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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
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Each week host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the most recent episode of Survivor: Game Changers. Here, he weighs in on the big two-hour premiere episode.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It only lasted for what appeared to be about two days of actual time, but the Tony vs. Sandra battle immediately entered the pantheon of epic Survivor strategy feuds. How excited were you to see these two titans going at it with each other and how much do you wish we could have gotten more of it? Because my answer to both those questions is VERY!
JEFF PROBST: We begin each new season of Survivor with the same daunting question: “Is this going to work?” Our entire theme rested on one idea — big time players willing to make big time moves. When Tony and Sandra went head to head only moments into the game, we knew we were in good hands. We had chosen the right people and the right idea. For Tony to come out of the gate that strong and to go up against the “Queen” of Survivor was all we could ever hope for from him. He could have easily tried to just lay low for a while, but it’s not in his nature. He’s willing to risk even if it means losing.

And Sandra didn’t hesitate in responding. This battle lets it be known to the other 18 that if you have an arrow pointed at someone, you better make it count because chances are very good they have one pointed at you. Yes, we would love to have had those two go at it for weeks, but the reason it resonated so much is because of the stakes. This season, every day is an all-in game of human poker.

Following up on that, being there at Tribal Council as Tony was voted out and he and Sandra started jawing at each other, how much of that appeared to be genuine animosity, and how much of it was just pride and boasting?
I think it’s hard to separate. I don’t imagine that it’s true deep animosity that continues outside of the game, but within the game, I think the emotion was very strong and very honest. These guys know that there are two worlds — their real life and their Survivor life. In Survivor, it can be brutally personal. But my experiences have shown me that the bond the players share — having gone through such an amazing ordeal — usually triumphs over hurt feelings that comes only as a result of the game.

RELATED: Survivor Courtney Yates and Andrea Boehlke on Returning to the Show

Meanwhile, on the other tribe, we had an Ozzy and Cirie division forming. How much do you think this is about Ozzy holding a grudge from 18 seasons ago, and in a broader sense, how much on a returning-players season does previous baggage come into play as opposed to what happens when they actually get out there? Obviously, a game with people who know each other has to be a bit different than one with all strangers.
What makes this season so unique is that you do have previous relationships and every player is aware that those relationships can help you or hurt you. And the kicker is it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with where the relationship starts on day one. You could be super tight from a previous season and that could be the sole reason you want to take each other out. Or you can be arch-enemies and realize this is a perfect time to team up. It’s that unknown… that makes it so incredibly tough to gauge what move is the right move.

I’ve done a lot of challenges out there on location before, and I think this snake challenge has to be the hardest one ever. I know you went back and forth on a lot of things (like the weight of the snake) before you put this into play. I also know that those dumb paddles spelling IMMUNITY almost drove me insane because the rings would never stick on them and they would constantly fly back up. Is this me just being a weakling and a complainer, or was this an especially difficult challenge for you all?
Okay, first off you are not alone in complaining about the paddles, I think that’s natural. You’re in full adrenaline mode and you want things to work the way you want them to work. We had a different goal on the producing side. Our challenge and art department worked hard to get those paddles just where we wanted them — not a gimme… but not impossible. And as you saw in the challenge it worked out great. Huge drama.

As for the weight of the snake, again I will come to your defense. That snake was HEAVY. Holy smokes! It weighed several hundred pounds. I watched you guys do it in rehearsal and you were exhausted when it was over. So you are not complaining, it was just overwhelming. But as you noted, the secret for us was getting the snake in the sweet spot when it came to weight. We wanted them to falsely assume it would be manageable, and then once in the water realize “Oh man, this is WAY more than we anticipated.” Those are the moments where you see who is calm and who panics.

Looks like we have a tribe switcheroo coming up. I also know the number 18 is easily divisible by 3. What can you tell us about what’s coming up next week?
Damn, you’re sharp. Private school education? Yes, in a season called Game Changers you should expect twists… all the time. It’s going to be a very fun season with lots of opportunities for them to play. Nobody should ever give up because hope is always just a day away.

Check out our on-location video with Jeff Probst right after the first Tribal Council at the top of the post, as well as an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode above. Also, make sure to read Dalton’s recap, and for more Survivor scoopage, 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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