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Jeff Probst blogs the 'Survivor: Heroes vs Villains' premiere

We’re baaaaaack… and it feels so good!

Might as well start at the beginning.

Last night’s two-hour premiere was one of our best ever. In fact, it was so good I think CBS should air it again. In the words of our fearless leader Mark Burnett, ”It was epic!”

It started with the kickass marooning where the Survivors landed on the beach courtesy of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and their Huey helicopters.

INSIGHT: We had to get special permission from the New Zealand government to get the use of the Huey’s and the Air Force personnel to fly them. We came to an agreement that allowed the RNZAF to use our rehearsals (without the real Survivors on board) as an opportunity to also practice various mission maneuvers for which they needed a location and situation to conduct them. It was a win-win.

If you watch it again you can see that when we did it for real with the Survivors on board and the Huey’s approaching the beach, it even resembles a mission. Two come in and land, sand flying around. They depart and the other two come in. It’s also worth mentioning that it went off without a hitch. Everybody hit their marks, it was magical.

As a thank you we had the RNZAF personnel rehearse one of our big challenges against our dream team. It was a great day in which I swapped one of my Survivor baseball caps for one of their RNZAF caps.


Moments in, we knew that we had made the right choice to go with the theme of Heroes vs. Villains. You could feel the rivalry even as the two tribes were departing the helicopters. The heroes were puffing their chests with pride, the villains were puffing their chests looking for a fight. The opening Q/A was fascinating. The fact that every villain believes they are a hero speaks to how important perspective is in this game. ”Outwit, outplay, outlast.” It’s an important factor to keep in mind as you watch this game.

There are very few rules in Survivor, the contestants are responsible for determining which qualities to reward and that is where the perspective of having played once before will have a big impact. For instance, if Russell plays the same game he did in Samoa during this season, he has a much better chance of winning because this group of players has a different set of criteria for what it takes to win the game. That is only one of the reasons I believe this season is going to deliver.

We knew we wanted a big, badass challenge right off the bat to let them know this season was going to be physical and demanding. We expected a battle but we didn’t expect it to rise to the physical level it did. Injury count: Dislocated shoulder (Stephenie), broken toe (Rupert – man you should have heard him screaming as the doctors tried to set it), and a topless finish and double ”flip-off.” (Thanks, Sugar.) On top of those injuries, there were lots of bruised up bodies that had been worked over during those digs in the sand.

The Coach/Colby matchup was one of the more anticipated. Colby waltzed through his first Survivor experience in Australia virtually unchallenged. Coach, his opponent, believes he can do anything and beat anybody… and whadaya know, he did. Coach worked Colby. He even had me fooled — I thought Colby was dragging Coach along, turns out Coach was riding Colby to the finish line.

In typical hero fashion, Colby merely nodded at the loss and moved on. It’s early in the game and he didn’t seem too concerned. And if you had any question about why Tyson was invited back, he answered that question with this quip: ”I can only imagine what Colby is thinking… I may as well become a woman because there is no point on trying to maintain my masculinity now.” Ah, it’s one of the nice things about having returning Survivors – they’re great interviews.

I have to tell you, writing this blog is a pleasure because this episode was absolutely fantastic. I challenge you to show the first 20 minutes of this episode to anybody – Survivor fan or not – and have them not want to watch the rest of the premiere and the season.


It was interesting to watch the two very different ways the first moments on their respective beaches played out. The Heroes got to work quickly. Everybody pitching in, their experience really showing. The Hero music was appropriately uplifting and heroic. The Villains ignored shelter and turned immediately to strategy. Russell was back to his bag of tricks, making alliances with everybody. The Villain music was also appropriate: heavy, suspicious and dramatic.

Russell made an interesting comment: ”I’m the best to ever play this game and now I get to prove it.” How do you feel about the idea behind his cocky declaration? Do you believe that the winner of this season will go down as the ”best to ever play?” Or will the winner of this season simply be ”the winner of Heroes vs Villains.” There are so many factors that go into someone winning this game that I often wonder if you can ever truly declare someone the best. I will say that to win this season you will have to play one helluva game. Nobody is going to win by coattailing it. No chance that kind of behavior will be rewarded. Playing an ”under the radar game” is different than riding somebody’s coattails. Please don’t ask me to explain the difference because I’m not sure I can; it’s just a gut feeling that I believe I can spot.

