'Survivor: Cagayan': Jeff Probst weighs in on that crazy premiere

Jeff-Probst

Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS


Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of ‘Survivor: Cagayan.’

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Jeff, you know how much I love it when people have to make decisions on the spot, decisions that could dramatically impact their standing in the game and the way others view them. You had a bunch of those decisions you threw at them right out of the gate. Tell me about that.
JEFF PROBST: The creative for this season began many months ago. Originally it was more detailed and had a few more steps involved, as we got closer we began to whittle it down to the essential beats, and by the time day one hit we were ready to go. The idea was to force decisions because with decisions come consequences. There is nowhere to hide when you are forced to pick a leader. Someone is going to be the chosen one. It’s easy to say,”Just never be a leader, it’s never a good idea,” but playing Survivor from a place of fear is a far worse idea. Plus, the truth is that “leaders” tend to do very well on the show — much better than followers.  The second twist came when the leader was then forced to pick the weakest. Again, decision and consequence. There isn’t anything particularly original about our strategy of forcing decisions, it’s the execution of the twist that matters. And then the third twist, a secret to the rest of the tribe, is that the person deemed “least valuable” now has a chance to redeem or potentially save themselves, and if they are savvy enough, they might even accomplish both. That’s a good opening set of twists!

EW: There are book smarts, street smarts, and Survivor smarts. I think we can both agree that the Brains tribe so far is failing miserably in that third category. They can’t build a shelter, they can’t solve a puzzle, TWICE they are telling someone she is being voted off right to her face, and that someone also goes and throws all off their rice out…and then STILL doesn’t get kicked off the tribe. What the hell is happening here?
PROBST: Ah, the poor Brain tribe. I think they probably had the highest expectations coming into the game — both from the audience and themselves. They are after all, “the smart ones!” To be fair, not everybody wanted to hold an impromptu Tribal Council but when you’re part of a group, the majority typically wins. But yes, it was not a smart move.  It NEVER, I repeat, NEVER is. There is massive risk and zero reward. There is simply no upside to telling someone they’re going home. It can only work against you. I also think the high expectation placed on the Brain tribe can be contrasted to the low expectation people seem to have for the Beauty tribe. People are often quick to discount “beauty” as not having much value, but it seems to me that “looks” often open doors and those doors can lead to experiences and experiences help us mature. So the pretty people that everybody looks past are suddenly winning challenges and not panicking when things don’t go as planned, because in their experience “things always work out.” I may be going down the rabbit hole here, but my point is that this season’s social experiment is playing out nicely thus far!

EW: Did Garrett just not want to play this game? We heard him talk on day 4 about how miserable he was and about not digging the manual labor and the starving and how it wasn’t a cool adventure at all. And then he appeared particularly adverse to any form of strategy talk in that second vote. Could this guy just not hack it?
PROBST: I do think Garrett underestimated how physically difficult this game would be.  You can tell by his body that he takes extremely good care of himself and his sculpted body— in part — comes from eating an extremely balanced and well timed diet consisting mostly of proteins. So four days of existing on only handfuls of rice is very tough on his system. This isn’t an excuse, it’s just the truth. Someone whose diet is a bit more average doesn’t have the same reaction. I also think Garrett realized that he’s an “indoor” guy — again, nothing wrong with that. Just don’t sign up for Survivor next time.  I think Garrett got what he wanted from the experience. I don’t think he quit, I think he was still playing, he just made a mistake in holding an “open” Tribal Council and it backfired. Same with David.  He made a big move and it didn’t play out. He tried to take out the guy he thought was the big gun and it came back to haunt him. But I loved that he made such a big move so early on. It showed that he came to win. We hated to see him go so soon. He was someone we absolutely loved having on the show and really hoped he would last a long time.

EW: When you have a situation like this with J’Tia ruining 98% of the tribe’s rice supply, what do you as producers do? Do you give them a new supply? Because you can’t let them actually starve to death out there, can you?
PROBST: The basic philosophy is we do nothing. We want to see them figure it out on their own. There are lots of ideas they could try before we would intervene. But if it got to where they truly had nothing and needed help — we’d give it to them, but it would come at a massive price. (Survivor fans remember Survivor: The Australian Outback when I took their entire camp in exchange for more rice.  Every decision has a consequence. :)

EW: Okay, great start out of the gate, sir. Now tease us up for next week.
PROBST: There is only one big tease — the Brain tribe has to win the immunity challenge or they are in serious trouble.  To lose half your tribe in the first three episodes might be too much for anyone to overcome.

Click on the video player below for an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode involving Garrett and a topless J’Tia, and make sure to read Dalton’s recap of the ‘Survivor: Cagayan’ premiere. Also, for ‘Survivor’ scoop sent directly to you, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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