SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: David vs. Goliath.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This marks the second time you have had to evacuate the entire cast in Fiji due to a cyclone. Take us through the nuts and bolts of how you all made the call to get the players off the beach, and then what happened after you picked up the tribes. Where did they go and were they all housed together or still separated by tribes?
JEFF PROBST: These are the kinds of moments when I am able to truly reflect on how well our entire production team can execute in times of crisis. We had been tracking this storm for several days. We had been in contact with CBS to let them know that an evacuation was likely going to happen. Every department goes into preparation mode as we continue to monitor the changing weather patterns. In this case, we had three different weather models we were following and they all predicted the same thing — the storm would hit us hard. Pulling tribes off the beach is a decision that we only make out of true necessity. But their safety is our number one concern every day we are out there. The drama of the show is paramount but it is always secondary to making sure we look out for them.

Once we made the decision to pull them off the beaches, the rest was pretty straight forward. The marine department is obviously very involved in determining what time of day we need to evacuate to ensure they can get back to basecamp before the storm hits. We planted a couple of cameras with batteries out at the beaches and then we evacuated as well. Our production team back at base camp had already set up temporary housing for each tribe. They stayed separated and slept in very basic units with no comfort. They might argue it was worse in some ways because what little control they had on their beach was taken away as they were under a “no talking” lock down.

I have to mention that the players were truly amazing in terms of having a great attitude. They appreciated we were looking out for them. Equally important, they also respected that the game, while temporary on hold, was still alive and so they did not challenge us or try to get away with anything. I felt it bonded us even more deeply because of the mutual respect. And when they returned to the game there was a very clear renewed vigor. It really helped remind them that what they are doing is as real as anything they will ever do.

You had the tribes off the beach for two days. What were they allowed — and not allowed — to do in that time?
Nothing. Honestly, I think it’s much more difficult to be sequestered. We try to make it as painless as possible but you’re talking about a group of Type A humans who like to be in control of their lives. And on the production side, we weren’t doing much either. We basically shut down our operations as well. Buildings were boarded up, evacuation plans were constantly being evaluated in case the storm got worse. It’s a bit like the calm before a tornado. Everything gets quiet and then the storm hits. But we weathered it really well and the game picked right back up where it left off!

Natalie told you that you were wrong and she is not somebody who always has to have the last word. You spent enough time with her and watching her, so who is Natalie Napalm, Jeff?
It’s a great question. As I continue to learn from Survivor, I have realized that often the thing that makes us most interesting is also our Achilles heel. Natalie is absolutely fascinating. She’s a strong, well spoken, powerful woman who has been extremely successful in life. That gives her a lot of confidence to listen to her gut and believe she is always right. And that’s her Achilles heel — she truly believes she is always right.

I think it’s relatable to a lot of people because to be a true leader you have to believe in your decisions and your ability to assess correctly in any given situation. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong. It’s this delicate balance between ego and humility. Too much ego, you lose your perspective. Too much humility, you begin to self-doubt. And the best part of all, if Natalie remains true to her character, she will NEVER believe she was wrong. She’ll believe they made a tragic mistake that is going to haunt them the rest of the game. I was on the fence about putting her on the show because I thought she might be an easy first out. Clearly, I was… once again… wrong. I’m so glad she was a player this season.

This season has gotten a strong reaction from fans so far and it seems like you all were able to really introduce a lot of different players in a short amount of time. Was there anything you all consciously did differently from an editing or storytelling perspective this season, or is this just a particularly engaging cast?
Love that you asked this question. We have tried to focus more of our time and energy on the personal stories of the players. In the first few episodes. that means only one challenge per episode so that we have another chunk of time to let you get to know them. We also worked extremely hard to put together this cast. Lynne Spillman and her team went back many times to continue to try and find one more great person. The result — a season FULL of great people.

The reason that is so important is that you can truly divide the storytelling amongst everybody and that allows us even more time to get to know them. We’re also trying to bring in a bit of a sense of humor at times, just as an experiment in levity. We’re also playing with our editing in terms of what we share with the audience and when we share it. I also think the theme was the right choice in terms of where we are as a country. It’s been very interesting to hear what kinds of people align with the Davids and who aligns with the Goliaths. The bottom line in all of this is the faith that our audience wants us to continue to experiment. We don’t feel the pressure to do the same thing. In fact, we feel tremendous pressure to continue to find new, risky ideas. We’re not stopping with this one either!

Before you make off with my jacket, what can you tell us about next week’s episode?
It’s absolutely fantastic and one of my favorite challenges ever in terms of what it says about the character of the people playing this season.

Watch an exclusive deleted scene above and make sure to check out our exit interview with Natalie Napalm and read our episode recap. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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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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