Another fascinating aspect of the first few days is watching the various egos inflate and deflate. We have a lot of true leaders this season and when you’re a leader it’s tough to accept the role of being a follower.

Coach is a perfect example. It is painful for Coach when he tries to be a follower. He’s a good solider but he feels he’s a better General. Boston Rob was playing him for a fool during their ”coconut tree challenge” when he tried to entice him to climb the tree. But I actually think that Boston Rob and Coach could be a good team if they could both get past their egos. Coach still wants it badly and Rob needs some of that in his alliances because after becoming a husband and a father, I’m not sure Rob wants it badly enough. Rob can last a long time based on sheer street smarts but he will need to get his ”Survivor instincts” back quickly if he is to last.


The first immunity challenge was probably more revealing about the tribes than the first reward challenge. The differences in the strength of both tribes was clearly illuminated in this challenge. The Heroes are stronger but their egos get in the way. The Villains work together better. That was the difference in this challenge. Boston Rob and Sandra led the villains to victory by leading them through the puzzle. Period. They’re both scrappy players and scrappy will be the key to winning this season. That doesn’t mean a Hero can’t win, it merely means that in my opinion, by the time this season is over, the idea of what makes up a Hero or Villain will fluctuate quite a bit. ”Outwit, outplay… outlast.”

Okay, without thinking it through – just off the top of my head — here are some overall thoughts about some of the returning Survivors:

Sandra Diaz – I am so glad she is back. I love her lippy way of telling it like it is. Courtney is also surprising me early on. I like how hard she fought in the initial challenge. Cirie is a legit, 100% full-on threat to win this game. Parvati, if given any kind of an opening will worm her way back into a solid alliance. Russell is a no-brainer. Take him out early or risk seeing him in the final again. Tom Westman, so glad he came back for another go. He needs a strong alliance and if he gets it, he will go deep. He’s a very good ”people person.” Rupert, Rupert, Rupert. It’s hard for me to distinguish the Survivor Rupert from the real Rupert. Maybe there isn’t a difference anymore, but I know this… kids still love them some Rupert!


One of the greatest tribal council sets we’ve ever had. Forty feet in the air, a massive build, it is stunning. Our two production designers, Jesse Jensen and Dan Munday, are incredible talents. The fact that we have not lost them to the movie world is a testament to how strong our team is and how much we all enjoy working on this show.

The idea of ”past relationships” came up during Tribal Council and it is going to be a theme this season. If you’re in a Survivor pool, make sure you factor this into your decision of who you think will win. It could go either way – being tied to others from your season could work for you or against you, just as being the only one out there from your season could work for you or against you – but it will be discussed a lot and will factor into how people vote.

James illuminated the biggest challenge on the hero tribe: The heroes must start listening to each other and let the ego go. Otherwise tribal council will become their second home.


Sugar didn’t really seem like she was ready to do this again. I think she fell victim to the ”what did I get myself into” realization that often happens to a returning Survivor. They forget how miserable it was and so they say ”Yes!” to returning for another go. Then they get out there and by the end of day one they are quickly reminded… ”Oh yeah, I forgot. This sucks.”

I don’t think her tribe will miss her, and in fairness, I don’t think she’ll miss the tribe. I think Sugar would be the first to admit that the Survivor experience was more about being on television than it was anything else. I’m glad she came back, she was worth taking a shot on, but Colby said it best, given the amazing amount of personality this season, she won’t be missed.

Talk next week.

Thanks Will!! :waves:

What a fantastic opening! Wow! Just Wow!

Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Heroes vs Villains': episode 2


Boston Rob is a stud.  The dude can make fire without flint, he can single-handedly win a challenge for his tribe, he is always good for a memorable quip (“Again I’m on the buffoon tribe”) and… he married Amber.  Not bad.  But even Boston Rob cannot stomach the Samoa flu.

