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'Survivor' host Jeff Probst talks "electric" Tribal Council, Malcolm Freberg's "maddening" exit and what he did wrong


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/29/2017 

Survivor host Jeff Probst is weighing in on the chaotic and riveting Tribal Council session that resulted in fan-favorite Malcolm Freberg's unexpected elimination from Survivor: Game Changers.

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"[The latest] Tribal Council is a shining example of why Survivor is still so entertaining and devastating. No matter how many times you have played, no matter how certain you are, the game can still smack you in the face," Jeff told The Hollywood Reporter.

After losing the season's fourth Immunity Challenge to Tavua in last week's episode, the Nuku and Mana tribes were forced to attend Tribal Council together thanks to a new Survivor twist, and they went to war. Tribal featured a flood of whispers, different group huddles and side conversations.

Malcolm's Nuku tribe technically voted out Sierra Dawn Thomas with a 6-5 majority vote; however, thanks to information double-agent James "J.T." Thomas leaked to his former ally Brad Culpepper on the opposing Mana tribe, Tai Trang stunningly played a hidden Immunity Idol for Sierra and therefore sent Malcolm packing.

"That is why these players were asked back. That is why we will probably ask many of them back again in the future," Jeff noted.

"That is what we look for in players: a 'winner take all,' 'do or die,' 'go for broke' attitude to survive at any cost. I was riveted and yet not the least bit surprised by what went down. If you needed any vindication for why we named this season Game Changers, that should be put to rest."

Jeff called the Season 34 Tribal Council session "electric" and "thrilling" in a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly.

"For me, the reason it was so exciting is because I had a ringside seat to watching some truly great players going full tilt boogie knowing they were risking everything with every move they made. What you saw is exactly what happened -- it just broke open... What struck me most was the lack of certainty that was hovering above every player," Jeff explained.

"Nobody had any idea of the truth. You could feel it. There was so much tension because everybody was on edge. Finally, you reach a point where it's time to vote, which is the same as showing your cards. You take a deep breath and write down a name and hope you're right."

Well unfortunately for Malcolm -- who previously played on Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites and Survivor: Philippines -- he was wrong. But Jeff still believes he played his "best social game" yet.

"I know he was voted out earlier than ever before, but that has no correlation in this case. Malcolm was on a really good track. He was treating people with a deft touch. Just close enough to be 'tight,' while still giving everyone room to do their thing... There is a reason that Malcolm is one of the most popular to ever play. Yes, JT appears to have turned on him, but I don't think there was any way to anticipate that," Survivor's longtime host told The Reporter.

When asked what Malcolm did wrong on Game Changers, Jeff said he could've been "more on alert" when Tribal got crazy, and instead of "trusting" so easily, he should've acted more selfishly.

"How could anybody in Malcolm's shoes ever anticipate it would be them? Things were going so well for him, too. That's part of the reason it was so devastating," Jeff explained.

Malcolm noted that he wanted to "vomit" after the votes were read. He shed tears over his exit in light of his buddy J.T.'s betrayal and admitted his dreams had basically been crushed.

"Make no mistake, that was as devastating for Malcolm as you imagine it to be. Like every other player, he had to give up so much to come back out and play again and to go out like that and that early has to be maddening. MADDENING," Jeff told EW.

"Everything is swirling around you, you are doing your best to stay 'in' the conversation and you end up unknowingly being betrayed by the one guy who you thought you could count on. That is why Survivor is so damn fun. Because it is so real and so absolutely impossible to predict."

Jeff also provided Survivor: Game Changers fans with a teaser for the next March 29 episode on CBS.

"Things explode in a way we haven't seen in a while and it's so good you'll want to watch it more than once," Jeff gushed.


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