Fans of CBS' "Survivor" were treated to a series classic in last night's new episode. Brandon Hantz, unstable nephew of fan-favorite villain Russell Hantz, unleashed a tempest on his tribe that rivaled some of the island's most furious storms. Entertainment Weekly spoke with host Jeff Probst about the outburst and what viewers didn't see.
In his first outing on the reality series, Brandon had made an effort to rehabilitate his family's name, which he felt had been unfairly associated with dirty deeds and double-crosses thanks to his uncle's infamous turn on the show. He had a strange endearing likability, eager to do the right thing even if his reasoning was somewhat out there. This time around, however, it was clear that Hantz was on the brink nearly from day one, if not straight up bonkers. Probst insists that Brandon, like all players, underwent a thorough psychological evaluation prior to his return. "Regardless whether you are a new player or a returning player, every contestant on 'Survivor' undergoes an evaluation from our show psychologist each time they play. We never let anybody on the show who can’t pass the psych test. Brandon passed," Probst said. "He was also great in our interviews before the show began. We were actually very excited because he had a new approach to the game. He said he wasn’t going to be as emotionally reactive and felt that after playing once he was better prepared for the 39 day adventure. We felt Brandon had the potential for a true underdog story of a young man who was overwhelmed the first time he played and was seeking redemption."
Things got particularly heated during the aborted Immunity Challenge, wherein the Favorites tribe collectively forfeited the challenge in order to send Hantz home. Words exchanged between Brandon and Philip were a cause for concern, as Probst noted, "There were a couple of moments when I was concerned. I was concerned early on when he first separated from his tribe and addressed the fans. It was clear that he was very upset. That’s why I asked him to come to me, so I could separate him from the rest of the contestants. Then later when I saw him getting more agitated I put my hands on his shoulders in an attempt to help him relax. It was probably also a bit of a head start on controlling him if a physical confrontation were to ensue."
He continued, "Because something like this had never happened before there was no plan in place. I was assessing moment to moment, making decisions based on what was playing out in front of me. I can share with you that I was whispering instructions into my microphone (which is fed to our audio department) for our safety and security guys to be ready to assist if necessary. I was also asking for our show psychologist to be put on a boat and brought over immediately so she could counsel Brandon after the incident was over."
Probst admitted that the toil that contestants must endure when living in the elements was felt both physically and mentally, and that producers are intent on helping tribe members with any issues they have returning from the game, Brandon included. "All contestants have access to psychological counseling after the show. That starts the moment they are voted out. Our psychologist is the first person they see after leaving tribal council. Brandon is no different," he said. "Our psychologist is there for any contestant who needs care whenever they need it. If necessary we find a psychologist or therapist for a contestant in their home town. I can’t speak about Brandon specifically due to confidentiality, but we are in constant communication with him and will be for as long as he needs it."
What did you think of last night's episode?