“I hate the question,” said Jeff Probst when I asked the host while out on location for filming on season 40 to reveal his pick for the best Survivor winner ever. And he has good reason to hate it. After all, it’s practically impossible to compare different winners from different seasons in different eras competing against different casts in different conditions with different twists at play.

But, then again, that’s the fun of it. Much like the way sports fans will debate how the swarming 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense matches up against the dominant 1985 Chicago Bears unit, or if Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls team would have beaten Magic Johnson’s 1986-87 Lakers, part of the fun of being a Survivor fan is comparing and contrasting different players from different seasons. And with season 40 being an all-champions installment, it seemed an obvious question to pose to the host on day 1 of filming for Survivor: Winners at War (premiering Feb. 12 on CBS). And so Probst relented.

“I will answer it, and I’ll annoy everybody else,” says Probst. “I’m going to give it to Parvati.” A rock-solid choice, if you ask me. While my personal best-winning-season-performance pick goes to Kim Spradlin, Parvati won in epic fashion in Survivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites. And I would actually argue her performance in Heroes vs. Villains (in which she did not win) was even better, especially considering the massive target on her before the game even began — which is why Parvati is my pick for best overall player ever. But why does Probst give the best winner ever nod to Parvati?

“I’m giving it to Parvati because just watching her play that season,” says the host, “I felt like we were watching a surgeon go inside a body with a really delicate operation and just move things and tighten up, and they did their own stitches at the end, they closed up or whatever they did. I mean, everybody who won this game has been a genius in how they’ve done it because they had to do it in their season. But watching Parvati, still when I go back and I see some of those episodes — tiny little adjustments, all of it about persuasion. She either charmed you or she made you feel the consequence. One or the other. Sometimes, both together. And step by step she’d laugh and smile and make it seem like, ‘Hey, if I go home, I go home. [Dramatic tone shift] I love this game. I’m never going home. Ever. I’ve got you. And you. [Makes several sword slicing motions] And you.’ That’s how I saw it.”

But will we see it again when Winners at War premieres on Feb. 12?

To watch Probst talk about his pick for the best winner ever, watch the video at the top of the post. For more Survivor articles, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss, and for exclusive season 40 photos, follow him on Instagram @thedaltonross.

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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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