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 weighs in on Vince’s invasion of the rival tribe camp, Karishma’s injury, the cast diversity, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Vince breaking into the other tribe’s camp as part of his Island of the Idols test. How hard is that to pull off, and what did you make of his decision to bring back ash as proof once he saw that Vokai did not have any fire to steal?
JEFF PROBST: It’s very tough to sneak into another tribe camp without getting caught for a variety of reasons: You don’t know the layout of their camp, you don’t know who will be awake and who will be asleep, you can’t be certain that someone isn’t out looking for an idol and may come back to find you, and you’re doing it with zero ambient light, so every single step is difficult. When Vince made the decision to go for it, there was no sign of rain, so there wasn’t any kind of a “plan B” agreed to with Rob and Sandra.

So, when he got on the boat and it started to rain, things got very complicated. He had already agreed to the deal. So now he has to do it in the rain and when he reaches the fire his worst fears are confirmed… the fire has been extinguished by the rain. But this is Survivor and Survivor is about adapting. Every day. Every moment. I was very impressed that Vince gathered ash and put it in his canteen, as that was really his only move.

But the part that kept me up late that night was wondering if Sandra and Rob would honor the ash as an acceptable completion of the test. If I were in charge, I would have, because I felt he proved he could do be daring, he pulled off the sneak without getting caught, and there was no way he could be blamed for mother nature putting out the fire, as that was not the test.

But the deal we made with Rob and Sandra was that we would never force them to do something they didn’t feel was legit to Survivor. They were adamant that they did not want to seem like they were our puppets. So, we gave them a lot of room to maneuver and crossed our fingers. They could have said “The rule was fire. No fire. No idol. You lose your vote.” I was very relieved to hear they accepted the ash and gave Vince the idol because I really do believe that in the spirit of the test, he passed with flying colors.

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

I don’t handle blood well, so that scene of Karishma cutting her hand was tough to watch. We saw none of her tribemates rushing to her aid to offer any help or assistance. At what point does your crew of producers and camera operators step in when someone has an accident like that and the rest of the tribe is being unresponsive?
I’m so glad you asked this question as younger fans might not know how it works out on the tribe camps. The most important thing to remember is that we monitor the players 24 hours a day for 39 straight days. So even though they are living on their own and there is no help at all from production, they are never without a producer watching them. So, if anything truly dangerous were to occur, we would intervene. You’ve seen it with cyclones and you’ve seen it with medical being called, but our oversight covers everything.

For instance, if for some reason a player became physical, or was deemed dangerous in any way, we would intervene immediately. Our goal is to let the players be in charge of their society and make their own rules, knowing that ultimately, they are always protected. In the case of Karishma’s cut, despite the blood and the pain, the injury was not so severe that Karishma was in a life-threatening situation. We let her handle it on her own and let the reality play out as it did. Then later when things calmed down, medical took a look at it and cleaned it up to ensure there would not be an infection.

This is the most ethnically diverse cast you have had since probably seasons 13 and 14. Was that an intentional mandate to become more diverse in the casting, or did it just happen that way because of the people you liked and wanted to bring out there?
The truth is, by design, we always want the cast to be as diverse as possible. That’s what makes the show interesting and also representative of our country. But lately, something really interesting has been happening. Over the last few years, our casting has really started to bloom with so many different people from different ethnicities starting to apply. It’s incredibly exciting for us. And it spreads, because when you are watching at home and you see someone who looks like you or comes from a part of the country that you’re from, it can inspire you to apply as well.

We often hear new players reference someone they saw on the show as the reason they applied. Cirie was one of the very first to truly inspire other women just like her to get up off the couch and go for it. You can even see it geographically. For instance, Donathan, who played in Survivor: Ghost Island, was from a small city in Kentucky and since his appearance we have been flooded with others from small cities in Kentucky. And now that we are in our 20th year of producing Survivor, we are seeing a huge number of young people who are applying for the first time after literally having grown up watching our show. It’s a very fun time to be making Survivor.

Finally, Tom called Karishma’s last-minute whisper campaign at Tribal Council a big act. What did you make of what you saw there at Tribal?
The whispering at Tribal is a fascinating thing. It’s becoming a very powerful last-minute move that sometimes is meant to shore up an alliance, and other times it can completely change the vote. And what that uncertainty creates is an opportunity for someone to even try to bluff their way into persuading someone to do something they shouldn’t do, like switch their vote.

And the reason I love it is because I cannot hear a word they are saying, so I am honestly sitting on my stump wondering what is going to happen. When things get crazy like that I have absolutely no idea what the vote is going to be when I leave to get the urn. And I do not see this layer of game play going away or even slowing down. It’s the last chance you have to save your game and smart players are always considering their options.

Tease us up for next week’s episode, sir!
Maybe my favorite Island of the Idols visit so far… and to be clear I have enjoyed every one of them. Here’s something I would like to say to those who say I “love” Rob and Sandra too much. For all of my “idolatry” and fawning over them, I want to say it again… we turned over a major part of our show to two former players who are not television producers. Producing a live moment is a very different skill set. They are living on that island and every few days a new player shows up and they get one shot to get it right. And it must be perfect. And to add more pressure, it’s inside a game worth a million dollars. It would be impossible for me to overstate what a tremendous job they did. They blew us away. So yes, I fawn over them, but I really think if fans understood what they pulled off, they would kneel to the throne alongside me!

Enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from this week’s episode at the top of the post. Also make sure to check out out exit interview with Vince Moua and read our full 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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