'Survivor: Winners at War' - Jeff Probst on Why he no Longer Does an Epic 'Survivor' Vote Delivery
Jeff Probst explains why he no longer delivers the final survivor votes in epic fashion.
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show’s past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they’ve been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.
When Jeff Probst returned from Nicaragua after filming completed on Survivor: Worlds Apart, he could not stop raving about the cast. He raved to friends. He raved to the press. And, apparently, he even raved to the cast themselves! That’s one of the behind-the-scenes tidbits Tyler Fredrickson shares in his Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire. The seventh-place finisher from season 30 sets the scene and takes us into a Tribal Council where the host showed his appreciation for the players in what he considered one of the best Survivor seasons ever.
While Probst was an unabashed fan, Tyler takes himself to task five years later for not being more of a breakout character, explaining how his past as a professional athlete trained him to be as boring as possible on camera. But there is absolutely nothing boring about Tyler’s Quarantine Questionnaire. Read on to get the update from a card-carrying member of the #Dirty30.
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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
TYLER FREDRICKSON: Man, the more things change, the more they stay the same! On Survivor, I had just finished working at a talent agency and was barely "white collar." Now I'm back in Hollywood, running [actress] Joey King's production company. That said, the last two years have been life-transforming: I went through a divorce, tripped into a campfire and spent two weeks in a burn unit, lost my little brother and grandfather, and became roommates with Max (from my season). If there's one takeaway from playing this show, it's that I found my tribe. The support and encouragement from cast members — both from my season and others — has sustained me through so much heartbreak and transition. I feel I'm finally finding my footing again... and it feels really good.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Winning individual immunity! For 45 minutes, I had to stand on my tiptoes with a block on my head pressed to a board. At the time, I didn't know any of the players I was playing against (like I do now), so I saw all of them as villains. The competitor in me wanted to beat them at everything, always, and make them drink it in. So having the freedom to sit back while Jeff clasped that necklace was awesome. After he did, I slapped the bill of his hat down in excitement. Didn't make the edit — you don't make Jeff look da fool — but I was elated.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Not making a move earlier. I sat back like a snake in the grass for 32 days, patient, quiet, building an alliance and trust... and then got sniped by my closest ally. Due to circumstances, I don't know if I could have made a monster move before then, but in retrospect, I wish I had. I'm actually really pleased with how I played... even though that means getting voted out in 7th place. I felt I was leading the majority four alliance out of seven, but ultimately, even my alliance saw me as a threat and voted me out.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
Three fun, short stories.
1. We were one of the first seasons to have multiple, genuine, superfans on the show. We also didn't have a marooning. All the cast came riding in on the backs of three separate utility trucks, separated by "Collar" color.
Now, there was a cameraman in the back shooting close-ups of us White Collars as we jostled throughout this jungle for like three hours before meeting Jeff, but occasionally he would jump out to recharge camera gear or hide as the helicopter swept in to shoot us from overhead.
Once he was gone, Max, Shirin, and I began to tear into the bed of the truck, looking for clues, food, stuffing our bags with what was only to be used as set dressing: ropes, wood, even a secured tarp that the cameraman was sitting on. Obviously, production *confiscated them when we arrived, but we didn't know. We were just playing the game like superfans!
*Max was able to successfully commandeer a short cord of rope, but it was ultimately as useless as white collar people camping.
2. Soon before our cast broke the auction, Dan Foley received an extra vote advantage tied in a wooden sleeve as reward for a winning rock. Dan and I were close, but I soon found out he was not going to tell me what he'd won. He said the rules stated he couldn't say... sneaky, sneaky. You liar.
Later in the afternoon, he went off to do a confessional and I walked back to camp alone, only to find Sierra Dawn sleeping in the hammock guarding Dan's bag. There were no camera crews around, just a yawning producer. But it had to be done.
I quickly walked up and snatched the bag out from under Sleeping Beauty and took off down the first trail I could find, ripping Dan's bag open as I ran. I took the box out and started tearing open the clue while the now wide-eyed producer slid in behind me, trying to operate a small camera slung around his neck for emergencies, hissing into his radio for a larger crew to come find us. Once I scanned the note, I flung it in the bag and then sprinted back, threw it under Sierra, and walked away cool, calm, and (ahem) collected... right as the three-man crew came huffing around a corner.
I sat down next to the fire, my heart racing. The producer walked over and asked if I could go grab the bag again for the real crew to record. I looked over at Sierra and she was starting to wake up. Not happening. Who knew that waking up from a nap could be such a game-changing moment?
