I’ve had a lot of fun at Jeff Probst’s expense over the years. There was that time he wore sunglasses…IN A RAIN STORM! There was the season-long debacle that was his Survivor: Guatemala hat. And anytime he starts talking about Tarzan’s balls, you know he’s gonna get some good-natured ribbing in this here space. However, when Jeff Probst needs to be great, he is pretty damn great. I’ve always said that nobody has a tougher reality hosting job than Probst. There is no teleprompter. No script. He has to react to what is happening on the fly and outside the comfort of a television studio. And he has to immediately pick up on facial expressions and visual clues and play those forward to create more story. Those four Emmy awards he has won are well deserved. And the fact that he was not even nominated the past two years — snubbed for Off Their Rockers host Betty White, who I love, but seriously? — is a joke.
The best I’ve ever seen Probst was during the Survivor: Redemption Island season, when he impressively navigated a minefield of tricky racial discord between Phillip and Steve. He did so openly and respectfully without fanning the flames of racial discourse, as so many other hosts would have done to create more drama. He earned one of his Emmys right then and there. This public takedown of a quitting Colton Cumbie was almost as good.
Because the game has changed so much over the years, Probst has taken some lumps from fans who don’t like the new direction of the show. Look, argue with the man all you want about the merits of a final 3 format (which I have done and will continue to do until the end of time). Fire up the debate if you don’t like the Redemption Island twist (of which I have also been quite public about not being a fan). However, when it comes to casting, Probst is but one vote in a room. I know he did not want Colton back this season, which he confirmed himself last week. But he was overruled — as he was with Johnny Fairplay (who also ended up quitting) for Micronesia, and as he has been for many a bimbo or himbo who is just put on the island there to look good in a bathing suit.
So you can’t blame Probst for Colton coming back. Actually, the fact that Colton was brought back against Probst’s advice led to the delicious bit of theater that just played out before our very eyes. Let’s just throw chronology out the window and skip right to the big moment we’ve all been waiting for: The scene begins at Redemption Island arena after a big kerfuffle between Tyson, Brad, and Marissa. Then, out of nowhere, Colton starts crying.
“What are you crying about?” asks Probst, the disdain already dripping off of his every word.
“I don’t want to be here anymore at all,” sniffles Colton. (That’s okay, Colton. We don’t want you here either.) The contestant — and I use that word loosely — then proceeds to talk about how he doesn’t care about his tribe and just wants to get out. “That may be the best move for me.”
“A very selfish move,” Probst points out. Wow, he’s really not letting him off the hook here. But how far will the host go? The answer: pretty freakin’ far. Try this on for size: “What is it that has happened on your tribe that is forcing you to quit, for what now I can confirm for myself is a second time? The first time you feigned an appendicitis. Turns out you didn’t have it. You want to own that one now?” Wow, Probst just called him out as a two-time quitter. That’s like Purple Kelly…squared!
NEXT: Colton gives his loved one a lap dance