'Survivor: Cagayan': Jeff Probst talks about the super idol and new auction twist

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: Since I was away and wasn’t able to ask you last week about this, let’s start with this super-powered idol Tony found last episode that allows him to use it after the votes are read. This is actually the same power the idol had back for the Panama and Cook Islands seasons, but then you all decided it had too much power so switched it to having to be played after the votes were cast and before they were read. What made you guys decide to bring it back 15 seasons later, and was there concern that it would once again give too much power to one person so late in the game?  
JEFF PROBST: Our process for adding a twist to the show is surprisingly thorough. We have the idea and we all talk through it. Everybody runs scenarios in their head looking for problems and then solutions. Then we make the decision — are we doing it? In this case, since we had done a similar version in earlier seasons it was really a case of speculating “How will it play” as a one off? So many times the success or failure of an idol comes down to who finds it. If you’re a Tony fan, you love it! If you despise Tony, you hate it! It does come with a lot of power and it can definitely influence the game. Big rewards go to people who hustle. Tony hustles.

I think it will probably go down the same way Redemption Island did. Some people love it, some people hate it! The only way you find new exciting twists (switches, idols, Exile, Fans v Favorites, Redemption, BvW, BvBvB, etc) is by trying things. I’m just delighted with how much fans are enjoying this season, and giving them something to argue about (with us and with each other) is always a good thing!

EW: I always go bonkers when players spend their money at the auction on food when there is always some sort of advantage to be purchased. But this time out, you had two players — Tony and Spencer — that did not bid on a single thing until that advantage came out. (Tasha bid on the second item but did not win it.) In previous outings, whoever yelled out the maximum amount first got it. Tell me about how and when you came up with this new system to pull rocks if there were multiple people that wanted it and still had all their money, instead of it just going to the first person to bid. 
PROBST: Similar to the above answer, when we did our last auction we reviewed how it went and it occurred to us that people were anticipating an “advantage” so much that they were just waiting to yell “I’ll take it!” That isn’t the spirit of our auction. We don’t want the person who screams the loudest to automatically win. So we decided if there are multiple people with their entire $500 and they each want the same item then they should each have a shot at it.

I was honestly kind of floored that both Spencer and Tony threw down their dough even when they knew it was only for a shot to draw rocks! But that’s reason #78 that this season is rocking so hard. Our players are playing the game. This is how you play Survivor. I keep saying it: If you want to win you MUST play big. The game has changed significantly from years past. Spencer wants to win. Tony wants to win. I loved it and now I anticipate that it will happen again. That wall has been broken. Plus, it just makes sense — we gave you the $500 to begin with. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.

EW: Jeff, you know I have to ask you about your balls…which is, to say, the fact that you staged back to back immunity challenges involving balls. Is this simply a case of challenge producer John Kirhoffer messing with you because it is inevitable that when providing play-by-play in such contests that you will say lots of things that will make the 12-year-old inside me start to giggle like a moron? 
PROBST: Yes, Kirhoffer is a twisted fella. If only I had a faster wit these challenges could really be funny. My vocabulary is definitely limited in situations like this (I’m not the wittiest guy) and despite the glowing opportunity for double entendres, I’m also focused on the challenge. Fortunately they are kind of fool proof — anytime you can say something involving “one of his balls just hanging there waiting to drop” it’s probably funny.

EW: BONUS QUESTION! I recently tweeted out that this is the best four-season span (seasons 25-28) in Survivor history. Agree or disagree? No waffling! 
PROBST: Thank you for the compliment. It means a lot coming from you and I 100% agree. I do feel we have been on a major roll. The best in our history. Our entire creative team has really “dug deep” the past few years to refine our system. At the top of the list — our casting has gotten even better, which is quite a feat given our history of stellar players. I also think our storytelling has gotten better. We’re digging deeper into their lives, we’re telling more thorough stories and we are connecting their lives back home to their adventure on Survivor to make it even more relatable to the audience.

And finally, you have to give a nod to the game play. Probably the biggest reason for four straight amazing seasons is our players. They are playing. Very few people sit around anymore and wait for the game to come to them. They are grabbing the game around the throat and squeezing. It makes me very happy — not only because it makes for fun viewing — but because that’s what Survivor is about. You can’t play from fear. You rarely win that way. You have to play with confidence and never ever forget that there is only one winner. One. Not two. Not three. Alliances are made to be broken. Blindsides are a necessity. Idols can keep you safe. Switches can happen. So be ready to shift your game at any moment — because if you last long enough… the moment… your moment… will come. The good players seize it.

EW: We are getting into crunch time here so tease us up for next week.
PROBST: We are getting down to it and everybody’s nerves are getting frayed. With only a few people living at one camp, there’s nowhere to hide and it’s so easy to be overheard….

Click on the video player below to watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode. Also make sure to read Dalton’s recap. And for ‘Survivor’ scoop sent directly to you, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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