Immunity idol clue revealed; Probst gives behind-the-scenes details about Medallion

Though the cast of zany characters overshadowed Survivor Nicaragua‘s debut for me somewhat, it is good to have a quality competition series back on the air. Just the little details are impressive, like the incredible set design for Tribal Council, from its impressively lit tree to the cemetery. More significantly, two major changes to the show that were introduced and came off quite well.

First, CBS has published a version of the first immunity idol clue that two members of the younger tribe found at their watering hole and were clueless about. It is challenging, and there’s no indication if that clue just leads to another challenging clue, which I kind of hope it does, thus fulfilling the promise that idols would be harder to find this season.

Second, the Medallion of Power, which has already grown on me in theory despite its ridiculous name, already contributed to minor drama on Monday, particularly the decisions about whether to keep it and whether to play it. And Jeff Probst has given some behind-the-scenes details about the Medallion and its potential impact on the first challenge. That’s in his first Entertainment Weekly column of the season, which actually offers some real insight, which Probst even marks with the word “insight.” Heh.

First, he points out that during the immunity challenge “the Survivors did something that we didn’t count on. We expected the gutters to go from left to right, back and forth, because that is how the challenge was built to play. Instead, they simply formed one long gutter system, and it worked much better than what we had planned. As a result the challenge went much faster and because of that it reduced the amount of an ‘advantage’ they would have had.”

As to the opening quasi-challenge, Probst writes that producers knew that cast members would look for cameras to figure out where the Medallion might be hidden, so they used decoys. Probst writes, “we set up fake camera jibs, and brought in extra operators and put them on scaffolding and stationed them in various spots so that even the savvy player would not be able to figure out where the Medallion was hidden simply by studying the camera positions. It worked.”

This is why Survivor is Survivor. They learn from experience and actually spend time and resources to practice and think through various possibilities. And although they sometimes have terrible ideas, the production team is usually successful in offering truly awesome, high-quality reality TV.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.