'Survivor:' Jeff Probst talks Brenda vs. Dawn, the final challenge advantage, and controversial new reunion show format

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Image Credit: CBS

Each week, host Jeff Probst answers a few questions about the most recent episode of ‘Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites’. Here, he talks about Sunday’s finale and reunion show.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Cochran wins in a landslide. This is a guy that almost talked himself into getting voted off at the very first Tribal Council in South Pacific. Is this the biggest maturation of a player we’ve seen from a first season to a second?
JEFF PROBST: I can’t think of a bigger transformation than Cochran. It was on all levels. His emotional intelligence is already very high but I think he said it best at the live show — he accepted who he was and turned what had been paralyzing quirks into devastating assets. One of my favorite winners of all time. I’m really proud of him and happy for him and I love what he represents for people brave enough to go for their dream.

EW: Give us your take on Brenda pressuring Dawn to take out her teeth at the final Tribal Council. Obviously  she was extremely hurt over Dawn voting her out, but that was a game move, while this came off as purely personal and humiliation for humiliation’s sake.
PROBST: I didn’t see it that way. It had been mere days since Brenda had been blindsided and she was clearly smarting. Brenda was making a very strong point and I felt it was relevant. Dawn was so distraught she said she would take herself out of the game before she would let anyone see her without her teeth. So Brenda asked if it was true, would she have taken herself out of the game? If Dawn had said yes, Brenda would have said then you don’t deserve to win. But instead Dawn said she would not have pulled her out of the game even if they never found her teeth. So Brenda asked her to prove it. As a jury member with a million dollar vote — I felt it was appropriate. Uncomfortable? Yes. But humiliation for humiliations sake? I don’t feel the same.

EW: I have to assume that the reward challenge we saw was originally going to be an immunity challenge until Erik got pulled from the game. But why not just have the reward be food or something? You know how much I hate giving advantages for the final immunity challenge because I firmly believe everyone should be on equal footing for the most important challenge of the season. Convince me that I’m wrong, Jeff. 
PROBST: Here’s the thing — if you produced the show it would be very different. Maybe more successful, maybe less. If I wrote your column maybe more people would read it, maybe less. Bottom line — that’s the decision we made and I can tell you that we will probably do it again. How ya like them apples?

EW: For the first time ever, anyone voted out before the jury was not invited to sit on the stage for the reunion show. Why is that and why was Brandon Hantz not invited to come to the reunion show?
PROBST: Regarding Brandon, we had a conversation and everyone, including Brandon, felt this was the best decision. Regarding the jury, the main reason was staging. We were on a new stage this year and our design couldn’t accommodate the usual enormous amount of people we have at the reunion. But having done it once, we may do this same configuration again in the future. The truth is, it’s very difficult to manage 20 people in an interview situation, and the staging last night was much more manageable. The hardest part of all of this is that it is so disappointing to the non-jury. I completely empathize with them feeling left out. Like it or not, the priority is for us to produce the best reunion show we can.  Quite often when someone is voted out early they just don’t have enough story to warrant a spot on the reunion show. It doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving people, they just didn’t get to play long enough.

EW: Okay, mister cagey. What can you tell us about Survivor: Blood vs. Water? Are vampires involved?
PROBST: No more! That’s all you get. You’ll have to wait until you visit.

Check out an exclusive deleted scene from Sunday’s Survivor finale below. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full finale/reunion recap, as well as his interview with winner John Cochran, chat with Dawn Meehan about Toothgate, and talk with evacuated Erik Reichenbach about the “farce” of a finale. And for more Survivor scoop all year round, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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