‘Survivor’ host Jeff Probst answers burning questions: Why didn’t Natalie make fire, and what about Sarah calling out ‘gender bias’?

In a post-finale interview with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst, Entertainment Weekly addresses several issues that popped up in the three-hour last episode of “Winners at War” after Tony Vlachos became just the second player to win the show twice.

First, he chatted about what every fan was thinking when runner-up Natalie Anderson, who came back from the Edge of Extinction and joined the competition again, did not offer to make fire against Tony. When the Edge first appeared on Season 38, the eventual winner Chris Underwood — who only played 13 days in the actual game — tossed away his immunity and volunteered to make fire against his biggest obstacle, Rick Devens, and won. Natalie instead allowed Sarah Lacina to go against Tony, who won.

“Natalie was well aware that Chris set the tone in Season 38,” Jeff says. “I think it was clear that she didn’t feel confident enough in her fire-making skills to take out Tony. So she put someone up against him who she thought might take him out. Had she been right, and she almost was, that would have been another move she could add to her resume. Natalie played as hard as she could play on the Edge. She deserved her shot back in, and the fact that she received four votes speaks to the respect she earned.”

Then there was a rather thoughtful discussion about gender on the show. EW brings up the fact that six winners in a row and 12 out of the past 15 have been men. In fact, Sarah was the last woman to be declared the Sole Survivor when she won “Survivor: Game Changers” in 2017. She asserted the fact that gender bias was in place during her three times as a competitor.

It dawned on her when she realized during this all-winners season that she wasn’t credited with her achievements in the game in the way that her “Cops ‘R’ Us” ally Tony was. At Tribal Council, she teared up as she said, “It made me realize that if a woman in this game lies or cheats or steals, she’s fake and phony and a bitch. If a guy does it, it’s good gameplay.”

Sarah continued, “It’s gender bias, it holds me back. It holds other women back from playing the game the way we should be playing the game.” Her observation lit a light bulb over Jeff’s head, as he admitted he treated female players differently than the males.

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The host told the players, “I am certain if I look back at all the comments I have made over 20 years, I would find the exact same bias in me — who I call by last names. Guys have different relationships with each other, and I might not know how to have that relationship with a woman.”

Sarah suggested, “You can start calling me Lacina,” as Jeff flashed a smile.

The host was asked why he kept that segment in the jam-packed finale. His answer: “Gender bias is something that has become such an important topic that this one felt it was timely and relevant for many reasons. I’m grateful to Sarah for bringing up the topic. It gave me the opportunity to address my own life lessons.”

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