Turns out that’s all that was wrong with Rob, a bout of the local Samoan flu.  But hear me when I say this was no ordinary flu.  During the season it took out a lot of our crew members and a lot of the locals on the island.  It hits the body very hard and according to our doctors, one of the worst parts was the accompanying headache which felt like a nail being repeatedly pounded into the back of your head.

INSIGHT: When the doctors and I first got to Rob at camp, he was flat out on his side.  Flat out. He was shaking uncontrollably and he was slobbering from the mouth.  I knew it was bad because Rob is not the kind of guy who ever complains about physical pain.  He’ll complain about damn near everything else, but he’s pretty self-contained when it comes to pain.  He was out of it.  Before the docs diagnosed it as merely the flu, I thought he was going to have to be evacuated. I doubt Rob has any idea how bad it really was, I don’t think he remembers much of what happened.

After the doctors had run their tests and determined that he was okay to continue, he and I sat and talked for quite a while.  He just needed time to get strong enough so that he could stand up and walk back over to the rest of the tribe.  It was a pretty funny, and at times emotional, exchange.  He kept repeating that he didn’t want to “let anybody down” because he loved the game so much.  But as his mind cleared up a bit, those noble feelings were replaced by a more familiar Boston Rob refrain: “Screw it.  I’m gonna win this damn game.”

I half expected him to stand up, staggering to maintain balance and yell to no one in particular: “Adrienne!  Adrienne!

Russell is obviously annoyed with Rob being the one in charge, but if Rob and Russell could get rid of their egos and team up they could run this game to the end.  Russell offers Rob the energy to play a very aggressive game and Rob offers Russell the wisdom of when to simmer down.  If it happens, watch out.


Cirie is amazing.  I am so impressed by how good a player she has become, so subtle with her maneuvering of people. Like her or not, I’d put Cirie in the top twenty players of all time.  She will definitely have her hands full this season because she is playing against a lot of very good players but she is quite clever and if they let her last for long she will be in an alliance that will be too tight to break.


The heroes are clearly starting to fall apart.  I still do not understand the rationale of players who come into this game, some of them for the third time, and continue to make selfish decisions, based solely on alliances, in only the SECOND WEEK OF THE GAME!

Voting out Stephenie?  Really?  Even on Ambien that makes no sense.  The Sugar vote made sense.  This vote… no sense.  Obviously, I’m not out there playing, so it’s easy for me to sit back and judge.  But Stephenie?  This vote really surprised me and it was all based on alliances.  Week-two alliances.

FUTURE PLAYERS, HEAR ME WHEN I SAY THIS: Voting out great players in the second week is idiotic.  It almost always works against you.  Look at the history of Survivor.  When the game starts it is a “team” game. The more you win as a team the longer you are guaranteed to stay in the game.  The more you lose, the more you go to tribal council and the more likely you are to be voted out.

This very simple strategic idea has been lost over the years.  It used to be a no-brainer to keep your tribe strong, but the game has changed.  It makes no difference to me how people play, but if the heroes continue to lose keep that idea in mind.

Maybe next year we’ll get a group of people who play a little more “old-school” Survivor and then we can see if my comments hold any water.

There are certainly many examples of winners who formed alliances on day two that took them to the end.  Of course there are, because most everybody is forming those kinds of alliances so obviously it will work out for one player.  But for everybody else, it will fail. It is not the smartest way to play this game.  You need to be able to balance your alliance while keeping the tribe strong.

And while we’re on the topic, “strong” doesn’t just mean in challenges.  Strong means work ethic, attitude, ability to provide food or build shelter, as well as leadership abilities and a whole host of other qualities.


I’m going to say something that will probably be very unpopular but if I were on the Heroes tribe I would have to seriously consider getting rid of James.  I know he’s the strongest guy to ever play this game, but his attitude is just not there and that is more damaging long term than his biceps are helpful short term.

He ran around camp telling everybody that Stephenie was a loser and she should be voted out.  He caused as much disharmony with his running around as Stephenie did by talking during the challenge.  But it was his outburst at tribal council that was most unnerving.

But here’s the issue…

Players get so locked into their vote that they rarely change their mind at tribal council.

NOTE # 2 TO ALL FUTURE PLAYERS: If you are at tribal and something is going south – have the guts to change your mind and call an audible.  Make a stand.  To get a shot at the million dollars you have to make it to the end and to get to the end you have to avoid tribal council and to avoid tribal council you have to win.


