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: Okay, Jeff. I always make you do this. Where does Mike’s victory stack up against the rest? Analyze his game for me now that we saw it all from start to finish.

JEFF PROBST: I think Mike will go down as one of our top winners. He did what Colby didn’t. He took his biggest threat to the end and beat her. He is also in a very elite group of guys with 5 Individual Immunity wins, and he did it under the banner of Blue Collar, which makes it all that much more patriotic! He’s a good player. Any student of the game can see that. He makes moves, he’ll switch things up, he works hard around camp, he give 1000 percent in challenges—his reference, not mine—and ultimately, I think he is a gracious guy. I’m happy with him as a winner.

So do you keep a pocketful of flints on you at all times? That fire-making challenge between Carolyn and Rodney almost reached Becky vs. Sundra levels. How many flints would you have given them, and was there any point where you were going to go to matches like in Cook Islands?

That’s funny! Here was really no limit on flints other than us just simply running out. My feeling is that a broken flint can’t be the responsibility of a contestant. What if it was actually faulty? As for matches, yes, we were prepared for that, and we were getting close to doing that, but fortunately both of them got fire within about 30 seconds of each other and it made for a dramatic finish. Rodney went all out. His knuckles were bloody when it was over.

It appeared like there were no opening statements this time at the final Tribal Council—or were those just cut for time? And because there is always so much more we don’t see at Tribal, tell us about the overall mood as you perceived it there in terms of how the contestants were approaching and addressing the final three.

Yes, we have cut opening statements, as they were becoming redundant once all the jury questions were asked. I thought overall it was pretty respectful. Survivor juries have changed over the last several years, and in a positive way. They are rewarding good game play, and that always makes me happy because they are treating the finalists the way they would want to be treated. Shirin obviously went for the jugular, and I thought it was well written and well delivered. Very tough to do, and that’s why you rarely see it. Everybody thinks they can give the “Sue Hawk speech,” but very few can.

Let’s talk some reunion. I know you are fiercely protective of the show’s integrity and reputation, so explain your reaction when you heard Dan telling me (and maybe others) in his exit press interviews that he was a victim of “selective editing.”

Dan is not the first person to complain about getting a “bad edit.” But when Dan started giving specific examples of how we targeted him by completely re editing moments, it caught my eye. One specific example that came up in many interviews was when he called Rodney’s mother a “whore.” He said there were 30 minutes of “yo mama” jokes that had preceded this, and we just pulled his and made him look like “a jerk.” So, I pulled the raw footage and just started watching—and as you saw during the show, there wasn’t a single joke about anything, nor a single comment about anything related to moms. Here’s what is important for me to share with you—I wasn’t necessarily going to show the clip. I wanted to first check in with Dan and see how he was feeling, which I did. Had he said, “maybe I misspoke” or offered up any kind of mea culpa, I would not have shown it. But he didn’t. He stated the same reasons as he had in every other interview, so I did feel that I had to defend the show. It was really that simple.

You were clear that all the woman-bashing stuff from this season would be addressed at the reunion and it certainly was. How did you feel about what Dan, Will, and Shirin had to say?

Well, I was frustrated that we didn’t have more time, because I felt that Will and Shirin had a bit more to work out. I was having to rush both of them a bit, which makes it more difficult for them to get their points across. I would have liked to have talked to Shirin more about forgivenessm to see where her head is at with it all. I felt Will’s apology was sincere. But I understand from Shirin’s POV that she had many more questions she needed to understand before she could accept it. So at least we got a little forward momentum, and that was a good takeaway. I think Dan responded the only way he could, which is to own it. Dan remembered things differently than they actually happened. Now that he is on the record with that, I’m over it.

Man, that was so fun seeing the live vote for Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance play out. Give us your initial thoughts on the cast—and can you reveal which male contestant got Mike’s slot when he became ineligible?

Boy, that was so much tougher than I anticipated. Having to tell people they did not get a second chance was really hard. I truly felt for them. Some of their faces, when I told them they would not get a shot—they’re etched in my memory. They were so courageous to agree to a public vote on national television. Every one of them earned a ton of respect, from me and I hope we find a way to put them on in a future season. It was a GREAT list of 32. Everybody with a story.

But going back to the positive—as for who the audience ultimately chose, I am very happy. I’m very pleased and pleasantly surprised by a few of their choices. From a balance point of view, we had a much higher percentage of recent seasons, so you have to expect more of them to make it—but I was very happy to see three people from Borneo and Australia, our first two seasons, make it in. Super cool. And no, we won’t ever reveal the total number of votes for each player, or the position of any player, or how close someone might have been to getting in. There is no point, and it would only hurt more feelings or crush someone to find out they were only a few votes shy of making it.

To watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s finale, just click on the video player below. Also make sure to check out Dalton’s full ‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’ finale recap, as well as the full cast list and logo for ‘Survivor: Cambodia—Worlds Apart.’ You can also hear from the Second Chance cast themselves, and come back later for interviews with the final five. Plus, 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 a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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