We Went There: The EW PopFest Survivor Event

The EW PopFest in LA included a Survivor event, so we sent Emma to cover the festivities. This is her first-person account of the day.

Today I am wearing my “Los Angeles Correspondent” hat, as opposed to my “Token Chick Correspondent” hat, as I am here to report on the EW PopFest. Specifically, I’ll be reporting on the Survivor portion of EW PopFest because A) that’s the purpose of the site, and B) I wasn’t able to get into the theater for the Gilmore Girls thing. Weep for me.

Once I arrived and realized with horror that the event was outside and I wasn’t wearing sunscreen, it was mostly milling about until the actual panel started. The challenges were already set up, but most of the former Survivors weren’t hanging out yet, with the exception of Tai and Woo.

A bit of the set up.
A bit of the set up.

Once it was time for the panel to start, everyone went to the main stage, where previously there had been a panel for Arrow and Flash, which is why you may have seen Stephen Amell’s tweet showing a photo of him and Jeff Probst. Naturally, Dalton Ross is the moderator – this is an Entertainment Weekly event after all – and receives quite a warm reception from the crowd.

Probably because Sharculese wasn't there.
Probably because Sharculese wasn’t there.

He talks for a bit about how much of a Survivor nerd he is, and how he annoys people by talking about the show so much. Surely this crowd, 70% of whom were wearing buffs, wouldn’t understand what that’s like. After a little good-natured pandering, he brought out the man we love to hate and hate to love: Jeff Probst.

Honoring Andy by wearing a Canadian tuxedo.

Most of what was talked about are things that nerds like us already know, but there were a couple of interesting tidbits. First, our commenter Em isn’t the only one that dug that footage of Ken catching the octopus. The crew was very excited to get that shot. Jeff said he remembers hearing about it on the walkie-talkie, which makes it clear that even though Survivor features beautiful cinematography, it’s still not guaranteed that you’re going to get every potential great shot when things are happening live. He also shared that the camera operators would often talk about how they’d love to get newer, lighter cameras so they could get even more amazing shots, but that CBS often would reject the requests because of something about the technology needing to match. Jeff then explained that CBS said the show could only use those fancy cameras if the swells are too rough or it’s too rainy. So Jeff and the crew simply always say the swells are too rough and it’s too rainy.

Jeff switches to a more classic American outfit.
Live footage of Probst explaining how he defrauds CBS.

We were then treated to clips from the upcoming episode. We got to see a camp life scene, where [redacted] talked about [redacted] and thinking [redacted] is [redacted] so [redacted] can [redacted] with [redacted]. I hope I didn’t give away too much.

Then John Kirhoffer, the challenge producer of Survivor, joined the stage. A fan asked Probst and Kirhoffer what their all-time favorite challenges are. Kirhoffer said he loved “Boulder Dash”, which was the reward challenge during episode three of Survivor: Africa, where the two tribes had to roll a giant boulder over the terrain. A surprising choice, to say the least. Probst selected “Bob Bob Buoy”, the infamous final challenge of Palau. He notes it was kind of a disaster and required them to make future endurance challenges more difficult, but it’s still his favorite because of everything production had to do on the fly and how they got it done.

Kirhoffer wore a Survivor cap, while Jeff couldn't even be bother to wear a blue shirt.
Jeff isn’t flipping off Dalton here, but it’s fun to pretend.

We also got to see part of this week’s reward challenge (but not the end!) which was great because all I’ve been wanting was to watch how the other tribes would react to seeing Figgy was the one voted out. At the actual challenge, each tribe had to [redacted] and [redacted] before finally [redacted]. It was pretty [redacted].

Jeff asked the crowd their opinions of Ken (cheers), Zeke (cheers), and Hannah (mixed) before everyone just started shouting Michaela’s name. He agreed how she is great casting and that everyone seems to think being mean is how to be good TV, but bluntness- and more so, having a strong opinion- is the most important trait for casting.

Audience questions continued after that, so here’s a bullet point summary of the highlights:

  • Kirhoffer says Parvati’s double idol play is the best blindside. Probst does the classic “I don’t know, they’re all great!” thing.
  • Kirhoffer mentions that he loves Cook Islands. One of us. One of us. One of us.
  • They like to leave in challenge hacks because it’s cool to see if people figure it out.
  • Cochran is the player Kirhoffer was most surprised to see make it to the end and is his favorite winner. Wait, maybe he really is one of us.
  • Probst was shocked that Russell got to the end twice.
  • When asked who the best winner is and someone in the audience* shouted “Hatch!” and Probst said that “Hatch was ahead of his time, but is no match for the best” before eventually naming Parvati, Boston Rob, and Kim as the best winners.

*Note: a lot of people shouted suggestions for this question. Don’t do that. The whole point of subjective answers is to see what people actually think.

Then they introduced the former contestants who would be participating in the challenges with everyone:

Rob looks so comfortable and socially at ease.
Rob looks so comfortable and socially at ease. (One of us! One of us!)

There’s really not much to say about the challenge portion. There were different stations, the contestants rotated at different ones to play with fans, and Jeff walked around doing his Jeff thing, occasionally being accosted by fans for a photo or an autograph. And no, I did not get a picture with Jeff. I tried, and I failed. Anyway, I will now proceed to show, rather than tell.

Tai was consistently upbeat and enthusiastic, because Tai.
Tai was consistently upbeat and enthusiastic, because Tai.
Abi-Maria and Woo were paired up even though he voted for her twice.
Abi-Maria and Woo were paired up even though he voted for her twice.
Jeff pumps up the fan challenging Mari
Jeff pumps up the fan challenging Mari
You may remember this photo from my most successful tweet ever.
You may remember this photo from my most successful tweet ever.

I even attempted a challenge myself! I did just fine during the first stage…

Check Ozzy in the background.
Check Ozzy in the background.

But did not last long during the second stage.

I lost a challenge to Abi.
I lost a challenge to Abi. (Editor’s note: You fucked with her, so you’re dead.)

Even Probst got in on a challenge!

"Jeffrey, getting frustrated by me!"
“Jeffrey, getting frustrated by me!”

After a while the event started to die down. I got a chance to chat with Rob again, and we bemoaned our fallen baseball teams. But I knew there was one former contestant I just had to get a picture with.

Because #branding
Because #branding