Redemption Island dropped, replaced by mysterious arena-based thing

Survivor is dropping the not-universally-loved Redemption Island for Survivor San Juan Del Sur, a change made at such a late hour that the contestants who are playing the game think it’s in play even though it’s not.

Jeff Probst told EW’s SiriusXM show definitively: “We’re not doing Redemption Island. When you’re out, you’re out. It’s over.” Producers had planned to use Redemption Island, telling those going through casting that it was in play, and Probst publicly confirmed its return at the time of the finale. Thus, those playing now think they’ll have a chance to save their loved ones and/or keep themselves in the game by winning duels.

As a result of the last-minute change, Probst said that when he talked about Redemption Island recently, he was being both “completely honest in the moment and misleading to the players, who I know listened.” Here’s his full explanation for why they decided to dump Redemption Island:

“We all started looking at it, and it started feeling like–I don’t know. I don’t know if Redemption Island is the right thing. And it would be the safe thing to do, because we knew it worked. I got the cards out and started looking at all the players in my living room and just started imagining: What else could you do with people who love each other that would really make it difficult? And we came up with an idea, and everybody puts their two cents in, and we formed a new idea.

Instead of Redemption Island, we decided: We have this arena being built.
What if instead of that, we use it for something else, something that will make Blood vs. Water a little more interesting. A little more bloody.”

So what is that twist? He wouldn’t say. A few guesses:

  • To dramatically reveal who was voted out, the tribe with immunity is the only tribe to go visit the arena, and they’ll see the booted contestant wearing a black hood, tied to a post.
  • The arena will be turned into a faux graveyard and those who are kicked out will be buried alive–though with a supply of rice, water, and air–for the duration of the game, so their loved ones will hear them kicking and screaming, giving them added motivation and giving the show dramatic footage.
  • Jeff Probst will give the evicted player a chance to earn some kind of reward for their loved one’s tribe by arm wrestling him or facing off against the Dream Team in a game of Schmergen Brawl.

Seriously, whatever it is will most likely involve duel-style challenges, since those had been planned and prepared, and even built. Because the inclusion of Redemption Island meant a lack of reward challenges, I’d expect the arena-based twist to involve challenges for some kind of reward, but it’ll be interesting to see how they integrate the blood/water/pairs part.

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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.