Jeff Probst Explains Why Season 46 Didn’t Have a Tribe Swap

All the latest insights from the On Fire podcast.

Photo: CBS

The latest episode of the On Fire podcast saw Jeff Probst, Survivor 45 winner Dee Valladares, and producer Jeff Wolfe meet to discuss the fifth episode of Survivor 46. They bring up how even salsa dancing is a strategic move in Survivor, how important camp life is, Yanu’s record-breaking in the New Era, the now iconic Survivor trivia challenge, and Probst reveals whether or not there was a tribe switch planned for this season.

The episode starts with Wolfe asking Probst about the salsa dancing sequence and if it results from having longer episodes. Probst responds that having more screen time is advantageous as it allows the showing of camp life, as it was done in the early seasons. The extra time also permits showing fun stuff, such as salsa dancing, which players used to complain about, as these kinds of things were not shown before.

Probst also explains how these activities allow people to bond and create their own community and rituals, eventually influencing social dynamics and tribal councils. Dee shares that during her season, Sifu did a lot of tai-chi. Though she didn’t care about this practice, Dee practiced with him, so he didn’t catch wind of Dee’s plans to vote him out. She advises that these instances allow players to bond but also are a means to expand one’s game.


When a player walks by an idol or advantage, Probst says production has a little fun by highlighting it to the audience. Wolfe asks Dee if she has ever thought about how certain acts will be shown on TV. Dee replies it wasn’t until she got back and saw the season airing that she noticed certain things she hadn’t on the island, as she was fully present while playing the game.

“Wherever you are, be there,” Dee says, “that’s what it feels like finding an idol or pulling off a blindside. You’re just so present that you forget you’re on TV for a second.”

Probst doubles down by saying players might notice cameras the first few minutes of the game but forget all about them as time passes.

Most fans wondered why a tribe switch didn’t occur as Yanu repeatedly lost challenges and tribe members. Wolf asks Probst if a switch was ever considered or if there was a change of decision midgame, to which Probst says, “Yes, we could decide in a moment to swap tribes if we wanted to, and there wouldn’t be a fairness issue. You know, we have standards and practices in place, and they’re out there to make sure that we don’t cheat the game in any way. You can do a random swap any time you want, it’s part of the fabric of the game.

“But the truth is, with rare exceptions, we already know when and how to do a tribe swap,” he continues, noting that a tribe swap involves a lot of storytelling, and due to the finite time, they have to consider swapping to show all these new storylines. Probst adds this isn’t the first time a tribe has repeatedly lost in the New Era, “And we never rescued them. In fact, as we’ve talked about, losing a lot… can be incredibly bonding for those who survive. We just trust the format, and we let it play out.”


As Probst said in the episode, Yanu broke the record for most nights without a flint in the New Era with 11. Wolfe then asks Probst if this situation has made him rethink the flint penalty, to which Probst says, “Absolutely… not.” Probst jokingly says in a bullhorn voice that these New Era twists are here to stay and that the audience and players should expect more of these to come.

Dee explains the pros and cons of a tribe continuously winning or losing. When a tribe wins, the obvious advantages are having strength in numbers, security, earning rewards, and the like. On the flip side, that tribe might get to the merge with a potential flipper, not knowing where people truly stand or how to manage tribal councils properly. When a tribe loses, the obvious disadvantages are losing members and rewards.

However, Dee says people’s games are exposed and can use these losses to get the necessary members to the next game phase while losing the fear of going to tribal councils much faster. Ultimately, avoiding losing and going to tribals is always the best way to get as far as possible in the game.

It had been a while since the audience saw a Survivor trivia challenge. Probst says he was hesitant to do one again as he felt these challenges were too exclusionary, as only superfans could accomplish them. However, Probst realised the same could be said about slide puzzles to those who couldn’t accomplish them, and it was only his bias against them that production opted to do one.

Wolfe added he enjoyed seeing Survivor flashbacks while Hunter started doing the challenge. To Probst’s shock, Dee revealed she didn’t know there was a difference between a Survivor fan and a superfan. Dee explained she thought she was the latter because she always binged and talked about the show, but later realised that being a superfan went beyond that, as they know every boot order, every trivia fact out there, and so on.

Jem and Ben’s strategy session was brought up as it was heightened by their having a machete and a hammer in hand, respectively. To Jem’s credit, Dee agrees Jem was playing hard to stay in the game. However, as Jem used the same talking tactic with everyone, it was due to backfire on her.

Wolfe jests as he asks Dee if there’s ever an appropriate time to bring a machete to a strategy talk with someone, to which Dee quips back, “Only if that person is pissing you off.” As his parting thoughts to Jem, Probst says he thought she was an amazing, driven superstar who could win the game.

Lastly, Probst answers some fan questions:

  • Could Probst talk about the tribal council’s design for this season? Probst says they want every season to have their unique design that feels alive for the players. In some seasons, this set could be built to resemble a village or a ruin, or it could be more presentational, like on Survivor 46. Dee says she felt she was entering a movie set the first time she entered the tribal council on her season.
  • How do the ending titles where players say their last words work? These are shot almost immediately after the players are voted out and are asked what they feel in those moments. Even though condensed, these maintain the players’ essence and raw emotions. Dee says that if she had done one of these segments, she would’ve cried but would’ve praised the move.
  • What brought up the change between naming a season after a theme or location to a simple number in the New Era? Probst says that after Winners at War, production wanted a distinct new era for Survivor, which included having the season’s number on the logo rather than a title. He also says he’s not opposed to bringing back titles, but the numbers are here to stay.

Written by

Mariana Loizaga

Mariana is a lawyer and a writer from Mexico City, Mexico. She has a masters degree in International Relations from the University of Surrey. Her hobbies include reading, blogging, and of course watching Survivor. The first season of Survivor she ever saw was Survivor: Philippines and she became so fascinated with the game and its many layers that she went back through the archives and watched every single previous season.

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