By JOHN POWELL -- JAM! Showbiz
According to Jeff Probst ‘Survivor Palau’ is the response to critics who believe the CBS reality series has become too predictable.
“There are more firsts this season than we have ever had,” Probst told Jam! Showbiz. “That’s what struck me as the season went on and on. Some of them are twists. Some of them are things that happened organically and some are a result of challenges but there are more things you have never seen before this season.”
Calling ‘Palau’ the “water season”, Probst promised the challenges on this the tenth installment are the most physical and original ever.
“The visibility underwater was so good we decide to pull out a lot of challenges we have been sitting on. In the first three or four episodes we have some of the most physical challenges I think we have ever put on in terms of endurance and needing to be physically fit,” said Probst.
To the delight of the producers, strengthening the challenges made things difficult for the tribes to immediately target the athletic players as they had in the past. A problem which had haunted the series as a whole and ultimately doomed ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’.
“The message that they (the players) are going to find out is if you vote out your strong simply because they are strong…go ahead…but odds are, you will back at Tribal Council,” said Probst revealing that there is a major “cat fight” at one of the challenges early on.
The producers also kept the players off balance right out of the gate by not providing the them with any information or tools whatsoever to begin the game. The ‘Palau’ players didn’t even know if they were one tribe or not.
“This time, I literally show up and say…There’s your beach. Have a good time,” Probst stated. “The players began wondering…Do I start making alliances now or will that maybe bite me in the ass? Should I not say anything at this moment? Do we build a shelter? Are we staying here? There is no name on the flag. It just says ‘Survivor Palau’.”
Probst said that confusing start doesn’t sound like a whole lot but it “pays off” in the first few days and Day 33 because the producers put into the players’ heads that ‘Palau’ is a slightly different game.
Viewers will see that difference for themselves when the first two ‘Survivor Palau’ contestants get booted. They don’t get kicked the traditional way at Tribal Council. They are victims of a tribal pick ‘em. Two players aren’t selected to be on a tribe and therefore must leave the game immediately.
“It is brutal. It is the same feeling you have when you’re not picked on a schoolyard or when you’re the first guy laid off. At its core, without question, ‘Survivor’ is a social game and that is put to the test right away. These people in essence never really get a chance to play this game and yet they go through all the work to get there,” said Probst.
Besides the water-based premise, ‘Palau’ also will underscore the theme of “choices” and their “consequences”.
“You may not even pick up on it but it started filtering in and we started making it an element to some challenges, some situations and some decisions. The thinking was…Let’s every time we can let them make a choice and it ends up having an impact,” said Probst.
While the producers did use the Second World War heritage of the ‘Palau’ area as a backdrop, Probst maintains they didn’t exploit it. The Tribal Council area is in a bunker-like set and there may be some military themes to the challenges but the producers viewed ‘Palau’ as a living monument to the conflict.