Good news, Survivor fans: Jeff Probst, whose contract on the CBS hit reality show was expiring, has decided not to snuff his own torch…yet. The host tells EW.com he will be back on the show past the season’s 20th edition, Heroes vs. Villains (which kicks off Thursday night at 8pm). “What has kept me interested in Survivor for 20 seasons is the study of human nature,” says Probst. “How we justify our ethics, and watching what happens to people when they are put in situations of extreme conflict. Sometimes it’s hard to watch, and sometimes it’s enjoyable to watch, but it is always interesting to watch.”
But, like any good Survivor story, this one has a twist. When Probst renewed his contract in the past (after seasons 12 and 16), it was for four cycles over two years. His latest renewal, however, covers only seasons 21 and 22 and will expire in 2011. While that would seem to indicate that the host is ready to finally call it quits and take his act elsewhere next spring, Probst insists that is not necessarily the case. “I’m not approaching this as my last year of Survivor,” says Probst. “I was just comfortable taking it one year at a time. It certainly made it easier for me to just commit to one year and then we can revisit it again next year if everybody wants to.” [Could Survivor continue if Probst hangs up his snuffer, plus more after the jump.]
As for what factor Live for the Moment (the CBS reality pilot-turned-special that Probst created and hosted) may have played in his decision to return, Probst admits that the show opened his eyes to several things — both good and bad —but played no role in his deciding to come back: “Live for the Moment showed me how fun it is to do something new and to explore new topics. It also is a great reminder that it is very, very difficult to get a show on the air, let alone find an audience. But I want to be clear: It had nothing to do with whether I was coming back to Survivor or not. This was just taking a moment after 10 years to take a look at my future, and where I saw it going, and what I wanted to do with it, before signing my contract.”
Still, with Probst showing a desire to try his hand at different projects (like Live for the Moment and filling for Regis Philbin on Live with Regis and Kelly), and now only signing up for a one-year commitment, one has to wonder if his days of informing unlucky contestants that “the tribe has spoken” are nearing an end. And whether the show could continue without him. On that last subject, Probst has no doubts: “I have always said that my belief is that the star of Survivor is Survivor: It is the format. So yes, if there came a point where I decided I was leaving Survivor, I absolutely believe someone else could take over.” Thanks to his new contract, it will be at least a year before we find out if he’s right.
For more on what Jeff’s decision means for his passport, and if he will ever drag Kelly Ripa out to location, check out Jeff’s interview on People.com. And for video of Jeff Probst on location in Samoa discussing the upcoming Heroes vs. Villains season (and why certain people didn’t make it), watch our exclusive 3-part video below. Finally, for all the Survivor scoop sent directly to you, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.
Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS