Survivor: Jeff Probst on the biggest Ghost Island fan favorite so far
Each week Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Ghost Island.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Chatting with folks, the person who seems to be the early fan favorite this season is Donathan, and obviously we saw a lot more of him this week talking about taking care of his ailing grandmother. What was it you saw from him in casting that led you to put him on the show, and what has been your take on his game so far?
JEFF PROBST: It is not uncommon, at least for me, to know within the first 30 seconds if I think someone should be on the show. I’m just one vote, but I’m often fairly quick to connect. That was the case with Donathan. He was very open and vulnerable in sharing his story. He was instantly engaging. He has a great dialect. Survivor has never had anyone like Donathan.
Our casting process is far from a science. We miss great people all the time for various reasons, so we always encourage people to apply again and again. We want people who love the show, know the game, and can tell a story. You don’t have to have an emotional backstory like Donathan. And you don’t have to make your audition video in the form of a short film either. Just tell us who you are. People like Donathan are clearly unique but we are always looking at the group of players like a tapestry. We need lots of different fabrics and colors.
As for Donathan thus far, I couldn’t be happier for us, or for him. People are really taken by his approach to the game, which I think is heavily influenced by his life experiences. He is simultaneously playing the game while making new — and what I think he hopes will be true — friendships. It’s rare to see this happen on our show. It makes me happy. He would make a great winner. People would love that!
Ever since the tribe swap, the tribes can never come up with a consensus in terms of whom to send to Ghost Island, so the other tribe ends up picking rocks. I haven’t come up with a good solution to avoid this (because having a majority vote decide it seems maybe too time-consuming and unwieldy). Did you all discuss any other options of how to handle the Ghost Island selection process, or have you since had any ideas on changing it up if something like this (or Exile) comes up in the future?
Well, clearly you don’t think the rock draw works! You and I often differ on how to produce the show and I think this is another example. Not right vs wrong, just different. I love the dilemma the tribe has to conquer. You either come together in a unanimous decision… or you leave it to chance. That’s the catch. Control vs chance. If you make it a simple majority rules, then whoever has the strong alliance will continue to dictate the game. Naviti would decide and their power would continue to grow.
We like the game to be mixed up, which is why we have tribe switches. When you leave it up to chance, you could end up burning someone on your own alliance or unintentionally giving power to someone on the other tribe. You saw it last week with Kellyn. He didn’t want to go, it was her worst fear, but she was forced to draw and she drew the wrong rock. Where you see an issue, I see the Survivor gods walking alongside us!
Stephanie was a player that showed a lot of game right off the bat and then ended up on the wrong side of the numbers after the tribe swap. How would you assess her stay on the island?
I liked her gameplay. I wish she had lasted longer. She had even more game than I thought in casting. She was really good with Jacob in how she handled him, and she was very driven by her kids to do well in the game. I don’t think there is much doubt that had she been on the right side of the numbers she would have been a very strong force in her alliance. Unfortunately, Survivor is a zero-sum game and that means almost everybody loses. Stephanie would be great to have back again.
You’re not getting out of here until we look ahead a bit. What can you tell us about next week’s episode?
We get to know a couple players a bit more, there’s a crazy blindfold challenge and another riveting Tribal Council. I will go ahead and say it — this is one of my all-time favorite seasons and I am optimistic it will be for Survivor fans too.
Check out an exclusive deleted scene above and also make sure to read our full episode recap and exit interview with Stephanie Johnson. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.