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Jeff Probst Explains Why Survivor 41 Didn't Go Full 'Old School'

survivor 41

survivor 41

(Image credit: CBS)

Season 41 of Survivor is off and running, and the show has a bunch of new tricks of his sleeve. A few of those tricks, including the newly instated 26-day game and Jeff Probst breaking the fourth wall, will apparently even continue into Season 42. But the one thing many fans and alums wanted to see happen in Survivor 41 didn't come to fruition: an “old school,” bare bones, no frills game. Probst recently explained why he and his team opted out of reverting back to the supposed good old days of Richard Hatch and Australia.

As fans know, “old school” Survivor refers to the Survivor of the early 2000s, during which there were no advantages or twists or high levels of social strategy going on. The series simply included a group of strangers literally vibing out and surviving in the wilderness. With the lengthy hiatus, the show had the opportunity to reimagine the old school way again in the new 41 era. In Jeff Probst's view, though, it just wouldn't make sense. He told TV Line:

One of the most common pitches I hear from fans is that we should do a season where there are no advantages, no twists and maybe even no idols. ‘Let’s go old school, Probst!’ I completely understand the big-picture appeal of ‘going back to the basics’ and on the surface, it does sound fun. But once you actually dive into the impact it would have on storytelling, some cracks begin to emerge. I agree that the early, advantage-free seasons of Survivor were absolutely fascinating, but this is due in large part to the fact that the players were still learning the game. They didn’t fully understand all the existing dynamics of the format.

As someone who was jonesing for some Survivor amidst the hiatus and watched all of the original season, I couldn't agree with Jeff Probst more. Though some of the twists and advantages are kind of tedious in the newer seasons, it doesn't get much more grueling than watching a foregone conclusion play out for weeks, as it did in the earliest incarnation of the game.

Richard Hatch won the first season precisely because he gathered numbers early and simply picked off everyone. If Survivor 41 had brought back this old school way, it would have been extremely unlikely for all the underdogs, misfits, and outcasts (who have made the show so dramatic to watch of late) to forge a path of their own. In other words, great players like Survivor: Cambodia winner Jeremy Collins or Survivor: World’s Apart winner Mike Holloway, or fan-favorites like Rick Devens, wouldn't have had a fighting chance. There's also the fact that the biggest blindsides and blunders in the history of the game would have never happened.

Survivor 41 instead opted for a happy medium between old school and new school. The new contestants weren't given rations of rice upon hitting the beach this go around, and Jeff Probst told TV Line that there will also be fewer reward challenges, as was the case in older seasons. But it was the risky prisoner’s dilemma and the Shot in the Dark twist that heightened the players’ strategy for the premiere episode’s double tribal council night. And that's the way Probst wants it:

With each season, the players have gotten smarter. And as a result, the gameplay has evolved and become much more sophisticated. If we eliminated the ability for a player to shift the game with an advantage or pull off a blindside with an idol, you would be left with a majority of very predictable Tribal Councils. Predictability is death. What we’ve done in Survivor 41 is do a full reset in terms of survival and gameplay by leaning into the best parts of what makes Survivor fun. I think fans are going to enjoy it!

There will supposedly be other twists in store for the rest of Survivor 41. And if the first elimination wasn’t already a clue, it might just be a seriously bumpy ride. Check out the next episode of the new season on CBS on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST.

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Lauren Vanderveen

I am a vegan feminist. I'm fascinated by all things space/stars. I love film history, reality television, and my cat Bubbe.