Jeff Probst Says There Will Be No More Villains on Survivor

Say goodbye to the bad guys.

Photo: CBS

Over its 24 years, Survivor has produced some of the most iconic villains in reality TV history, from Richard Hatch to Jonny Fairplay to Parvati Shallow to Russell Hantz. The 20th season was even named Heroes vs. Villains! But if you’re looking for new reality bad guys, Survivor isn’t the show for you anymore.

Host and executive producer Jeff Probst sat down with RHAP’s Rob Cesternino ahead of the Survivor 46 premiere, where he opened up about a variety of Survivor-related topics. One element he touched on was the show’s move into positivity and focus on uplifting stories rather than negativity.

“By merely changing the type of twists we put into the game, we can create negativity,” Probst said. “It’s a manipulation, and it’s, what’s the conceit of the show? I’m not interested in [the negativity] anymore, and I think it’s a direct reflection not only of where the show was but of how it needed to evolve.”

Probst went on to say that the show’s original executive producer, Mark Burnett, loved the darker and more devious side of the show. “That’s what he brought [to the show], and it worked,” he continued. “I mean, the first person to win was one of the biggest villains still of all time, Richard Hatch.”

The Emmy-winner went on to say that that era of the show is over, and he’s no longer interested in villains. He even went so far as to declare no villains would be cast so long as he was in charge.

“In the hands of somebody else, I can tell you, for sure, there would be more ‘villains,’ more negativity, more yelling at each other,” Probst added. “It’s just not going to happen when I’m part of the show. I’m just not interested in it. There’s too many other things we could do and still have fun.”

However, Probst acknowledged the criticism that he’s become too “soft” in recent seasons. This stemmed from his reaction to Hannah Rose and Sean Edwards quitting the game in Survivor 45, with many fans arguing he should have been harder on them.

“I hear all the time from people, ‘I’m too soft,’ and I am bringing back my edge,” Probst stated. “I’m aware I got a little soft. And so, I am going to put a knife in the bag of rice every so often. I can still find that part of me.”

Speaking on Live with Kelly and Mark last November, Probst revealed his new, stricter rule regarding future quitters.

“I want to declare right here, on your show, that from this point forward, if you’re a Survivor player and you quit, your torch will not be snuffed; that’s over,” he promised. “To get your torch snuffed, you gotta play the game… you don’t get the moment if you quit. I think I need to be a little harder on that moving forward.”

While quitters might receive harsher treatment going forward, Probst is satisfied with this current version of the show.

“Generally speaking, I like where the show is,” Probst said. “And I hear from enough families that say, ‘We love Survivor. We want our kids to see it. We want them imagining they can be on the show and all that stuff.'”

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

18 responses to “Jeff Probst Says There Will Be No More Villains on Survivor”

  1. Sad how a once great show has been destroyed by its own face.

    This new era of survivor is a fail. It’s too quick, contestants are wrapped in emotional cotton wool. Nothing is exciting.

    If probst gets his way we might have a season of people just sitting around the fire singing kumbaya

    JESSE (your casting director with you) !!!!! MARK BURNETT , PLEASE COME BACK!!!!!

    • His “woke” show isn’t losing viewers though. 45 was the number one show on all of television in the key demographics. Ratings were up almost 60%.

  3. I disagree with the new no new villain policy Probst has hung his hat on going forward. I think it’s a terrible idea all together. It can still be a positive family show and have a villain or two in the mix. Not to mention those good guys who take them down each season. That is exactly the type of game play that keeps me coming back season after season as a viewer. I’m certain I’m not the only person who feels this way. A cranky host just isn’t enough. Not that I’m not welcoming that back though.

  4. Oh don’t do that. The biggest characters of the franchise were villains and created the way this game is played… being a villain and being a bad human being are completely different stuff

  5. I think this will be a good season after all good job Jeff Probst. It will finally be good to see a good guy win and not a villain.I can’t wait.

  6. I still watch, but I still watched Happy Days after Fonzi jumped the shark, Survivors jump the shark moment was when they made a big deal out of Jeff saying “Come on in guys”. The Challenge is now the best show on TV.

  7. I once read an interviewer where Adam Driver was recounting his early meetings with JJ Abrams. Kylo Ren was not to be written as a villain so much as he was a person who “thought he was right.”

    And there is your drama. Everyone thinks they are correct, but they don’t always agree. That makes for conflict. Conflict makes for interesting TV.

    Probst is just saying he isn’t casting jerks.

  8. We all know this is a dumb idea. Instead of doing this dumb idea, why not give more focus on the casting department. They really need to step up and make sure that they are casting real survivor players and not quitters. Also put a rule that if a player quits he/she will be penalized for leaving the game. We all are Survivor fans but not all are equipped to join the adventure and the grueling part of the survival in the island, so even though we are all fans it doesn’t mean you have to apply to be on the show and then quits if you are no longer feeling it. Just stop the dumb ideas and stop adding dumb twist and advantages or beware advantages or hour glass. Or the dilemma twist. We all loved survivor without those twists. We want strategic players playing and fighting to win and not quitters and dumb twists that complicates the best game ever.

  9. Agree what a stupid statement by Jeff. Doesn’t he know villains are fun to watch… I can’t for him and his softness to be actually gone for good

  10. Probst has lost all understanding of what makes Survivor popular. He is trying to fashion the concept into something it isn’t and will never be. Survivor America has become Survivor Lite. Australia is everything USA used to be but isn’t any more. Probst needs to be put out to pasture as the producer. Leave him as host but bring in someone new to produce it. It isn’t like they have to be on site to produce the show. Burnett wasn’t for the longest time.

  11. Ugh the new era sucks! I just watched the start of 46 and it’s like watching the same cast all over again.

    And Jeff being an Exective Producer with Jesse Tannenbaum the casting director sucks so bad. Both do a terrible job. No more villains and no returnee seasons???

  12. I have been a survivor fan from the beginning. The first show had it right. Make then out wit, out last out play. Not sit on you butt and starve next to an ocean of food and and tropical paradise. They are too soft on them. They make it all about the challenges but it’s about surviving with nothing. One show they give them a machatee and that’s it for thirty days. Oh yea, there’s a big wild dead animal that you need to cut up and preserve. That survival. Not spa trips and fruit baskets. They ate rat to survive on season one.

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