Jeff Probst Reveals the ‘Survivor’ Disaster You Never Saw
Jeff Probst has seen a lot of wild stuff in his life. It’s only natural since the iconic host has been gifting us with episodes of Survivor for 19 years (and counting). Probst has seen bizarre personalities, feats of endurance and willpower, and been to locales across the world. By now, you’d think Probst might be totally unflappable.
You’d be wrong. Probst revealed to Entertainment Weekly that things almost went terribly nuclear on Survivor: Gabon, and Probst was stressed. Here’s what went down.
One of Jeff’s favorite locations
Survivor: Gabon was the second season of the show to film in Africa, after Survivor: Africa. Right off the bat, one might imagine that for something to freak out Probst, it would have to be something like wildlife, or a natural disaster.
Probst is actually a big fan of filming in Africa, remembering the time he spent in Kenya quite fondly. “You didn’t want to scare off the wildlife that you hoped was waiting outside your tent. It was not uncommon to find zebra and giraffes,” Probst told Entertainment Weekly. Probst went on to add, “You’ve never seen stars like you see in Africa. There’s no ambient light … when you really see what’s up there, it’s mind-blowing”
As it turns out, the near-debacle didn’t happen on set in Gabon at all. In fact, it happened right here in the U.S., on-set for the season finale.
It’s time to read the votes
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Probst recalls that at the start, everything was going smoothly for the season finale. Everyone entered the stage without a hitch, the hellos and introductions have gone off just fine, but there’s just one hitch.
At this time, a producer who is no longer on the show was in charge of bringing the votes from the final tribal council to Probst. The finale has started, and Probst simply hasn’t seen the producer anywhere. “But I haven’t seen him. And I’m starting to now wonder, I know he’s here. It’s just it’s weird that we haven’t connected yet. But I figured he was busy,” Probst told Entertainment Weekly.
Luckily, Probst was able to find the producer in question. But he didn’t have the votes. “And then I see him walking down the hallway and I say, ‘Hey, we should go over the votes.’ And he says, ‘Votes?’ And I go, ‘You’re supposed to have the votes.’ And he says, “Oh s—, I forgot.’ And I think he’s kidding because he was the type of guy who would pull that kind of practical joke,” said Probst.
This time, it wasn’t a joke
Unfortunately for Probst, the producer wasn’t pulling his leg this time around. “And I go, ‘That’s funny. Where are the votes?’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m not kidding.’ And I go, ‘Come on, for real. This is going to stress me out. Where are they?’ He goes, ‘I really forgot.’ And at that point, panic ensued.”
It’s hard to imagine Probst panicking — even when dealing with serious injuries or medical evacuations, Probst always seems to keep his cool. Lucky for Probst, the crew was willing to go to drastic measures to get those votes.
“One of our other crew members, Chris Campbell, had a motorcycle. So he gets on his motorcycle and he starts racing to our production offices,” explained Probst. “He gets to the office. He’s one of the three people who has the combo, but he doesn’t have a key to the office where the safe is! So this is the truth: He breaks the glass.”
Just in the nick of time
Once the votes were secure, Chris Campbell faxed every vote over to CBS. “He faxes every single vote and we’re now in a really small room at CBS with [producer/production designer] Dan Munday and a CBS executive. And Dan is retracing every single vote by hand. And the live show is playing, and the time is ticking down! Now we’re 15 minutes away!”
Dan Munday was able to finish in time, and according to Probst, the votes looked identical. However, two minutes before the vote reading, Campbell arrived on his motorcycle with the actual votes in hand. Probst replaced the copied votes, and everything went off without a hitch.