Award-winning “Survivor” host Jeff Probst consulted an unusual source for inspiration on the 41st season — “White Lotus” creator Mike White (who also happens to be a “Survivor” alum). Read on to find out what major change Probst made to season 41 after talking to White and what four words became key to the strategy moving forward.
Jeff Probst Had Devised a Complicated ‘Capitalist Society’
After coming up with the concept of fire tokens for “Survivor: Winners at War,” Probst said during that season’s run on TV that fire tokens were here to stay, telling “Entertainment Weekly” in April 2020 that fire tokens would be “a foundation” they could build on as they work there way to 50 seasons.
“The thing that keeps us going is when we get a hold of a new idea, like the idea of a Fire Token and then the idea of a currency … it’s a foundation. Maybe we can build on that. Maybe the next 10 seasons can be building on now ‘Survivor’ has a currency. There’s a mayor of ‘Survivor.’ Oh my God, that guy’s a billionaire on ‘Survivor.’ He has so many Fire Tokens. But he has no friends. He can’t buy anything. It’s crazy! He literally has all the money, and nobody will work with him! And then you’re once again in this microcosm of society and you’ve got something. That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” said Probst at the time.
But then the pandemic shut down TV production and they had over a year to work out how they wanted to structure season 41. Probst was still dead-set on the idea of currency… until he called Mike White, the runner-up on “Survivor: David vs. Goliath” and the writer and/or creator behind such projects as “School of Rock,” “Enlightened,” and critically-acclaimed 2021 HBO series “The White Lotus.”
White’s input “changed everything.”
As Probst told “Entertainment Weekly” in a September 2021 interview, “I was in my garage with several whiteboards, working on creative for ‘Survivor 41.’ I called Mike for his insight into a story-related element. He listened politely as I laid out the idea. It was an elaborate and very complicated ‘Survivor’ capitalist society that would be driven by players earning money (Fire Tokens) and spending them on shelter, rewards, and advantages. When I finished the pitch, I asked him what he thought. He paused for a moment and said, ‘Well… it sounds… in-ter-est-ing. But is it fun?'”
Probst said he “couldn’t erase the whiteboards fast enough” after talking to White.
“I had spent well over a year working on this idea, and yet it still felt so good to throw it out because it was so clear that it sucked! I called [executive producer] Matt Van Wagenen and said, ‘Forget everything we’ve been working on! Throw it out! From now on, fun is the only thing that matters!'” said Probst.
Probst Said White Gave Him ‘A Gift’
After talking to White, Probst said that the TV/movie writer “really gave [him] a gift” because if Probst hadn’t talked to White, the host would not have gotten out “of an idea that would have really bogged down the game.”
Probst said White also “connected [him] to a much bigger idea” — thje idea that “after everything we have gone through with COVID, we just need to have some fun.”
That pursuit of fun became “the driving creative focus on ‘Survivor 41′” and they soon realized that “the best kind of ‘Survivor’ fun is the dangerous kind.”
That’s why Probst has been comparing “Survivor 41” to the “monster in a horror movie.”
“We approached Survivor 41 as though the game was like the monster in a horror movie. Either you devour the monster, or the monster will devour you. And by giving the game the personality of a monster, it really sparked a lot of ideas. Suddenly anything was possible. There was no twist too big, too scary, too controversial. It didn’t matter. The game is the monster, and let me be clear, the monster is hungry,” previewed Probst.
What a great tease. We can hardly wait. “Survivor” returns for its 41st season on Wednesday, September 22 at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on CBS. The 42nd season will air in the spring of 2022. Seasons 43 and 44 are casting now, so if you’ve always wanted to apply, now is your chance!