Jeff Probst on Controversial Survivor Twists From ‘On Fire’ Podcast (Episode 9)

Which twists will we never see again?

Photo: CBS


On the latest episode of the On Fire podcast, Jeff Probst, Brittany Crapper, and Jeff Wolfe talked about the ninth episode of season 44 as well as the feature subject of the week, which was the most controversial twists in the history of Survivor. Probst promised to hold himself accountable by discussing the controversial twists and advantages that have plagued the show in various seasons, including whether he regrets any. 


  • Wolfe mentions the notorious lack of food in the episode and how the players were struggling. Probst talks about how the decision of not giving food to the contestants was discussed with the medical team, how the lack of food could impair their cognitive abilities, and where to draw the line so as not to cause real damage to their bodies. 
  • They all talk about the “down day” shown and how players might hate them as they’re not doing anything, but they are also crucial for them to recharge, bond with each other, and continue working on their social games. 
  • These “off days” are also essential to continue to show the players’ tales, as was the case showing Carolyn’s story about her sobriety. 
  • Wolfe also mentions how the viewers saw the players negotiating with Probst regarding giving up immunity in exchange for food. Probst says this shows the evolution of his relationship with the players and how negotiations are now part of the new era of Survivor. 
  • Probst is asked his thoughts about “live tribals”: Probst says he doesn’t think these moments will create good TV. Instead, he loves seeing the players playing every minute of the game. 
  • Probst says that the “Knowledge is Power” advantage is a perfect one because even if it’s never in the game again, the threat of it causes people to make decisions.  


  • “Medallion of Power”: though only used once in Survivor: Nicaragua, it’s one of the most controversial advantages in Survivor history. Probst admits it was his idea, and it was born out of a place of desperation. Probst wanted to eliminate it before the season started, but Mark Burnett said it should stay. The medallion proved to take away the element of surprise that came with every challenge and was quickly discarded. Probst declares this advantage will never be used again.
  • The trio discusses the possibility of a “hot potato” advantage down the line, where a tribe could use it to have an edge on the challenge, though the other tribe could undermine them once they got it later. 
  • Probst also says he wanted to include a former Survivor as a reward during Survivor: Nicaragua, or even a celebrity such as Rachael Ray for her to cook at camp. Crapper reminds Probst that John Cochran returned in Survivor 32 as a reward to Debbie Wanner, and Probst absentmindedly says that idea must have originated from there. 
  • “The final three vs. the final two”: Probst says he’s confused about this twist being so criticised, and Wolfe explains people say a final three makes a less entertaining final tribal council. For Probst, this isn’t the case as he cites several instances where there was a final two, leading to a blowout between the winner and the other person. Probst’s logic says that it makes it more interesting for one person to beat two others instead of one at the end.
  • The case of Survivor: Micronesia is brought up, where a final two was used as several players had been medevaced throughout the season. Wolfe says if players didn’t know what type of final would be used, it could help to create more strategies. Crapper says from the editors’ POV that it wouldn’t help to make a cohesive story if players weren’t aware that too much time could be used for something that wouldn’t be used. Probst is open to a final two coming back in case of extenuating circumstances. 
  • “Second Chance” twists (Outcasts, Redemption Island, Edge of Extinction): the most common complaint is that once a player is out, it should remain that way. Probst says that as long as the jury chooses who wins, everything else is fair game, and he likes second opportunities. 
  • Outcast twist: Probst fought back on this twist as he thinks players should’ve been told some of them were going to have the chance of coming back, and the two people that came back, Burton and Lil, had the advantage of having stayed at Ponderosa for a few days where they were able to shower, eat, and sleep on beds. Probst says this Outcast twist won’t be used again.
  • Redemption Island: it was the second chance twist tweaked where players would know upfront about the situation, and it would be an uphill battle for those who would return. Probst says this twist is dead. 
  • Edge of Extinction: Probst considers this twist the most satisfying for him from a storytelling perspective, where there’s a spiritual death and rebirth for players sent to EOE. People complain that Chris Underwood didn’t deserve to win for his advantage of being with the jury at EOE; Probst retorts that Chris did have an impressive journey overall. Probst is open for this twist to come back in case of a returning players season or another memorable season. 
  • “Do or Die” twist: Probst owns this was his idea, and it was to demonstrate how a player is positioned within the game as they asses the risk of playing the challenge and possibly play the twist. Wolfe says this logic could make this twist sound better than the “shot in the dark.” Probst agrees he needed to translate better the idea behind it, and players thought it was a punishment rather than an opportunity. This twist is also dead. 
  • “39 days vs. 26 days”: the days were changed as a response to covid protocols, required quarantines, and for the crew to not be stuck for over a hundred days in Fiji by shooting back-to-back seasons. Survivor was modified to fit the new era of game design, and for Probst, these recent four seasons have backed up that these changes work. 
  • Wolfe asks that after covid restrictions eased, Survivor could’ve returned to 39 days, but Probst says the new format is better suited for fewer days. Probst recognises this point is subjective, and the 26 days will remain for now, but he doesn’t oppose going back to 39 one day in case of a special season or extenuating reasons.
  • “Changed history/hourglass” twist: Probst doesn’t defend it, knows it didn’t work, and owns it as everyone hated it. Probst goes far as to say that he would wear a heavy “necklace of transgression” as a reminder of his bad decisions. Probst mostly regrets this twist as players didn’t know upfront, just like the Outcast one. This twist is gone, and Probst also says the “game within a game” twist was to attract younger viewers, but it didn’t work overall either. 
  • “Final four fire-making challenge”: Probst says it was his idea to prevent a likeable player from being eliminated at the final four, as the only chance they got to save themselves was to win immunity. Probst denies it’s the twist’s fault that Jesse Lopez lost Season 43, as he was too big of a threat, and in his opinion, Jesse would’ve been voted out regardless. This twist is here to stay. 


