'Survivor: Philippines': Jeff Probst on how Jonathan Penner 'absolutely blew it'

Image credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

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

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Ah, the Survivor food auction! When you first started these auctions, the covered items were always a risk to buy as you would have things like cheeseburgers, but also stuff like a glass of dirty water or local delicacies like balut or something that might gross people out. But lately you seem to have moved away from those gnarly options and everything is something good. I’m curious as to why that is, because you know the personal joy I get out of seeing others suffer. 

JEFF PROBST: We do vary it year by year and honestly it’s the only “challenge” that we can adjust depending on how the season is going. When we know they’ve been starving, we are more likely to make it a more positive experience with bigger meals and fun payoffs. We know how incredibly tough it is to go day after day with so little food and joy so the auction is the one time we can perk up their morale. But we do still throw in the occasional “let’s make a deal” choice — and we did that this year. It just didn’t make the cut because the reality on the beach has been so damn good!

EW: I just don’t get it, Jeff. For me, one of the basics of Survivor is, when it comes to the food auction, don’t bid a single cent on anything and then use it all to buy the advantage at the end. Yet even when you have returning players like Skupin and Penner, and huge fans of the show like Malcolm and Lisa — who should all know better — they still ALL burn through their money, allowing the one person who couldn’t get it, Abi, to claim the prize. Explain to me how this always seems to happen. 

PROBST: I think this is evidence regarding my answer in the earlier question of how incredibly hungry they are at this point in the game. Despite the fact that every good player knows there is no such thing as certainty in the game of Survivor, when you’re out there and it’s day 30 and you are living on a spoonful of rice a day it’s very difficult to be patient and stay focused on the game when there is money in your wallet and a burger in front of you. What’s even more fascinating to me is how many times the advantage has paid off! Even Abi won a challenge! I think it’s worked about 60% of the time. I completely made up that number but it does seem as though it works way more often than it doesn’t.

EW: It seems that Penner’s big downfall — beyond the food auction fiasco — was not accepting a final 4 deal, going against the basic Survivor rule of accept-every-alliance-to-the-end-that-is-offered-even-if-you-don’t-plan-to-honor-it. Did that surprise you to see him make such a basic rookie mistake? 

PROBST: Penner blew it twice. He had a chance to secure the numbers back with Jeff Kent’s ouster and he absolutely blew it by passing up the final four. I think he got a little cocky. Penner is a very confident guy. He’s a gifted manipulator, good with the spoken and written word, and pretty good at reading people. But, there was no reason not to take that deal. He might argue that he didn’t want to lie to anyone, but as he and I later discussed after his ouster, nobody trusted him anyway so his mission to play a clean game was lost on everybody else. Also, I don’t know what was up between Penner and Jeff Kent, but I think it ultimately hurt both of them. Oddly, for some reason I really thought they might unite and form a true alliance, but instead they knocked heads and now are both on the jury.

EW: Crunch time! Tease us up for next week, and please include in said tease some insight into Malcolm’s brother, who looks absolutely amazing. 

PROBST: Ah the loved one visit… it yields big rewards for at least one Survivor and yes, Malcolm’s brother is a charming treat — and a huge Survivor fan to boot!

To watch an exclusive deleted scene of Skupin and Penner talking strategy in the water from last night’s episode, as well  pre-game interview clips with Jonathan Penner, 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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