How Probst’s leading questions led to one of this season’s best votes

One of the biggest blindsides on Survivor Blood vs. Water was the result of a leading question Jeff Probst asked at Tribal Council, and the somewhat ironic result was that it sent home Brad Culpepper, aka Probst’s bro “Culpepper.”

At Tribal Council, Caleb Bankston announced to the other two men on his tribe, Vytas and Hayden, “I’m gonna write Brad’s name down.” That led to a tie vote, one that was broken by Vytas–had it not been, they would have drawn rocks, exactly what ended up happening later in the season.

What’s clear is that Caleb’s turn against Brad was the defining moment. Asked about this by Hitfix’s Dan Fienberg, Caleb says that it was a question Jeff Probst asked that prompted him to make the move:

“So I was thinking about it and Jeff, he kinda tends to ask the right questions and so Tribal Council went on and so Tribal Council went on and he asked questions, people were answering and the case came up of, ‘Well, tell me why Caleb shouldn’t be the one sent home because he’s the free agent and he could swing either way, why not go ahead and do that?’ So that was kinda like a wakeup call. I was like, ‘You know? I’m not gonna ride in the backseat until somebody tells me it’s my stop and he’s your exit, go ahead and go on.’”

When he says Probst “tends to ask the right questions,” I read that as Caleb understanding that Probst isn’t asking questions from ignorance, but as a producer clued in to both what’s happening and what will make good television.

To be fair to Probst, Caleb said he was already primed to think “Something’s up. Something’s different,” thanks to Brad’s behavior at camp combined with rain (really: “usually my mood, if I feel something’s off, the weather changes”). But the question made him realize he was the target and should make a bold move to save himself.

By the way, Caleb was asked repeatedly about Colton Cumbie, who he is inexplicably in a relationship with. In another interview, he defends Colton’s behavior as a result of Colton being uncomfortable, and says they’re getting married Oct. 11 next year. Caleb said, “He’s a sweet guy; I love him, and nothing anybody says will change my opinion.”

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.