Jeff Probst on what killed the epic Survivor finale vote deliveries
With a global pandemic forcing television production to a standstill, Survivor has scrapped its in-person reunion for the first time ever. That means the Survivor: Winners at War champion will be revealed May 13 on CBS via a remote hookup as the finalists learn their fate from their own living rooms. Of course, the biggest tragedy of all in this situation is that it means there is no opportunity for host Jeff Probst to resurrect one of the hallmarks of Survivor yesteryear with another epic vote delivery.
Back in season 6, Probst somehow managed to jet-ski the votes all the way from the Amazon to New York City on a single tank of gas and then take the votes on the subway to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway. The host incredibly managed to top that in season 9 when he jumped out of an airplane and then hopped on a motorcycle to transport the precious parchments to CBS Studios in Los Angeles. These travel-by-map montages were the height of Survivor hilarity, yet sadly have sat dormant for more than 30 seasons. Surely, had the work shutdown not happened we would have been treated to a return to epic vote delivery glory, especially for an anniversary season like number 40, with an all-winners season, and the biggest cash prize giveaway in reality television history. Right? RIGHT?!
Sadly, when I asked Probst about it out on location last May during filming for Winners at War, the host seemed unmoved by the prospect. "Here's the thing for me," says Probst. "It was fun to do it. We did it several times. And we always had a very fun, tongue-in-cheek way of doing it. But I don't want to repeat. We don't want to do it just to do it and waste time out of our finale, which is already so packed there's no time for the reunion show. So I just still don't have a great idea. Honestly, doing something like paddle-boarding or whatever, why?"
Why? BECAUSE IT WOULD BE HILARIOUS!!!
"You just want to see me look like an idiot again," Probst says. Okay, he's not wrong. But, in my defense, it is that willingness to look like an idiot that is so appealing and makes the segments work. They were so over the top there was practically a pool of Velveeta congealing under my television set when they first aired, and that's why fans loved them. So if Probst is not going to record another epic delivery, I tried for the best thing: the release of the infamous skateboarding footage.
First off, a little history. While talking to Probst back in 2014 for the San Juan del Sur finale, I made my annual plea for him to return to delivering the votes via some sort of ridiculous method of transportation, and he responded by telling me the most incredible story in the history of stories. A story of an aborted attempt at yet another epic vote delivery! A story recounted once again below:
"The last one we tried to do, it was me paddling — I can't remember from which island — but I left in a canoe, then we shipped the canoe back, I paddle down into Venice, California, I paddle in, I get out. This was the plan: I walk past the skate park and I go, 'Hey, kid. Can I have your board?' And the kid looks at me like in that Mean Joe Greene commercial… the Coke commercial, and he goes, 'Hey, you're the Survivor guy! Sure!' And he throws me his skateboard. And I'm going to hop on the skateboard, jump a curb, and then kick the skateboard up into my hands and hand it back to the kid and say, 'Thanks, kid. See you around.'
"So we have this idea and I go, 'But the only thing is, guys — I can't skateboard. But I'll try to learn.' We hire this guy. He says, 'Oh, I can teach you to do a couple of tricks.' And I go, 'But I didn't grow up in California. I'm not a skateboarder.' He says, 'No problem.' We get out there for about three hours and they guy is like, 'Listen, here's what you do: You ride the board and you use the leverage of your weight to hop it up onto the curb, skid across…' And I'm looking at him, like, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?! I can't do this! So we never aired it, and that was the last one."
If you are anything like me, you're now picturing Probst as Marty McFly leading Biff Tannen on a wild chase into a truck full of manure, and that image is impossible to get out of your head. (Trust me, I've been trying for six years.) Anyway, when I asked Probst again about the footage during filming on Winners at War, he confirmed that it basically was the skateboarding experiment gone awry that killed the epic vote deliveries.
"The skateboarding is what did me in," says Probst. "The guy told me, the expert skateboarders — I said, 'Hey, we're doing this thing, I just need to be able to do one trick' — he said, 'No problem.' 'What's the trick?' He goes, 'I'll tell you what we're going to do. I'll show you how to hop off the board, kick one end, it will flip up in the air and you catch it and walk off.' I'm like, 'That's exactly what I need! I'll look like a stud!' About 15 times of it hitting me in the side of my face I said, 'All right, I'm out. You're fired, because I'm out.'"
And Survivor has never been the same since.
To see Probst talk about his disturbing lack of epic vote deliveries, watch the video at the top of the post. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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