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Jeff Probst Says Some Old School ‘Survivor’ Players Wouldn’t Even Get an Interview Today

By Emma Chance | TV | April 12, 2024 |

By Emma Chance | TV | April 12, 2024 |


Where were you when Brandon Hantz had a full-blown breakdown on Survivor: Caramoan and Jeff Probst shoulder-massaged him off the ledge and out of the game?

It was a different era then, as Probst and his team love to remind us, and that kind of thing wouldn’t fly today, because Hantz probably would have been ejected from the game long before that happened or maybe not even cast at all, because he was a basket case. Now, things are different, and they don’t only have doctors at the ready in case contestants get hurt, but psychologists as well. Those psychologists were utilized this season when Ben Katzman had a panic attack in the night, which viewers saw play out on Wednesday’s episode.

“We not only have medical doctors on locations, we also have our mental health specialists on location, our psychology team. So, in this case, we let our psychologists know what happened, and if there was even a slight concern that Ben was in real trouble, we would intervene in whatever was most appropriate,” Probst said.

“I’m very proud of our aftercare program for both medical and mental health issues. I don’t know of any show in our genre who does what we do. We follow through, and that support continues for as long as a player needs it. And watching it within the episode, I’m obviously moved and very satisfied that Ben’s community—in this case, Kenzie, specifically—took care of their own. It’s a very big shift in the game from, say, 15 years ago where this might not have happened,” he continued. Kenzie is Kenzie Petty, Ben’s tribe mate who soothed him through his panic attack, saying in a confessional that she had experience helping her mother and sister “regulate sleep and anxiety,” so she knew what to do.

As for why we might not have seen the situation play out that way 15 years ago, Probst said, “Number one, casting the types of people we’re putting on the show.”

“A lot of players, and this is not any disrespect, but there are players from 15 years ago we would not even interview today. They were perfect for that time, but today, we want more emotional depth that you understand and have compassion for people. And that’s what we just saw.”

Such is the ethos of the New Era that some viewers, well, don’t love. But Probst is adamant that it works, emphasizing, “Our storytelling is aligned with that.”

“Our emphasis has shifted from just a pure game approach of ‘Who will be voted out tonight?’ To a much more complex and emotionally layered adventure and life experience,” he says.

But he also thinks the culture simply wouldn’t accept a Brandon Hantz today.

“This gets overlooked, but Survivor has always been a reflection of our culture. And if you go back and look at our past 23 years, you will see us reflected in every season and you will see the shift and growth of our culture with every season because things that happened back in those early seasons, they would never happen today. And things that are happening today we couldn’t have imagined happened 15 years ago.”

I for one am not a member of the New School Haters Club, because the tone and themes of the early seasons simply couldn’t be sustained through this many seasons. Even on a simple game level—with all the idols and advantages and twists that some viewers so despise—change is the only constant. You can’t make the same exact game interesting 40 times. Even Traitors is gonna get boring after a while. (I’m gonna get hate mail for that one, aren’t I?) The scene between Ben and Kenzie was, I think, the best thing to happen so far this season, but that might just be my crush on Ben, a self-professed nerd and class clown, talking.