Zeke Smith, who competed in back-to-back seasons of Survivor, claims he couldn't help but want to chat up host Jeff Probst during the game. When asked about his regrets for EW's Survivor questionnaire, Smith had this to say:
This one is easy. During Game Changers, I regret how much I talked to Probst. As I'm sure most fans know by now, Tribal Councils are much longer than shown, and so are the little chit-chats we have with Probst before a challenge or at a swap. Look, I am and always have been the guy who tries to be teacher's pet… or in Survivor's case, Probst's Pet.
Being the teacher’s pet wasn't exactly the problem, though. On Survivor, words and actions are ultra-nitpicked by the group. Not saying enough might mean you have something to hide. Saying too much, especially to Jeff Probst, might signal to the group that you are too well-liked, which is a problem in a game of towing the line.
This is exactly the conundrum that prevented Zeke Smith from becoming the sole survivor in either of his seasons. According to him:
I knew part of the reason I was brought back is that Probst liked the way I talked about the game, and the expectation was that I would continue to deliver. Not then savvy enough to think about the impact my monologues would have on my tribemates' egos, I soliloquized and Jeff beamed, and the rest of the cast glowered. Probst had a major crush on me. He called on me constantly. There was one post-merge Tribal where, I swear, he called on me every other person. I spoke half the Tribal.
I gotta say, can fans blame Zeke Smith for wanting to be the Jeff Probst teacher’s pet? Don’t we all? Probst has a particular avuncular vibe that can easily switch into jacked narration mode in an instant. I'd wager fans wouldn't love Survivor quite as much if there was any other host.
At the same time, Zeke Smith might be on to something when it comes to winning and talking a lot with Jeff Probst. Smith stated that Probst called on Sarah Lacina at tribal council the least in Game Changers. Lacina would go on to win the season -- and the $1,000,000 that comes with it. Smith reflected:
That woman knows how to play, and part of playing to win is keeping your trap shut around Probst. I just can't help myself. I see those baby blues and those dimples, and my mouth just falls open.
The takeaway from Zeke Smith's regrets for future players is an ominous one: don't stare too directly into those Jeff Probst baby blues and dimples. You'll say more than is helpful.