The tribe will speak one more time on Wednesday's finale of Survivor: Cagayan (8/7c, CBS). At the conclusion of what has been one of the craziest seasons in Survivor history (blindsides galore!), only one person will walk away with the million dollar prize. Who will it be — Tony, Kass, Spencer or Woo?
TVGuide.com turned to host Jeff Probst to get his breakdown of the four finalists. "I think Tony could beat any of the other three, but only if he plays it right, depending who he's up against," says Probst, who feels that Cagayan is one of the top five seasons the show has ever done. "Tony against Spencer? That's a tough one. ... I do think it comes down to how they play it. Tony could definitely win. Spencer could absolutely win. Woo could win if he knows what to say. And Kass, if she's lined up against the right person, could be a millionaire."
Rather than being comprised of a full episode and then a live reunion, Wednesday's finale will be live the entire time. "The idea is just to make it an event," Probst says. "I know that [the viewers] have an investment in our show that goes beyond a casual observer of a show. They're invested. ... And so, we wanted to just continue to include them more, and social media makes it so easy for immediate feedback. I love that people can say anything from 'I love Survivor' to 'Jeff, you suck,' and everything in between. It's all good. Some of it hurts my feelings and I have to go to therapy and work on it and remind myself I'm not a bad person, (Laughs), but I like the immediacy of it."
Check out our full Q&A with Probst to get his thoughts on Tony's gameplay, the abysmal Brains tribe, and whether producers will put the "superpower idol" into play in future seasons.
Survivor: Cagayan has kind of been the Tony Show. What do you think of his strategy, if you can call it that?
Jeff Probst: I definitely think it's a strategy, and I think Tony is up there in terms of the people who have played this game the best. I think what Tony illustrates is there is not one way to play. You have to factor in your own natural tendencies and how they're going to lay with the other people. Tony could have ended up on a season with Russell [Hantz], and they might have butted heads and had one of them gone five minutes in. But that wasn't the case.
Here's the difference between Tony and most other players, from my vantage point. Tony listens to that inner stirring that says, make the move. And I think a lot of people have it, but it takes them three or four or five days and they go, "Well, I think maybe it's time." Too late, because your name just got written down and you're going home. ... I think as the game continues to evolve you're going to see more people doing what Tony did, which is saying, "I've got to train myself. The minute I think I should take out my alliance partner, I have to, because he's probably thinking of taking out me."
Everyone knows Tony is a threat though. How has he made it this far without being voted out?
Probst: I think it's hard to answer that question, because if you think about how the game is played, it's all hindsight. It is crazy that he didn't get voted out, yet every tribal, he figured out how to make sure he didn't get voted out. I guess my intellectual answer would be, it actually makes sense watching it. He lied from day one — "I'm a construction worker" — to somebody who was such a good read of other cops, she knew he was lying. But she still kind of believed him. And then when he finally came clean, he only stayed clean long enough so that he could get his gun out and shoot her.
If you were a juror, would you vote for Tony?
Probst: I think it's who he's up against. I think Tony's tricky, in this sense. On one hand, I think Tony could beat any of the other three, but only if he plays it right. Tony against Spencer? That's a tough one, man. You have two very different stories. You have the guy who was aggressive from the beginning and ruled the game with sort of a bulliness and an aggressiveness and found every idol. ... And then you have Spencer, whose argument is, "Come on. I was on the worst tribe in the history of the game, and I'm still here. You've got to give me the money, just based on the underdog story." So I think Tony has to know how to play it.
If you go up against Woo, the risk is that Woo says, "Tony was flashy. But look at who I am. I'm a martial arts guy. I'm spiritual. I'm not the guy that's going to run and show you my gold medal because I won it at the Olympics. I'm going to hug the guy that I beat, because that's who I am." So that's a tough argument. Kass probably has the toughest game, but if she's up against Tony? Come on. "Who do you like better, the guy that ran around and told everybody what to do, or me the lawyer, who really played a smart game? I threw chaos into things. I know I have a weird smirk and I hope you won't hold that against me." So I do think it comes down to how they play it.
It's interesting, though. Even though Tony's been the real backstabber, based on the castoffs' exit interviews, Kass is the one who's emerged as the player everyone hates.
Probst: She's got an evilness to her, and I don't know if she really is evil, or if it's a case of, "I've got my friends. They're back home. They love me. I don't care about you people."
You mentioned Tony finding all the idols. Will the superpower idol appear in future seasons?
Probst: I doubt it. The truth of that idol was, we never thought anybody would find it. We just hid it. We just wanted it out there so that people would still think there might be an idol in play. But ... because of the terrain, we didn't think anyone would find it, or we probably would have hid it even deeper. So, I don't think we'd do it again. None of us disagree. It's too much power on a regular basis. But as a one-off, I liked it. And I will go to my grave saying that had Spencer found it, people would have loved it.
Are you disappointed it hasn't been played as a real game-changer?
Probst: I actually don't think I really care, now that I think about it. It never occurred to me. But what we didn't anticipate was Tony lying. They still think that he has this idol that can save him. And what they don't know yet is it's a final two, not a final three. They don't know where the show's going, so they're going to assume it's a final three. Tony's saying, "Listen, it works until four, so I'm guaranteed a spot." ... Tony has done a really masterful job of saying, "Here's the only way you're going to find out. You have to force me to play it. And just know that if I play it and I'm telling the truth, you're probably going home. So instead, why don't we team up together?" I mean, we never saw it coming. Great idea.
Going back to the beginning of the season, were you shocked at how badly the Brains tribe did right from the start?
Probst: Yeah. And the question that I've been asking people is, is there something to be learned from that, in this sense: Are super smart people better off alone, when it comes to decisions? Because it seemed to be that their biggest problem was, they just couldn't really ever make any solid decisions. ... There was no unity, but you saw unity on the other two tribes. So, maybe there's something about the way really smart people think.
In our exit interview with J'Tia, she said it was a team of leaders that needed some followers.
Probst: Perfect answer! Because think about it. If you're told your whole life you're the smartest in the class, why would you ever naturally think to give it over to somebody else? You've always been the smartest. You're the one who's going to handle it. So that makes perfect sense to me.
What's been the biggest surprise to you this season?
Probst: I've never been more wrong, I don't think ever, about a player than Spencer. I really thought his arrogance combined with his just limited life experience, would mean he never had a shot at the money, ever.
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The Survivor finale airs Wednesday at 8/7c on CBS. Check out a preview of the finale below, and catch up on previous episodes of Survivor here.
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