The Game is on, cunning, conniving or cajoling lets find a winner!

The WAR for the final five!

Russell, Brett, Natalie, Jaison and Mick. It looks like 3 tribal councils will come into play Sunday Night. Russell now needs to get aggressive and win a Individual Immunity contest. The remaing need a little more help. The people who don’t win any II’s must now decide who to team up with to get to the end.

Jeff Probst blogs ‘Survivor: Samoa': episode #14


Hey everybody, let’s get right into it…


Long before the Survivors participate in a challenge it has already gone through an extensive testing process. It begins with a “test block” where our dreamteamers do a light run-through of the challenge so we can see how it’s coming along.

When we did the first test block for last night’s “Coconut Drop” reward challenge it was rough. We all agreed that it was a brilliant and inventive challenge but it wasn’t quite right. So we gave some notes and our art department made some changes and we tested it again. Technically it was working much better but it was still taking a long time to complete.  

We debated reducing the number of coconuts so that it would play faster. But John Kirhoffer and Dan Munday, the geniuses who created the challenge, reminded us that if we reduced the coconuts the challenge would lose a lot of impact. The only way to change the challenge would be to completely redesign it. Well, this was a challenge that had already taken a couple of weeks to design and construct, so the idea of starting over was out of the question. We went ahead with the challenge as planned and it played beautifully. There was great drama and some character revealing moments surrounding Natalie and religion and Shambo and her hair. So, on that front it was a hit. But it took nearly four hours to complete. Four hours… and that’s simply too long.

To give context, not counting endurance challenges which are in their own category, the average challenge takes 15 minutes to run. The reason four hours is too long is that it affects everything else on the schedule. Because we’re behind, the reward itself is now delayed and could result in us having less time on the reward than we desire. The losing team of Survivors who are returning to camp have less daylight for us to shoot reality and conduct interviews. It’s a domino effect. If we have a tribal council that night, we might have to go later than normal and that means our crews are working longer days than we anticipated and then you have to get up the next day to do it all again and you’re already behind. You get the point.

The good news is that this rarely happens. I’m talking maybe once every other season. That’s how good our challenge guys are at designing these contests. They really know their stuff.


There is a specific reason that we will often run a “team” challenge during the individual portion of the game and that is because we want to continue to mix things up and cause conflict. When you send only three people on a reward and the other three are left behind you have a very good chance of a new alliance forming or somebody sharing information that will turn the game around.

The reason it works is because people are often either desperate and/or suspicious, as they should be, and they use this opportunity to do a little detective work or to stir things up. Survivor is so much easier to play from the confines of your living room, much more difficult to actually be “in” the game where every decision is a potential million dollar choice or mistake.

You saw it happen at the reward challenge where Russell, Jaison, and Shambo started investigating Natalie’s decision to choose Brett as her teammate. That simple little discussion could change the game 180 degrees. That’s all it takes for a month-long alliance to come crumbling down. Or if you’re Russell it’s merely another opportunity to capitalize on everybody else’s paranoia and move one step closer to the end.


There was no hiding that the Foa Foa four wanted to get rid of Brett. They talked about it at every challenge and at tribal council. It was quite refreshing to not have them pretend that “maybe Brett has a shot to stay.” Anything can happen but if Brett loses an immunity challenge he will be in serious trouble. If Brett makes it to the final, short of a total meltdown, I think he wins the million dollars.


This challenge was the prototype for a Survivor challenge. It looks simple, you can play it at home, but after a 36 days of playing Survivor, merely counting pigs can drive you insane.

There were lots of different strategies going on. I stayed back in the counting area so I could monitor everything. Russell would memorize a couple of numbers and head out. Brett had a different strategy. He stayed for a long time, storing many numbers in his head, never panicking. I love watching challenges play out in front of me, knowing the decisions the Survivors are making are often do or die. Clearly for Brett, it paid off.


Well, there is no hiding my sadness that Shambo is gone. She was loved by some and despised by others, but from my little perch she was a great Survivor contestant. She had a point of view and she shared it openly. She had a sense of humor about herself, she was a pretty good player and without question Shambo was memorable.

