Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Nicaragua': Episode 8 |

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Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Nicaragua': Episode 8

survivorImage Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSI finally figured out Naonka.  At last.  After 7 weeks, it all makes sense now.

More on that later.  But first…

Every season we look for new ways to merge the tribe.  After 21 seasons I’m the first to admit that coming up with fresh twists or new wrinkles in the game is one of our biggest challenges.  We spend a lot of time talking, brainstorming – searching for those new little moments.

Since the contestants can always sense when the merge is coming, all we can really do with the merge is try our best to find a clever way to reveal it.

Using the combination of key and chest was a nice new twist.  Nothing earth-shattering but it lets the tribe know they are merging and yet still carries a bit of mystery.  What is the purpose of the key?  What’s in the box? In this case it opened a chest containing a merge feast along with their new buffs.  Which brings up another question…

Why do we give them food at the merge?  Why do we give them food at all?  Why not just let them find their own food.

We give them food because they need it… they deserve it… and most importantly, it’s good for morale.  When the contestants become too dehydrated or too hungry or too depleted overall, their morale drops and the game suffers.  That’s not good for us or them.

Trust me, you can give them all the food you want, so long as it only lasts for a few hours or even a day or two, it doesn’t make much difference.  The amount of calories they are living on is minuscule.  Typically, a few spoonfuls of rice.  Not much.

The merge itself represents a turning point in the game.  The merge is a reset.  The impact of the merge has changed over the many years Survivor has been played.

Initially, the merge signaled the beginning of the individual portion of the game.  You would compete in individual challenges for individual rewards.  If you were good you could win your way to the end and nothing could stop you.  But as alliances began to take hold, the merge began to morph into something else.  Now you needed the “numbers” in order to stay strong.

When the hidden immunity idol was introduced, the impact of the merge shifted again.  Now if you had the numbers and an “idol” you had a very good shot of getting very deep into the game.  It’s part of what makes Survivor fun, it is always evolving.

I’m so proud to tell you that the Immunity Challenge was created by Edwin Davis.  Edwin has been on our show for years.  He started as a Dreamteamer, testing the challenges.  He was a very nice kid.  He was heavy.  He was a little shy.  He spoke very little English.  Over the years, Edwin has changed quite a bit.  He has leaned out and gotten very healthy.  The dude is a stud.  His English is fantastic and from a career point of view, he has moved up the ranks and is now creating challenges!!  The career opportunities that exist on Survivor are one of the greatest aspects of being a part of the show.  We have so many young people that have started as Dreamteamers and are now full-fledged crew members.  Last count, 10% of our entire crew was made up of former Dreamteamers.  Awesome.  I love seeing young people bloom.

Speaking of blooming… are you falling in love with Jane the same way I am?  I like it all - from the comment about her shotgun…

Jane:  I’ve got dogs that live in the yard.  I feel very safe…. Plus I’ve got a shotgun.

…to how she trained for the show by running the stairs at her house… to doing P90X.  Have you ever done P90X?  Killer work out.  It will kick your ass for sure and you can do it from home with only a few bands.  I’m not preaching but your body is your temple.  You wanna live a long life, you have to take care of yourself.

Okay, back to Jane.  Her effort at the immunity challenge was one of the most inspirational and impressive things this season.  I think had we continued she would have defeated Fabio, too!

Jane has lived a hard life.  It shows in her face.  At times it shows in her attitude.  But if you want somebody in that foxhole with you, Jane’s not a bad choice.

Marty is hollering that they should vote her out, but nobody is listening.  He’s right.  If “the little old lady from North Carolina” gets to the end, she has a very good shot at winning.  Marty’s problem is… he is always hollering.

Okay as I said earlier, I’ve figured out Naonka.  I’m no longer surprised by anything Naonka says or does… because… did I say this already…? I finally figured her out! Eureka!

Are you ready…?  Here it is…

From a maturity point of view, Naonka is a seven-year-old. That’s it.  That’s my big discovery.

When dealing with Naonka you simply have to treat her as you would a first-grader.  Think about it.  She’s selfish.  She’s a know-it-all.  She’s defiant.  She’s a rule tester.  She denies everything and only apologizes when she is actually caught doing something.  She behaves in every conceivable way as though she were seven years old.

That’s why, at the end of the day, people like Brenda can still find her a little charming.  They see her like I do, like a small child.  Who can be mad at a small child?  It’s not the most flattering thing to say about a twenty-something, but I do believe it’s true.  I’m not defending her actions – not at all – but it does make it easier for me to relate to her at tribal council.

Even I have to admit…stealing the food was one of the most brazen things I’ve ever seen on our show.  Outright crazy until you remember, she’s only seven.

At first glance you could say that Alina made a bad move taking part in Naonka’s stealing of food, because it made it so easy to justify voting her out.  But was it anything more than basic human nature?  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lists Physiological Needs (which includes food) as our most basic need.  You get really hungry and you’ll do pretty much anything to get some food.  At the lower end of the Hierarchy of Needs list is “Esteem” which includes… respect of others (which relates directly to Survivor.)   In other words, when you’re really hungry, food will blind you to common sense and next thing you know you’re stealing food even though your subconscious knows there is a consequence waiting for you just around the corner.  Alina’s not dumb.  She knew she would pay for that action.  Her hunger just won out.

My take on Alina:  She’s much sharper than most women her age.  She’s a player for sure and a good player.  Did Alina act shady?  No more than anybody else who has ever played Survivor.  She was just playing the game.  Everybody has a strategy.  Everybody is “playing the game.”

It’s a fascinating facet of humans.  Our ability to judge others for doing the same thing we would do in the same situation.  All of these knuckleheads are playing the game, but when anybody else does it – they’re shady.  By the way, I looked up “dirt squirrel,” which is what Benry called Alina when he voted for her – not a very nice term and not sure what it has to do with Survivor.  Either way, Alina is gone.

But the craziest thing of this episode…..?

Naonka is still in the game!!!!  Could Naonka make it to the end?   Time will tell.

See ya next week.

Oh, be sure to check out several treats in the video player below, including: an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, Dalton Ross’s pre-game interview with Alina, and the latest edition of EW’s TV Insiders podcast, which includes discussions on everything from Survivor and Dancing With The Stars to The Walking Dead and more. And don’t miss Dalton’s ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ recap: NaOnka Plays Saboteur.