The hero tribe will need some time to recover from tonight’s vote and not simply because they lost a very strong player in Stephenie.  The real damage came at the hands of James.  His comments must have left a bad taste in the mouth of every other member on the Hero tribe.

The hero tribe now needs to heal and come back together as a tribe.  It’s only day six.  The problem is, healing takes time and Survivor waits for nothing and no one.

Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Heroes vs Villains': Episode 3


When last I left you…James appeared to be in the beginning stages of losing his mind. Last week’s tribal council ended with the very ugly and unnecessary comment from James to Stephenie: “Shut your mouth.”

Ah, so lovely.

Look, I’ve been a big fan of James from day one. I voted for him to be on Fans vs. Favorites and I voted for him to be on Heroes vs. Villains and up until this season I would have referred to him with affectionate phrases like “James the Gentle Giant.” Yeah… those days are gone.

I don’t know if James was going through something personal like trying to quit smoking or if he had a bad rash nobody knew about but something has definitely changed.

James is just not a nice guy these days. More on that later.


Boston Rob’s strategy tip was absolutely brilliant: “I’m gonna give you the key. Watch who is sleeping with whom at night.”

Talk about insight. It’s amazing what we reveal about ourselves without realizing it. As David Mamet would say, “We all have a ‘tell’.” A tell is something we’re not aware of that gives us away. That’s why poker players wear dark glasses, to hide their tells.

I wonder if Tiger Woods had a tell?


Circus Announcer: “Ladies and Gentlemen, gather your children and circle the wagons, for on this very stage tonight you will be witness to one of the greatest spectacles ever seen by human eyes…it’s the Survivor Black Widow Shooooooooooowdown!”

You knew it was coming. Jerri “The Original Black Widow” Manthey coming face to face with Parvati “I Take No Prisoners” Shallow for the female grudge match of the season. I couldn’t be happier.

Jerri: Every time I’m around her I want to punch her in the face.

Parvati: She’s just a bitter old cougar.


It’s an interesting match-up but I have to give the advantage to Parvati. That doesn’t mean Jerri isn’t long for the game, it only means in terms of playing the “flirt” game, Parvati has no equal.

She’s even got Russell under her spell. Even Russell, the guy who thoroughly dominated last season in Samoa, is susceptible to the charms of a beautiful woman. Of course he is, he’s a man. Rob sees it. Coach sees it. The audience sees it. We can all sense what is going on. Russell may not want to believe it and I’m sure at the live Reunion show he’ll tell me how wrong I was, but from where I sit he is getting played by Parvati the same way my two-year-old honorary nephew Oscar plays with his marionette.

Coach is spot on. Parvati is dangerous. And yes, if Parvati decides to snuggle up against Coach in the middle of the night you’ll hear Coach singing a whole different song in the morning. He’ll be walking around proud as a victorious warrior spouting off pearls such as :”Parvati is a really nice girl. I trust her. She’s worthy of warriorette status.” Of course he will. Why? Everybody together now, “He’s a man!”

Leave it to the oldest guy out there to say it best:

Randy: “Survivor, in so many ways, is like the real world. You don’t get ahead by being smart, clever, and hard working. You get ahead, unfortunately, with a pretty smile and being able to schmooze people, and Parvati is the queen.”


But Russell’s problem is not Parvati. Russell’s Achilles heel is his ego. He keeps saying he cannot stand that Rob thinks he is running the camp. What he really means it that he cannot stand that Rob IS running the camp. If it were only the perception that Rob is in charge, Russell wouldn’t care. It’s the fact that it’s true that has those little hairs on his head standing on end.

Russell: “I’m the daddy around here. Nobody knows who they’re messin’ with. It’s Russell Hantz. Gimme a break.”

If Russell were a leader back in the Roman Empire days he would have been Maximillian I, one of the most egotistical Roman Emperors to ever govern Rome. Maximillian didn’t have the Internet or television to promote himself but he did have the printing press and he used it to share all of his victories with the world. Imagine ‘ole Max on Survivor – now that would be a ratings juggernaut.

