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Each week, Jeff Probst has been answering a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Ghost Island. Here, he weighs in on the big finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, congratulations to you for breaking your streak of terrible pre-game prognosticating and actually picking the winner for once. You reversed your own curse! Give me your take on Wendell entering the hall of champions as a Sole Survivor.
JEFF PROBST: I love Wendell. I fought very hard to get him on the show and yes, I picked him to win. But to be honest, my winner picks are based on very little as I make the prediction before the game even begins.
Okay, this new final Tribal Council format that you started with Game Changers played out pretty remarkably here in terms of the back and forth between Wendell, Domenick, Laurel, and all the jurors. What was your biggest takeaway from all this interaction as the jury members not only called out the finalists, but also even polled each other at certain points to get to the real truth?
This was what we hoped for with the new final tribal format. A true battle where the jury could be detectives one moment and litigators the next. I really respected how hard both sides worked to bring this season to a fitting end. The jury made them work for it, but never belittled them. The final three fought for it, but never went out of their way to injure the other two. For my money, that is a great ending to a great season. And I can tell you it felt like a boxing match. Dom would land a blow and Wendell would counter. Back and forth the entire night. I felt for Laurel, but I think this is how it goes on Survivor. You cannot play a quiet game and expect the jury to recognize that. There has to be a bit of flash and a bit of public displays of gameplay.
You are clearly some sort of psychic because at the Game Changers finale a year ago you publicly revealed the rule how if there was a tie in votes between two people at the final Tribal Council that the third person in the finals would then break the tie by voting for the winner. Then, just a week later, the filming for Ghost Island began, which ended in the tie that forced Laurel to vote and gave Wendell the win over Domenick. Tell me your thoughts when you all saw that the vote was all knotted up and that this was actually going to happen.
Again, what a crazy coincidence. I remember our executive producer Matt Van Wagenen saying, “Are you sure you want to give away how we’re going to do it?” And I remember replying, “We haven’t had a tie in 35 seasons, seems unlikely. It’s a fun moment, so let’s reveal it.” It’s kinda like Kellyn on Ghost Island, be careful what you put out there: The Survivor gods are listening.
I think you know I have not personally been a fan of the final four fire-making contest, but I also firmly agree that you all need to try new things out to see if they work (like that new final Tribal Council format we just got into). Now that you’ve seen the final four fire-making play out twice, is this something that is here to stay or will you all be going back to the traditional final four vote for season 37?
It’s here to stay. We do have back ups in case of bad weather, but this is a tiebreaker that we feel is appropriate. It works on a thematic level — “fire represents your life” — and it also speaks to the community element of the game. Fire is the single most important thing at camp. Everybody has the same opportunity to try and make fire. And furthermore, if you don’t ever contribute to trying to make fire, are you really doing your part? Shouldn’t everybody know how to make fire? So until we think of a better and equally fair tie-breaker, this is it.
You know I’ve been geeking out on all the former Survivor props and relics at Ghost Island, and you saved a fun one for the very end as Dom got to pick from among three urns from three seasons in which a loser picked the wrong person to bring to the end, who ended up beating them. Where did this idea come from and do you think if you had given Dom an urn from a season in which someone made the right choice that things might have ended differently? DID YOU JINX DOM FROM WINNING, PROBST?!!!
The idea was born of necessity. Whenever possible, we want every theme idea to be able to play out in the final episode, so it was essential that we had one final visit to Ghost Island. Coming up with the idea was fairly easy once you got into the groove of Survivor history. But Mr. Ross, your question of jinxing Dom is a bit perplexing. Why, in the final episode, would we change from a history of bad decisions to a single moment of a good decision? Ha! Yes, it’s a fun question… does the idea of bad mojo get inside your head? For all the jokes you can make about Ghost Island, Wendell fought to get out of the orange fire making station… and he won. Coincidence?
Also make sure to check out our finale recap, as well as interviews with Wendell, Domenick, Laurel, Angela, Donathan, and Sebastian as well as our finale recap, and interview with Probst and Mark Burnett about NEXT season. And for all the Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.