Jeff Probst on Russell vs. Rob: “I’m good with it, because I love those guys”

Survivor Nicaragua debuts tonight, moving to Wednesday nights for the first time since its first season more than 10 years ago. While it stays at the same time, 8 p.m. ET, it’s a big risk, since the show has consistently won its timeslot on Thursday nights for years. The new season does have a famous contestant and a new game element, but will that draw viewers like all-stars did last spring?

Speaking of all-stars, this is our first Russell Hantz-free season in a year, and the last Russell Hantz-free season until next fall. And if there’s any lingering doubt that season 22, Russell versus Rob Mariano, is happening right now (True Dork Times’ calendar for season 22 shows that production ends in about 10 days), just look to Jeff Probst’s latest interview.

Our Emmy-winning host has previously expressed enthusiasm for that season, and he reiterated that during an interview with HitFix conducted post-season 21 and before season 22. First, Probst said that this season is “not All-Stars and Russell’s not on it and I think we’re going to do OK. … I really think that ‘Survivor’ will be fine without those guys [Coach and Russell] and without an All-Star and we’ll figure out something fun to do soon enough.”

Thankfully, HitFix’s Daniel Fienberg actually asked Probst questions and followed up repeatedly until Probst addressed the rumors. Interestingly, Probst first answers a question with a question–classic deflection, which I know from watching Lie to Me. “Are we doing All-Stars in 22?” Probst says, and then when asked specifically about online reports, Probst says, “Really?”

Then Fienberg asks him flat-out about Russell versus Rob, and Probst gives up, saying, “Oh, I love that twist. I’m all for that. But I said that at the live show. … I’m not saying anything about 22. At all. One way or the other. I am saying that if we ever do Rob vs. Russell, I’m good with it, because I love those guys. And the think I like best is that in that set-up, Rob is a hero. That is fantastic.”

HitFix Interview: Jeff Probst talks ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ [HitFix]

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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.