Jeff Probst on Sit Out Rules and the Casting Process From ‘On Fire’ Podcast (Episode 3)

How do you make it onto the show?

Photo: CBS


On this week’s On Fire podcast, Jeff Probst, Brittany Crapper, and Jeff Wolfe do a deep dive into the casting process. The producers discuss how they choose the people on the show, what they are looking for, and how to ensure to get what they want. Starting with Episode 3 of Survivor 44, the viewers can see this season’s different types of players. Probst says that these players, plus a well-structured game design, allow for a season to have the right moments that will enable great storytelling.  


  • Probst says that he asks several questions to the players that never get shown as they don’t contribute to the show. However, his question towards Claire about her sitting out of a challenge again did as she was later voted out. 
  • Jeff Wolfe asks Probst why players were allowed to sit out of challenges back-to-back this season, where they haven’t been able to in other times. Probst says people were told they couldn’t opt out of consecutive challenges in “old” Survivor, where they had reward and immunity challenges. This was to force tribes to choose where to place their “weakest” players by adding more value to either food or protection. Probst also tells Brittany that they should address this issue in the future to avoid what Claire did in this season (Claire never played in any challenge before getting voted out).
  • As there was cheating during this episode’s immunity challenge, why there weren’t any measures to avoid this, for instance, placing puzzle dividers? Probst says that sometimes they do, though it depends on logistics or it’s based-on opportunity. Last season tribes were even helping each other at a challenge, which wouldn’t have been possible if they’d interfered. They also want to allow players to use these instances as opportunities to create their society within Survivor further.
  • Danny is once again called a “baby Tony” (Tony Vlachos), as Danny’s tricks for planting a fake idol are repeatedly shown throughout the episode.


  • What is the casting process looking for? When reality TV started, people were placed under categories like the nerd, the bombshell, the athlete, etc., to get on a cast, which is something that Survivor did as well for years. Probst admits that people used to put on a front to become one of these characters and were cast, though as Survivor has evolved, they’re mainly looking for authentic people.
  • Traits a person must have to get cast: drive (do they want to be on Survivor), compelling (what is their story, and can they tell it), authenticity (you either are or not), and gameplay (people who are willing to play the game). 
  • Probst says they’re constantly looking for people who want to play on Survivor as much as they want “their next breath.”
  • Probst’s 101 tips to get cast: apply and be yourself. 
  • The Survivor psychology team comes in when producers need to separate authentic people who can be duplicitous if they want as part of their strategy and those who can’t hack it for pretending to be something they’re not. 
  • People that go through casting also go through several tests made by the psychology team to get to their “core” and see how they would fare with the physical elements of the game, the social dynamics, etc. Players also do a deep dive into their personal histories alongside the team. Probst says he’s done a few of these tests himself. 
  • Probst states that people on the cast must know how to play the game. Wolfe asks if a “Fans vs. Fools” season could work with superfans and people who’ve never seen the show. Probst replays that Survivor is like poker, and if there are people on the table who don’t know how to play, it interrupts the game’s flow for the others and hinders the overall game. 
  • The final test in casting is in-person interviews, and Probst says that peoples’ behaviour through them is also revealed, so these become imperative to decide whether a person will be on the show. Probst confesses he’s specifically looking for people he wants to talk to at tribal council.
  • Probst also talks about how the casting producers have a concept called “fall on the sword,” where if one of them stands up for a potential player and says they would fall on the sword for them, that person will get casted. 
  • Probst talks about how he got the job as Survivor’s host: he was driving when he heard Mark Burnett looking for someone to host the show, and Probst knew that job was meant for either him or Phil Keoghan (the host of The Amazing Race). Probst then met Mark and pitched for the job by saying he was a student of human behaviour, a writer, had been to therapy, and that he got the show. After several months, the job was between himself and Phil, eventually going to Probst. 
  • Does Probst know when he’s met a star? He says yes and mentions Coach as an example, as Coach came into the room wearing a kimono with painted toenails and toe rings. Other immediately recognisable stars were Christian Hubicki, Maryanne Oketch, and Jesse Lopez.
  • Probst’s first impression of Carson was based on a 10-minute call: earnest, real, present, very eager, very likeable, people pleaser, inclusive, and with great human qualities. 
  • Probst’s first impression of Yam Yam: super likeable with three exclamation points, gregarious, engaging, and he showed drive when Yam Yam mentioned he wanted to test himself. 
  • An example of authenticity for Probst is Carolyn: she told him she was led to believe her personality was a fungus, but she wasn’t an actor or a character. Carolyn has a big personality, and she wanted to play like herself. 


  • Why is there no split screen regarding the last seconds of a challenge? A positive would be the viewers would get to see everything, but for storytelling, the focus is split, and there’s no point of view, so the idea is discarded.
  • How did Probst come up with the phrases for the beware advantages? The entire team came up with these crazy phrases that wouldn’t work in any other situation within the game aside from these beware scenarios. 
  • Does Probst think that his tribal council questions have ever influenced the outcome of one? Probst says it happens all the time, but more than the questions themselves, what matters is what a player does with them, which truly impacts the outcome.
  • Why Jeff Sucks: Probst is told that he needs to stop with the analogies, as they aren’t good, and people want to listen to what players think, not how the game is similar to Jaws. Probst says this comment hurts because he knows he sucks at analogies but thinks analogies do work to highlight specific game areas. Probst finishes by saying that his memory sucks, and he’ll probably forget he’s not well-versed with analogies, so he’ll keep making them. 

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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