Jeff Probst was 'never concerned' about airing gruesome Survivor injury footage
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Wednesday's episode of Survivor, "The Third Turd."
One moment can change everything. It happens in life, and it happens in the game of Survivor. Both happened simultaneously on day 2 of Survivor 44 for Matthew Grinstead-Mayle. While climbing a large rock to explore the area, Matthew's foot slipped and he tumbled down onto the rocky shore.
It was a scary moment, one that replayed numerous times over several weeks as Matthew's injury continued to play a major storyline in the season. But while the footage, which was shot by a drone camera hovering above the action, is hard to watch, it's also visually stunning.
In fact, Jeff Probst says that footage might say more about the Survivor experience than any other in the franchise. "In many ways, that drone shot represents Survivor about as well as any shot could," the host tells EW. "You get a great feel for the adventure of Survivor when Matthew makes the decision to climb the rock. You see the cinematic beauty of Survivor through our drone team's quick reaction to get up in the air and capture the dramatic moment. You feel the realness of the risks that come with living in a Fijian jungle. And you are reminded that every decision you make on Survivor comes with a consequence. Sometimes the results favor you, and sometimes they do you in."
Robert Voets/CBS 'Survivor' host Jeff Probst
Still, watching a person fall in such a ghastly and gruesome matter — even if it only resulted in a shoulder injury and some cuts and bruises — is, in many ways, scarier than the far more explicit carnage you'll see on scripted shows like The Walking Dead, House of The Dragon, and The Last of Us. What's real frightens in a different way than fiction.
With that in mind, did the producers and CBS ever consider not airing the footage due to its grisly content? "No, we were never concerned about airing it," says Probst. "Injuries are not common on Survivor, but they do happen, and we owe it to the players to represent their experience as authentically as they lived the experience."
Unfortunately for Matthew, his injury caused him so much pain and agony that he walked away from the game this week after being medically evaluated once again by the Survivor medical team. We asked Probst about the circumstances surrounding Matthew's departure, and what it was like to share with the Tika tribe that they no longer had to vote anyone out.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We saw Matthew examined by the doctor after the Immunity Challenge. He had to make a really tough decision on whether or not to continue in the game with all that pain. When and where did that decision get made?
JEFF PROBST: After the challenge, we sent the rest of the tribe back to camp so that Dr. Will could do a thorough examination of Matthew's shoulder and talk with him in private. Dr. Will spent quite a bit of time not only looking at the shoulder, but also discussing the long-term risks associated with this type of injury. It was clear to me that Matthew was torn on whether to stay or go. He had been in the Survivor casting mix for years and prepared so hard for his opportunity, but he kept coming back to the impact it could have on his family and career. The longer we talked, the more Matthew began to realize that he didn't feel comfortable risking additional injury to his shoulder.
Robert Voets/CBS Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'
How concerned were you with Matthew continuing on in a very tough, physical game, knowing that this was a person who was really going to try to push himself to the absolute limit?
From day one, when Matthew climbed up and subsequently fell off that giant rock, it was clear he only had one speed: full tilt. We were also torn, because while we were very concerned that he would continue to take risks in order to help his tribe, we also knew how much he wanted this adventure. So there was a mixture of sadness and relief when he made the decision to leave the game.
Matthew played all-out. Give us your impressions as a host and EP in terms of what he brought to the game.
Matthew is everything you hope for in a Survivor player. This is why we spend so much time in casting trying to find the right group of players. You want someone who will show up and give 100% every single day. You want someone who knows the game and will play the game. You want someone who will be vulnerable. And you want someone who will be their most authentic self while doing it. Matthew embodies all of that. We loved having him on the show and we hated losing him.
What was the vibe from the Tika folks when you told them that they did not have to go to Tribal Council?
It's an unusual feeling trying to manage your emotions when you learn that your fate in the game was just helped by someone else's physical pain. And when you are as depleted as they are, it's hard to hide your full truth. I could see the empathy in the faces of Yam Yam, Carolyn, and Josh, but I could also see and hear the genuine joy that nobody from their tribe would be going home tonight. Both were true.
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