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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why don’t you start off by telling us when you and the medical team started to get concerned about all these various bumps and abrasions that players had all over their bodies and how you decided to proceed from that point.

JEFF PROBST: The bumps, abrasions, and infections were on our radar from the first few days. I think Tai might have been the first to suffer a scrape, when he scaled the tree looking for the idol. Our medical team always checks out the players before and after challenges and Tribal. We added another layer of monitoring after the infamous challenge, during which three players went down. From that point forward the players received daily checks at the beach.

We talked a few weeks back about the Caleb medical emergency and how it was your scariest moment ever on the show. Neal represents the other end of that evacuation spectrum. That has to be psychologically difficult to be done in by what probably started out as simply a little cut on his knee. How hard is it to deliver that news to someone like Neal — who even said he “felt fine” — that he is being pulled from the game in that way for that reason? Because this is a situation where you may get some pushback from a contestant since they do not believe themselves to be in any imminent medical danger.

Pulling someone from the game for a medical reason is never easy because it’s not on their terms. As you say, Caleb was in a class by himself because that was a life and death situation. Neal is an annoying “evacuation” because the wound looks so tiny and insignificant and yet it has the potential to do major damage if left untreated. Jonathan Penner had a similar situation, when he got a cut that became infected and he had to be pulled. Telling someone the news that they are being pulled always leaves me feeling a bit “less than” after it’s over. You rarely feel like this is a “win-win.” They’re not happy, you’re not happy, the doctor who has to make the call is not happy.

People leave families and jobs to come play this game and to have it cut short is tough to take. And in the case of Neal, he leaves with an idol, which had to be even more frustrating. It has gotten easier over the years, but only because I learned to accept that the game of Survivor comes with highs and lows for everybody, myself included.

It appeared as if Neal did NOT give Aubry his hidden immunity idol on the way out of the game, but he would have been permitted to hand that over, correct? Or is he already considered out of the game at that point once the doctor pulls him?

That’s a really good question and one that I’m glad you asked. Because we were aware he had an idol and knew he might want to give it to someone, either in public or in private, we discussed this beforehand. Our decision was yes, he would have been allowed to give his idol to someone and here’s why — he didn’t know he was going to be pulled from the game. The decision to pull someone is made by a doctor after examining in private and that’s not anything Neal should be expected to anticipate. So once he was pulled, it seemed fair to let him do or say whatever he wanted on his way out. I actually thought he would do it. I was surprised, but that’s why Survivor continues to be fun — you truly cannot predict what people are going to do.

“Tai’s balls banging into each other.” And, “Nick with a lot of movement — his balls dancing all over the place.” Okay. Jeff, there is no way you can convince me that was not intentional. You’re clearly taking one for the team here by giving immature morons like me something to chuckle about while watching the challenge, right?

Who… me? You know, Dalton, here’s the thing… When I’m in a challenge, I am so in the zone, so absolutely focused on doing my job that I just don’t censor myself. In fact, it goes beyond it being a choice. I’m so focused that I’m actually physically and mentally unable to censor. It’s a trait most often seen in truly dedicated professionals. Harvard and Pepperdine have both done studies on it and both came to the same conclusion — offering me honorary Doctorates. (No actual classification of study, just the plaque.)

Sometimes the Freudian parts of my brain rise to the surface and seemingly disconnected words come together to form a thought that seems to fit the situation — despite the inappropriateness. And our editors know that I am a man who stands by my decisions. If I said it, you have to leave it in, even if it’s embarrassing to me. So I take the lumps that come with these verbal hiccups because I want our fans to know that I leave myself as vulnerable as the players. So, long answer to a short question: Of course these are not intentional. I would never do that.

Yeah, not sure I’m buying that one, mister. Okay, since we had no Tribal Council, we’re still not 100 percent sure exactly where things stand in this newly merged tribe, so tease us up for next week’s episode.

Sometimes one event can change everything and Neal’s evacuation is definitely a turning point. You’re going to see moves start to be made from here on out. And a great immunity challenge!

Check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode above. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full episode recap. For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss and check back soon for our exit interview with Neal.

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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