XfinityTV.com sent me deep into the wilderness on a mission to bring you all kinds of “Survivor” stuff including behind-the-scenes tidbits, pre-game interviews with the cast, insights from “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer, a look at the first Tribal Council, and much more. I’ll be cranking out this goodness daily, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates on all of this season’s “Survivor” fun.
Holmes: Alright, we just got back from the…the launch? That’s not the right term.
Probst: The marooning.
Holmes: That’s it. Who’s your favorite so far?
Probst: I’m a little biased because I like all three of our returning players a lot. Penner’s one of my all-time favorite contestants and he reminded me why in the opening moments. I said you’ve got to be off this boat in ten seconds and in the scramble of him trying to get stuff he said, “Or what happens?” He lips off at every possible opportunity. It’s almost wrestling and he’s a foil. It’s this unscripted relationship we have in that whatever I say to him, he will challenge me. And sometimes I don’t know how to reply. Sometimes he wins, and I love that.
Holmes: How do you keep from pushing him into the water? Professionalism?
Probst: Yes, professionalism. Thank you. I’m really excited to see Skupin back. He’s really the most famous memory of early “Survivor.” The guy who fell in the fire, that’s how people remember him.
Meet the New Castaways:
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Holmes: I’ve been nagging you about bringing back Skupin for years. I just want to take this time to say, “Thanks.”
Probst: We’ve tried. We wanted to bring him back so many times and have talked to him so many times that when we finally brought him back he didn’t believe us. I’m surprised he came on a plane to come out here. But he’s old school “Survivor,” I’m really curious to see if Skupin will be able to keep up with the game the way it is now. If he sits around and waits for a week to make an alliance, he’ll probably be in trouble. And then Russell Swan, it’s great to see him back because that was, no lie, no hype, that was the most afraid I have ever been. I seriously thought he was dying.
Holmes: Absolutely. I was watching it on TV and I knew he was fine and I’d be speaking to him the next day, and I was still pretty freaked out. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to see that live.
Probst: He was so pissed at us. He was so frustrated that we pulled him from the game, for months. I finally called. I said, “How are you?” He said, “I’m not happy with you guys, you pulled me out. You took away my shot at a million dollars.” I said, “Russell, you have no idea what happened. Your heart rate dropped like 30 beats in like half a second.” He really wasn’t having it. So, after the episode I called him and he was crying. He said, “I’m here with my wife. I have no recollections of that happening. And my wife just went through this near-death experience with me on the couch and I get it.”
Holmes: I talked to him yesterday. He said if anything happens to him his wife is going to kick your ass.
Probst: (Laughs) My ass!
Holmes: She’s holding you responsible.
Probst: (Laughs) Oh wow!
Holmes: That’s a lot on your shoulders.
Probst: I have no fault in this at all. I have no fault insurance.
Holmes: Which of the new players are in trouble?
Probst: Angie is going to fall into the unfortunate, young, attractive blonde who has no business being out here and has no idea that she shouldn’t be out here. Clueless. Beautiful tan though.
Holmes: Lovely young woman.
Probst: During the marooning I asked, “Who out here seems the most out of their element.” And, one girl turned around and said, “The blonde girl.”
Holmes: I believe that was Katie, Miss Delaware.
Probst: Yeah, Miss Delaware. Who else is in trouble? Dawson. Where the (expletive deleted) she came up with the name Dawson I have no idea.
Holmes: It’s her last name.
Probst: Oh…there you go.
Holmes: It’s better than G.C., I’ll give her that.
Probst: Who’s G.C.?
Holmes: G-Cizzle from “Survivor: Gabon”?
Probst: Oh my God…G.C… Dawson could last because she’s on a really good tribe. But if her tribe has to get rid of someone…she’s a nutcase and I don’t think Penner will have any time for it.
Holmes: Who are your favorites thus far?
Probst: I like Abi-Maria a lot. I hope she lasts. She could be a great winner, she could win.
Holmes: I think she could be in trouble.
Probst: Oh yeah?
Holmes: When they were paddling away she was just sitting in the middle holding stuff down and barking orders.
Probst: Oh really? She does have that little…Brazilian flame. And she’s probably used to getting things her way. But, I really like her. I think she’s charming and funny. And she brings a point of view that I don’t think we’ve had from a woman. I also like Zane. On paper he seems like he should be a total fish out of water here.
Holmes: I like him a lot.
Probst: But his personality is so engaging and he’s so funny and it’s so hard to understand him that I think he’ll be a very memorable character. I also like Malcolm a lot. He’s sort of the “Survivor” prototype Ozzy (Lusth) kind of guy. If he gets off to a good start he could really last for a while.
Holmes: How do you feel about Lisa?
