By Dalton Ross
February 21, 2019 at 12:01 AM EST
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Each week host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Edge of Extinction. Here, he chats about the season premiere.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You all do so much work learning about these players through the grueling casting process, but you never really know who is going to pop on-screen until they get out on the island. So who among the new cast members popped for you in these first few days?
JEFF PROBST: Well, I have to tell you that we spent a lot of time on this group in the same way we did with the David vs. Goliath cast of players. So, we did have high expectations because we believed we had a great group of people. But there were a few that still surprised us. We knew Ron would be a strong character, but he really impressed me with how quickly he jumped into the game. He went head first! I really like that. I think he is going to be a force.

Wendy was very charming in casting and we were hooked instantly, but I never anticipated her being so at ease around everyone so quickly. She just dropped into the sand, started weaving and sharing her very personal story. I was also curious about how Keith would fare in the first few days. I suspected he might be a bit of a fish out of water due to his young age, but he clearly has a strong point of view and is not afraid to go against the popular opinion.

Of the four returning players of Joe, Aubry, David, and Kelley, who had the best first three days and who had the worst?
Ha! That’s a great leading question that I will skirt around because honestly, it’s just too soon to make that kind of assessment. I do think that for the first time ever, the four returning players will have to work extremely hard to not be voted out very early. There was a clear sense in those first few days that this group didn’t want them around. As you know, I always think that it’s a risky decision to get rid of returning players early. They offer so much wisdom and physical abilities around camp and to help you win challenges. Which is why I have to give respect to all four returning players for saying yes to this idea. Nobody hesitated.

It’s one of the most remarkable traits of returning players. You know, for a fact, you will have a larger target than anyone else, and you still are willing to leave your job and your family behind and risk being blindsided for a chance to play again. When people ask “What do you look for in a player” – that’s what you look for! The kind of person that can get out of their own ego and just come play this game time after time after time.

I remember when you first did the Redemption Island twist, you made a big point of letting the contestants know about it at the start of the season so they could plan accordingly. So why this time did you all decide to keep the aspect about voted-out people having a chance to get back in the game a secret?
Well, there were a few reasons. The biggest reason is we are always trying to change up the game and keep players off balance. And the players not only expect it, they crave it. The new and unpredictable twists are what make the game play so fun. So, having a secondary layer — almost a second game happening on another island — is a fun twist!

The other reason is The Edge of Extinction is not like Redemption Island. As the audience will see in coming weeks, this is a much more demanding existence — both physically and mentally. Absolutely nothing will be easy and the hope was that if people choose to stay there long enough, we may get new layers of emotional truth. I’m really excited for the audience to take the journey along with the players.

Reem seemed to be a pretty easy first vote in that she was just not gelling with the tribe. I remember watching that Tribal when I was out there and thinking that she just would not back down in the interest of smoothing things over. What was your take on her downfall and as a first guinea pig for the Edge of Extinction?
Dalton, you’ve been to a lot of “first Tribals” so you know as well as I do that it’s extremely rare that you have a Tribal Council where one person is so clearly on the outside. Reem just didn’t seem to fully grasp how she was being perceived by the others. What I found most fascinating was that her intentions really were coming from a good place. She’s a mom and she took on the mom role within her tribe.

But what she didn’t pick up on was that nobody wanted a mom. That’s the thing about Survivor, you are forming your own society and if the society doesn’t want a mom, then you can’t be a mom. I really felt for Reem. She wanted this experience so badly and then to be first off is tough. On the bright side, she is the first person ever to live on the Edge of Extinction. She can set the tone of how things are going to go and in that sense, it offers her a shot at redemption!

One episode down. What can you tell us about next week’s installment of Edge of Extinction?
Pairs are starting to form, and idols are coming into play! Have I said how much I love idols!? People are always suggesting we do a season without them; I’m going the other way. I think we need to do a season that features them even more! That oughta rile up a few people. Talk next week!

Watch the video above to get Probst’s immediate reaction after the first Tribal Council, and hit he SoundCloud above for a press roundtable assessment of the cast. Also make sure to check out our recap of the season premiere as well as our exhaustive behind-the-scenes feature on the marooning. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.
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