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It finally happened. Twenty different times Survivor had a final three with the potential for a tie vote, and 20 times it never happened. Then, on the 21st occurrence, it did. When Domenick Abbate and Wendell Holland deadlocked with five jury votes apiece in Survivor: Ghost Island, it all came down to third place finisher Laurel Johnson to cast the most pivotal vote in the show’s long history. And she cast it for Wendell.
How epic was it? We asked host Jeff Probst exactly that and where it ranked in terms of most exciting Survivor moments for him personally and on screen. “The tie vote is up there,” he says. “I’d have to really think about the ones that are above it, but it’s top three. Because we’ve never been able to do that. I’ve never been able to walk out and say, ‘I’m gonna read the votes.’”
As juiced as viewers were to see what would happen. Probst was even more amped in the moment. Here, he talks about what he remembers out how it went down.
“What I will never forget is at the end of the second of our two seasons — which Ghost Island was the second that we had shot — that’s 78 days over 95 that we are shooting. And I’m exhausted. It’s a taxing thing to do Survivor. You’re mentally fatigued like the players are, even though you’re eating and drinking and all that. So I’m excited that the season is over, because my brain is out of power. And [EP Mat Van Wagenen] is looking at me going [silently mouthing the word ‘tie’]. And I went ‘What?’ And he went [silently mouthing the word ‘tie’]. All I see is the mouth opening. And then he holds up a tiny little piece of paper with chicken scratches and it’s five and five and I [drops his mouth open] and all of a sudden I go, ‘Oh my God!’ And I had this renewed energy. So that to me is a salient memory because I was so tired and then — WHOOSH! — woke right back up!”
Ultimately, Probst gives credit to Wendell and Dom for playing such solid games that ultimately led to the tie vote. “It was just great. And also we had one of the best final Tribals ever. I had watched these guys [mimics heads being hit back and forth] — like a slugfest. And then it was five to five. It should be five to five! They both played killer games. I’m not sure who I’d vote for event though I picked Wendell [at the start of the season] to win. I was sitting at final Tribal going ‘I don’t know, Dom’s making a pretty good argument right now.’”
Watch the video above where Probst shares his reaction to the milestone moment. Also, set those DVRs for the premiere of Survivor: David vs. Goliath on Sept. 26 (you can meet the cast here), and for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.