By Dalton Ross
March 29, 2018 at 12:01 AM EDT
  • TV Show
  • CBS

Each week, Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Ghost Island.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We heard those magic words — “Drop your buffs” — once again here with another tribe swap. I’d love it if you could take us into a Survivor creative meeting as you map out the season and walk us through how you all determine how many swaps to do and when to do them? I find these decisions pretty fascinating because I’m sure you’re weighing many different factors in terms of making sure players do not get too comfortable and static, while at the same time trying to make it as clear as possible for the audience in terms of who is where, especially early in the season as they’re still learning all the names and faces.
JEFF PROBST: Well, as I’ve said before, it’s definitely not a science. There are lots of factors that go into it, but it tends to center around keeping the game unpredictable. Anytime you switch too often, you run the risk of confusing the audience. So it’s ultimately a bit of a guess and then a roll of the dice.

I wish Survivor fans could watch us plot out a season in the months leading up to Day One. It is like a puzzle that you can never really solve. I say this to you often, but if we did not have intense fan loyalty, we would never be able to try things — like Ghost Island or new advantages or multiple switches. We just keep doing our best to make a good show and learn as we go.

No Ghost Island visit for the first time this episode. Why did you all decide not to send someone there this week and how do you plan to incorporate Ghost Island over the new few episodes now that you have three tribes to look in on, at least one challenge, and a Tribal Council to get to in only about 43 minutes of air-time?
Ah, you are getting into the weeds now and I love it. The single biggest hurdle we currently have with our show is fitting everything into the hour. It’s a great problem to have, but it is an obstacle for sure. Survivor is unpredictable. We never know if the reality on the beaches will be the big story or if the challenge will produce some game-changing moment or if Tribal will be intense and long. So you can’t plan it like you would a scripted show with each act having every moment already written.

Every element of Ghost Island was planned out. We know which episodes someone will get a shot at playing a game and which ones won’t and we know what advantages they will be playing for. We designed it with an idea toward what we want in the game at any given time. But just like with everything else, the ultimate decision of whether to play the game at Ghost Island is up to the player. So even that is not in our control. Yes, we missed it this week due to the three-tribe switch, but I can say that Ghost Island plays all the way through to the end.

James definitely redeemed himself after his nightmare in the water during the second immunity challenge, but he became the odd man out there due to numbers. How would you sum up his time on the island?
When I first met James, I suggested that his biggest obstacle would be in building personal relationships. He is so driven and so purposeful in his approach to life that my first impression was he didn’t understand how to just “be” and let the flow find him rather than carve out a path and create his own flow.

I challenged him to go listen to a specific Tony Robbins podcast that I thought might offer some insight. I thought he would laugh me off, but to my surprise, he followed through and checked it out. I don’t know how much impact it had but I do know this: he was different on the island. He worked hard to create personal relationships. He stood up and accepted blame for things and tried to build bonds that would allow him to recover. Very few people will ever know how much he grew. But he knows.

Things look to be getting a bit hot next week, and I’m not just talking about the Malolo flag burning. What can you say about the next episode?
Well, in keeping with our theme of how do you fit it all in…? Brace yourself. Next week is jam-packed with moments that change the entire direction of the game.

Check out an exclusive deleted scene above and also make sure to read our full episode recap and exit interview with James. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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