SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
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Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Edge of Extinction.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start by talking about the two contestants voted out in David and Kelley. We’ve chatted in the past about the advantage returning players have in Survivor and the statistics have backed up that they tend to go further and do better than new players in mixed seasons. However, it has seemed to be the complete opposite this season in that the newbies have targeted returning players. Do you think that’s what did in David and Kelley here, just the fact that they were returnees and therefore seen as bigger threats?
JEFF PROBST: Yes, from very early on the theme seemed to be “Get Rid of The Returnees” and yet they lasted a long time. And now with Extinction, they have a legit shot to get back in and still win. And I don’t necessarily think this means a blanket “new approach” toward returning players. Every season of Survivor is its own “thing.” It’s quite possible in future seasons that a new player once again decides to align with a returning player rather than take them out.

But I do respect the fact that when we called Joe, Aubry, David, and Kelley – every one of them knew they would have a target and yet they all said yes without much cajoling. It’s why they are fun to watch play, because they are very strong competitors who understand this game very well and they aren’t afraid to play. With each season of Survivor, I gain even more respect for those who play this game. It is so difficult to navigate.

Lauren, Kelley, Victoria, and Ron all sit out the first immunity challenge for pizza and beer. Any of those decisions surprise you, because there are some serious gamers in that group?
The “eat or play” twist delivers surprises every time and there is always one constant takeaway: hungry people want to eat. There is also one prevailing reason players give for choosing food over immunity: “I don’t think I can win this challenge anyway…” If that is the truth, then sitting out is probably a very wise move. You are calculating the risk of giving up immunity against the slight odds of you winning it in the first place and then contrasting that with the certainty of food. The food gives you a known positive outcome. The lack of immunity is a negative, but it seems quite likely either way, so food wins out.

This kind of strategizing is one of my favorite parts of the game. Players who are constantly weighing risk vs. reward and making moves to try and maximize every opportunity. This may be a far-reaching example but think about last Tribal Council when everybody lost their minds. Part of that was due to the inability to think clearly due to lack of food. Imagine that Julia, who was completely depleted at that point, had just spent the afternoon devouring pizza. Now she’s back to her normal very bright self with all of her cognitive abilities back in check. So as Julie is causing chaos at one end of tribal, Julia is using her brain to look at options for how to stay clear of the madness and avoid being voted out. Could have been a very different outcome. But instead, she’s exhausted, she’s short-fused and just wants Tribal to be over and makes one or two combative comments that turn the tide toward her, and another great player is out.

Aurora gives Ron her extra vote and says that if she gets voted out, it is his to keep. On one hand, that could incentivize Ron to get rid of her and take her advantage. On the other hand, by keeping her in the game, perhaps Ron gets another ally. What did you make of Aurora’s decision to do that, and Ron’s decision to keep her in the game?
Aurora has really impressed me. I think her game is being overlooked in large part because it’s tougher for Aurora to connect with people on an emotional level so she doesn’t have the same kind of relationships. But if you examine the moves she’s making, she is showing herself to be a player willing to take risks to help her advance. Yes, Ron could definitely betray her. It would cost him a jury vote, but it might get rid of a threat and give him power. If he makes that move, then people will say “Ron is a bad ass!” Followed by, “Oh Aurora, what were you thinking!!?”

Neither player would be right or wrong, they’d both be doing the same thing – playing Survivor. But instead, Ron makes a different move and earns a deeper trust with Aurora and Aurora shows herself willing to extend trust to another player. As for Ron, I think he’s playing an extremely clever game. He’s a very good, calm, future-thinking player. He’s been involved in more votes than probably any other player, and yet he always manages to make himself appear to be just on the outside of the group. It’s been quite fun to watch him. I especially enjoy Ron in interviews because he is so good at telling you exactly what his plan is so the audience can watch along as he executes it.

A fascinating discussion broke out at the second Tribal Council over the question of whether players essentially chase the rush of the blindside. Do you think that happens? Do players sometimes act against their best interests in the game because of the addictive excitement of pulling off a sophisticated ruse?
I agree, it really was a great conversation. I think both are probably true at times — that people get the rush of a blindside and it might color their decision. But I’ll be honest: As exciting a thought as that is, I don’t think it’s a common occurrence. I’ve seen a lot of Tribal Councils and I have come to expect that most of what people are telling me is very well rehearsed lies. They are so good at lying, that I don’t really ever consider if they’re telling me the truth or not, I just follow the story they are telling. So based on that idea, it would seem that most blindsides are very well planned, well-rehearsed, and then executed with excruciating detail to ensure that they work and that they have maximum impact when they do.

Okay, we’re getting close to the homestretch now. What can you say about next week’s episode?
Now, it’s starting to get personal.

Check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode at the top of the post and also make sure to read our full recap as well our investigation into what happened to Jeff’s final words of wisdom that used to end every epsiode. Plus, 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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