The host also says 'the old way of playing 'Survivor' is so done'

By Dalton Ross
December 14, 2016 at 07:19 PM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS
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Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X finishes its run tonight with its three-hour finale/reunion show, and with big time favorites like David, Jay, and Adam still in the game, it promises to be a doozy. The show has gotten stronger and stronger each and every week, even cracking the top 10 in my updated season rankings.

We spoke to Jeff Probst to preview tonight’s finale and reunion, and the host is equally psyched about what has gone down so far. “It’s one of my favorite seasons,” says Probst. “I’m not kidding. This group of 20? They are one of the few groups I would say, en masse, to bring back everybody to play again. We have so many returning players from this group that I’d like to see play again.”

Always a fan of aggressive gameplay, Probst likes the big moves and shake-ups and the fact that as we head into the finale, we have the same amount of Gen Xers and Millennials. “I love that we started with 20 players and we’re down to six and we have three and three,” says the host. “The old way of playing Survivor is so done — the whole our five will stick together, or our generation will stick together, or us girls will stick together. Because everybody wants to get to the end, it seems the only way to get to the end is to continue to make moves.”

Probst thinks all six players still alive — Bret, Ken, David, Hannah, Adam, Jay — still have a shot, but that their collective strategic chops are not the most interesting thing about them. “I think it’s pretty fair to say that any of the six could win at this point and that is very, very unusual,” says Probst. “It depends, obviously, on what happens and whom you’re sitting next to. I think the theme of the season, in addition to great gameplay, is personal stories of growth. It’s kind of been staggering how many people have shared things, from David and Hannah and Zeke and Bret — these personal journeys of how they’ve changed themselves while they were out here. And in most cases, by exposing their perceived weaknesses and things they were most vulnerable about, they’ve been rewarded. That is the most fulfilling part of the season for me. “

While the hard part for players and viewers alike will be waiting to see who takes home the million dollars, Probst’s most difficult task will be managing the reunion show that follows, especially when there is so much to talk about in so little time. “You look back at the season and think, what is it in our 20 or 30 minutes of time that we should talk about,” he says. “And this season has had so much to talk about that my biggest struggle as always is, who do we talk to? And who do we disappoint and not get a chance to talk to.”

Two people Probst definitely will be talking to are Taylor and Figgy, whose season-long showmance came to a crashing halt when they returned to the U.S. and Taylor learned that he had gotten another woman back home pregnant. (Figgy broke the news to us, and then Taylor confirmed it later.) 

“Yeah, we have to talk to them because people do want to know,” says Probst. “From what I heard, Taylor is just telling the truth, which is that he thought he was a single guy and then he came home and found out, ‘while I was gone, my ex-girlfriend discovered she’s pregnant.’ And so I think it’s difficult, but I imagine that Taylor will laugh as he tells the story, and Figgy will shrug her shoulders and say, ‘Yeah, moving on.’ It seems to be how they are. Although I do believe, and I’m going to ask Figgy, I believe that night at Tribal where I said, ‘I am an ordained minister,’ that if Taylor would have said yes, that Figgy would have said yes as well. I felt like they were in that place in life where, ‘Why not? Let’s do it.’” (Good thing they didn’t, it seems.)

But, of course, inevitably there will be people from the cast who don’t get their reunion show moment in the sun, and Probst knows he will take the brunt of the online blame for that. “Despite what people might think, I’m not callous and I’m not without feeling. I know it’s a big night for everybody. In the old days, we had more time, but as our final episodes get longer and more packed with content, it bleeds into the third hour. That’s our priority: What’s the best finish to the season for the fans. And then whatever time we have left to talk to people is really fun. So it really comes down to, who were the most impactful and the most interesting?”

My answer? Michaela, Michaela, Michaela.

For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.
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