'Survivor: Philippines': Jeff Probst says returning players do not have an unfair advantage

Image credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Each week, host Jeff Probst answers a few questions about the most recent episode of ‘Survivor: Philippines’.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Jonathan Penner did something really interesting in this episode, where he basically told Lisa that she should base her strategy and game play on the answer to the following question: “What does the audience want to have happen?” Obviously, he’s trying anything he can to stay in the game at this point, but it got me thinking — how much do players base their decisions on what will make them look better to people watching them on television? How greatly does the natural instinct of simply wanting to be liked — and in this case by millions of viewers — affect gameplay out there? 

JEFF PROBST: Great observation. I think in this particular case it’s Penner using anything he can to stay in the game. He’s a great writer and very gifted with the word so he found a way to relate to Lisa that posed a win-win for both of them. She comes out a winner and in the end it helps him. I love it. It’s manipulation at it’s finest. But generally speaking I do think a lot of people are concerned about how they come across to others, whether in life or on Survivor. The biggest problem facing most people on Survivor is that it’s very hard to change your core when you are starving, tired and mentally exhausted. You may want to put on your ‘best face” but typically what comes out is your truth and it’s often not flattering. I think it’s why people gravitate toward players like Malcolm, Denise and Lisa because they see their truth and they like what they see. It’s the same reason people absolutely loved to hate Russell Hantz. They knew he was a bad dude but they loved the honesty with which he played and it was entertaining. So does it impact the game? In the end, I’d guess that it really doesn’t have that big of an impact. The million dollar carrot is pretty appealing and that tends to win out over what the audience is going to think about how you played.

EW: Two part question on the reward challenge: First off, who were the captains doing the schoolyard pick-em? Interesting how one tribe was all Tandang. Also, in the past you have sometimes had the one odd person who was not selected to compete pick a team to root for and then they get to go on reward or not depending on if that team wins or not. Why did Abi not get that opportunity here? 

PROBST: The captains were Carter and Skupin and yes, it was very revealing that the tribes stayed so intact. As for Abi not going, it’s really quite random. We just decide do we want the positive or the negative for not being picked. We’ve been doing a lot of “you get to go even though you didn’t participate” so we decided that if you aren’t picked you won’t go — simple as that!

EW: Every single season that you have brought back returning players, one of them has made it to the finals, and now two of the three returnees are still alive here. They clearly — statistically speaking — have a big advantage, even when like on Coach’s tribe in South Pacific and Penner’s tribe here, people say right off the bat that they want them gone. How much, if at all, does this concern you guys from a fairness standpoint when you look at the success returnees continue to have?

PROBST: Zero. The game takes care of the fairness issue with one simple rule, you can vote out whoever you want whenever you want. If I played, I would absolutely keep a returning player around because they do have a lot of information and it’s invaluable. Priceless. There is no chance I’d vote out Rob or Coach or Skupin or Penner or Ozzy right out of the gate. I’d align with them immediately knowing full well that if I play the game well I should be able to defeat them in the final. But to beat them, I first have to get to the final and they can help me accomplish that goal. Even Russell Hantz. You can’t let your emotion get in the way of your strategy. Players are almost always asked back because they’re good at the game so why wouldn’t you use them to your advantage. It is always a big sign to me when straight out of the gate someone says “returning players must go” — those people rarely make it deep into the game because they’re shortsighted.

EW: BONUS QUESTION! I couldn’t help but notice that the “Guys on the Couch” segment of The Jeff Probst Show has recently become simply “On the Couch.” What the hell, Jeff? Is there no place where just us dudes can hang out anymore? 

PROBST: Ah the ever evolving talk show — it’s all one big talk show science experiment!  More changes coming as the show continues to find its voice!

EW: Looks like Lisa is still struggling over what to do. Tease us up for next week! 

PROBST: Strategy reigns supreme. Moves are made. Who will be left out in the cold?

To watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as our pre-game interview with Artis, simply click on the video player below. To read Dalton’s recap, click right here. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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