'Survivor' host Jeff Probst stops using 'Come on in, guys' catchphrase

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Insider 22 September, 2021 - 09:14pm 26 views

Where is Survivor 41?

Set in Fiji, the show welcomes 18 new castaways who will be split into three tribes in a season that is being called “one of the most dangerous seasons in the history of the show.” cleveland.comHow to watch ‘Survivor’ season 41: Free online options, contestants & more

Is Survivor on CBS All Access?

If you don't have cable, you can watch new episodes of "Survivor" as they air on CBS through Paramount Plus. ... YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and FuboTV all start at $65 a month and include access to local channels like CBS. Business InsiderWhere to watch 'Survivor' season 41 online: time, channels

Can you stream survivor live?

HOW TO WATCH SURVIVOR LIVE: If you have a valid cable login, you can watch Survivor live on CBS.com or with the CBS app. No cable? You can also watch tonight's Survivor with an active subscription to an over-the-top streaming service that offers CBS, including fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, Paramount+, and YouTube TV. DeciderHow to Watch 'Survivor' Season 41 Live Tonight

Who is the former NFL player on Survivor?

Well, former Cowboys safety Danny McCray is literally on an island this fall competing in the 41st season of the CBS smash hit Survivor. McCray, still an important part of the team as the Dallas Cowboys Youth Academies manager, played in the NFL for six seasons, from 2010-15. DallasCowboys.comDanny McCray Now Competing on Survivor

South Carolina woman competing on CBS' 'Survivor' new season

News 19 WLTX 23 September, 2021 - 03:50am

Jeff Probst answers 'Survivor 41' season premiere burning questions

Live 5 News WCSC 22 September, 2021 - 09:00pm

There were also several new twists put into play, including a version of the prisoner's dilemma in which a player from each of the three tribes had to decide whether to risk or protect their vote — the catch being that if they all chose to risk it in the hopes of getting an extra vote at a later Tribal Council, then all three would lose a vote. There was also a huge new element added to the show in the form of the Shot in the Dark Die, in which a contestant (at only one Tribal Council over the course of the season) could sacrifice their vote to reach into a bag and have a one-in-six chance at getting safety at the Tribal.

We risked our own vote to connect with host Jeff Probst over all the big changes that went down in the premiere and are happy to report we were rewarded for our boldness with some in-depth answers. (Also make sure to check out our season premiere recap.)

JEFF PROBST: Ah, yes. I can take myself back to that "day one" moment right now. I can still vividly connect to the excitement I felt as the players started boarding the barge to begin Survivor 41. It was so good to be back that I was giddy with joy. It may sound corny, but it's the truth.

To give some context, Survivor 41 is the start of my third decade, and I cannot recall a time when I have felt this level of excitement to launch a new season. Here's why: The year away really reminded me how much I love everything about Survivor. I love the casting process and the game design. I love shooting the show with our crew. I love interacting with the players as they take on this giant adventure. I love the editing process and then ultimately delivering the show to the fans to see their reaction.

I could also feel the same energy from our crew. Everywhere I looked, I saw smiles of gratitude and appreciation. We were all so happy to be back together. And then there were the players, many of whom had been scheduled to play over a year ago and then were told we couldn't shoot. They were so pumped to get started that they were nearly levitating.

It's obviously been a very difficult 18 months for everyone in the world, so to be standing together on a giant barge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, knowing we had all been tested and quarantined and thus were safe to play Survivor, was a truly electric moment.

The single biggest benefit of the quarantine period was that it gave us time to truly step back and look at the show without the pressure of a ticking clock. And one of the ideas that kept popping up was, how do we bring the audience inside the game even more? To be clear, this will not result in any major shift in how we tell our stories; we're just looking for a few Easter egg moments.

So we just started a list of all the things we thought would be fun for a fan to see. One of the things that made the list was to occasionally show a few shots of our crew to remind the audience of how many people it takes to make this show. And we also decided that from time to time we would make the audience aware of something that is going to happen in the game before the players learn of it, so they can play along or second-guess. We did that in the premiere with the Beware Advantage.

The long-term plan is to bring the fans inside the game a bit more each season, but the key is to do it very judiciously. So it will only be occasionally in Survivor 41, then a bit in Survivor 42. And like everything else we do, this too is an experiment. If it works and people like it, we'll keep on with it, and if it doesn't, we'll lose it.

