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“Nothing Really Surprises Me Anymore”: An Interview with ‘Survivor’ Host Jeff Probstby David Bloomberg -- 02/05/2004
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After every vote, RealityNewsOnline interviews the person who has been sent home. But what about the person who snuffs the torch? Well, Jeff Probst won the “Best Host” category in the 2003 RealityNewsOnline Year in Review Awards. And we recently had a chance to get some answers to questions that many people have been wondering about. Read on to hear what Jeff Probst has to say!
RealityNewsOnline: Back when you began hosting Survivor, we heard about how you got the job. But looking back, did you ever think you'd be with the show this long?
Jeff Probst: I would have never guessed that the show would last eight seasons (with nine and ten already signed for). I figured two seasons and we’d fade away.
RNO: If you were a player instead of the host, could you win?
Jeff: Who knows if I’d win – too many outside factors, including a fair amount of luck. But I do think I’d last a while. I’m fairly good at adapting. Sooner or later, though, my mouth would probably get me in trouble. I would have loved to have played the game, though, but I doubt it will ever happen since I’m the host.
RNO: A couple finales ago, you referenced the writings of John Nash and said they contain the secret to winning Survivor. Could you expand on that?
Jeff: He developed a game called “So Long Sucka.” It was a game played with chips. The goal was to make alliances with others until you didn’t need them anymore, then cut them loose. He discussed the best strategy in the game was to base your every move with the assumption that the other players were making their very best move. Sounds simple, but if you always think that way, you’re ahead of the game. It is the one time in Survivor that “assuming” may actually make sense.
RNO: Survivor contestants are frequently surprised by the twists that they're thrown. What has surprised you the most in all of your time as host?
Jeff: There isn’t one thing that surprises me. In fact, the truth is, nothing really surprises me anymore. These people are under tremendous stress, both physical and emotional. In addition, the conflict is revealing their true “core” on a daily basis. Once you accept this notion, that people are not “putting on,” then nothing should surprise you because human nature is just flat out nutty and different people respond to different situations in different ways. So anything is possible at any given moment.
RNO: What is the most surprising thing you've learned over the seasons regarding the nature of human behavior in a social microcosm?
Jeff: The true test of character is revealed with conflict. You cannot change your core. You cannot change who you are. Conflict brings out your true nature.
RNO: What was the surprise you most enjoyed dropping on the players?
Jeff: I’ve had a few favorites. The “fake merge” in Thailand was very satisfying. The first “tribe swap” in Africa was awfully enjoyable. The “clothes on your back” in the Pearl Islands was a kick. I also enjoyed telling the Saboga tribe after their first Tribal Council, “By the way, you won’t be taking fire back to camp with you.” As hard as it was on them, it was a great kick in the butt.
RNO: Has there been a contestant you really wanted to win or lose?
Jeff: I root for the underdogs until they become favorites, then I root for them to fall. The cycle continues on and on and on. Ultimately I don’t care who wins as long as we have a good season and our good people stay late in the game.
RNO: How do you think the game has changed the most over the first seven seasons?
Jeff: The first season was absolute purity. They had no idea what was going to happen. Since then I think the game is somewhat the same. They understand the basic concept and the “flavor” of a season is really determined by the 16 people we choose and, most importantly, by the six or seven strong characters and how long they stay in the game.1 2 Next-->
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