Jeff Probst Says He Never Lies to Players and Shares His Thoughts on Bhanu

All the latest insights from the On Fire podcast.

Photo: CBS

The latest episode of the On Fire podcast saw Survivor host Jeff Probst, Survivor 45 winner Dee Valladares, and producer Jeff Wolfe get together to discuss episode four of Survivor 46. They talk about how hunger continues to drive wedges between the players, how to manage emotions, Probst toeing between the line of testing the players but never lying, water challenges, and more. Also, Probst answers some fan questions.

Probst tells the others more about Soda and Tevin’s original song played in the episode. First, production ensured they both were registered with the proper music association. Then, the music that David Vanacore wrote was also registered, allowing this original piece to be created. Probst hints that this song could potentially be used in future seasons.

Dee was glad to see the players passing off the time making music, as she revealed that on day 7, the stomach pains, weight loss, and crankiness were at an all-time high in her season. She advises that players should be aware of thoughts emerging during this period, as they could influence their perspective of others and the game itself.

Wolfe asks Dee how often the beware advantage is mentioned, as this advantage was notorious during this episode, particularly for the Siga tribe. Dee says if someone mentions it, it means either that person found it or doesn’t know what is happening in the game. Dee commends Jem for planting the advantage and getting the target on Tim’s back instead of hers.

They also discuss Maria’s declaration of Probst never lying to the players, to which Probst says, “In a game where there’s very little you can count on… I don’t lie. And we don’t give you things that are impossible to do; we give you tests and obstacles to overcome. You may fail, but we’re not designing them that way.”


Probst recalls Survivor: Borneo, where Mark Burnett came up with ideas that seemed too manipulative to him. As host, Probst would lean more towards ideas that made players trust him so they would have a semblance of truth to rely on amidst the game’s paranoia. In addition, he says there’s a difference between being slightly deceptive to make the players fill in the blanks for themselves (e.g., Survivor: Thailand’s fake merge) and outright lying, which he has never done nor will do.

He then uses the reward challenge to highlight different emotional reactions from players such as Tevin, Maria, and Bhanu. First, Tevin unlocks the memory of fishing with his dad, who sadly passed away. Secondly, there’s Maria, who feels defeated after costing the tribe the win, and it shows her tribe rallying behind her. Lastly, Bhanu goes through a hardcore Survivor teaching course but feels he has lost his way in the game. All of this is to present how the same situation can present and affect the players differently.

Dee advises future players to manage their emotions before playing as “a lot of your life experiences will show up on the island… you kind of have to know when to show your emotions and around who.” Another thing that immensely helped Dee when things didn’t go her way was trying to find the silver lining, as there is always a solution in Survivor, and adaptability is crucial to advance in the game.

Wolfe asks Probst about the difference between land and water challenges. Probst explains the differences rely mainly on logistics. Production has to consider building the challenges themselves, the platforms where the camera crew will be filming from different angles, camera operators with scuba gear, the drones filming overview shots, and many more details that allow the audience to get immersed in the scenes once they’re edited.

From a player’s perspective, Dee says it is scary yet thrilling to do a water challenge, and many factors come into mind between trying to do a good job and keeping in mind they’re on TV, and no one wants to be viewed as a flop.


No one can deny that Bhanu is one of the most memorable pre-merge players in the show’s history. He went into Survivor as a super fan who wanted to win a million hearts rather than a million dollars, and it showed. To portray Bhanu’s departure, production decided to describe it as Bhanu’s “decease” in the game, even going through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and lastly, acceptance of his departure.

“The key driver for us is always the same,” Probst expresses, “it has to be authentic to what the player experienced, tell their story in a respectful way… it’s about showing what happened, and that means you have to understand the essence. This was Bhanu’s acceptance of his fate in the game and how he’s going to frame it moving forward in his life.”

Wolfe asks Probst about the tribal council where there wasn’t a vote. Probst says it is rare to have a tribal like the one in this episode where there’s no mystery and no questions about who is going home. As Bhanu didn’t have a vote or an idol, it was clear his game was over. Probst adds that this situation allowed both production and Bhanu to do something different, as Bhanu had a level of agency regarding his endgame. He says people will be hard on Bhanu’s gameplay, but his two cents are he would cast Bhanu again this season as he was authentic and himself to the end.

For future players, Probst advises, “If you see everything that I just said about Bhanu, and you can see the complexities and the layers about playing Survivor, and you imagine how you would deal with Bhanu, then you probably have the skills to play the game… if you find yourself only critiquing Bhanu and making fun of his emotional outburst… and ask how did this guy get on the show, when I can’t get on the show, you have your answer. You’re just not self-aware enough to see it.”

Lastly, Probst answers some fan questions:

  • How many locations are there for challenges, and how long does it take to construct and deconstruct them? Probst responds that they have several locations prepared beforehand for both the challenges and the players to be on them. A large challenge, such as a maze, can take up to six weeks to be built, and the tearing down is much quicker.
  • During the Sweat vs. Savvy challenge, were players allowed to pluck the bucket’s holes with seaweed, for instance, to finish the challenge? Players could only use their hands and bodies for it, so no. Probst admits it was an editing mistake not to show the note or complete instructions to the audience, as this is a recurring question.
  • How long are the strategy sessions before challenges, and why aren’t they shown in the episodes? Dee agrees that these sessions should be shown and that they only have a few minutes to discuss several scenarios where players go back and forth to decide who does what. Probst, for his part, says it’s a good idea, and he will bring this subject to others in production for future seasons.

Written by

Mariana Loizaga

Mariana is a lawyer and a writer from Mexico City, Mexico. She has a masters degree in International Relations from the University of Surrey. Her hobbies include reading, blogging, and of course watching Survivor. The first season of Survivor she ever saw was Survivor: Philippines and she became so fascinated with the game and its many layers that she went back through the archives and watched every single previous season.

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