And if you've watched the premiere, hopefully you saw that we're also doing something called Game Within the Game. GWG is an interactive Survivor training academy designed specifically for young, future Survivor players who dream of being on the island one day. We love how many kids watch Survivor, and we hope this is a fun way for them to start practicing!

 I always like to think you are talking to me through the screen, Jeff. But this time, you were actually talking to me through the screen! Where did this decision to directly address viewers come from, and is it something we're going to continue to see throughout the season?

Another nutty, risky experiment, for sure! But I remember exactly where I was standing when this idea birthed itself. I was in my garage, writing ideas on a whiteboard. I was talking on the phone with [executive producer] Matt Van Wagenen and we were riffing on ideas. This is a really fun process because the stakes are so low, you can consider any idea. I said, "What if the first thing we see in Survivor 41 is me walking through the jungle talking directly to the fans as I tell them how much I've missed them?"

Clearly an absurd way to start an adventure show. But Matt's response was instant. "Why not?! It sounds fun! In fact, where else can you talk to the audience?!" It's really inspiring to brainstorm with Matt because he is always open to an idea and then always has another layer to add to it. You keep bouncing back and forth, and the idea starts to take shape. So from that point forward we looked for opportunities to talk directly to the audience. We came up with a long list, and then we scaled it back to just a few times during the season. We love the idea, but we want it to grow organically from season to season. And we'll gauge our fans' reaction and adjust accordingly.

It starts with our overall theme for Survivor 41, which is "dangerous fun." When you combine dangerous fun with a dilemma that forces a player to make a risk-vs.-reward decision, then you have a great Survivor game element.

I'd had an idea in my notes for a few years about a bag that just sits at Tribal, and any time before the vote a player could reach in the bag and hope for an advantage that would immediately shift the game. The general intention was to create more uncertainty at Tribal Council by adding the threat that a seemingly perfect plan could fall apart if someone decides to reach into the bag.

This was one of the first ideas to get added into the game design. Then it just became a matter of formalizing how it plays. The way it plays now is the bag sits in the voting confessional, so your decision is private. Nobody else knows what you're doing. That's the dangerous fun element. Then, if you decide to reach into the bag and grab a scroll, you must sacrifice your vote. So you can't vote at that Tribal Council. But nobody else will know until the votes are read. That's the risk-vs.-reward dilemma.

And what makes the Shot in the Dark a great game element is that it does not require anyone to ever play it in order for it to have impact. The mere threat that someone might reach into the bag is what creates the uncertainty.

For now we are heading in a direction that does not include Fire Tokens. But what's great about our new approach is that anything is possible. Literally anything. Players will never be able to predict what might happen vs. what is happening, what's real vs. what's isn't, what is permanent vs. what could be temporary. It's the same exact game, but totally different.

Just to clarify for any game purists, we did alter the traditional prisoner's dilemma structure, and that is why it works in our show. Television producers have tried to make game shows based on the prisoner's dilemma for years, but the concept is inherently complicated. When we figured out how to simplify it, that is when it came to life.

From a strategy standpoint, my personal default is to take the risk. Always risk. You are trying to move your game forward, which is different from trying to ensure you don't go backwards. One is offense, the other is defense. So the only decision I would make would be to assess if there was any known information or weird gut feeling that would make me reconsider my default of risk. If not, then I risk. I have never believed you can play a zero-sum game from a place of fear. But hey, I've never played a single day of Survivor, so my opinion is not worth much. Plus, there is no playbook for Survivor. All types of players have won employing a variety of strategies. You have to go with what works for you.

So glad you asked. Yes, I will continue to look at my feet. And I guess I'll finally share the reason I do it. Wow, I didn't expect to be this open. I'm a bit emotional, as this is pretty revealing, but here goes. That brief moment when I look down at my feet is when all the magic happens, for that is the moment I connect with my powerful alter ego and guide, known only as "Survivor Guy."

Survivor Guy first came to me years ago, while we were in the Marquesas Islands filming the fourth season of the show. I was sitting alone on an island enduring a tremendous rainstorm. This was something I did on a regular basis, as I've always been a method host and wanted to be able to relate to what the players were feeling. I remember seeing a rat scurry past and then, seemingly out of nowhere, Survivor Guy appeared right in front of me.