Later, [while] filming a confessional, production yelled at me for not playing the game in front of the cameras, which was true. You'll hear me say, "I raced off!" but the edit shows I casually pick up a bag. They ended up stitching together other scenes and inserts in order to make the moment happen in the actual show (probably isn't the last time either). Next time, I tell myself, do it for the cameras... but sneaky, sneaky was right, I ain't no simp.
2 1/2. Sorry if these are too long. But you're in quarantine, c'mon.
3. All throughout our season, production was hinting that we were one of their favorite groups of newbies in history... that casting was ecstatic... the stories, players, gameplay were all there and they had a season! We all felt good, not only for ourselves but for the fans. It's one of the things that started to bond us early on as a cast, which still endures today.
So, much to our satisfaction (and surprise) when at final tribal Jeff said if there was one cast in the history of the show he'd like to return and play all over again — brand-new season, brand-new stories — it would be ours. He added that CBS would never go for it. But if he could, we would!
We were stoked (and I like to think Jeff winked directly at me). Then, to thank us, suddenly he just dropped to his knees and gave us all the "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" wave and bow to the jury and they couldn't believe it. I believed it, though — those dimps were indented toward me the deepest. Then he grabbed the urn with the winning votes and walked off into the jungle... where he probably still is now, for all anyone knows.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
You only get what you give, right? Here's my defense for a quiet, understated edit: As a pro athlete, you are taught to give "confessionals" that are rote, unemotional. You never want to give the enemy "locker room material." And I quickly learned, surrounded by cameras and producers, that everything I put out there could be used against me. So I kept life tight-lipped and uninteresting. Was it good TV? Hell no. Would I change it if I went back out? Hell yes. Did it get me far in the game? You betcha ass it did. Was it a fair edit? I felt I was running the game the last week on the island and had 100% of the jury votes behind me and I don't feel that was shown. Then again, it didn't matter — I didn't win anyway. So, yeah, they got me right.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
The night I got home I fell into my wife's arms at midnight and cried. Hard. And it definitely shocked her. The game is the most demanding thing I've ever done, and that includes the NFL. I still have issues with wasting food and will clean everyone's plate at a restaurant, and am more comfortable than ever with being wet, cold, and dirty. I think it's what led me to work for a homeless shelter for two years immediately after. I knew first-hand what it was like to be disenfranchised and exposed. Care for the poor.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
While I was out there, my wife and I had a promise that at every sunset we would say a prayer for each other. She had an alert set on her phone for the Nicaraguan sunset and would know what I was seeing. On day 9, I remember sitting on the beach, watching the sun go down, and with tears in my eyes thinking this whole thing is unmanageable and horrible. The mosquitos had just tag-teamed with the flies and the crabs were coming out. Survivor was anti-Lego Movie — everything was awful. I never thought I would last another three weeks or that it would get easier. It did, somehow. Probably Chris Pratt.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Being housemates, obviously Max and I talk every day about everything — media, news, relationships, work, reality TV, who sucks at social media, all of it. We keep our noses close to the ground and stay up on all the hot goss (our theoretical podcast would be lit). From my season, I talk with Sierra at least once a week — she's my best friend — and still regularly talk with Mike and Dan and Joe. Say what you want about the #Dirty30, but my cast is family. They know me and all my secrets — weaknesses and strengths.
Do you still watch Survivor and, if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
Wednesday nights are sacred and all facets of Survivor are still incredibly important. I've traveled to Fiji not once but twice and have visited all the islands where the show is played (including the sand spit!). I've seen the "Day X" machete carvings in the trees from previous seasons and have learned from the locals what can or can't be eaten. I have spearfished off all the Survivor island coasts, stayed overnight in the rain, and cooked the fish we caught over fire. Does it seem a bit excessive and strange? Trust me, at the time it was purposeful. And it was the closest thing to playing the game I'll probably ever get again. If I were a producer and watched my season, I wouldn't ask me back. But if I were a producer who knew me now and who knew what I know, I'd book me the first Fiji flight out post-Covid.
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I have relationships from almost every season of the show that stretch far beyond the game — and I share that only because the show and its casts have been so impactful to me. Like I said, I found my tribe of adventure seekers, riskers, thrillers, competitors, and they have been my wonderful community. It's strange that a reality TV show would give someone such a group of supportive people, but seeing as it has, I decided to just make lemonade.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
New locations, less advantages, yadda yadda. As a producer, I totally get why Jeff, Matt, et al., do what they do where they do it. I still love the show, even when they get it wrong. Honestly, I only want to see the best players play. I don't care if you look good in a swimsuit. Too many people beat out thousands and then get far in this game having no idea what they are doing. Sign me up for Survivor: Smart vs. Social vs. Sneaky every. single. time. Get rid of the Goats. Clap emoji.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
It doesn't matter. What matters is to vote on November 3. That's what matters.