Let me say it one more time: Russell continues to miss his single greatest strategic opportunity – Boston Rob. Stop working against Rob and work with him. What’s wrong with you! Rob and Russell together could take it all the way to the end. It’s so easy to see when you’re not stuck in the middle of it.


I love this challenge. We could do this challenge every year and I’d be happy. And if Coach could play in this challenge every season I would never stop hosting Survivor.

But first…

The “Didn’t See It Coming” match: Did anybody actually think Amanda would take out Danielle? That was the biggest upset of the match. A total shocker.

“The Most Exciting” match: Colby and Rob. That was a fantastic match-up. Exactly who we wanted to see go at it. Chalk this one up for Colby. That is how this challenge was designed to be played. Aggressively.

“The Most Embarrassing” match: It’s now official. James has clearly lost his mind. It’s el gonzo. It was the most lopsided match of the challenge. There was no doubt who was going to win. James knocked Randy off with one small push and then…he threw his bag on top of him and as always had to have the last word. “Get your f—ing old ass outta here.” Sorry James but this is where I get off the James train. It’s not that I think Randy is the nicest guy in the world either, but that was just unnecessary and truly ugly.

And now…to the greatest moment of the episode…

“The I Can’t Hear You, Jeff, Because I’m Too Busy Posing For The Camera” match: Coach, you are a gem. You are the greatest. I loved this moment when it happened. I love it even more now that it’s on my TiVo and I can watch it over and over and over and over.

Hopefully you all saw what happened. The rules state that both hands must be on the bag at all times. One of Coach’s hands slipped off the bag and inadvertently helped push Rupert off the platform. A technicality yes, but still an enforceable rule. So we had to play again. But Coach didn’t hear me and went into a 30-second pose down that was absolutely brilliant. One of his best ever and his reaction when he found out it was all for naught was even better.

And here’s something I’ll admit. When Coach flipped me off it didn’t bother me. I understood it to be in the heat of the moment and not really directed at me so much as it was just frustration in general. It could bring up the question: Am I holding James to a different standard? I certainly don’t feel like I am. I feel like James’ attacks have been very personal, but I’m aware that it could seem like a double standard. Whatever it says about me, I didn’t find Coach’s flip-off to be ugly, but as already stated, I think James has blown a gasket.

Side note: Some of you may be wondering about the sit-out rule pertaining to back-to-back challenges. That rule only applies within an episode. Each new episode it starts fresh. Typically we have two challenges within an episode, but not always. So Courtney was able to sit out the last challenge (last week’s episode) and sit out again in this week’s challenge (new episode.) Hope that clears up any questions.


She did it in the Pearl Islands and she’s doing it again. Sandra is employing the single greatest and most simple strategy you can have on Survivor: As Long As It Ain’t Me. That’s really all you have to do to win this game – just make sure it ain’t you every single time you go to tribal council. Easier said than done for sure, but Sandra has it down to an Olympic-caliber science. She’s so good at it that at this point she is nowhere close to being voted out. Nobody’s even talking about her. She’s just minding her own business, going with the flow and staying out of the way. I love it.


In an episode filled with fantastic quotes, this was my favorite.

Coach: “There’s nobody out here that’s honorable anymore…except for me.” Admit it, you just laughed when you read it, right? It’s that good.

“There’s nobody out here that’s honorable anymore…except for me.” If I could write stuff this good I’d be taking home an Oscar this year.

The thing about Coach is he wears his emotions right there on this tattooed body for everybody to see. He is clearly upset by the lack of honor but in typical DragonSlayer fashion, he rallies with a quote from the great Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coach: “The greatest measure of a man is not the way he handles times of comfort but in the way he rises through controversy and challenges.”

Now the minute I heard Coach spouting off with an MLK quote I just knew it would be a complete bastardized version of the original. But I was wrong. I Googled that quote and Coach, you were spot on, brotha. Bravo.


The villains made the right move. Randy was the best person to vote out. He said it best, he just never fit in with the tribe and with his already sour attitude and marginal strength in challenges, he seemed the perfect and easy target to vote out. Randy I hope you’re happy and if you’re not happy – I hope you’re happy being not happy.

See ya next week.


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