Weirdly, he looked a lot like me, only significantly cooler. He wore animal skins, had much longer hair, a lot of odd tattoos and a feather necklace. I'll never forget his first words to me: "Jeff, I am Survivor Guy… I am your alter ego, and if you embrace what I have to offer I can make your life on Survivor better than ever."

We sat for the next six hours as he regaled me with tales from his life of jungle living. I'll be honest, I don't remember a lot of it because I was pretty damn cold. But it was clear he was very earnest, even though his stories seemed completely implausible.

Then as the sun began to rise, he said, "I must go. I'm needed somewhere else." He started to walk away, then began a slow run, and finally leaped up as though he were going to fly away, kinda like a bird. But instead he only got about six inches of air, stumbled a bit, and then kept walking, finally disappearing into the jungle. To this day, Survivor Guy remains my Survivor spirit animal.

Survivor Guy guides me. Survivor Guy informs me. Survivor Guy literally gives me the questions at Tribal Council. Survivor Guy also comes up with those incredibly memorable lines, like "Got nothin' for you" or "Worth playing for?" He even gave me a couple of new quips for this season, including "Sorry for you." I'm still working on the delivery, but I'm confident it's a keeper.

To this day, I don't know where he comes from or where he actually lives, but I'll tell you this… he's my superhero. I'd be lost without Survivor Guy.

'Survivor 41' premiere recap: Welcome back, old friend

The US Sun 22 September, 2021 - 09:00pm

I was lost. A man without a purpose. Abandoned on my own private Exile Island without a recap in which to yammer on endlessly about trivial matters that are of no real importance whatsoever. When you write about a reality television show for 40 seasons and then it is taken away from you, you don't know what to do with yourself. My options were bleak: start recapping any TV program with the words Law or Chicago in the title to keep myself busy or actually, you know, spend time with my family.

Would Survivor ever be back? At one point, it was fair to wonder. Honestly, I started to feel bad for taking the best TV show on planet Earth for granted. Who am I to get so enraged about the fact that the final two has now turned into a final three and a half? Why do I still feel the need to complain to random passersby on the street that Bob Dawg was done dirty on his edit back in season 12? And perhaps I should chill out with making so much fun of the Medallion of Power…. Wait, no. Sorry. I can't do that. It's too hilariously stupid, and I need to have that last one.

The point is, I missed the show beyond belief. All I could do is hope that the franchise was temporarily buried somewhere on Ghost Island and was maturing with awesome new powers, ready to rise from the ashes not unlike the mighty phoenix. Now, finally, 16 months later, Survivor is back. Is it better? Is it worse? I have no idea. Waaaaaaay too early to tell. But it's back. And it feels like home, even if the home was maybe remodeled a bit and features a real estate agent that intermittently looks away from you to talk directly to a television camera whenever the mood strikes him.

Probst! I'm talking about Jeff Probst, that glorious orange-hat-wearing bastard! Best host on the planet. I've said that a million times, and I'll say it again because I'm still fired up he was denied an Emmy nomination again for the 10th straight year for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program. That's looney tunes. No other host works in such insane conditions — extreme heat or rain or a freakin' cyclone — all without note cards, or an earpiece with producers feeding him lines, or climate-controlled conditions, and without any do-overs. His degree of difficulty and ability to seamlessly navigate those obstacles is simply off the charts. The dude once got knocked over by a massive wave while calling a challenge. What other host has to deal with stuff like that?!?

I'm not gonna lie: Probst does some wacky stuff this episode. He's walking and talking like he was auditioning for a West Wing reboot. He's periodically ignoring the contestants to chat with us at home instead. The dude is hiding advantages with all the nonchalance of a supreme badass who knows he is rocking the best quarantine hair in the South Pacific. (Take that, Brad and JD!) WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? UP IS DOWN! BLACK IS WHITE! NEXT THING YOU KNOW, GUYS WILL NO LONGER BE PERMITTED TO "COME ON IN"!!!!

