IGN: When you have a guy like Coach, you must know that whatever you personally feel like him…
IGN: [Laughs] Gold, yeah.
Probst: Absolute gold. And I knew… In the casting room, you knew Coach was gold. All you hope is that he lasts long enough to give you dividends on that. All those guys… Tyson. All the memorable people are memorable because they're compelling. They're the person that will say something at tribal council.
There's always a couple of people where at the first tribal council, I'll ask them a question and they'll say, "Gee, I don't know, Jeff" – which is kind of telling me, "I'm not going to say anything." To which I usually reply, "'I don't know' ain't gonna cut it. Listen, if you want to lie to me, go ahead. But 'I don't know' won't work." And then the other thing you do is say, "Fine, I won't ask you anything. I don't know why you signed up on a TV show if you don't want to talk." And man, that gets them raising their hands.
A guy like Coach, he knows, "If I give you something, you'll come to me. The more you come to me, the more I'm on the show." One hand feeds the other.
IGN: There are some strong rumors, to say the least, about next spring's installment – including Richard Hatch and his non-involvement. Can you comment on that at all?
Probst: Well, Hatch would be great to have. I mean, if Survivor is a car, he's our hood ornament. But if you're a judge, are you going to let a guy who owes the country half a million dollars flee the country to go be on a game show… and maybe never come back? I think it's a long shot for him. But in terms of something on our 10th anniversary, we gotta do something different. It's our 20th season! And there's a lot of ideas floating out there, but we settled on one and we're very happy with it. We're excited to get on it.
IGN: I was a big fan of Survivor: Micronesia. It seemed at the beginning that it was going to just be so lopsided, with the favorites so much better than the fans. Were you happy with how that played out, especially with those amazing blindsides, one after the other?
Probst: I love that season. And I gotta say, Parvati… She earned it! Parvati engineered an amazing game. And kind of like Amber, it's a little easy to dismiss the really hot girl as getting lucky. But she played a good game. I was impressed. And yeah, from a storytelling point of view, having all those blindsides, and the fake idol… "This isn't an idol, it's a stick!"
IGN: I love how candid you are in your blogs, but as a longtime fan, I have to ask – why are you so tough on Survivor: Fiji? Personally, I feel like that season started bad, but then the second half, with Dreamz and Yau-Man, really got fun.
Probst: You know, it's really just a personal preference. I didn't like Fiji. I didn't like where we were. I didn't like the way it played. I remember when Dreamz made the decision to keep the car, I thought, man… I wanted to get in his ear and say, "You're making the most short sighted move of your life." And my feeling was, "I really don't like this season." Earl's a nice guy, but not a great winner. He's not a memorable winner. Yau-Man is incredible… I didn't really like Survivor: Thailand either. I thought Brian was probably our worst winner, just because he was really kind of slimy.
IGN: I'm with you on that one.
Probst: And then I used to say I didn't like [Survivor] Africa - the first Africa season, in Kenya. And then I meet people who are like, "Are you kidding?! That's one of my favorite seasons! Big Tom and Ethan!" It's personal… But I still don't like Fiji!
IGN: So, how would you rank Samoa?
Probst: Well, here's the thing. After [Survivor:] Gabon and [Survivor] Tocantins, I thought Tocantins would be one of our most favorite and Gabon would be an also-ran. It turned out the audience really liked Gabon and I think they thought Tocantins was okay. So I might be done predicting! Because I'm not right very often! I can say about Samoa that there are some extremely memorable moments. I can think of four right off the top of my head where when it's over, you'll go, "Yep, yep, yep, yep!" And one of our most compelling characters, out of 300 some people that have played. So that's what I would say.