In a recent interview, two-time Survivor castaway Zeke Smith opened up about his experience on the show, including that he thinks being Jeff Probst’s “pet” was hugely detrimental to his game the first time around — but he liked how much Probst liked him and he couldn’t resist those baby blue eyes and dimples. Here’s what he had to say.
Smith Said He Couldn’t Help Himself Around Probst
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Smith said that he thinks being “Probst’s Pet” was the wrong choice to make in terms of trying to win the game.
“During ‘Game Changers,’ I regret how much I talked to Probst. … I am and always have been the guy who tries to be teacher’s pet… or in Survivor’s case, Probst’s Pet,” said Smith. “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.”
He added, “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.”
Obviously, Smith doesn’t mean a romantic crush but certainly a game crush. He admitted that he just can’t help himself around Probst, he just could not stop talking — “I see those baby blues and those dimples, and my mouth just falls open.”
Smith said the person Probst called on the least was Sarah Lacina — and wouldn’t you know it, but she won the game.
“That woman knows how to play, and part of playing to win is keeping your trap shut around Probst,” said Smith, adding, “What I’ve learned is that I do not have the right personality to be a successful Survivor player. I like to shine all the time, and winners need to be able to control their shimmer.”
Interestingly, Probst said something very similar about Smith in a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly conducted four years ago during “Game Changers.”
“I met Zeke in casting and loved him. I still have my original notes from that meeting. He was very engaging, gifted in his ability to manipulate with his words, and he wore this crazy Hawaiian shirt and had poofy hair,” said Probst, adding, “We knew Zeke was a tremendous storyteller with an amazing ability to take a specific moment from the game or life and give it a universal perspective. That’s why we asked him back to play a second time.”
Smith Has No Regrets About Going on ‘Survivor’
Smith was famously outed as being transgender by tribemate Jeff Varner during “Game Changers,” but he told Entertainment Weekly he still doesn’t regret going on the show.
He did admit that when he returned from the show, he felt his outing hanging over him “like a time bomb” because he knew his life was about to “radically change” as soon as the season aired — and for a while, he didn’t know “when it was going to happen” because he didn’t know the airdate of that particular episode.
But Smith has zero regrets.
“I went on Survivor because my life had grown stagnant. I needed an adventure, a jolt to my system… I needed to change my life… and oh boy, did I!” said Smith, adding, “My outing and the attention it received, and the platform I gained radically changed my life’s trajectory. I went from someone who very few people knew to be trans to one of the most visible transgender men in the world (which says more about trans men’s visibility than it does about me).
He also said that it took “a lot of “self-love work” to get to the point of true self-acceptance with his new life, but he feels “tremendously proud and humbled” by the impact he has had on the world.
Survivor season 41 begins filming soon with an expected premiere date of late September 2021.