The point is, I've seen a lot of Probst in my day, and I have never, ever seen the guy in such a sustained state of joy and excitement as I did on-screen during this season 41 marooning. Grinning from ear to freakin' ear. And can you blame him? It had been close to two years since the Survivor crew had last filmed. They lost an entire year, then had a super-lengthy and elaborate safety plan to endure before finally rolling cameras again.

Maybe Probst and the crew took for granted what they had. Maybe we viewers did as well. I believe it was overlooked 1980s hair-metal stalwarts Cinderella who opined that you don't know what you got (till it's gone), and even though they personally destroyed the ozone layer almost completely by themselves with all the cans of Aqua Net they burned through, and even though I never quite figured out how they found a grand piano just sitting out in the desert, those cheesy faux metalheads were truly on to something. And now Survivor is back, and it is smiles all around! Well, maybe not for Sara. She looked kind of devastated, which tends to happen to people voted out of their tribe first. But for everyone else, it was Mr. Roarke on steroids — SMILES, EVERYONE, SMILES!

By the way, are you still reading this nonsense? Awesome! Then let's keep on smiling and go through everything that went down in the return episode of Survivor.

In many ways, this was a marooning unlike all others. Probst started off with a message to viewers ("It's been a while. I missed you!"), we saw scenes of the crew (something that used to be completely verboten except in medical emergencies), the host was pointing and talking directly to the camera at times (even if front of the contestants), and there were no classic "39 days, 18 people, 1 Survivor!" line (apparently "26 days" just doesn't have the same ring to it).

I'm sure some people will be up in arms over these changes. Not me. As someone who spent way too much time chronicling the behind-the-scenes work of the Survivor crew, I always think it's cool when viewers get to see the show around the show. And after the 16-month layoff, I thought it was nice to kick off the return with a message from the host touting what was always (even before the pandemic) being seen as a new era of Survivor.

Besides, it still is Survivor, which became very clear once the three tribes were forced to race around grabbing stuff before jumping overboard into the water. (Well, at least two tribes did. The yellow Yase tribe was franticly searching for a missing oar the way I rummage through the fridge for a Milwaukee's Best before writing my recap. This week, both of us came up empty.)

Longtime readers know I have been lobbying Survivor for years to incorporate more difficult decisions into the program. (My daughter even got into the act and successfully pitched a decision-making idea that made it onto the show back in season 35.) And if the premiere is any indication, there will be a lot of tough choices to make in season 41. Let's take the three big ones revealed in the premiere:

I'm not sure the twist ultimately paid huge dramatic dividends. Nor was it the masterful production and editing job that was the log challenge. But it's always nice to mix things up when folks hit the beach and keep contestants on their toes, so it served its purpose in that regard. It also brought to our attention the winner of this season's "Call Me by My Last Name Because I Desperately Want to Be a Breakout Character" award. Step right up, David Voce! I am immune to your powers of last-name persuasion and shall hereby refer to you only by your first name for the remainder of the season. (And yes, I realize Abraham's first name is actually Eric, but for some reason, I'm letting him get away with it and not you. Maybe it's because the dude is about to get blindsided, and I feel mildly bad about it, so I am throwing him a pity last-name recognition. Let's just let him have this one, shall we?)

Instead, the trio was instructed to make awkward small talk while climbing a mountain, only to then walk back down the mountain where they would have to individually decide whether to risk their vote or protect their vote. If all three chose Protect, nothing changed. If all three chose Risk, they all lost a vote at their next Tribal Council. But if there was a split decision, nothing happened to the people that protected theirs, but those who risked it would get an extra vote.

I get why Danny chose Protect. I really do. Had he not, he would have lost his vote because Xander and JD both chose Risk. But here's the thing: I'd rather lose my vote at the first Tribal to have an extra vote at any Tribal I want up through the final six vote, anyway. And now Xander and JD both have another weapon at their disposal to potentially use against Danny and his allies later in the game. So had Danny chosen the Risk option, he may have lost his vote, but he would have been taking away the opposition's extra votes as well. So in that sense, the decision is a bit of a no-brainer. As a production element, I dig it. Again, force players into difficult decisions and then see how they handle the aftershocks.

