Jeff Probst’s in-season predictions about Survivor are, I’ve argued, pretty worthless. He knows how the season plays out, so hearing him prognosticate about what will happen in the game is akin to George R.R. Martin predicting the events of A Game of Thrones, the book he published in 1996.
Actually, I called Probst’s predictions “annoying bullshit.”
The form Probst offers those predictions has changed; now he does Q&As with Dalton Ross, and he continues to do pre-season press.
Recently, I’ve come to think that his “predictions”—especially the pre-season ones—may have some value to us as viewers and fans.
That’s because, as Survivor’s showrunner, Jeff Probst is the person who ultimately shapes how the game will go. Not just the themes, challenges, and twists, but the narrative, the edited and condensed version of events.
So his predictions can help us understand the lens through which he will view (or has viewed) the game and its players, and how he will tell the story.
And here’s the disappointing news today: Before a single minute of Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance‘s game was played, the person in charge of telling the 14-episode story decided that half of the female contestants have no chance.
Half. One quarter of the cast.
Jeff Probst’s sexism: Cambodia edition
“We have more people with a shot to win than we’ve ever had on any season. Without any comparison. I think it’s easier to say who doesn’t have a shot,” Probst told EW’s Dalton Ross on location earlier this summer.
So instead of predicting who would win, he talked about who could not win.
All those people are women.
- Kass McQuillen
- Peih-Gee Law
- Kimmi Kappenberg
- Abi-Maria Gomes
- Shirin Oskooi
That is one quarter of the cast, and one half of the women on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. Dalton Ross notes that it’s half the women but didn’t challenge Probst on it, at least not in print.
Unfortunately, Probst’s sexism and/or his blindness toward it is so expected at this point that I barely noticed it at first.
To be fair, Probst did qualify his predictions for three of the women, saying that with Kimmi and Abi-Maria, it “depends on who she’s against” (that’s true for every single Survivor player ever!) and Shirin “could turn it.” Turn what? Oh yeah, Probst’s conclusion that she has no chance.
And for the record, Probst thinks every single man can win: “Everybody else, they can win against everybody. We have a lot of legitimate underdog likeable second chancers.” Of course, this includes five women, so Probst isn’t discounting every female.
Keep this in mind as you watch Survivor this season, especially every time you see Kass, Peih-Gee, Kimmi, Abi-Maria, and Shirin. They’re people he already decided cannot win. Will he treat them differently on camera? In the editing room? What kind of storylines will they get now that he’s decided they’re players who cannot win?
During the four seasons I went on location and interviewed contestants before the game, I certainly formed opinions about them and considered how well they might do. But what was so wonderful about that experience was that my first impressions and judgements were often wrong. For example, I thought JT Thomas had no chance, and he went on to play a beautiful game. To see my assumptions challenged and fail on screen was pretty thrilling.
I hope Jeff Probst regularly has that same experience. I fear that he might not.