I can tell you right now that some of the other Survivors from this season who are reading this as you are will be screaming at me for being nice to Shambo. Not my problem. I wasn’t in the game, I only know what I see and what I saw I enjoyed. I’m not saying Shambo wouldn’t get on my nerves over time, I’m only saying I liked what I saw.


When we finished shooting Survivor: Samoa I had mixed feeling about how the season would play for the audience. I knew we had a star in Russell but I wasn’t sure if we had anything else.

I have had hundreds of people stop me to tell me this is one of their favorite seasons. I realize that may not ring true to everybody reading this, but for a lot of people this has been a great season. Russell is truly a star and like him or not the fact that he is still in the game as we go into the final episode is a very good thing. The Foa Foa comeback has also been a major storyline this season.

Equally interesting is that Brett is still alive. Suddenly the quiet T-shirt designer is only a few days and one or two challenges away from a legitimate shot at a million dollars.

Even though I do know the outcome of who makes it to the final, I am still going to give you the same predictions I felt at this point when we were shooting the show:

Brett – If he makes it to the final, I think Brett has a really good shot at getting enough votes to win the money. Some of the jury may not feel he deserves it, but with a jury made up of Galu, the odds are in his favor.

Russell – Hands down the strongest player of this season. NO doubt about it. The big question is “Can he get the vote?” That really will depend on whether the jury takes an intellectual approach (if so he has a chance) or an emotional approach (his chances diminish significantly.) If he makes it to the final he will have his work cut out for him.

Natalie – With only five people left, I’d say Natalie has fairly good odds of winning this game. Her biggest challenge is going to be getting to the final. If Brett continues to win, Natalie could be in trouble because she is a threat to win the game. Her best strategy would be to continue to stand next to Russell and vote the way he says.

Jaison – He has a reasonable shot depending on who he is up against. If Jaison is up against Mick and Natalie I think he could make a pretty compelling argument and might sway the jury his way. He was a slow burn but I think people have come to appreciate his integrity.

Mick – I think Mick is the longshot. The one thing that could turn it for Mick is if he makes it to the final and then reveals that he has been playing “quiet” for a reason. If Mick turns out to be a great orator he could surprise everybody and change the minds of the jury at the final tribal council.

I hope you’re excited for our finale on Sunday. I think it’s going to be fun to watch and the Reunion show should be a kick as well.


On a separate note, I just found out that the pilot for a new show I created with Mark Burnett, called “LIVE FOR THE MOMENT” will air at 8 pm on Thursday, Jan. 28th, 2010. If you’re looking for something new that offers great adventure as well as an uplifting message about how to get the most out of life, I hope you’ll check it out and encourage your friends to watch. I’m really proud of it and I hope it connects with an audience. The only way a show like this gets a chance for a second episode is if people watch the first one! Thanks for the support.


I may not be able to write a blog following the finale. I will do my best but I want to be up front and share that it just might not happen.

So with that in mind I will take a small leap ahead and say… “Survivor 20…..” Wait till you see what we have in store for you! I think you’re gonna dig it!

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly for letting me do these blogs again and thanks to Dalton Ross for the weekly reminders to get my blogs finished on time.

Finally, thanks to you guys, the fans, our loyal audience, the people who read this blog and respond with your comments. I read your comments every week and I learn a lot from them. Sometimes your comments even get copied and sent to our producers or our challenge department because you make some very good points in your analysis of the show.

I’ve enjoyed our back and forth, thanks for the honesty.

And now…. Let’s get to Sunday night already!


‘Survivor: Samoa’ recap: Heaven Help Her

Natalie seeks divine intervention at the reward challenge, while Russell gets even cockier at Tribal Council

By Dalton Ross | Dec 18, 2009
Dalton Ross
Dalton Ross
Dalton Ross is an Assistant Managing Editor at EW and would feel a whole lot better if you would stop looking at his picture.


113 thoughts on “The Game is on, cunning, conniving or cajoling lets find a winner!”

  1. I like to think of myself as guided by a higher power but Holy…………………….that’s a little much, Ted!

  2. Hi Holly… sorry I must have been confusing you with the other TGO! Truer words were never spoken, Sal. TGO really needs to win immunity to keep me from undue angst.

    I see I’ve missed nothing so far this a.m., except the expected morning back pats.

