Credit: CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng. Here, he answers burning questions about the finale. (We have another Q&A with Jeff where he shares scoop on NEXT season, and another post where he talks about that crazy Sia moment at the reunion.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, I always ask you every season to evaluate the winner. So how does Michele’s game stack up for you and do you think the jury made the right choice?

JEFF PROBST: You know me well enough to know that at this point in our run, I won’t contradict a jury. Because I have learned over the years that part of winning is winning over the jury. Michele did that. She earned it. From a big picture view, I think Michele had a lot of momentum going into the vote. She really turned it on at the end. She kicked the afterburners on at the right time!

As for my own personal opinion I think we had three very different approaches to the game. Aubry was a come from behind player. She started out in a deep hole. Maybe too deep. Her recovery was really something amazing as she went from “first out” to final three. That’s quite an accomplishment when you go back to episode one.

Tai’s journey was very different. He started out so likable and his energy was so contagious that everybody fell in love with him. Where Survivor gets tricky is that I don’t think “normal life” is much different is when it comes to first impressions. Just taking about Tai and Michele as an example. Tai started out with big expectations because he was so earnest and such a humanitarian (which is ultimately what attracted Sia to him.) So when he started to play the game and delved into the dark side, his tribemates, and some fans, felt betrayed because he didn’t live up to this HIGH standard. So he might have been penalized.

On the flip side, when Michele started the game she was seen as a beautiful woman… and nothing else. She had a lot to prove. So when she started to play the game, even voting out her best friend, (delving into the dark side) the tribe and the audience saw her as exceeding expectations so she was rewarded. Both were playing the game. But the perception was altered by the first impression made. It cost Tai. It helped Michele. And as for Aubry, she was in the middle. Neal votes for Aubry and we have a 5-3 vote. Very close.

Okay, let’s get right into the big huge new twist as you introduced a post-final three reward challenge that confused the hell out of everybody for a second. Take us through the origins of where this idea came from. And was this something you added in due to all the medical evacuations, or was it in the plans from the very beginning?

No, we did not add it after due to medical evacuations. We had talked about this idea for many years. It just felt too soon to do it seven years ago so we waited. And waited. And I think the timing was right. In the studio at CBS the audience had a pretty big reaction to it and that was fun to hear. Even though it ultimately did not have an impact on the vote, the idea is a fun one as it gives players in the game an unusual bit of power. As a side note, the only time an evacuation impacts the game if it happens early in an episode and we have to go to Tribal and still vote someone out. This season it did not impact out numbers so our twists were able to play out as planned.

What was the jury’s reaction to this twist, and how did Neal take it after he was sequestered?

Neal was a great sport. For a guy who was pulled from the game and didn’t get to be “voted out”, and then was pulled from the jury and didn’t get a “vote”, he really had a great attitude and took it as a compliment. Michele was clearly right. Neal was not going to vote for her. It’s pretty awesome when you look at it that way. I love this twist.

You know I love a good fire-making tiebreaker. Cydney was truly hitting Becky and Sundra levels of ineptitude here. Does it surprise you that players can get this far into the game without practicing that, even though they know it could ultimately determine their fate in the game?

I have to be honest and say that I do think it’s a bit unfair to criticize Cydney, even though I am the first to say that “fire represents life.” Everybody has their role on a tribe and fire making was clearly not Cydney’s. But…yes, your point is a good one and I would agree in general terms — future players… regardless your role, learn how to make fire. It could be a million dollar skill. I fully believe that if Cydney beats Aubry she may have won the entire season.

Finally, I have saved the most important question for last: What happened to Mark the Chicken after you guys wrapped Tribal Council?

He was given to a local family.

We also have a separate Q&A where Jeff shares scoop about NEXT season, plus another post where Jeff explains that crazy Sia moment at the Reunion show. More Survivor goodies: Check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode above, and 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 interviews with the final three.

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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