It’s Season 42, fans, and the competition series that tasks players to outwit, outplay and outlast just keeps getting better. Survivor is back tonight (Wednesday at 8/7c on CBS) with Season 42. Big kudos to host and executive producer Jeff Probst, who got the show back in motion after COVID shutdowns. Probst never left Fiji after Season 41; in fact, three days after the finale, he began shooting Season 42.
Here he shares some of the behind-the-scenes on shooting back-to-back seasons and what we can expect for the new season. He also gives us insights on the future of All-Star seasons.
It’s Survivor 42, Jeff!!!! You never went home from last season? What keeps you coming back year after year? And please tell us you’re never going to stop!?
Jeff Probst: Shooting Survivor 41 and Survivor 42 was a unique experience due to the restrictions of COVID. We all had to quarantine for 14 days, and once that was finished no one else was allowed to enter our bubble and we were not allowed to leave our bubble. That forced us to shoot both seasons back to back without a break. So, three days after Survivor 41 finished, we were shooting Survivor 42. It was definitely a long shoot and very tough on the crew but that’s what separates the Survivor team from most other teams. We adapt and figure it out.
It also created some interesting opportunities for us to shake up the game a bit! We started by reducing the number of days from 39 to 26. Then, to offset the shorter duration we pumped the difficulty up to 11! It created a faster, more physically demanding and much more dangerous version of Survivor.
Personally, postponing Survivor for several months really helped remind me how much I enjoy being a part of this show. It reignited my enthusiasm for the game and my appreciation for the players. I had so much fun shooting Survivor 41 and 42. I was smiling every day and I was rooting so hard for the players.
I honestly can’t remember a time when I had this much fun. And that is not to take away from the previous 40 seasons. It’s just a reflection of the impact COVID has had on all of us.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the pandemic has forced me to truly consider how I want to live my life and where I want to put my time and energy. I was happy to see that Survivor is at the top of the list! Survivor remains one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I never lose sight of the fact that I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I never take Survivor for granted. It’s definitely a gift that keeps on giving.
You teased us at the end of last season that the next group of 18 survivors take on the most dangerous version of Survivor ever seen. What does that mean?
Because we shot our seasons back to back, that meant that the Survivor 42 players had not seen anything from Survivor 41! They had no idea of the new fast paced, dangerous version of the game. So, we decided to use this as an opportunity to further extend our social experiment in this way: Some of the twists in 42 will be the exact same twist from Survivor 41 — like the funny phrases you have to say to activate your idol! With other twists from 41, we’re going to alter them slightly to see if it changes how the players respond to them. And finally, some twists in Survivor 42 will be brand new.
Plus it’s still 26 days, with no rice, very limited supplies and small tribes. It’s a wickedly difficult game to play and that’s by design. You have to remember, the game is not there to trick the players, the game is there to test the players. How will you adapt to this new curve ball coming at you?
The great players take every twist and examine how it impacts their game and the game of every other player. Then they make their move based on that assessment. The weak players often get lost in whether they think a twist is fair. It’s a waste of time because you can’t change it. That’s part of the test. You must adapt. Over and over and over.
Fans are going to LOVE this new group of players. They are fantastic! I’m chomping at the bit for our premiere!
Can you share a few players you are excited for fans to see this season? [anyone with a somewhat famous background, like Danny from 41]?
As much as I would like to highlight a few fun players, if I did that I would be leaving so many people out of the conversation because we truly have an abundance of amazing players. I’m not hyping. You’ll see for yourself.
Here’s what I will say about the new Survivor player – they seem to have a more healthy sense of fun in terms of how they approach the game. There is a joy and a lightness, even when they are brutally betraying each other. I believe that is directly related to COVID and the reminder we all received, that life is short – so let’s have fun.
In my opinion, if you can play Survivor with absolute brutal intensity and the goal of winning but with the reminder that it is, in the end, only a game, then you’ve really figured it all out. And I have to say this again, this is not to compare new players to old players. I’m very sensitive to old players feeling this new era means they are left behind. It has nothing to do with that. Anyone who has ever played this game is a part of the Survivor family. This is simply comparing our old world to our new world. These new players are a reflection of the times.
We constantly are moved and inspired by the human element of the show, as we know you are, and have fallen in love with so many of these players. What’s the tone of this season – more tears or more jaw drops?
I love this question because this is what Survivor is all about for me – the human transformation that is possible for those who are willing to say yes to this adventure. That’s why I am constantly reminding players that it’s never about the game design or the twists. It’s about how you respond to them because that’s where the growth comes. You find yourself in a situation you have never been in before with people you don’t know and can’t trust. You are forced, by design, to step out of your comfort zone. And that’s where the magic happens. We have some amazing stories this season, beginning with our premiere. I think Survivor 42 will be a fan favorite because of the players, their stories and the game play.
When will we get another all-star season?
I love all-star seasons! I still remember walking in New York city with Mark Burnett in 2004 when he told me we were doing an All-Star season. I remember thinking, “What!!? You’re crazy! It’s too soon. It’s only Season 8!!” As usual, I was wrong. Survivor: All-Stars was a great season! Still one of the bests!
I really love bringing Survivor’s favorite players back to see what they’ve learned. I am certain we’ll be doing that again in the future. And I can see a future where we have an updated version of the old school vs new school showdown where we bring back players from different decades and eras of Survivor. But before we can do that we have to establish some new players!