    Going to check out the above. Thanks again, Sal, for the starting points.

  3. Well, I can only guess that the bank is not open today for Frannie… PK is at Sam’s Club buying dinner for R… Aggie is on another date… Holly’s daughter has dumped her off at the mall to shop… I’m sure Sal is lurking about in Cyberspace… So, I’m going to work… BBL

  4. No, Holly was at Costco with the devilish one and the hubby. Boy was that an adventure! Poor hubby, me the crip in the cart like and old lady and him taking care of the baby. We were supposed to go to more than one store but he couldn’t take it!!

  5. Thanks for sticking up for me Holly, Donna P is obviously pretty young possibly even younger than BBB. either that or she was that into music, Pk, Stop flirting with Fran, I do know better believe it or not.

  6. Poor hubby, me the crip in the cart like and old lady and him taking care of the baby

    Holly… What a wonderful image. Where is Norman Rockwell when you really need him?

  7. You guys are more interesting than Survivor, except possibly for Russell but PK might rival his antics only in a different way.

    Enjoy the day! Going to check in on my parents. At least no emergency phone calls to tend to.

  8. What’s up with the missing avatars again? I only see mine and Ted’s today. They come and go like the gremlins they are it seems.

  9. My thoughts exactly Pk, what a picture we made! Although I did tell him to push the cart right behind my automated one because believe it or not ppl still move out of the way of the handicapped!

    Take care all, friends coming to visit the gimp for cocktails and food!

  10. Aggie… You and Frannie are always playing with me and torturing Ted… That OK… Keep up the good work…

  11. Let’s hope nothing happens to Russell H after the finale with all of his pics covering every inch of Ted’s Russell Wall. They always round up all the usual suspects. Just a heads up for CSI Friday Harbor.

  12. Iused to torture Ted, im trying to be nice to him now, I think Ted needs to come to chicago and go to lotties ,he keeps telling me to go there, Ted the only bars i go to Are Irish ones.I have a tendency to run in to some old friends, thats what i like.

  13. I said before, Ted might Like Howie Gordon From BB6 and 7, He is always talking about his man crushes, he had a man crush on Jeff and Russell from BB11, I cant blame him for that one, but Russell was a little more interesting at least. and most people from chicago dont sound like Jeff, UGH.

  14. Hello my survivor peeps. You’ll are so interested in my age. Let’s just say I couldn’t vote four years ago but did vote in the last election. As for Janis Jopin I honestly didn’t hear of her Iknow.

  15. So who’s here? The girl from NYC? I guess you are the baby in our group DonnaP… try to avoid some of the bad influences here and stick with me for good advice. Let’s stand united in our support for TGO!

    Oh boy… AC can not be happy right now… this might be the night for the Cowboys… still early though.

  16. Dalton’s interview with Monica is pretty interesting. She is a bright young woman and I think quite articulate. Jenna M. assisted Dalton and was pretty funny. Jeff’s blog was interesting That must have been some experience to participate in a challenge that took 4 hours.

    We will have to check out Jeff’s new show. Might be a good one to talk about.

    If I was the cook at Ponderosa I would have thrown Shambo out of the kitchen! It looks like she drove everyone nuts there, and not just the other Survivors. Glad we won’t have to hear any more of her inspirational speeches until the reunion show.

  17. Ted, are you refering too me,I dont drink beer or cocktail weinies my dear ,I usually have wine or baileys at the pub, so their you go.

  18. I was out doing some X-mas shopping today. I never
    wait this long to finish. I usually have everything wrapped by now

  19. I went out yesterday too and bought something for myself…
    oh well, I have to take care of myself too….right?

  20. Hi Aggie… Did not take you for a beer drinker. That party’s in another part of Chicagoland. Yes, I agree that Shannon’s exit was gracious and I do believe she is a good person, and yes, she did provide much amusement, but I was not sorry to see her go. Will be interesting to hear her questions. So far, I don’t think anyone on the jury is really enraged like some shows in the past.

  21. Hey Aggie… here is a bar I think you will like… its at N Clark and Hubbard…Frankie Z’s. Spent a lot of time there. I worked a block away at Burhop’s. That was the building Michael Jordan’s Resturant was in. Let me know what you think.