But I actually kinda dig the Shot in the Dark Die… even the somewhat unwieldy name. The way the die works is that each player gets one, and when a contestant feels to be in serious danger, they can forfeit their vote, play the die and then reach into a bag for a 1-in-6 shot at safety at that Tribal Council. Is giving more people more immunity at Tribal Council something we want? Perhaps not, but what I like about the Shot in the Dark Die is that unlike all the idols and advantages, this opportunity is evenly distributed among all the players. Someone doesn't get to stay in the game simply because they sat down in front of the right napkin at a reward feast or stumbled across an idol while washing out their shoes. Everyone has it and everyone knows anyone else can use it at any time. Fair. Square.

And not only is it an equal-opportunity lifesaver, but the use-it-or-save-it dilemma also creates drama and tension leading into Tribal Council for those folks who know they are in danger. Sara wondered out loud if she should use her shot, and judging by the chaos at the Tribal, it's amazing nobody did. My only concern about the Shot in the Dark Die is that we end up at a final six where the five who don't have immunity all use their shot. That would certainly be less than ideal, but I still think the twist is an intriguing one, and I'm excited to see how it plays out moving forward.

Probst said we would meet the contestants in a new way this season, and he wasn't kidding. And if I have any qualms about any of the new elements of the show, this may actually be it. Look, what I am about to say is going to make me sound like a horrible person, and maybe I am, but there is just something about turning the player introductions into these gauzy human interest stories with the dramatic slow-motion footage and the cheesy piano music where we learn all about the hardships everyone has faced in life before coming out to the island that just strikes me as a little simplistic and reductive. And when you stack so many of them on top of each other, it just becomes an avalanche of schmaltz, and they all kind of blend together into one pseudo-inspiring blob. "Hi, my name is [FILL IN THE BLANK] and my life was really difficult because [FILL IN THE HARDSHIP] and I'm obsessed with Survivor and I'm out here to prove that [FILL IN THE INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE]

Again, I realize I sound horrible saying that, and I do like knowing more about folks' backstories, but I also am pretty sure there is a lot more to these people than just the lowest-hanging emotional fruit that TV shows often go for in these 30-second packages that also drove me insane after sitting through approximately 321 million American Idol and The Voice contestant sob stories over the years. I have no doubt these are well-rounded people with interesting stories beyond just tragedy, so I can't help but wish the producers didn't predictably choose to lean so heavily on that one aspect. But again, I'm probably alone on this one, so I'll just move on before I sound like even more of an uncaring jerkface.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this new element in which rebus puzzles appear on screen for kids to solve at home other than to say that I do like the fact that there is this other element to the season the players are completely unaware of, and that yes, I did pause my TV screen to solve it, making me feel vaguely like Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer when he joined a karate dojo alongside a bunch of kids. Hopefully I won't also get beaten up in an alley by a group of pint-size Cobra Kai wannabes as a result.

Ladies and gentlemen, a moment of silence, if you will, as we pay respects to our own Fallen Comrade and lay to rest one of the biggest Probstisms in the history of the show. While Survivor 41 may indeed be an entirely new chapter for the series, the book has closed on one of the host's most famous lines. Suffice it to say, no more guys will be coming in.

After Probst asked the contestants at the marooning if he should change the challenge intro line of "Come on in, guys," Evvie responded that she felt "guys" was okay because it was part of the show. Everyone agreed, leading Probst to point to the camera and proclaim the matter decided. Only it wasn't.

Later, at the challenge, Ricard noted that upon further reflection, "I don't agree that we should use the word 'guys,'" and he had a powerful ally on his side — the host himself. "I'm with you," announced Probst. "I want to change it. I'm glad that was the last time I will ever say it." Ah, but what will he now say? I've drawn up a few options for his consideration:

Okay, I'm clearly still in the workshopping stage here for new intro lines. Of course, what really matters is not the line itself, but where Jeff Probst is looking as he says it. Will the new line mean our host can actually stop staring at his shoes as he utters those magical words? The saddest thing about me may be the fact that there is nothing I am more looking forward to in next week's episode than learning that answer.

In any event, what made this three-tribe-obstacle-course-turned-hauling-heavy-objects-turned-puzzle-construction contest unique is that only the team that finished first would win immunity, and when Luvu came back from last place in the physical portion to a relatively comfortable win at the end, it confirmed what we Survivor superfans have always known. Say it with me for the millionth time: IT'S. ALL. ABOUT. THE. PUZZLE.

