Probst: newbies for Survivor 29 and 30

Survivor 29th season, which will be filmed in Nicaragua early this summer and broadcast next fall, is another blood versus water season, but with all-new players, and season 30 will also include all-new players, according to host, executive producer, and showrunner Jeff Probst.

In an interview with HitFix’s Dan Fienberg, Probst was asked about Survivor Cagayan‘s all-newbie cast, and said, in part,

“So we were hesitant but we were optimistic and now we’re gearing up for two new seasons with all new people back to back.”

That’s such a definitive statement–“gearing up” means that something is about to happen, i.e. the filming of two new seasons–that it almost doesn’t matter that Probst back-peddled a little when asked specifically about season 30 having returning players:

“Don’t know about that but just in terms of our confidence with bringing back former players versus new players [...] It doesn’t mean we won’t do it. [...] I feel like there’s this ability to talk to an audience and get feedback from them. And it doesn’t mean they dictate the show but it does seem like a really valuable tool. And they’d been asking for new players and they’ve given us the confidence to try it and it’s spawned some new ideas about what we can do with the show that can satisfy everybody.”

Having all new cast members for Survivor‘s 30th season contradicts what I previously reported, which was that season 30 would have returnees, who were themselves referring to the season as “legends.” To be more specific, what I reported was that people being cast for season 29 were told by casting, within the last month, that season 30 was going to be returnees. I’ve since confirmed that with at least two others with knowledge of the casting process.

There are multiple possibilities here, including 1) casting is lying to prospective cast members for some reason, 2) returnees are being considered and are being atypically quiet, perhaps because they’ve been told to be so, or 3) the plan was to have returnees and then the casting for new players was strong enough to ditch the returnees in favor of two more casts of all-new players.

Based on Probst’s answer, the latter seems the most likely. That aligns well with what reliable Survivor Sucks spoiler Redmond noted last week:

“Heroes vs Villains 2 was definitely on the cards at one point as far as I heard. I mentioned this a while back. Production/Casting had a potential list of returnees drawn up, but other than general feelers, I don’t think any serious interviews took place. Abi-Maria was on that list though, along with Malcolm, Ciera, and Alicia Rosa. I’m still waiting to hear back from other sources. But as of now, I’m still sticking with newbies.”

Redmond’s theory matches pretty closely to what Probst said in his Reddit AMA this week. After dismissing casting and twist reports as “rumor” (which is what people tend to call reports they want to dismiss for some reason, such as this one), he said he did not agree that season 30 had to be a major season, and said that “I’m loving having new players,” though he mentions several people as those who “could be asked back.”

What is really interesting is how quickly plans seem to have shifted from bringing back people, possibly for another Heroes vs. Villains season, to casting all-new players–never mind how rapidly Probst has gone from returnees “as often as possible” to “I’m loving having new players.”

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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.