Survivor – Carrying The Torch
CBS Watch! Magazine|September/October 2021
After a 16-month COVID-induced hiatus, the groundbreaking reality series Survivor is finally ready to don its buffs again. For its 41st season, 18 brand-new contestants will be marooned on the island of Fiji and will attempt to outwit, outlast, and outplay each other forthe $1 million prize and, if they strategize correctly, the chance to etch their names in Survivor lore. But first: Let’s hear from host Jeff Probst, meet the new cast, and get up to speed with a highlight reel of memorable players, twists, romances, and more. In the words of Probst, come on in, guys!
By Mara Reinstein

Neither rain nor heat nor gloom of night— nor the occasional crashing wave in the South Pacific—has stopped Jeff Probst from presiding over every Survivor episode. (That’s roughly 600 torch snuffs in 21 years, for those keeping score.) And yet, the 59-year-old host and executive producer proclaims that Survivor 41 was one of his favorite shoots “in a very long time.” He filled us in from Fiji about the upcoming “reimagined” season.

When we last saw you in May 2020, you were reading Winnersat War Tribal Council votes from your garage in Hawaii. Any worries about the future of the show at that point?

JP: Making the decision to postpone Survivor 41 was tough, mainly because of the impact it had on our crew. We were taking away their ability to provide for their families. But I never, ever doubted we would be back. In fact, once we accepted that we would have to wait until March 2021 to shoot again, we took the time as an opportunity to step back from the show and look at it with fresh eyes.

And what did you conclude?

JP: It was actually Mike White, a former player [in David vs. Goliath] and one of the best writers I’ve ever met, who pointed me in the right direction. I was in my garage with a whiteboard full of ideas and called Mike to pitch him. He listened politely and then asked me a very simple question: “Is it fun?” I said, “I gotta go” and hung up. I couldn’t erase the board fast enough. From that point forward, every idea was put through the “Is it fun?” filter.

After all the planning and waiting, what went through your head when you finally welcomed the players and started the game?

JP: It was a combination of excitement and emotion. It was so good to see a new group of players wearing their buffs. But the emotions went far beyond the game. This was the first time in over a year that all of us had been around other humans. Because we had been tested and quarantined, we were able to shoot without masks. You could feel the sense of camaraderie and community.

So, how will this season look different from the previous 40?

JP: You can’t compare. This is a reimagined game, and every single element has been heightened. We changed it from 39 days to 26— and then adjusted everything else accordingly to ensure it would be 26 of the most exhilarating days anyone could endure while still playing a game that was already challenging physically and emotionally. The living conditions are extremely difficult, as we did not give the players their daily ration of rice. The pace is blistering fast. The tribes are small. You are in constant danger of losing your vote. There were very few rewards, additional penalties for losing a challenge, many dilemmas, and zero guarantees.

Did your role on the show change as well?

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