Probst: Lisa is one of the people this season that I genuinely hope gets the full experience. I know she wants it, she’s so enthusiastic. She has a great attitude. But, she’s fighting one big obstacle in this game in that if you’re over 40, you’re like a fossil. And so, her biggest challenge is going to be, how do I prove to them that I’m worth keeping around?
Holmes: Especially in three tribes of six people, it seems like there’s much less wiggle room. Also, it seems like challenge strength is going to be a huge asset early on.
Probst: Yeah. But Lisa’s enthusiasm is contagious. I love it. I loved it the minute I met her. I’m so glad she’s out here and I really hope she lasts. Pete, I’m not sure about. He’s a little bit of a lost puppy. And, I think he knows it. He doesn’t want anyone else to know it. So, I don’t look for him to be a strong player and win. But, his bulk might keep him around. RC is a big question mark for me. I root for her. She’s the kind of woman I would align with. I’m not sure that’s going to be the case with anybody else.
Holmes: Who has villain potential?
Probst: Good question. Jeff Kent could be a villain. I like Jeff because he’s a no (expletive deleted) kind of guy. But he could rub people the wrong way. This is a dude who played in the Major Leagues for two decades. He’s used to playing at a certain level and if you can’t keep up, I imagine he’ll be the guy saying, “You know what, I’m going to cut you lose.”
Holmes: Jeff came really close to guessing the twist.
Probst: Did he? So did Carter. Carter is another guy I love.
Holmes: Really? Great kid, but he seemed kind of low-key to me.
Probst: Love him. He’s super smart. He looks and sounds like Jeff Spicoli, but in my interactions with him he plays at a much different level.
Holmes: This isn’t my first rodeo being out with you guys. But, this is the first location where I look around and everything screams “Survivor.” The water is beautiful, there are jungles to run through, and a million tiny islands.
Probst: You came in the period of time that we were inland so much. “Survivor” in the Philippines is really back to the roots of the show, which is being abandoned in the middle of the ocean. You’re going to have a lot of water challenges. People fishing, hopefully finding clams. This is where we like to be, it’s just, you can’t always find water in places that don’t have political unrest, or places you can afford with the shrinking dollar. So, the Philippines has been a very welcoming spot for us both financially and crew-wise. The area we’re in here, we’ve got somebody from every family working here and most of the entire community. And they couldn’t be nicer, they couldn’t have a better work ethic. If we could take them with us and have them be our crew everywhere, we probably would. They’re that good.
Holmes: Remember that show “Temptation Island”?
Probst: Yeah. I do.
Holmes: I remember when I first started watching that show, I was in a very good place with my then-girlfriend.
Probst: (Laughs) OK.
Holmes: I’m watching this show, just having a good old time laughing at these crazy people. Then, in no way related to the show, things start to turn bad in my relationship. I start watching the show differently. They’re all jerks, why can’t they just be happy? The point is; the show didn’t change. I changed. You’ve been doing this for twelve years?
Holmes: As your life has changed, you’re happily married, you’ve won Emmys, has your attitude toward “Survivor” changed at all?
Probst: Probably. I never thought about it. I guess it would have to. Yeah, because I’m pretty much myself out here, so when I’m asking questions they’re skewed from my viewpoint of human behavior. I think, despite what a lot of people who watch this show would say, I think I pick on people a lot less. I look for opportunities, but I feel like if you’re clever you’ll get out of it, if you’re not, you’ll sink. That’s your problem, not mine. I think that’s changed over the years. I think earlier on I was looking to make moments happen. I think that’s maybe because I was trying to prove myself and now I don’t feel like I have to prove myself as much so I’m more relaxed and ready to see what happens. And, I ask way less questions at Tribal Council than I did in the beginning. Now I’ll just stare you down. And I’m pretty sure I’ll win, and usually I do.
Holmes: That’s a trick of the trade, if you could go back and talk to Jeff in Borneo…
Probst: Well, I didn’t have any respect in Borneo, and rightly so. I had no (expletive deleted) clue of what I was doing. We were making the show up at lunch. OK, what if we give them a reward of…we have spaghetti here, what if we give them spaghetti. Richard Hatch was making the show up with us as much as we were making it up with him.
Holmes: Where’s his producer’s credit?
Probst: (Laughs) Good point. I still remember Richard Hatch in the middle of a challenge that he was sitting out basically telling me about an alliance with Sue (Hawk). I said, “Richard, I don’t want to know about this.” There was this idea that I shouldn’t know anything at all. And he looked at me and said, “I’m in an alliance with her and we’re going to stick together and always vote the same way.” It was mind-blowing. Oh my God! Two people are going to vote as one. We never had any idea there was going to be an alliance.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Philippines” – Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.