his life. And Dan would tell you that he is adored by many people, is one of the most loyal friends you could ever have and loves his wife, as he said, “like you read about.”

Nobody is ever happy when they see themselves in an unflattering light. We don’t want to see ourselves that way. But sometimes we say and do things that we wish we could take back. In Will’s case, I am curious if, upon reflection he will choose to publicly apologize to Shirin at the live Reunion show. With Rodney, I hope to talk to his mom to hear her take on her son. I expect that she will help us better understand where he is coming from and then his story will probably make more sense. With Dan, I am not sure what to expect. Dan is one of the most colorful individuals to ever be on the show. As he said to us in casting many times, one of his main goals was “to be remembered.” Mission accomplished. The question is, did Dan’s desire to be remembered compel him to go a bit over the top with some of his comments? Are they authentic to who he is? And if so, do those comments define him?

As for the audience, I believe they are on this ride with us. Survivor is a devilishly fun game and a big part of the appeal is watching human behavior play out in front of you every Wednesday night.

You awarded both a male immunity and a female immunity this week, which I actually do like. However, you also know all too well that I spend my off-hours moonlighting as an unpaid volunteer for the Fairness Police, and in this case it meant the women had a 1 in 3 chance of getting immunity while the men only had 1 in 5. Any worry about that discrepancy and not having an even chance for everybody?

Given how you have posed the question, the simple answer is no, I don’t see an issue with this situation. In fact, couldn’t you make the argument that everybody’s odds actually increased as a result of the two idols? Similar to the theme of my earlier answer, we really do strive to keep the game as absolutely fair as possible at all times and so far every time we have done dual immunity idols it has felt right.

Mike tells everyone at Tribal that he is going to give Shirin his immunity idol thereby forcing the alliance of six to vote for each other. He was bluffing, of course, and did not use it, but I thought it was a pretty savvy move to start to turn folks against each other. What do you make that move and what would you have done in Mike’s position? Do what he did? Actually give Shirin the idol? Never take the idol out and keep it a secret? What say you?

I’m with you: I was pretty impressed and really surprised by Mike’s move! Not sure I would have thought to do that. It was psychological warfare. He dropped the fear bomb right in the lap of the alliance of six. It’s a great example of how one small action can change the game. Now there are some obvious cracks in the alliance that he might be able to exploit. Brilliant! As for actually playing the idol or not—that’s a really tough call to make from the armchair. I guess it’s really about odds. If you give your idol up for someone else it better result in you being in charge of the numbers because otherwise your odds of going home increase, because now you are vulnerable. If you keep it, you know you have at least one more week of security and that is huge.

What I really enjoyed about Mike’s move was he gave the alliance of six so many dilemmas to deal with at once: 1) Am I going to play the idol for Shirin? 2) If I do play it, and you all vote for her, then she is safe and one of you will be going home. 3) My one vote could decide who is voted out and if you think it’s you, you better think about changing your vote to someone else. Fantastic! Though Shirin was voted out, Mike accomplished a major goal. He showed dissention in the ranks. He opened a crack. Now he has to pry it open and wedge his way in.

Okay, sir, what can you tease up for next week?

It’s Rodney’s birthday. Did you hear me? It’s RODNEY’S BIRTHDAY!

To watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode in which Tyler explains his plan to use Dan’s secret advantage against him, just click on the video player below. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full ‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’ recap. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning $1 million, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "Dig deep!"

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