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Debbie Wanner -- 'Survivor's Jeff Probst: I was shocked and a bit bummed over her Exile advantage choice


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/12/2017 

Debbie Wanner was the first castaway to ever receive a luxury experience on Exile Island, and now Survivor: Game Changers host Jeff Probst is revealing how the idea came about and why he thinks Debbie made a mistake.

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The Exile Island twist has been used before in Survivor much to the castaways' detriment, but on the Game Changers season, a trip to exile is like a vacation in which one is afforded the chance to sleep on a yacht and feast on a huge meal.

In the case of Debbie -- who was the first castaway booted to Exile Island after a tribal swap -- she also got to talk strategy with former Survivor winner John Cochran as well as choose from one of three possible game advantages: A stellar kit to construct a perfect-looking fake hidden Immunity Idol, an extra vote at Tribal Council, or an Immunity Challenge advantage for her tribe. Debbie selected the extra vote.

Jeff said choosing an advantage would've been "easy" for him in exile, and he believes Debbie actually chose the wrong one.

"The extra vote is really tricky to use. Yes, it's very powerful, but so far, nobody has ever really used it in a way that had any positive impact. Because everybody is so cagey it's tough to trust how anybody is actually going to vote, so it's a big leap of faith. For that reason, I'm out," Jeff explained to Entertainment Weekly.

"The challenge advantage is enticing but it doesn't guarantee that I'll win. For that reason, I'm out. But the fake idol is so much fun and offers so many ways to use it. I would absolutely use it to sabotage someone -- like [David Wright] did with [Jay Starrett]. Plus, this was a killer kit. It would have looked exactly like an idol. I was shocked and a bit bummed Debbie didn't take it."

As fans recall in Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, David made a fake idol and planted it at camp for Jay, in particular, to find since Jay was a huge physical threat in the game and needed to go next in his tribe's eyes. Jay was thrilled to find the idol, but when he attempted to play it at Tribal Council, Jeff announced it was not real. Votes against Jay therefore counted, and he was booted from the game during this episode.

Jeff also talked about how producers came up with the idea for a new kind of Exile Island.

"[It] was really just a brainstorm moment of, 'We haven't used Exile in a while. We should bring it back.' That led to a joke that, 'We need to get Cochran back too!' And then Chris Marchand, one of our challenge geniuses, said, 'What if Cochran is a reward on Exile Island?'" Jeff told EW.

"And that led to Exile Island becoming a positive and not a negative. Doing it on a badass boat with a giant food reward and then a surprise -- Cochran. And then we said, 'What if Cochran delivers some kind of an advantage menu to the exiled person?' It honestly came out that fast."

Cochran is a fan-favorite Survivor player who won Season 26, Survivor: Caramoan, after finishing in eighth place on Survivor: South Pacific. Cochran is best remembered for his self-deprecating humor and weakness in challenges, however, his intelligence and ability to strategize made up for everything he lacked.

When Jeff and producers called Cochran to appear on Game Changers, the former player was "really enthusiastic," according to the longtime host.

"But there was a catch. He was writing for the Kevin James comedy Kevin Can Wait and the day we needed him was right in the middle of their busy writing period. He asked and was given permission to miss one day, which is pretty cool of them given how demanding the schedule is to deliver scripts," Jeff revealed.

"So Cochran literally flew out of New York in the early morning. He arrived in Los Angeles and took the midnight flight to Fiji. He landed. We took him straight to base camp, showed him the advantage menu choices, so he knew what he was delivering -- and he was off."

Jeff said that Cochran was the put on a boat and sent out to surprise Debbie with little instruction or even time to think.

"He was with her for about an hour -- 22 minutes of which was spent on the hug. He then interviewed Debbie about her gameplay and they dealt with the advantage menu. (Side note: Cochran is a great interviewer/producer. He really did an amazing job of getting what we needed. He could definitely produce on Survivor.)" Jeff explained.

"We then got him off the boat, put him on the chopper, and flew him straight back to the airport so he could return back to L.A. and then onto New York all in the same day. Even crazier, he then went straight to the writers' room and started working. NUTS!"


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