Published On: Thu, Dec 21st, 2023

Survivor 45 host Jeff Probst calls finale mishap the ‘biggest unforced error of the game’


By: Dalton Ross

Jeff Probst has seen it all over 45 seasons of Survivor, but even for him, there were a few remarkable things to take in during the Survivor 45 finale.

For starters, there was a savvy and savage move by winner Dee Valladares — not informing her showmance partner Austin Li Coon until they were both sitting in front of the jury that she had gone behind his back and told Julie Alley to play her immunity idol at the final seven.

There was also the remarkable fact that Dee was even at final Tribal Council to begin with after Katurah Topps — who was desperate to get Dee out — changed her vote at the last minute because she did not trust Jake O’Kane to go through with their plan. Speaking of Jake, the Boston attorney had the ultimate roller coaster ride during the finale, which included winning an advantage, forgetting keys, and losing a puzzle piece during the same challenge, having his big idol play blow up in his face, being disqualified from the final immunity challenge, and finally getting his big moment in a fire-making victory.

EW spoke with the host and showrunner in an exclusive interview to cover all that and more from the Survivor 45 finale. (Be sure to also check out our chat with the host about the next season of Survivor.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Dee Valladares becomes the winner of Survivor 45. What was the secret to her success? 

JEFF PROBST: I love when you ask me questions that you know I will answer even though I have absolutely no insight from which to inform my answer. There were some really terrific players this season, so Dee’s win is impressive. I thought Dee played a tremendous overall game, which is key to getting deep, but if I had to highlight just one thing that stood out, it would be the pace with which she played. 

She did a really good job of ebbing and flowing based on the momentum of each day. In the early days, she focused on cementing a solid alliance with Julie, Austin, and Drew. As the game progressed, she decided she could trust that alliance enough to carve out an even deeper alliance with Julie. She continued to pay attention and recognize when the game was shifting to another stage, and that is what she based her decisions on. 

She really didn’t make a big push to take over until late in the game when she could envision a path to the final four. That approach worked for Dee, it might not be the right approach for someone else. The key to playing this game is playing the game that works for you. It’s so hard to be courageous enough to trust your gut because fear can invade and you worry about making the wrong move, but ultimately it is the only path.

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