  • In season 40, was Probst tempted to make the podium a real idol when Adam attempted to play it? Probst replies he wouldn’t have changed the rules at the moment just for shock value, though he admits it would’ve been fun. Probst also clarifies they’ve avoided hiding any advantage at tribal, so players don’t destroy the set. Therefore, it is doubtful it’ll ever happen. 
  • Regarding the slow-motion shots that set up the challenges, the sword and shield were shown earlier in the season, with water buckets dumped on them. Does Probst go to the tribes ahead of the challenge and take back the idols, or do they shoot these moments after the challenge and before the tribes head back? Probst says they have double props exclusively used for these types of shots. 
  • Why does Probst use socks and shoes at the beach instead of sandals? Is he afraid the world will see his toes? Probst mentions production has a “no open-toe sandals” policy because of the risk of injury. 
  • Why Jeff sucks? During the last few seasons, Probst hasn’t said “previously on Survivor” before the episode. Probst says it’s due to time constraints.

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.

5 responses to “Jeff Probst on Controversial Survivor Twists From ‘On Fire’ Podcast (Episode 9)”

  1. It’s obvious that the added fake idols and advantages aren’t working cause people are voted out before they can use them. They need one season a year with more days, so crew can get days off and allow more time for making new challenges and editing can be better with more time like Amazing Race for better quality.

  2. I miss the earlier episodes with varied challenges, mind games where they had to solve riddles and know about the island culture or other players. I miss the nasty food eating, the different locations other than Fiji. I miss the jumping off a cliff and running into the jungle to find things. I am tired of puzzles everything, balancing things and always the same water challenges. Where did the variety go? I liked the two people at the end instead of three, and the insanity of really tearing them down I stead of congratulating them. I think the producers need to rewatch the first couple of seasons to figure out why the world was captivated.

  3. I liked the old survivor challenges when they had to eat bugs or drink blood.
    Not all these competitive athletic type challenges or puzzles all the time. That’s getting old. Do something that really makes them face their fears.

  4. Although Ive been “hooked” since season 1, You have added a few “crazy twists” Hopefully meant to keep players Off Balance! These players have watched &studied ” how the games supposed to be played. And I love when you n staff ” Trip them up!” All of us viewers have ‘ our favorites” ..But I will say with a heart bursting with pride,..when the winnings was given to OUR VETERANS! IT WAS SURVIVORS CROWNING MOMENT! If I were 20 years younger, Id be applying( Im 80) lo

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