‘Survivor’ Might Be Making a Major Change to Its Filming Schedule

Jeff Probst has hosted Survivor since its inception in 2000.

CBS Jeff Probst has hosted Survivor since its inception in 2000.

There is some chatter of “Survivor” making a major change to its production schedule. According to Inside Survivor, which is a reputable source for all things “Survivor,” the long-running CBS reality show may be shortening its seasons moving forward, starting with the currently-filming season 41. Here’s what we know so far.

Sources Say Season 41 Will Be 29 Days

“Thirty-nine days, 16 people, one survivor!” — though the number of castaways has varied from season to season, and “Survivor: Australia” was actually 42 days long, this is the iconic way host Jeff Probst has opened every single season of the show. But now it sounds like the filming schedule is going to be shortened, possibly cut down by nearly a third.

According to Inside Survivor’s sources, season 41 and possibly all future seasons will be shortened. They don’t know the exact number of filming days, but it could be shortened by as much as 10 days. The reasons for shortening the season are not clear.

Obviously, it is less expensive to film for fewer days and there are now COVID-19 protocols to consider. Maybe the added quarantine time is making the usual production schedule too expensive?

How Will That Change The Broadcast Episodes?

In early seasons, “Survivor” often operated on a three-day schedule — one day was the reward challenge, there was a day of downtime in between, and the next day was the immunity challenge with Tribal Council happening that night. Then over time, it started to become more common to combine the reward and immunity challenges and have more time for the castaways to scheme and hunt for hidden immunity idols around camp.

In a 2019 interview with “Entertainment Tonight Canada,” Probst explained how they arrived at 39 days as a season length — it was simple math.

“Thirty-nine started because of how many episodes we had and how many days we thought we needed to have enough reality to fill an episode,” Probst explained. “That was really it, it was simple math. The basic premise was you would have a reward challenge on one day in which they would earn something to help them, and then you would have an immunity challenge on another day in which they fought for their survival, and on that third day, they would just live. And that third day, which we would put in the middle, was the day in which things happened.”

If the schedule condenses, it probably won’t be that noticeable in the edited episodes — but there will probably be a lot of reward/immunity combo challenges. There will be one day for the combo challenge, the next day for scheming and Tribal Council that night, and so on until they get to the end. What will be interesting to see is if double eliminations become more common — it all depends on if the show will be also be lowering the number of castaways.

“Survivor” has always had between 16 and 20 castaways, with four of the last five seasons starting with 20. Perhaps with the shortened season, the show will go back to 16, which was the number of castaways every season in the early years until all-stars.

If there are the usual 14 episodes (there have been 14 per season for the past six seasons in a row and seven of the previous eight seasons) and there are five people left at the start of the finale, that means with just 16 castaways, the show would actually be able to have one episode where no one gets voted out. The finale and the reunion each count as a separate episode, so that would leave 11 people who have to go home over 12 episodes.

If the cast starts at 20 castaways, that would mean 15 people have to go home over 12 episodes, which means three double eliminations. That could be kind of exciting, but it could also feel like the show is operating at a break-neck pace.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and also, as Inside Survivor wonders, if the show will even acknowledge a shorter filming schedule? It would be weird to start a season without Probst’s iconic tagline, but maybe they’re assuming (or hoping) most viewers won’t notice.

“Survivor” is back in production now. If the pattern holds, it should be premiering its 41st season the third or fourth week of September 2021.

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