  22. I follow the bb blog and thought I’d try and follow the Survivor blog as well. But I have to be honest and say that every time I’ve come to read the blog, I read the main posting, and then it just seems like a group of people that apparently know eachother very well, but never see any game talk or opinions or anything. I have only read a few of these during the survivor season due to the fact it always about who comments first, and mumbo jumbo back and forth between these few people, wish it would have been more input about the game, I don’t think I’ll be following this anymore it just takes up space in my email inbox. Have a Merry Christmas.

  23. livnlife, jump in a seyt us straight. We get complaints, but never any action out of complainers.

    NOW… at the risk of ticking you off further.. WHAT the heck!! How many times can the Saints get lucky with a missed FG?!

    I am watching on…. guess I don’t need to pay for NFL network!! Haha… back to the game.

  24. Frannie… I think your ghost got on your computer and posted a comment. Either that or Sal posted under your name.

  25. Sorry AC, I was backing you and the Saints all the way. Then 2 weeks ago you were rooting for the Cards against my Vikes. I still like the Saints chances of being in the Super Bowl. Now they can just concentrate on that and not have to hear about an undefeated season. Might be the best thing for them.

  26. Sorry Frannie.. I was trying to be funny about your “Boooo” comment.

    I haven’t had a chance to read today’s comments yet.

  27. I’ll give the Cowboys credit. They outplayed us all around tonight. Offense and Defense. We only had 1 third down conversion all game. We were lucky to even have a chance to win in the end, after being down 21 pts.

  28. Is that guy their starting kicker or backup? He sucks. Did you see his warmups? He was missing all over the place. Then he steps up and misses a chip shot 24 yd. field goal.

  29. He has the lowest FG percentage of any active kicker. Yes he did make the 44 yarder.. and I was shocked! :shock:

  30. Hey Sal, I tried that new site. Sounds interesting, but I didn’t get anywhere. I’ll go look again, in the mean time.. any tips from you would be helpful.

  31. NVM Sal.. I guess I already have a user name for wordpress. I’m “justaguy13″. I entered my usual name and that was the problem. I have a comment “under moderation” now. (the 13 is for my birthday)

  32. I didn’t know I could watch NFL Network games on-line til tonight! I looked for the score and clicked on “watch live”. Awesome!!

  33. livnlife December 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    My bad I must have overlooked your previous posts on Survivor game talk. Or did you waste your first post on a complaint to scold us? Feel free to jump in anytime and start the convo. I guarantee you will get some responses and at least make a new friend in Ted. 8)

  34. Ted, you seem like your really homesick, you need to come to chicago, and go too those places, did you read what i said ,I go to Irish bars ,I dont think Franky z is one of them.

  35. Yeah AC, I went to NFL .com to check the score. Then I saw a “watch live” button. I thought “what the hell?”. I clicked it and watched the final 3 quarters. Sprint was footing the bill for that one.

  36. Maybe I’ll just keep commenting here when the season is done. I wonder if anyone has ever done that? It’ll be kind of like a little Tree House for us to play at. Hmmmm :cool:

  37. Yep, they had some comms.. but they got back to the game when needed. I don’t like watching games/shows on the computer. But if I want to see it and it’s FREE, count me in!!

  38. for those that addressed my comment, I followed this same group through Big Brother and this is the first season I decided to go to the Survivor Blog, I have had little reason to make comments since most of them weren’t based on the game. I understand 7 days a week can’t all be about the game, but I rarely saw discussion about it. Maybe it was just not a good season for everyone to have alot to say. I mostly just read the ones that Jeff’s blog was on. Skipped over the rest. As far as “livnlife, jump in a seyt us straight. We get complaints, but never any action out of complainers.” My action was to say something about it. I wasn’t scolding anyone, just stating my opinion. Thought that was what everyone did??
    And for the record… GO COLTS!

  39. That was a lot nicer livinlife… lol @ go colts… i think because text has no tone sometimes things are taken out of context or sound unneccesarily harsh! I love BB by the way and can’t wait until the next season.. with After Dark hopefully that will be a really great blog on topic blog… will try to jump in when it starts.

Comments are closed.