Survivor 41 is only a few weeks away, and once again, the battle to outwit, outplay and outlast returns to the islands of Fiji. However, it was a long and obstacle-filled road to get to this point, and the show could have looked very different had certain plans come to fruition.
Production of the forty-first season was originally postponed in March 2020 as the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. As detailed by host and executive producer Jeff Probst in a letter to the crew, the initial plan was to resume filming around May 19, 2020. However, as COVID-19 cases continued to rise rapidly worldwide, a decision was made to postpone production indefinitely.
In the end, Survivor remained shut down for an entire year, eventually returning to Fiji in March 2021 to begin filming seasons 41 and 42. But the preceding months had seen the production team working tirelessly to get the show back up and running, including scouting alternative locations, some more surprising than others.
Probst spoke to Entertainment Weekly‘s Dalton Ross about the past year and the various aspects that went into getting the cameras back rolling. “It was March 2020 when we made the official decision to postpone shooting Survivor 41 in Fiji,” Probst said. “We immediately turned our full attention to finding another location and even considered shooting domestically in Georgia or Hawaii.”
Inside Survivor had previously reported that Survivor was looking into different locations when it appeared that Fiji was off the table as an option. These included Tulum in Mexico, and countries in the Caribbean, specifically the Dominican Republic. However, as Probst told EW, with COVID-19 being so unpredictable, every new plan quickly fell apart.
“It was a daily battle of whack-a-mole,” he continued, “as every time we thought we had a potential spot, COVID would surge and we would be back to square one. After trying to shoot in the summer and then again in the fall of 2020, we finally made the decision to wait it out and resume production in March of 2021 back in Fiji.”
As we reported in June 2020, Fiji’s government set COVID-19 safety guidelines for production crews, which would eventually allow Survivor to return to the country. These guidelines required proof of a negative COVID-19 test before cast and crew boarded their plane and a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Despite the approved safety guidelines, it still took a further 8 months before the Survivor team could make it back to Fiji. This long wait was in large part due to the logistics of transporting a 400+ international crew to a foreign country in the midst of a pandemic.
“Not only did we have to charter our own jets, but the restrictions regarding which countries were allowed into Fiji kept changing week to week. Sadly, we were unable to get our crew members from the U.K. and South Africa into Fiji,” Probst told EW.
Once those that were allowed into Fiji had completed their quarantine, they operated within a “large bubble that consisted of several islands.” This included the tribe camps, challenge locations, Tribal Council, and the crew’s base camp.
“When we were all finally out of quarantine, you could feel the gratitude from all of us to be back together and making the show we love,” Probst concluded. “I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve never felt anything like it in 21 years. The energy was 100 percent positive.”