Survivor Just Permanently Changed The Game Entirely With A Surprisingly Small Fix

jeff probst smiling for survivor 41
(Image credit: CBS press)

In terms of shaking things up for the foreseeable future of the hit series Survivor, Jeff Probst and CBS weren't hesitant to throw an entire kitchen sink's worth of changes at the wall. Already we know that Season 41's main competition will last for 26 days instead of the decades-long tradition of 39 days, and they are supposedly not going back to the longer schedule. Another major change to the game is imminent, too, involving a surprisingly small fix that will become a permanent transition for this season and those to come: using numbers instead of subtitles.

We Survivor fans are famously divided whenever the show tries something new: mysterious islands, hidden powers, voted off returnees... The list goes on and on for how the game has thrown us curveballs. But fans and contestants alike should be able to see how this seemingly tiny title switch could turn Survivor 41 into an entirely new game from those of recent years. Host Jeff Probst revealed to EW:

From a game standpoint, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get away from seasons that were built around a casting theme or a major twist. That led to an easy decision to also do away with titles and just go with numbers for each season.

Survivor made its first big title shifts ten years ago with Heroes vs. Villains, with previous years being distinguished by their central location. That change had its dramatic benefits, as previous contestants had to weather divisions based on everything from race to gender to personality to profession, inevitably until the merge. By permanently removing thematic titles from future seasons, Survivor is all but guaranteeing that the contestants' game strategy should evolve, too.

Though the change to numbered seasons is seemingly minute, it could affect how teams will now be divided in Survivor 41 and beyond. Perhaps it will go back to the original days of randomized divisions, with the shortened timeframe pushing contestants to make connections quickly without the cushion of a unifying characteristic amongst their group. Potentially, the change could also indicate that Survivor might do away with team divisions altogether and have more of a completely individual-focused game from the jump. Trying to readjust to completely new tactics in just 26 days sounds like Survivor chaos, and I am here for it. Jeff Probst warns, though, that we should still expect the unexpected this season:

This doesn't mean we won't have big, fun new twists in the future, it just means we won't define the entire season around it.

So even if contestants do start to figure out ways to strategize without overarching themes guiding them, Jeff Probst and Survivor's producers are now once again able to introduce any kind of twist they want without anyone seeing it coming.

Another important shift is happening for Survivor 41 as well. Along with alum Mike White’s idea to ditch fire tokens taking affect, CBS is upholding its pledge from last year for its shows to include more diversity in future seasons. As we can see over on Survivor’s sister show Big Brother, the change has already had a monumental effect on how players decided to navigate the game, though it led to some reverse racism criticisms from a smaller subset of viewers. We'll have to wait and see how things play out in that respect on Survivor 41.

As Jeff Probst has been saying, it's definitely a new era of Survivor on the horizon. Fans have already been waiting over a year for a new season, so we likely won't be too picky about whatever we can get – maybe. Survivor 41 premieres September 22 on CBS at 8 p.m. EST.

Lauren Vanderveen
Movies and TV News Writer

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.