In an interview, Jeff Probst says that Survivor Fiji, like the season that came before it, is “one of the five best seasons we’ve ever done.” (This story included minor revelations about the first episode and game, although nothing about the outcome or results, and some of it has already been revealed in previews.)
First, Probst reveals to ASAP’s The Slug that there are 19 cast members only “because we had somebody quit the night before, which has never happened before, so that threw us for a bit of a loop because we didn’t anticipate an odd number.”
That woman quit because, Probst says, “she just got overwhelmed and started panicking. We told her about how the show works and how you’ll be a little isolated. It was just too much for her. Our psychologist talked to her. Our medical doctor talked to her. We went out and talked to her. There was just no way you could try to encourage her to stay on the show. She was not comfortable — not even close to comfortable. And the game hadn’t started. So we said, ‘All right. You’re out.'”
Jeff also says that producers hadn’t anticipated that, as they “only bring an alternate if we’re worried about somebody. We weren’t worried about anybody. We thought we had a solid group of people.” Thus, they were forced to start with 19. Initially, the plan was “to have two tribes of 10. We won’t be able to do that now. So we came up with an alternate idea of what to do,” he says.
As to what makes this season different from the others, Probst says, “[t]he overall theme is letting them make almost every decision in terms of how this game will play out in the initial setup. That was the big idea.” That included letting them “build the most elaborate shelter ‘Survivor’ has ever seen,” for which the cast was provided “blue prints, a building plan, a map to find lumber and tools, … a kitchen area and a couch,” he says. They also had to divide themselves into two tribes.
Finally, Jeff said that there’s a change with the hidden immunity idol. For starters, there are two of them, and contestants “must play the Idol after the votes have been cast but before I read them. … That made a dramatic difference. The Idols get played. Nobody is sitting on their Idol until the end and taking it home as a souvenir.”