'Survivor: Caramoan': Jeff Probst explains how he handled the Brandon Hantz meltdown and what we did NOT see

Image credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Image credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Each week, host Jeff Probst answers a few questions about the most recent episode of ‘Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites’.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I asked you before the season started if Brandon was really emotionally stable enough to come back and play this game again, especially after we saw what happened to him last time. Now that we’ve all seen the result, I wonder if you can speak more on the decision to bring him back and how you all determine where the appropriate line is in terms of who is psychologically fit enough to handle this experience and who isn’t.
JEFF PROBST: Regardless whether you are a new player or a returning player, every contestant on Survivor undergoes an evaluation from our show psychologist each time they play. We never let anybody on the show who can’t pass the psych test. Brandon passed. He was also great in our interviews before the show began. We were actually very excited because he had a new approach to the game. He said he wasn’t going to be as emotionally reactive and felt that after playing once he was better prepared for the 39 day adventure. We felt Brandon had the potential for a true underdog story of a young man who was overwhelmed the first time he played and was seeking redemption.

EW: How worried were you about things turning physical at that confrontation at the challenge? And what is the show’s policy on how to intervene? Meaning, had Brandon charged Phillip, would it have just been up to you and the contestants to break it up, or would members of the off-screen crew had jumped in to separate them? Did you all have any plan in place or were you just ready to tackle him if he bolted?
PROBST: There were a couple of moments when I was concerned. I was concerned early on when he first separated from his tribe and addressed the fans. It was clear that he was very upset. That’s why I asked him to come to me, so I could separate him from the rest of the contestants. Then later when I saw him getting more agitated I put my hands on his shoulders in an attempt to help him relax. It was probably also a bit of a head start on controlling him if a physical confrontation were to ensue. Because something like this had never happened before there was no plan in place. I was assessing moment to moment, making decisions based on what was playing out in front of me. I can share with you that I was whispering instructions into my microphone (which is fed to our audio department) for our safety and security guys to be ready to assist if necessary. I was also asking for our show psychologist to be put on a boat and brought over immediately so she could counsel Brandon after the incident was over.

I had decided pretty early on that we were going to have an impromptu Tribal Council. It was clear that Brandon wanted out of the game, it had been stated that the Favorites were going to forfeit the challenge and there was nothing good to be had from letting Brandon go back to camp. It was important to me that Brandon felt heard and knew that I was not taking sides, I was just asking questions and trying to calm the water. I was very proud of Brandon for making the choice to stay next to me and not turn this into a physical altercation. I was equally proud of Philip and the other contestants for their restraint. It was obviously a historic moment from a show point of view, but the overriding concern was the mental and physical health of the contestants. 

EW: What’s the responsibility of the show in terms of post-Survivor psychological care? I know all the contestants have access to a psychologist after they are voted off, but this is somewhat new territory since you’ve never had a meltdown of this magnitude before.
PROBST: The key is as you said — all contestants have access to psychological counseling after the show.  That starts the moment they are voted out. Our psychologist is the first person they see after leaving tribal council. Brandon is no different. Our psychologist is there for any contestant who needs care whenever they need it. If necessary we find a psychologist or therapist for a contestant in their home town. I can’t speak about Brandon specifically due to confidentiality, but we are in constant communication with him and will be for as long as he needs it.

EW: The preview for next week has me thinking a tribe shake-up could be in the works. What can you tease us about the next episode?
PROBST: The fall out from Brandon’s departure is felt and yes there might be a tribe shake up in the works! I said at the beginning of the season I felt this was a good season and I still feel that way. Much more to come. 

To watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode of Phillip comparing Brandon to a “mad dog”, 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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