Abraham learned this the hard way when he was way too vocal about getting rid of Tiffany, and it came back to bite him as he was unanimously voted out at the first Tribal. Too bad, as I think Abraham — outside of subscribing to a clearly outdated concept of tribe strength — is probably an okay guy. He didn't seem bitter in the least or hung up about being the first boot of the season, telling the folks who just slit his proverbial throat to "enjoy the ride" and then using his final words to call the tribe a great group of people.

Of course, the real fireworks were at the second Ua Tribal Council. I'll spare you the diatribe on how producers need to rein in "live Tribals" and go back to the days when the players had to be smart and savvy enough to communicate in other ways with a look, a nod, or, if you are Boston Rob, a predetermined signal of putting your hand on the shoulder of the person you want voted out. To me, that's a lot more interesting and makes the vote more mysterious for the actual players than Whisperthon 2021.

But alas, the genie (and when I say "genie" I am clearly talking about Kazaam) can't be put back in the bottle, it seems. The Ua Tribal followed a truly bizarre scene back at camp where Brad was asked by Ricard whom he wanted to vote out of the tribe, and he answered with the names of Sara or Shantel. Only problem is, standing right next to him were… Sara and Shantel! Let me make sure I am absolutely 100 percent crystal clear on this. I don't mean Sara and Shantel snuck up behind him. I don't mean he was unaware they were in his vicinity. I mean he said their names with complete and full knowledge that they were standing right next to him. WHO DOES THAT?! I don't know how they do things out on the ranch, but that's not how we do things on Survivor, my friend.

I kind of expected Brad to get voted out for that little slice of cluelessness alone, and it appears in the end it came down to him or Sara. And if the edit is to believed, with JD telling Shan that he was happy to do Brad or Sara and that she could pick which one to go, then it appears Shan indeed gave the old heave-ho to Sara, no doubt while humming her evil Mafia pastor soundtrack. Sara looked absolutely crestfallen as the votes were being read, but look on the bright side, Sara: At least you weren't the first person voted out!

Longtime readers know that my episode 1 recap is where I always lock in my prediction for who will win the game. Sometimes an immediate pick just leaps off the screen. This is not one of those times. Since we got a pretty even edit across the board, and because we were not privy to any immediate strategic mastery, the pick this season will involve a bit of guesswork, but my gut does tell me one thing: We will FINALLY have another female Survivor winner.

Now, I predicted the exact same thing last season with Danni Boatwright, and you see where that got me. Instead, we had our sixth male winner in a row (a very deserving Tony Vlachos) and the 12th male in the past 15 seasons. I dove into some of the theories as to why this keeps happening before the Winners at War season, and Elaine Stott also added another great point into the mix in her Quarantine Questionnaire. But I feel it: This time will be different. So who am I picking? There's a really big part of me that wants to go with the Mafia pastor, but I hesitate just a smidge due to what may have been a bit of indecision on Shan's part at that first Tribal Council. So I'm going to go ahead and lock in Evvie, mostly due to the fact that she seems super likable, studies human behavior, and at least appeared to help flip the script on Abraham at Yase's first Tribal Council.

So Evvie it is. And I guess (4000 words later) that almost does it for my first Survivor recap in 16 months. How do we feel so far about Survivor 41? (I mean, besides generally ecstatic that the show is back.) Pretty good, I think! There's no Edge of Extinction, so that's a massive mark in the plus column. The cast is a nice reflection of our society, with a diversity of not just races but ages — including five contestants 46 years old and up. The show is trying new things in the way they present and produce, and even if you are not a fan of all of them, you have to respect the effort to continue to evolve and try new things. Because you know what? If they don't work, you just go back to the way you did it before. Or some other way. No big deal.

But I'll tell you what is a big deal. We have Jeff Probst giving his take on all our burning questions from the two-hour premiere. There's some great stuff in there in terms of why the show made the changes they did. I heartily encourage you to check it out.

I'll also have exit interviews with both Abraham and Sara up soon on EW.com, so keep an eye out for them. Oh, and as mentioned at the top of this recap, I also went back and watched a bunch of old seasons and updated my Survivor season rankings, so check those out to see which seasons rose and fell. And if this way-too-long recap of a reality television episode has not scared you off forever, I welcome you to return next week for — and God, this feels good to say — another scoop of the crispy!

