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Survivor 41 will be ‘a brand new game.’ What does that mean?

Survivor host and showrunner Jeff Probst has again teased Survivor 41’s big twist, and it’s so big it doesn’t even qualify as a twist: He said, when the new season premieres, we should expect “a brand-new game” that is like starting over again at season one.

This is simultaneously terrifying and exciting. I am not sure whether to panic or get out the popcorn. Maybe both!

In the past, I have absolutely panicked over some of Jeff Probst’s pre-season pronouncements. I love this game and show so much that any hint that it’s being changed stirs up some anxiety.

Before Survivor: David vs. Goliath, for example, he said this nonsense, and I freaked out. But despite that and that season’s dumb theme, it ended up as an exceptional season that, for me, was better than any that have aired since.

Of course, since then, the show has piled on twists, advantages, and new game elements that chip away at Survivor’s core, even introducing an element, Edge of Extinction, that allowed a player who only played the game for 13 days to win $1 million.

Also, Jeff Probst’s hyper often doesn’t match the season or what viewers experience. He was, for example, super-excited about Edge of Extinction, the season and the game element. (He finally relented last year.)

I’m super excited to have Survivor back, and curious how 26 days of game play instead of 39 affect the game— though for us, it’ll probably play out over the same number of episodes.

What are Survivor 41’s changes?

Survivor 41

In May, Jeff Probst teased that Survivor 41 “is a brand-new game: fast-paced, super-dangerous, very difficult to win, and absolutely entertaining to watch.”

Yesterday, he said something similar, and while he didn’t give more detail, he expanded on the idea of how much the game has changed. In an Instagram video, Jeff Probst said this:

Survivor was tough for the players. Because think about it: We had an entire year when we weren’t shooting, so we all we had was time to think—and that’s a dangerous thing. And it led to us creating a new game that is much more dangerous.

You could refer to it as Survivor 2.0, you could call it “dawn of a new era,” which it is. You could refer to Survivor 41 by saying drop the four, keep the one, because this is a brand-new game. All of these are true.

But here’s the best way to think of this new version of Survivor. Survivor 41 is like the monster in a horror movie, and if you’re a player, it’s coming for you. So either you devour the monster or the monster will devour you.

Let’s break that down. First, being “tough for the players” and “much more dangerous” mean? Inside Survivor has reported that challenges will be “far more demanding and brutal than ever before,” and considering that people have nearly died during challenges, that’s saying something.

Also, “everything comes at a price” now, and the show is cutting back luxuries for the players:

  • The tribes won’t get rice at the start of the game
  • The only way they get flint to start fires is to win a challenge
  • Losing a challenge means losing flint
  • There will not be elaborate rewards like big feasts

That last one feels like a non-issue to me, because the show has already abandoned big rewards. I’m not even talking about the car reward. Even simple food rewards have become a joke, like this disgusting pile of soggy pizza that was actually a reward during Edge of Extinction:

Survivor Edge of Extinction pizza reward, episode 10
A “reward” from Survivor Edge of Extinction. (Image from Survivor via CBS)

The others seem like they’ll bring the survival element back into the game more, and since there’s not as much endurance involved this season—since it’s 13 days shorter than past seasons—I like that.

The part that makes me panic is Probst saying the production team had “time to think” and created a game that is “coming for you,” using the metaphor that “you devour the monster or the monster will devour you.”

A personified game sounds to me like the producers coming for the players, and that’s the part that scares me: I want the production to back off, and let the players play the original game of Survivor, not navigate an metaphoric mine field of twists and advantages that are showered upon them.

Perhaps Survivor 2.0 will be more like those early seasons. There’s obviously a lot that we don’t yet know, and more details will come out, officially and unofficially, over the next few months.

As Survivor: David vs. Goliath proved to me, we’ll really just have to wait to see the actual show to see what this means.

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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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