The non-stop rain on this season’s Survivor made for shivering contestants who couldn’t make or sustain fire and thus didn’t get warm or boil a lot of drinkable water. That leads to severe dehydration, says producer and host Jeff Probst, which caused a contestant to go down in a challenge in tonight’s episode. Probst talks to PEOPLE about what viewers will see this evening on Survivor: Samoa (8 p.m. EST, on CBS). –Cynthia Wang
Keep reading for spoilers from tonight’s episode.
The contestants are miserable, wet and cold. Do they get any help?They do get sunscreen but the big questions are if you get food and water. Do you get the things that keep you alive? Sunscreen is just a gesture from us because we know it sucks to be out in the sun all day and get sunburned and then you can’t participate in challenges … but they would trade all the sunscreen, condoms and first aid kits for a gallon of fresh water every day.
Is dehydration that serious of a threat for the contestants?I continue to remind that Survivor is for real. You know, you hear “dehydration” and I think most associate it with going out on a hike and you are a little parched and your friend says, “You’re dehydrated,” and you drink a little water and you feel better. Dehydration is an extremely serious condition that if not treated can lead to death. So when you are stranded on an island in a pouring rain with no fire, it’s very different than a hike and then forgetting your bottle of water. We aren’t giving them water off-camera. We don’t feed them. We don’t do anything to help them. We just watch.
So what happened to Galu’s Russell S? We see a tease of a challenge being stopped.We started a challenge and it required a lot of effort from two in each tribe to push a heavy sphere and they were blindfolded, and our blindfolds are designed to insure you cannot cheat, so the blindfolds go past your nose, which makes it a little more difficult to breathe, and probably heats you up a little more. And it has been raining for days and a lot of the contestants were tired and a little dehydrated. On top of all that, Russell, the leader of Galu, is this tireless guy. He works and works and works. He just doesn’t know how to listen to his body, so we get to the challenge and Russell is going at it and at a certain point he didn’t appear to be responding to his tribemates, but because he has a blindfold on, I couldn’t tell if he was just resting. I wasn’t sure what was happening and I’m always hesitant to jump into a challenge too quickly, but it became clear at a certain point that Russell was not responding and so we stopped the challenge and I called in medical and they took over.
Why was this so scary for you?Moments after we took his blindfold off, we could see he was in serious trouble. There was no way to continue the challenge without him so we stopped the challenge, which we have never done before. You just instinctively stop. Then my concern really heated up with Russell when he passed out a second time and I watched his heart rate drop 30 beats in less than a second — one or two at the most. They couldn’t get him to respond and they were slapping his face and chest, and for 7 or 8 seconds he didn’t respond and that was the most afraid I’ve ever been on this show. I thought we were losing him. I’m still affected by it this day.