Jeff Probst answers 'Survivor 41' season premiere burning questions

KIRO Seattle 22 September, 2021 - 09:00pm

There were also several new twists put into play, including a version of the prisoner's dilemma in which a player from each of the three tribes had to decide whether to risk or protect their vote — the catch being that if they all chose to risk it in the hopes of getting an extra vote at a later Tribal Council, then all three would lose a vote. There was also a huge new element added to the show in the form of the Shot in the Dark Die, in which a contestant (at only one Tribal Council over the course of the season) could sacrifice their vote to reach into a bag and have a one-in-six chance at getting safety at the Tribal.

We risked our own vote to connect with host Jeff Probst over all the big changes that went down in the premiere and are happy to report we were rewarded for our boldness with some in-depth answers. (Also make sure to check out our season premiere recap.)

JEFF PROBST: Ah, yes. I can take myself back to that "day one" moment right now. I can still vividly connect to the excitement I felt as the players started boarding the barge to begin Survivor 41. It was so good to be back that I was giddy with joy. It may sound corny, but it's the truth.

To give some context, Survivor 41 is the start of my third decade, and I cannot recall a time when I have felt this level of excitement to launch a new season. Here's why: The year away really reminded me how much I love everything about Survivor. I love the casting process and the game design. I love shooting the show with our crew. I love interacting with the players as they take on this giant adventure. I love the editing process and then ultimately delivering the show to the fans to see their reaction.

I could also feel the same energy from our crew. Everywhere I looked, I saw smiles of gratitude and appreciation. We were all so happy to be back together. And then there were the players, many of whom had been scheduled to play over a year ago and then were told we couldn't shoot. They were so pumped to get started that they were nearly levitating.

It's obviously been a very difficult 18 months for everyone in the world, so to be standing together on a giant barge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, knowing we had all been tested and quarantined and thus were safe to play Survivor, was a truly electric moment.

The single biggest benefit of the quarantine period was that it gave us time to truly step back and look at the show without the pressure of a ticking clock. And one of the ideas that kept popping up was, how do we bring the audience inside the game even more? To be clear, this will not result in any major shift in how we tell our stories; we're just looking for a few Easter egg moments.

So we just started a list of all the things we thought would be fun for a fan to see. One of the things that made the list was to occasionally show a few shots of our crew to remind the audience of how many people it takes to make this show. And we also decided that from time to time we would make the audience aware of something that is going to happen in the game before the players learn of it, so they can play along or second-guess. We did that in the premiere with the Beware Advantage.

The long-term plan is to bring the fans inside the game a bit more each season, but the key is to do it very judiciously. So it will only be occasionally in Survivor 41, then a bit in Survivor 42. And like everything else we do, this too is an experiment. If it works and people like it, we'll keep on with it, and if it doesn't, we'll lose it.

And if you've watched the premiere, hopefully you saw that we're also doing something called Game Within the Game. GWG is an interactive Survivor training academy designed specifically for young, future Survivor players who dream of being on the island one day. We love how many kids watch Survivor, and we hope this is a fun way for them to start practicing!

 I always like to think you are talking to me through the screen, Jeff. But this time, you were actually talking to me through the screen! Where did this decision to directly address viewers come from, and is it something we're going to continue to see throughout the season?

Another nutty, risky experiment, for sure! But I remember exactly where I was standing when this idea birthed itself. I was in my garage, writing ideas on a whiteboard. I was talking on the phone with [executive producer] Matt Van Wagenen and we were riffing on ideas. This is a really fun process because the stakes are so low, you can consider any idea. I said, "What if the first thing we see in Survivor 41 is me walking through the jungle talking directly to the fans as I tell them how much I've missed them?"

Clearly an absurd way to start an adventure show. But Matt's response was instant. "Why not?! It sounds fun! In fact, where else can you talk to the audience?!" It's really inspiring to brainstorm with Matt because he is always open to an idea and then always has another layer to add to it. You keep bouncing back and forth, and the idea starts to take shape. So from that point forward we looked for opportunities to talk directly to the audience. We came up with a long list, and then we scaled it back to just a few times during the season. We love the idea, but we want it to grow organically from season to season. And we'll gauge our fans' reaction and adjust accordingly.

