‘Survivor’ host Jeff Probst talks about those Extinction Island ‘notes to self’ and the mega clue he dropped during the puzzle challenge

On  episode 13 of “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” two moments piqued my interest. One involved a spiritual exercise for those stranded on Extinction Island. The other was a hint to a puzzle solution that was sneakily revealed in one of host Jeff  Probst‘s pronouncements during the challenge.

Let’s deal with self-penned pep talks first.  In the past,  “Survivor” contestants have received letters from home that often made them teary-eyed with joy, homesickness and relief.

But given that the “Edge of Extinction” twist is a sort of upside-down world where 11 rejected players have been kept stranded until they are marched into Tribal Councils to act as jury members, of course there would be some kind of variation on what is usually happy news.

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This week the inhabitants of the rather dismal stretch of beach known as Extinction Island were given letters they wrote to themselves that supposedly serve as a kind of self-help picker-upper from the monotony of this waiting-room slash limbo-land. And given that any excuse for drama is overdone in this alternative universe, the players all scattered to find a quiet spot to reflect upon their words of wisdom as gentle piano music played.

The weirdest shot was Chris Underwood sitting on a large rock in the middle of a lagoon as if he were auditioning for “The Little Mermaid.” Anyway, it got the inhabitants to have a good cry and/or moment of catharsis with even cranky Reem Daly, the first to wash up on Extinction, being able to let go of her usual bitterness.

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Probst told “Entertainment Weekly” why they put these eliminated souls through such a new-age touchy-feely exercise. “We were hoping for at least one player to have a spiritual death and rebirth as a result of their experience on Extinction. So we gave them the questions pre-game, so that later they would have some perspective and context to use as a reflection point.”

OK, but I am guessing the cast-offs would have preferred food for their bellies rather than food for their souls. But with one of the Extinction dwellers re-joining the game on the season finale that airs May 15, this was a way to give the others a send-off beyond being on the jury.

The other weirdness was when Probst provided an obvious hint to the word puzzle that was part of the immunity challenge when he said, “One phrase, potentially worth a million bucks if you survive TONIGHT!” His answer to “Entertainment Weekly”: “We always have a few clues ready to give everybody if we think they are struggling. But it’s complicated by the fact that I talk so much — and all the time — and most of what I say is just blah-blah-blah.” More than a few of the contestants seemed to catch on, but Rick Devens, who should be called “Ricky Amazing” at this point (sorry, Joe Anglim), was the first to complete the phrase.

The end is nigh for this season and I am not sure that the Extinction concept actually worked. Its last chance to prove that it boosted this season’s game play will probably depend on what second exiled player will return to the game next week on the three-hour  finale that airs next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?

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