Jeff Probst Defends This Controversial ‘Survivor’ Twist

With 19 years under its belt, Survivor has officially become one of CBS’ longest-running television series. In fact, Survivor is ostensibly one of the grandfathers of reality television. And it’s no surprise that it’s done so well, with reality genius Jeff Probst at the helm as executive producer and game master.

Thanks to Probst, every season comes packaged with new twists, bizarre and grueling challenges, and big personalities. Without Probst, the show simply wouldn’t be what it is today. So, when fans expressed outrage over a controversial twist that helped earn a castaway the title of sole survivor during Season 35, Probst jumped to its defense.

Who is Ben Driebergen

Ben Driebergen
Ben Driebergen | CBS via Getty Images

Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, Ben Driebergen appeared on Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers and was able to fight his way to the title of sole survivor. Ben was placed on the “Heroes” tribe, and acknowledgment of his time spent serving in the Marines. When asked why he might be able to win, he told CBS, “Because I have survived and overcome so many situations and met so many different people with different personalities. My social game is on point and my leadership and survival skills have been tried, tested, and proven.”

Ben played a strong but risky game. Early in the season, Ben was seen as a trustworthy ally. Post-merge, however, players began to chafe at his controlling and short-tempered gameplay. He formed an alliance that others soon called the “Round Table,” dubbing Ben “King Arthur.”

What was the big twist?

Ben Driebergen and Devon Pinto
Ben Driebergen and Devon Pinto | CBS via Getty Images

After an impressive effort, Ben Driebergen was able to win or find immunity idol after immunity idol, keeping him safe in an otherwise hostile environment. The final four consisted of Ben and three others, all of whom were dead set on voting out Ben, who they perceived as the most dangerous player in the game. But Ben got lucky.

Just when it seemed like all hope was lost, Probst announced a special twist. Whoever won immunity would take one person with them to the final three, and the remaining two players would make fire to see who gets to go with them.

Ben described his reaction to Probst’s announcement. “Oh my God, are you kidding me with that?!? I didn’t want to give up. I was looking for idols at the final four, just because the game was crazy. I was never going to give up. But I didn’t find a clue and I didn’t find an idol and it was time to go to Tribal. They were so adamant about getting me out that I knew I was going home, and when she said she gets to take one person and the other two have to battle it out in fire, I knew she was taking Ryan. And it was my chance to get back in the game and Devon is an awesome guy and I wouldn’t want to go head to head against anyone else. I’m glad we did that together,” he told Entertainment Weekly.

Ruining the integrity of the game?

Chrissy Hofbeck, Ben Driebergen, Ryan Ulrich
Chrissy Hofbeck, Ben Driebergen, Ryan Ulrich | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

Some fans, however, feel as if this twist hurt the integrity of the game. Ben disagrees with the sentiment, saying that he believes it adds more tension to the game. Meanwhile, fans argue that building fire allows players who didn’t play well enough to avoid getting voted out.

Probst disagrees, saying that the fire making challenge levels the playing field. “This idea came about to solve a problem that has bothered me for years. If someone plays a great game and gets to the final four, it has always bothered me that the other three can simply say, “We can’t beat him, so let’s all just vote him out.” So this year we decided to make a change. If you get to final four, you are guaranteed a shot to earn your way to the end.  And if you are the one to win the final four challenge, you are in charge of who you take and who you force to fight for it in a fire-making showdown,” Probst told Entertainment Weekly.