Sometimes the biggest obstacle in Survivor isn't even created by the producers.
In the March 23 episode of season 42, the contestants were knocked around by raging waters and gusts of wind during an immunity challenge, which required them to swim from a platform and retrieve a ladder from the ocean floor. They then had to swim with the ladder to climb up and unlock bean bags, before throwing those onto a target from the shore—at least, that's what was supposed to happen.
The Ika and Vati tribes struggled to stay afloat in the water, prompting Jeff Probst and producers to make the truly historic decision to step in before things took a turn for the worse. They ultimately decided to skip the ladder climbing portion and go straight to the bean bag throwing, with Taku taking first (mostly thanks to Jonathan Young), Ika in second and Vati in third.
Now, Probst is explaining that while the challenge made for good television and safety swimmers were on standby, they simply didn't want to take any risks.
"When you are feeling overwhelmed in the ocean, it is an absolutely terrifying feeling and there is no part of your brain saying, 'Oh, I'm fine. I'm sure a safety swimmer will be here any second,'" he told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published March 24. "I've been in a similar situation, and I can still remember the feeling. You are working as hard as you can to withstand the push and pull of the ocean, which leads to exhaustion which only amplifies the panic."
And to those social media users who questioned if it was really that difficult, we'd like to see you try.
Probst gave a truly terrifying account of what these contestants experienced: "It can quickly become a panic situation because you are struggling to get a breath that doesn't include a mouthful of saltwater. You're trying to keep your head above water, but the swells consume you. Your fight or flight reflex kicks in and it can feel overwhelming. In other words, for the players struggling, there was nothing fun about it. That was real effort, real exhaustion, real fear."
To the contestants' credit, Probst says that no one asked for help during the 22 minutes (!!!) it took for them to get the ladders.
But the producers knew that it shouldn't have taken so long because they did their own practice days earlier—when the waters were no where near as brutal. Probst likened the new conditions to a tornado, saying, "I'm not exaggerating when I say that every five minutes it was gaining in intensity."
Probst also gave credit to Young, calling the Taku tribe member's performance "a hall of fame moment."
As for that truly insane tribal council, Probst explained that the new rules of the game and Daniel Strunk's lack of strategy is what resulted in Jenny's elimination. But the host added, "Hai won the battle, but the war is far from over."
Survivor airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS.