23 years and 45 seasons deep, some might wonder how CBS reality titan Survivor has managed to keep its torch aflame as long as it has. But for host and executive producer Jeff Probst, it’s quite simple.
Amplified during the “new era” of the show, which kicked off in 2021 with the long-running franchise’s 41st installment, Survivor is an evolving game. One that, like life itself, is bound to develop and change with time. This evolution is evident in the new era, which has become known for its high level of risk-taking and uncertainty. Now, twists and turns are thrown at players more than ever before.
For better or worse, the current iteration of the series keeps viewers and players on their toes, having each party wonder how the game they think they know will turn on its head next. But hey, who doesn’t love a little change now and then? Being five seasons in, fans can expect the kind of ideas spawned from the new era to be expanded upon even further, according to Probst, who says the now-established format will allow for “even more fun with how we create that uncertainty.”
With the premiere of Survivor 45 just days away, Jeff took some time to chat with Pop Crave about the upcoming season, which he says is packed with game play that is “full-tilt boogie from the opening marooning” and an unexpected moment that no one will see coming in the first episode.
The new era players, to me, feel as cutthroat and ready to win the million as ever. How would you say the cast of Survivor 45 lives up to that statement?
I agree with your assessment, and I would add to it that this new era of Survivor requires a player to be good at so many other things as well. You have to be an excellent detective. You must be able to quickly bond with many different types of people. Your emotional intelligence has to be very honed. You must possess an amazing amount of physical stamina and emotional fortitude. And maybe most importantly, you have to be confident enough to take massive risks, knowing that every time you make a move, you are putting your shot at the million dollars on the line. That’s what it takes to be a truly great Survivor player.
You and the casting team have done a phenomenal job at assembling a group of players that mesh together so well each season. How does the cast of Survivor 45 stand out from the rest?
Well, first off, thank you for that compliment. All credit goes to Jesse Tannenbaum (head of casting) and our amazing team of casting producers. This group of players stand out in a few ways: there is a really addictive sense of playfulness among all the players, even when it’s in pursuit of a vicious blindside! It’s clear they really love playing Survivor. Alongside that playfulness is an intense and relentless approach to strategy. The game play in Survivor 45 is full-tilt boogie from the opening marooning. You’ll see it and feel it. There isn’t a single moment where players aren’t assessing their position in the game and considering every available option, regardless of the risk. It’s a packed season that continues to ramp up each week.
Survivor 45 will feature 90-minute episodes all season long. What kind of footage can fans expect to see with the additional airtime?
Having 90 minutes gave us the freedom to have more fun with things like hidden immunity idols. This season, the skills required to acquire an idol are next-level. The clues are more complicated, and the idols are more dangerous to retrieve. But because we have 90 minutes, we have time to show it all. It’s really fun watching players try to manage it all without getting caught. I think fans will dig it. We’re also very excited that, starting with episode two, we are bringing back our Main Title! And each week, the Main Title will have an Easter egg for the Superfan. A little clue to the episode! Plus, 90 minutes give us more time to spend with the players, more time for camp life, and more time for tribal! We feel very confident that fans are going to love 90-minute episodes!
As the new era of Survivor enters its fifth season, how have you navigated making sure that each season improves upon the last in terms of reintroducing certain twists and game mechanics?
It’s a great question. It’s something we spend a lot of time evaluating as we lay out the game design for each season. We don’t look at it from the standpoint of improving as much as we do evolving. We always have one overriding goal, and that is to create uncertainty at every stage of the game. How we achieve that uncertainty is the fun part of the game design. It’s that uncertainty that forces the players to adapt. A great player can adapt quickly. A lesser player needs more time, and often that gap in time is where their game is lost. Now that we are firmly established in the new era, we will start to have even more fun with how we create that uncertainty.
The new era of the game has produced some of the most fascinating winners in recent memory, many of whom are huge personalities, such as Maryanne and Yam Yam. Why do you think players like them have especially thrived in this format?
No one has asked me that question, but it’s a really interesting idea to consider. Okay, here’s my initial reaction. The skills required to win Survivor have certainly evolved over the years, but fundamentally, they haven’t changed. So if you go with that logic, then the players who are thriving in the new era are doing so for the same reason all great players thrive on Survivor. But what is different are the types of people we’re putting on the show. We are so much more diverse in every way—ethnicity, age, sexuality, upbringing, point of view, life experiences, and lots of big, fun personalities. But the common trait that matters isn’t their big personality; it’s their amazing social skills, their ability to read a situation, their detective skills, and their ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Maryanne and Yam Yam are Hall of Fame good. And if we dig deeper, I bet we would also find some correlation to the obstacles they have encountered in their life and how they conquered them. That’s my armchair assessment!
Survivor returns this Wednesday with a 90-minute season premiere. What can fans look forward to from the episode and the season at large?
The players come out swinging. Out of the gate. This is going to be a take-no-prisoners kind of season. Fans will also be reminded how demanding this game is on all levels. And something none of us could have predicted happens in episode one!
Watch the first three minutes of the Survivor 45 premiere below.
Survivor returns with 90-minute episodes all season long, starting Wednesday, September 27 on CBS and Paramount+.