It starts with our overall theme for Survivor 41, which is "dangerous fun." When you combine dangerous fun with a dilemma that forces a player to make a risk-vs.-reward decision, then you have a great Survivor game element.

I'd had an idea in my notes for a few years about a bag that just sits at Tribal, and any time before the vote a player could reach in the bag and hope for an advantage that would immediately shift the game. The general intention was to create more uncertainty at Tribal Council by adding the threat that a seemingly perfect plan could fall apart if someone decides to reach into the bag.

This was one of the first ideas to get added into the game design. Then it just became a matter of formalizing how it plays. The way it plays now is the bag sits in the voting confessional, so your decision is private. Nobody else knows what you're doing. That's the dangerous fun element. Then, if you decide to reach into the bag and grab a scroll, you must sacrifice your vote. So you can't vote at that Tribal Council. But nobody else will know until the votes are read. That's the risk-vs.-reward dilemma.

And what makes the Shot in the Dark a great game element is that it does not require anyone to ever play it in order for it to have impact. The mere threat that someone might reach into the bag is what creates the uncertainty.

For now we are heading in a direction that does not include Fire Tokens. But what's great about our new approach is that anything is possible. Literally anything. Players will never be able to predict what might happen vs. what is happening, what's real vs. what's isn't, what is permanent vs. what could be temporary. It's the same exact game, but totally different.

Just to clarify for any game purists, we did alter the traditional prisoner's dilemma structure, and that is why it works in our show. Television producers have tried to make game shows based on the prisoner's dilemma for years, but the concept is inherently complicated. When we figured out how to simplify it, that is when it came to life.

From a strategy standpoint, my personal default is to take the risk. Always risk. You are trying to move your game forward, which is different from trying to ensure you don't go backwards. One is offense, the other is defense. So the only decision I would make would be to assess if there was any known information or weird gut feeling that would make me reconsider my default of risk. If not, then I risk. I have never believed you can play a zero-sum game from a place of fear. But hey, I've never played a single day of Survivor, so my opinion is not worth much. Plus, there is no playbook for Survivor. All types of players have won employing a variety of strategies. You have to go with what works for you.

So glad you asked. Yes, I will continue to look at my feet. And I guess I'll finally share the reason I do it. Wow, I didn't expect to be this open. I'm a bit emotional, as this is pretty revealing, but here goes. That brief moment when I look down at my feet is when all the magic happens, for that is the moment I connect with my powerful alter ego and guide, known only as "Survivor Guy."

Survivor Guy first came to me years ago, while we were in the Marquesas Islands filming the fourth season of the show. I was sitting alone on an island enduring a tremendous rainstorm. This was something I did on a regular basis, as I've always been a method host and wanted to be able to relate to what the players were feeling. I remember seeing a rat scurry past and then, seemingly out of nowhere, Survivor Guy appeared right in front of me.

Weirdly, he looked a lot like me, only significantly cooler. He wore animal skins, had much longer hair, a lot of odd tattoos and a feather necklace. I'll never forget his first words to me: "Jeff, I am Survivor Guy… I am your alter ego, and if you embrace what I have to offer I can make your life on Survivor better than ever."

We sat for the next six hours as he regaled me with tales from his life of jungle living. I'll be honest, I don't remember a lot of it because I was pretty damn cold. But it was clear he was very earnest, even though his stories seemed completely implausible.

Then as the sun began to rise, he said, "I must go. I'm needed somewhere else." He started to walk away, then began a slow run, and finally leaped up as though he were going to fly away, kinda like a bird. But instead he only got about six inches of air, stumbled a bit, and then kept walking, finally disappearing into the jungle. To this day, Survivor Guy remains my Survivor spirit animal.

Survivor Guy guides me. Survivor Guy informs me. Survivor Guy literally gives me the questions at Tribal Council. Survivor Guy also comes up with those incredibly memorable lines, like "Got nothin' for you" or "Worth playing for?" He even gave me a couple of new quips for this season, including "Sorry for you." I'm still working on the delivery, but I'm confident it's a keeper.

To this day, I don't know where he comes from or where he actually lives, but I'll tell you this… he's my superhero. I'd be lost without Survivor Guy.

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