Jeff Probst on ‘Next Generation’ Season and Challenge Designs From ‘On Fire’ Podcast (Episode 4)

Could we see Survivor alum’s kids on the show?

Photo: CBS


Jeff Probst, Brittany Crapper, and Jeff Wolfe reunite to discuss the latest episode of Survivor 44. They also talk about the challenges on Survivor, from the conception and design of their testing process to how they finally come to be on the show. Jeff Probst also answers fan questions, finishing with a “Why Jeff sucks” segment. As Jeff says, all right, let’s get into it.


  • Jeff Wolfe says the “red X” on the episode was ridiculous and can’t believe it worked. (It was created by Carolyn to throw suspicions off of her having an idol and to dupe someone else into finding a fake idol). 
  • Probst says that the “X” worked due to the risks they’ve taken in past seasons to make it harder for contestants to find idols, and by not having perfect-looking idols, it’s plausible for players to psych each other out with fake ones.  
  • What was the intention behind the format of this season’s tribe swap? Probst responds that the central theme is creating uncertainty and for players to further their interpersonal relationships. 
  • They also hope that Sarah, the latest person to have their torch snuffed, can laugh at herself for not playing her idol, which ended up being the fake one that Carolyn planted. 


  • Probst highlights the importance of challenges in Survivor, as they’re a way to further test the players within the game. The challenges are specifically engineered to bring up the strengths and weaknesses of the contestants, from a physical standpoint to an intellectual one.
  • Criteria to what makes a “great challenge”: every challenge must have a physical requirement (running, swimming, climbing), a mental component (puzzle, word scramble, maze), or an emotional element (endurance). 
  • There are more “individual roles” within challenges to bring the players to the spotlight so that no one can hide, and people are forced to show their hand in what they’re good at. 
  • Probst mentions that Survivor keeps reusing certain puzzles as production knows that some fans at home recreate them, and they want to reward preparation in case they come on the show and get lucky to have that puzzle on their season. 
  • Creating a challenge and bringing it to life: the challenge production lays out their ideas for challenges to later confer with the art department to figure out how to create them. They later meet with the editors to see what worked and what didn’t while the season was being filmed, and lastly, the final pitch is presented to production and Probst, where they figure out the last details. 
  • Probst says the time it takes to build challenges can go from a couple of weeks (smaller ones) or even months when they’re bigger due to their structures and concepts. 
  • Ocean challenges are especially tricky, as they’re built with concrete blocks for anchoring them. Ocean tides also need to be considered to know how to distribute the platoons’ weight. Pulleys and lines are also used to leverage the platoons, which shows how much planning goes into creating these submarine infrastructures that aren’t even seen in the episodes. 
  • Challenges are taken apart after being used and are usually kept hidden from the elements to secure them, though Probst says they’ve lost items such as a barge used for years due to bad weather. Now every barge has a tracker so that they can later find them. 
  • The Dream Team will test out the challenges from their inception at the art department to start tinkering with any issues while testing them again once they’re set.
  • How to make challenges fair? By paying attention to detail, as there needs to be the same distance and height in challenges. For instance, when using knots in a challenge, one person does it, so there’s the same amount of tension between all the knots.
  • Probst reveals that Survivor has a “standard in practice person” who needs to be present on any gameshow to ensure things are fair. Some judges are also in place to make sure there’s no cheating. 
  • Probst mentions that despite these measures, there have been times when mistakes have been made. He mentions Burton Roberts in Survivor: Pearl Islands and recalls where there was a spelling challenge, and Jeff didn’t notice Burton misspelled “liaison” and still won individual immunity. Burton’s immunity was later stripped away when production realized their mistake. 
  • Probst says there are over 200 challenges named after rock songs.
  • The final immunity challenge in Survivor: Palau was where production learned the most. When the Dream Team tested the challenge, they held on for about an hour, whereas Tom Westman and Ian Rosenberger lasted about 11 hours and 45 minutes. Production hadn’t anticipated weather conditions or how long it would take, so they didn’t use the challenge again. (It was later used in Australian Survivor).
  • Probst’s favourite challenge was Cirie on a balance beam in Survivor: Game Changers, as it was such an emotional moment that demonstrated how everything interconnects within Survivor. 


  • What happens when Probst says, “I’m going to give you a minute to strategize, and we’ll get started. Let’s get it on”? They take each tribe separately to explain the rules of the challenge, and after they’re all briefed, they can strategize then, so they all have the same amount of time to talk. 
  • Is the game format set from the beginning of the season, or can it change midway? (i.e., I=in Survivor: Philippines, the Matsing tribe was decimated, and Malcolm and Denise went to the other tribes. Was that decided then or beforehand?) It was agreed beforehand as only two people can’t go to tribal council. If that scenario were to happen, then that would be the result. 
  • Many former Survivor players have had kids, and some have appeared on the show. Is it possible to have a “Survivor: The Next Generation” season? Probst says that possibility has been discussed already, though there would have to be enough for that concept to work. The new generation would also have to go through a casting process, and their parents could appear in a mentor role, as their loved ones, or something else.
  • Why does Jeff Sucks? Probst is told he needs to cut his hair, as he needs to act his age, and that we aren’t in quarantine anymore. Probst responds that this “hits’ him as he’s vain, but he won’t cut it as he’s proud of his hair. He also reveals he was in a band in Seattle with Scott Rockenfield before he was the drummer of Queensrÿch.

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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