'Survivor: Game Changers' host Jeff Probst: I was wrong about Ozzy Lusth by several thousand miles
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/26/2017
Survivor host Jeff Probst was initially hesitant to have Ozzy Lusth compete on Game Changers since he played three times before, but now the longtime host is singing a different tune.
"I was wrong. CBS was right. Ozzy is a game changer," Jeff told Entertainment Weekly.
Before Survivor: Game Changers premiered, Jeff revealed there was a tough negotiation between CBS and producers over which veteran castaways should be brought back for Season 34.
Age was a factor -- as CBS wanted youthful players to return and pushed back on someone like Jeff Varner, 50, competing again -- but in Ozzy's case, Jeff was worried viewers simply might've had enough of the 34-year-old castaway, so the Survivorhost needed convincing.
"I'm so glad he was included," Jeff told EW of Ozzy joining the cast. "Honestly, the ONLY reason I didn't initially think Ozzy should be on was because I felt he had been on too many times. I thought fans were tired of him and needed a break. But when we introduced him at the live finale for Millennials vs. Gen X, he got the loudest ovation. I was wrong by several thousand miles."
Ozzy previously competed on Survivor: Cook Islands and finished as the runner-up, Survivor: Micronesia and finished in ninth place, and Survivor: South Pacific and placed fourth.
"It told me that when Survivor fans invest in you and really root for you, they will continue to root for you until you win," Jeff said.
"And one more side note: Ozzy is a true team player when it comes to being a part of the show. He just gives you everything you could ever want and more. I found myself respecting him even more than I had previously and I was also reminded why kids love him so much. He is that cool."
Ozzy was eliminated during the latest episode of Survivor: Game Changers after the merge, seemingly because he randomly became Debbie Wanner's main target.
Ozzy would've stuck around had he won the prior Individual Immunity Challenge. The castaways were required to hug a wooden pole for as long as possible -- an Ozzy speciality, as he won the same challenge on two of his previous seasons.
However, Tai Trang outlasted and dethroned Ozzy, who has been viewed as a challenge beast for years.
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"That was AWESOME. Sometimes the best moment in a hero story is when the hero falters because you are reminded they are human," Jeff told EW.
"Ozzy comes into every challenge with the burden of his amazing Survivorchallenge history dragging behind him. People always expect him to be a contender. So seeing Tai -- the oldest and smallest guy going toe-to-toe with him -- was about as good as it gets. Tai is playing a much quieter game this time, but just as committed. It showed in that challenge. He is in it to win it."
Jeff added, "I also loved that final moment when Tai went to check on Ozzy even in victory."
Ozzy was cut and bleeding after the challenge, and he told Reality TV World in his post-elimination interview that he gave it every last drop of energy and determination he had left.
"Ozzy did what Ozzy does best. He worked hard at camp, caught fish for his tribe and excelled at challenges," Jeff told the Hollywood Reporter in a separate interview.
"But what Ozzy really improved upon was his social game. I was really impressed. He came out strong and approached potential enemies and former allies to quickly determine where he stood with both. That's the mark of a seasoned player, and I thought it was working very well."
As far as what Jeff believes Ozzy did wrong, theSurvivor host told the Reporter, "That's a tough one, because I really think this is the best Ozzy has played.
"If there is anything about Ozzy's game that he might wish he could change," Jeff explained, "it's probably not playing even more aggressively. There is still a part of Ozzy, that once he thinks the vote is locked, seems to relax a bit. In Season 34, there just isn't any room for that -- ever."
The next Survivor: Game Changers episode airs Wednesday night, April 26 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS, and Jeff teased the broadcast will offer one of his "favorite moments" in all 34 seasons of the show.