‘Survivor’ Host Jeff Probst Thinks This Contestant Shouldn’t Have Won

Earning the title of “sole survivor” is a major undertaking. Those who win the final jury vote do so only after weeks of stress, hunger, sleepless nights, foul weather, and physical exhaustion. It’s easy to write off reality television as “staged,” but Survivor is one of the shows that keeps it as real as possible, and the castaways face plenty of actual difficulties on their season. Sometimes those difficulties even follow castaways into their home lives.

With that in mind, imagine playing an excellent game of Survivor, fighting and clawing your way to the final vote, only to lose out to someone else — a person who you feel might not have even worked that hard. That’s exactly how Survivor host Jeff Probst feels about this particular contestant.

The season in question

Russell Hantz, Laura Morett, Brett Clouser, Dave Ball, and Natalie White
Russell Hantz, Laura Morett, Brett Clouser, Dave Ball, and Natalie White | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

Jeff Probst is referencing Natalie White, the winner of Survivor: Samoa, the 19th season since 2000. This season was big for a variety reasons, not the least of which was the major blowout vote at the end of the season.

According the fan-run Survivor wiki, this season included several major twists and changes in the game. Right off the bat, the castaways were told to elect tribe leaders. These leaders would make decisions at challenges, choosing who would perform what tasks, who would sit out, and other such choices.

After a reward challenge, the tribe leader would choose an “observer.” This person would be sent to the losing tribe’s camp to observe their behavior and bring back information to ther own tribe. Additionally, the tribes merged much earlier than before, with twelve players remaining. Probst also expanded the jury, and this season the castaways would be voting on a final three rather than a final two.

Who is Natalie White

Finalist Mick Trimming, left, Winner Natalie White, center, and Russell Hantz, right
Finalist Mick Trimming, left, Winner Natalie White, center, and Russell Hantz, right | Mark Davis/CBS via Getty Images

A pharmaceutical salesperson from Arkansas, White entered the game quietly. She portrayed herself, whether truly or not, as a quiet and friendly “southern belle.” To many viewers, it seemed as if Natalie flew largely under the radar.

White, however, sees herself as incredibly competitive. “I’m literally so competitive and scrappy that I don’t care if I have to dive on the ground and get bruised and scraped up, I’ll do it. I’ll do it to win. I love to compete,” said Natalie to CBS.

White was quickly co-opted by Russell Hantz, the villainous player she eventually beat out for the title of “sole survivor.” Hantz included her in what he called his “Dumb*ss Girl Alliance.” It seems his views on White might not have hit the mark dead on.

Did she deserve her win?

Russell Hantz, and Natalie White
Russell Hantz, and Natalie White | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

When the jury voted White the winner, many fans felt as if Hantz had been cheated. Hantz played an aggressive game, pitting players against one another and making ruthless decisions and devious deals.

Rhys Desmond of The Mastermind believes White earned her win, however. “Speaking to her social aptitude – It’s no accident that Russell was threatened by virtually every woman on his tribe and voted them all off, except for Natalie. It speaks volumes to Natalie’s social game that she was able to tame the beast and remain on his good side for the entire game.”

Probst seems to disagree. Probst believes the jury members were bitter about Hantz’s gameplay and ruthlessness, and so voted for White out of spite.

“Oftentimes on Survivor, the vote does come down to a choice where a determining factor is ‘how nice someone is’ but that’s usually when all other criteria being considered is equal. That doesn’t hold up this season. This season was so lopsided in terms of one person (Russell) completely dominating the game that to not give him the money and the title is a bit silly,” explained Probst.

Probst went on to explain how he personally would have reacted during the final vote. “If I were playing Survivor, no matter how much I despised someone, if they kicked my ass in the game I would give it to them. Period. Outwit. Outplay. Nobody outwitted or outplayed Russell. Not even close.”

When it comes to this particular season and who should have won, it’s clear where Probst stands.