Probst apparently believes Jeff Varner outing Smith as transgender onSurvivor: Game Changers earlier in the season played a major role in his elimination from last week's May 3 episode.
When The Hollywood Reporter asked Probst what Smith did wrong in light of his vote-off from the Maku Maku tribe, the longtime Survivor host said, "This is a tricky one to answer in Zeke's situation."
"Because had it not been for the Varner incident," he continued, "I think there is a high probability that he would have lasted even longer. But he became too big of a threat due to his personal story that everyone knew would be tough to overcome at a Final Tribal. So in that sense, it was a bummer for Zeke, but that's the way it goes on Survivor."
After Varner got sent home, Smith said he was left with the repercussions of such a personal disclosure at camp. And once the merge came, the 28-year-old New York asset manager felt the need to reveal his "secret" to all of the remaining castaways in order to prevent gossip and help explain Varner's ouster.
Probst noted how only the players decide who stays and who goes, in addition to the criteria for why a person should be voted out of the game. In Smith's case, he also played an aggressive game, as he was unafraid to betray alliance members and make big, cutthroat moves without hesitation.
"Yes, Zeke made some enemies as a result of his gameplay, but that's just the cost of doing business in the new version of Survivor," Probst told The Reporter.
In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, Probst reiterated his comments about how it's "hard to gauge" Smith'sSurvivor "weakness."
"I think the elephant in the room was that what went down with Varner made it hard on Zeke to get to the end. Nobody will say it out loud, but Zeke's story is a tough 'story' to beat at the Final 3. As a result, Zeke became even more of a threat. But that's Survivor. There are no rules for protection on any level other than the morality decided on by the society," Probst explained.
"In this case, the society dealt with Varner and then fairly quickly also dealt with Zeke."
"After what had happened with Varner, my life in the game was pretty short. It became abundantly clear on the first day of the merge. I was just like, 'Well, f-ck.' I had a perception problem," Smith told The Reporter following his elimination.
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"There was a perception that I was going to beat everybody, because I had this compelling story... I had a lot of great relationships with a lot of people, and all of the sudden, nobody was coming to me to talk to me, about anything. The events of what transpired at that Tribal Council were really never spoken of again... I would chase people down and we would have conversations, but they were very surface level."