SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols. This week, he explains that unique beginning to the episode, Island of the Idols protocol, the most infamous nap in Survivor history, and more.

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Survivor episode start this way. Not only was there no “Previously on…” segment, but you started the episode with three quick flash-forward looks ahead to moments from the episode. Where did that idea come from and is that something we are going to continue to see this season?

JEFF PROBST: It started as a big picture idea that centered around wanting to engage the audience even more in the mystery of each episode. We experimented with several different ways we might achieve this and settled on replacing the “Previously on…” with a look forward at “What’s about to happen…” but in a way that brings up more questions (mystery) than answers. We still have some other ideas we may play with in the future but for now this is what we’re doing! We enjoy trying new ideas in the editing bays and the feedback has been positive so we’ll continue doing it. The format of Survivor always remains the same, but what you do within that format is where the fun lives.

Kellee put her listening skills to the test and won an idol on her visit to Rob and Sandra. I’ve found it interesting that instead of people choosing whom from the other tribe should have to go to Island of the Idols next, you have just had people blindly pick a name out of a bag. Why go that route instead of allowing people or winning tribes at challenges to select whom to send?

In a word… mystery. From its inception, Island of the Idols always had a foundation of mystery. What is it? What happens over there? So, we wanted to continue that idea by keeping some mystery around which player would be going next. Anybody who ever dreams of playing Survivor should always remember that our job as producers of this game is to keep you off balance. It’s not intended to be cruel or even manipulative, it’s only designed to force you to continue to adapt. I know there are still skeptics, even after 39 seasons, but it’s the truth. We still see this as a social experiment exploring human behavior. The million-dollar prize is the MacGuffin.

A really fun new challenge as the tribes had to retrieve a ladder from underwater and then hold the ladder up in the water that a player had to then climb up to retrieve a bag. We saw Vokai drop their ladder — with Molly still on it — twice, which ultimately did them in. I know the swells there can be so unpredictable, but was this something you saw happen when the Dream Teamers were testing out the challenge, or were the drops unanticipated?

In the early days of Survivor, before I had the beautiful opportunity to be a parent, I used to love challenges like this where people fell hard and struggled to get up! But something has shifted and now I am like a camp counselor who is constantly worried about the Dream Teamers and the players! It’s ridiculous. I am on edge during challenges like this because of exactly what happened — Molly fell off twice! I don’t remember if it happened in rehearsals or not but, even without swells, it could easily happen. But… to be fair, we are in the water with a sandy bottom, and it’s plenty deep. So the chances of an injury were not high, you just fall in the water and then get back on the ladder. But you wouldn’t know that if you were monitoring my heart rate!

Jamal felt his power trio was running the show and decided to take a nap before going to Tribal Council. Is that as bad as it sounds and looked? Was it simple overconfidence that did Molly and her alliance in?

Here’s the truth. It is impossible to explain the toll this game takes on every single player in all ways, every day. You sit at home and think you could do better, but it’s an emotionally and physically draining experience from the moment you get up to the moment you try to get some sleep. It’s constant. So, on those rare occasions when you actually think you can trust what is happening, you might give in to temptation and try to sneak in a quick nap. Or you might wander away from a seemingly innocent conversation for a refreshing dip in the ocean. But … to your point… it is imperative that you avoid those temptations and stay fully focused on every single thing that is happening, every single moment.

Very strong start to the season. What can you tease up for next week?

My favorite visit to Island of the Idols thus far! I can’t stress enough how fantastic Sandra and Rob were as on-camera producers. They make it look so easy that it seems as though anybody could do it. That’s not the case. And they have a fun lesson and test designed for the next visitor!

Watch an exclusive deleted scene above and make sure to read our episode recap as well as our exit interview with Molly. 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 $1 million, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "Dig deep!"

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