Jeff Probst reacts to one of the cruelest Survivor exits ever
Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Winners at War. Here, he shares his take on how what happens in the game impacts life outside it, Michele’s big coin flip, Jeremy’s third outing, Nick sabotaging himself, and what’s coming up in next week’s finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I want to start at the first Tribal Council, because there was a moment I found pretty intriguing when you asked the players, “When the game is over, what does that do to your ability to trust, just in the world?” Ben talked about not even trusting his wife after playing, while Jeremy spoke about not believing some of his fellow firefighters. What was your takeaway from that conversation in terms of what contestants have to go through both in and out of the game to play Survivor?
JEFF PROBST: It speaks to the invoice that comes with any adventure that is based in reality and not fantasy. When you undergo something as real as Survivor you typically walk away with both physical and emotional scars. Just think through the basic premise of the show: You are abandoned with a group of strangers, forced to work together to survive the jungle, while voting each other out. Additionally, Survivor is a zero-sum game. I only do better when you do worse. And for the last one standing, a life changing $2 million prize. Those are real stakes.
So, the incredibly strong, even desperate desire to trust someone, anyone, even just for one day, is very, very, very real. But because of the aforementioned premise, you can’t ever fully trust anybody, even for a minute. As a result, if you last long enough, your perception of the world can start to shift. Your new reality is you can’t trust anyone. And you’re right: Then you return home to loved ones who you trusted when you left, but now you don’t. Your perception has shifted so much that you now view them with the same amount of distrust. That trust can and does come back, but it takes real work by the player and compassionate understanding by his family and co-workers.
It’s one of the clearest examples of the authenticity of the Survivor experience. And this season was without question, one of the most grueling, exhausting, and intense seasons any group has ever been through. It’s also why it’s been so entertaining to watch. We often see ourselves or imagine ourselves through the players. And when the players are giving as much as this group it is incredibly intoxicating.
At that same Tribal, Michele played her 50-50 coin flip, giving her a 50% chance of immunity. As a person, I know you want good things for people, so I’m sure part of you was rooting for it to come up SAFE. But as a producer, what side gives you better drama?
Referring to the earlier question, the fact that Survivor is a zero-sum game makes situations like this a win-win from a story standpoint. It doesn’t matter if it’s a SAFE or NOT SAFE result, because no matter what, someone will be impacted in a positive way and someone in a negative way. I only do better when you do worse. It’s all about turning points. Every turning point changes the story. The first turning point is Michele receiving the 50/50 coin. The next turning point is her decision to play it. The next turning point is whether it lands SAFE or NOT SAFE. Survivor is a continuous series of turning points with positive and negative results. When one person succeeds it means another must fail. In this case, the coin flip worked for Michele and as a result, someone new was in trouble: Jeremy.
The first two times Jeremy played, he was in a position of power in the tribe before he was either blindsided or ended up winning. This time, like Kim, he always seemed on the outs looking in so was fighting just to stay alive as long as he could, ultimately being voted out here. What have you seen from Jeremy this season?
What I’ve seen from Jeremy this season is the same thing I’ve seen the past two seasons. Jeremy is an intensely likable person who plays with a likable intensity. A fireman, with a police officer wife and four children. In many ways, he is the archetype for what you look for in a Survivor player. We LOVE us some Jeremy. As for being voted out, that’s just the way it goes. There are so many ways this game can get you, starting with the initial tribe divisions — which are completely out of your control. Then twists factor in, like Fire Tokens, then tribe swaps, then immunity challenges, then Edge of Extinction. Every day a new dangerous obstacle is lurking around the next tree looking to get someone. Now Jeremy has to turn his focus to the Get Back In The Game Challenge where I can only do better if you do worse.
Nick buys the challenge disadvantage and uses it on Ben. The problem for him is that Michele was the target, and so when Ben could not make up the 30 percent disadvantage, Michele won immunity, which meant Nick ended up essentially sabotaging himself and being voted out. On the level of cruel Survivor ousters, how high up is that?
It’s pretty Shakespearean and oddly thematic as it brings us back yet again to the idea of the zero-sum game. Michele played her 50/50 coin and survived, and Jeremy was voted out. But now she’s in trouble again and must win otherwise she’ll likely be voted out. Nick gets an advantage. He decides to play it against Ben hoping Ben won’t win and he can vote Ben out. Michele wins the challenge, and once again she’s no longer in trouble, but someone else is. This time it’s Nick. Had Nick played the disadvantage against Michele and she lost, Michele would be back in trouble and Nick would be safe. One turning point after another and with each turning point someone is safe and someone else is in trouble.
Okay, we’re down to the finale. What can you tell us about what’s in store for the three-hour extravaganza on May 13?
Well, what I can tell you is that our finale is damn near three hours in length! It’s the longest finale we’ve ever had, and it is packed with fantastic story. There is so much happening that we could not make it any shorter. There’s drama, there’s emotion, there’s surprise and then… we will read the votes and crown a champion to Survivor: Winners At War. I’m pumped for fans to see the finale I think it will be a satisfying conclusion to an epic season of Survivor.
Enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from this week’s episode above, and make sure to check out our full episode recap. For more behind the scenes Survivor scoop, photos, and videos, follow Dalton on both Twitter and Instagram.
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!"