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CBS changes Survivor Second Chance vote rules so fans choose

CBS removed seven words from the Survivor Second Chance voting rules, which now say that viewers’ votes alone will determine the entire cast. This is a positive change that makes the rules consistent with statements Jeff Probst made, though the change itself may fuel conspiracy theories.

Previously, Rule #3 said:

A combination of votes from CBS and the public will decide who from amongst the nominees presented will become the Fall 2015 Survivor cast.

It now says:

The public will decide who from amongst the nominees presented will become the Fall 2015 Survivor cast.

That removes CBS and production from the final equation.

So, let’s talk about this. First, allowing producers to have some role in the cast selection process was not that surprising. Casting is an art, and the mix of cast members for a season isn’t something that’s just decided upon randomly: it’s given a lot of careful consideration. I previously wrote for HitFix about why giving fans all the power was potentially dangerous.

But not specifying how that would work made it seem like CBS could have just ignored the vote and chosen the cast they wanted. It might have made sense to say that half the cast would be the ones who received the most votes, and the other half would be chosen by producers. (I like this idea, having a tribe of fan picks versus a tribe of producer picks.)

The system in place is already pretty good at limiting the possibility that fan selection could go very wrong. For one, there are just 32 people in the pool for a cast that will apparently be 20 players. That means just 12 of the pre-selected producer choices will not make the cast.

In addition, to vote, one must vote for 20 people, 10 men and 10 women. That checks against recency bias (although the pool is very, very heavy on people from recent seasons, including five from Survivor Worlds Apart) and forces people to select a range of contestants. You can’t just vote for Shirin, for example. That actually makes voting more like choosing which 12 people you don’t want.

Oh, Jeff Probst

In his Q&A with EW’s Dalton Ross published Wednesday night, Probst said something that contradicted the original version of the rules: that producers would “let [fans] choose. The power we had was putting the list together.” He added, “It’s your call.” The rule change obviously makes that true, though it’s interesting that this launched with such a contradiction.

Probst says he is okay with whatever combination people choose: “if they choose everybody from the last five seasons, let’s go. I’m good with that. We have great people.”

Jefff also addresses what immediately became a controversy: the inclusion of Mike and Carolyn, both of whom are still in Survivor Worlds Apart. Because all the other possibilities are non-winners, that would appear to be a spoiler. But it would also appear to be a giant red herring that production has dropped to create some chatter. He basically admits that: “we found a way to add a little twist, a little layer of mystery, into the Second Chance voting. … either Mike and Carolyn both lost, or one of them could be, ultimately, ineligible.” Clever.

Also in the Q&A, Jeff says very Probstian things, like that the idea for this season came about because “we knew we had a group of really good players who didn’t last in the game long enough to warrant being put on an all-star type of season.” He says later “the whole premise was based on picking people that we think either played a great game and it got cut off early, or they barely got started and we think they have a better game. ”

Yes, Kelly Wiglesworth and Stephen Fishbach and Woo Hwang all were out so early in the game.

He says that because they’re filming both seasons earlier this year (though they’ve filmed early like this before, notably when Probst had his talk show), that made it possible because, he says, “We wanted the fans to make the decision, and then we immediately wanted to be able to go shoot the season.” All 32 will be in the audience at the finale, the results will be announced, and then they’ll go immediately to Cambodia to play Survivor.

Finally, Probst addresses something I’ve written about extensively: his tendency to allow decisions to be affected by small numbers of fans. Probst actually addresses the memory challenges and justifies it by saying “Those aren’t do or die decisions,” which is true for that example. But then he also says, “The real truth is that fans are much better at telling you what they don’t want—they’re not always so good at telling you what they do want.”

I sure don’t know what I do want in terms of Probstian comments like this.

Other minor developments in Survivor Second Chance

Campaigning started strong on Wednesday night, both from contestants and fan communities. Someone uploaded all the campaign videos to YouTube to make it easier to watch them in order.

At least one past cast member is now discussing a long-held rumor. Survivor Australia‘s Jeff Varner posted an essay discussing the rumor that, as he writes, “I spoiled All-Stars out of spite and malice. … I’ve heard it for years and never addressed it publicly because it didn’t really happen.” Instead, he says, he guessed Amber would win, and his other behind-the-scenes info that season was on-point because people were sending him accurate information.

I’m sure there will be more drama and intrigue over the next week and a half as they all fight for a chance to return. I haven’t yet voted, and I’m not sure I will, but I’ll discuss who I’d choose in a future story.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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