SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Winners at War. Here, he weighs in Sandra quitting, Yul being voted out, all the old-schoolers being sent to Edge of Extinction, and a split-second challenge finish.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I have to say, I was shocked to see Sandra quit immediately after arriving to the Edge of Extinction. What was behind her decision, and what sort of impact does this have on her Survivor legacy?

JEFF PROBST: I’m surprised that you were shocked. We named the challenge sit-out bench the “Sandra bench!” There was 0.0 chance that Sandra was going to win a challenge against the group of players already assembled on the Edge. We all know that Sandra does what Sandra wants, and Sandra wanted to go home. I don’t think it changes her legacy in any way. Sandra is a legend. She is connected to so many iconic Survivor moments.

When we are casting new players, Sandra is often referenced as an inspiration for why people want to play because she showed you could win this game even if you’re not a physical player. And Sandra did one other thing for the past 16 years… she said yes every single time we called. I wouldn’t even get the words out and she would say, “YES! Whatever it is, YES!” I’m not exaggerating. She had no idea what we were going to ask, she didn’t care. She always said, “Survivor has been good to me, and I’ll be here whenever you need me.” So after 16 years, if Sandra is done, I’m good with that. Goodbye to a true one-name Survivor icon. And now… who will be the second two-time winner?

This was one of the closest challenge finishes in Survivor history between Dakal and Sele for second place in the immunity competition. Looks like there was just enough time for you to call this one, but what do you all do in the event of a seemingly simultaneous finish? I know you have spotters out there to help you keep track of things. Is it solely your call and what you see? Do you rely on spotters? Have you ever had to go the video footage to confirm anything?

That was truly exciting because you could feel their collective energy. Both tribes knew the other was close to finishing. As far as rules, we don’t use video. We do have spotters watching different aspects of every challenge for fairness, but the ultimate in-game decision is mine. If I have any question, I immediately look to John Kirhoffer and Matt Van Wagenen for confirmation. If they overrule me, then I would go with their opinion. And if we thought it was a tie, we would go to our tiebreaker, which we have for every challenge. But, to be clear, 99.9% of challenges are called in the moment with no consultation because there is almost always enough of a difference to easily see the winner.

Yul seemed to have every single angle of this game figured out. In the end, was that what got him voted out, the fact that he did not do a better job of hiding the fact that he was always considering so many angles?

I don’t think you can blame Yul for anything specific regarding his gameplay. The other players already know his strength at analyzing and his ability to run numbers. I’m really enjoying watching him work again. He is so calm and so unemotional (for the most part) about his decision-making process. But I think he was simply the next player to be voted out. He’s a threat, for sure, but every single player in the game is a threat. We’ve never been able to say that before! There are no holes. There is no easy vote. And with Edge of Extinction in play, Yul has strong odds to get back in the game at the return challenge. He is a legit challenge threat with his physical and mental abilities.

We have now, after Natalie, seen the following people voted out: Amber, Danni, Ethan, Tyson, Rob, Parvati, Sandra, Yul — meaning every single old-schooler has been kicked to the curb. What does that say about the game so far?

It’s hard to know for sure, but I look at two big ideas to explain the old-schoolers being gone. The first is the celebrity that players like Rob, Sandra, Parvati, Tyson bring with them. These are gigantic Survivor names. They’ve had nearly 20 years of Survivor fame and adulation. And they’re villains! Fans love to love them or love to hate them. So there might have been a bit of “they’ve had their day in the sun” that laid some foundation.

The other big idea is that the newer players know they play a faster game and might have realized we can take out a huge chunk of old-school players simply by deciding that’s what we want to do. And they don’t appear to be wrong in their assessment. We saw Rob try to use his old smothering tactics and Parvati unable to cross party lines to make a deal with Wendell as examples of old-school type of play. There is no need to have pity for the old-school players. This is Survivor. They knew this was a likely scenario. Reason #876 that we have the Edge of Extinction this season. Everybody gets at least one shot to get back in the game!

Merge time! What can you tell us about next week’s merge episode?

It’s not just the merge… it’s the Get Back In The Game challenge! And it’s dramatic!!

Enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from this week’s episode above, and make sure to check out our full episode recap as well as all the season 40 cast members giving their pick for the best winner ever. And for more behind the scenes Survivor scoop, photos, and videos, follow Dalton on both Twitter and Instagram.

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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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