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

Each week host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Jeff, you know how much I love the fact that you all decided to hide idols in challenges this season. This was your first time trying it out, so tell me about the execution and Kelley’s risky decision to go back and get it.

JEFF PROBST: You have been suggesting to us for years to do this and it was always just a matter of it feeling like it was the right time. Creatively, this is definitely one of those “big risk” moves for us as a show because if it fails and the players can’t pull it off, then we may not have any idols in the season. The first big step was figuring out how to execute. We decided to let them find a note that at first they would think was an idol — so we get the high … followed by an immediate low when they learn it’s not the idol … followed by another high when they realize it will lead them TO the idol … followed by a major twist: You have to be daring enough to grab the idol in front of everybody while in the middle of an immunity challenge. Huge stakes!

It was an exciting day at the challenge because we had a dedicated camera following Wentworth with only one job: If she goes for it, we have to get the shot of her getting the idol. We would not get a second chance. The only other question was: could she pull it off? I don’t think you could have asked for more tension as she waited and debated — looking for that one moment when she could go back to grab it. I was really proud of her as a player because THAT is how you have to play this game in Survivor: Second Chance. It also let me breathe a sigh of relief that this idea was going to work.

You know I also love it when you guys insert choices into things. Here the tribes had to decide right off the bat how much to stock up on supplies before heading out on a raft to get the bag of rice on the other boat. Any chances we will have more choices down the line? And did you anticipate people like Wiglesworth, Woo, and Joe swimming for it?

Choice is one of the cornerstones of our creative because it forces a decision and that often leads to conflicting points of views before, during, and after the decision has been made. So yes, fans and players should always expect choices! We were so unprepared for someone swimming from the beginning that we really didn’t even have the proper coverage set up to capture it. We had several boats in the water with camera and sound operators, and when Wiglesworth starting swimming from the beginning we were shocked! Our director, David Dryden, and his team really had to scramble to make up a new plan — live — in the ocean. A massive task but they pulled it off.

Those are the days when you come home and you are truly grateful to work on Survivor. For all the planning we do, the real truth is that ultimately we turn the show over to the players and they do whatever they want. That’s their only job: play! Our job is to capture their story. That marooning was a very exciting beginning. I have to also add that the opening several minutes where they are traveling through Angkor Wat was in the planning stages for months. Literally, months. I want our fans to know that these things aren’t made up the day before. We are often planning them before we even know who will be on the show. We had our “A” team producing this open and wow did it work. One of my favorites of all time. When the four boats, with Survivors, pulled up to me for the official opening it was a really powerful moment. I knew what they had been through and it had all worked!

You didn’t end up showing it in the episode because you can’t fit everything in, but there was some last minute scrambling that went on at Tribal Council when Jeff Varner asked Kelly Wentworth and Peih-Gee in front of everybody to confirm to him which way they were leaning before the voting started. Did you notice a difference in the energy or tone of TC by bringing them straight to Tribal from the challenge instead of letting them go back to camp and strategize?

There is a definite slow burn shift in how the game is played this season. You may not notice it out of the gate, but it slowly begins to shift and in a way that does impact the game in a very significant way. I’ll be curious how it plays with the fans. I am also curious if it carries on in future seasons or was simply a byproduct of having true “second chance” players who came in with a very different motivation. And glad you mentioned that we can’t show everything. It’s one of the only drags of the show, there simply is not enough time. There wouldn’t be enough time if CBS gave us two hours for every episode. But it’s a good problem to have — too much great material!

These contestants really put themselves out there by publicly campaigning for votes. Does that make being the first one eliminated that much harder? Vytas even said that he would have rather not gotten voted in than be the first one out.

That’s a great question. I’m sorry to hear Vytas feels that way; it’s not the way I would look at it. I’d be so proud to be voted in by the fans. It’s pretty amazing that our fans chose this entire cast. Not one single bit of influence by any of the crew or CBS. Zero. I mean zero. I had no idea until one hour into the live show (when we stopped the voting) who the final cast was going to be. So yes, someone is going to be first off. It’s meaningless. First off or 19th off — there is only one winner. You must play this game in order to have a chance to win and if you do play, like Vytas did, then you are always at risk of being blindsided. That’s it. You can’t second-guess your second chance.

Okay, sir. Off to a great start. Tease us up for next week and this season in general.

Next week you really start to see the emotion come to the surface. There’s a truly romantic story of love, there’s a moment of empathy and comfort from someone you wouldn’t expect, there’s another exciting challenge that results in more tears at the thought of Tribal Council. That enough?

As for the season in general, I will not predict if people will like it or not — as they always let me know! But I will say this: In our 31 seasons, we’ve never had a group that came into the game with such devotion to the game. They were in it from the moment their journey through Angkor Wat started. They were playing hard the minute they dove off the boat. They pulled off massive blindsides and shifted the strategy of the game. If you told me I could bring all 20 back again and do it again I would say yes. I absolutely enjoyed every single person and I thank them for what they gave. Survivor is an ass-kicking adventure and it is not for the faint of heart or those who are more comfortable on the couch. This group has waited a long time for this opportunity and I think you’ll agree that they deliver.

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To watch Probst’s immediate reaction after Tribal Council as well as an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode and our pre-game chat with Vytas, click on the video player below. Also make sure to read our full episode 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 a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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