By Jeff Probst
Updated September 16, 2010 at 11:47 AM EDT
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSHello Survivor fans! Hello Jimmy Johnson!! Hello Wednesday night!!

Episode one of our 21st season is complete and it turns out Wendy’s husband was right. More on that later…

I’m very curious to see how the audience responds to having Jimmy Johnson on the show. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably old enough to know that Jimmy is one of the most successful football coaches in the history of the game — both college and the NFL. Even if you’re younger, but still a football fan, then you no doubt know him as one of the most colorful Pro football analysts on television. I’m happy to say that I now know him as a Survivor contestant.

Jimmy was not recruited as some sort of a “stunt casting” idea. Jimmy applied…on his own… three times to be on the show. As he said himself, he hasn’t missed a second of the show… ever. The first two times he applied he didn’t pass his physical so he was turned down. But this time he not only passed his physical, he made it on the show!

The very first thing I noticed was the jealousy that Marty and Jimmy T have for Coach Jimmy. The younger guys would have loved to hang out with one of the greatest football legends of all time because they weren’t threatened. Marty was threatened. Immediately. Curious how our egos work. If I was in the game, maybe I would have felt the same way, who knows. But right now Marty and Jimmy T seem more concerned with Jimmy Johnson than they do anything else. That is not a good sign for the older group.


We are always looking for ways to ignite the opening moments of a season and the idea this year centered around finding the Medallion of Power, or as I like to say, “The Medallion of POWWWWWWWWWWER!”

INSIGHT: From a production point of view here is the dilemma with an opening scramble that involves looking for something that is hidden:

You want to be able to film whomever finds the Medallion so that means you need to have plenty of camera operators near the location of the Medallion. But if you put the camera operators all in one spot then you are giving away where the Medallion is located.

So.. we set up fake camera jibs, and brought in extra operators and put them on scaffolding and stationed them in various spots so that even the savvy player would not be able to figure out where the Medallion was hidden simply by studying the camera positions. It worked. The contestants scattered all different ways and Brenda was the one who spotted it sitting up in a tree and snagged it for her tribe.


This idea to divide Old v Young came straight from casting. Once we had Jimmy J, Jimmy T (from a Sears sponsored contestant search), Jane (the woman who started fiiiiiire!) and Marty we knew we had the beginnings of a great older tribe. So we just went with it and from that point forward we knew we had to create two tribes – one old, one young – that were as equal as they could be given the age difference.


The game is young but here is who popped out to me right away:


JIMMY T: “I just gotta say this… I’m not gonna be not be heard here, I’m not gonna be not be heard.” I love this guy. He won a Sears casting contest to get on the show and has already delivered as much of a wallop as a box full of their Craftsman tools. He is going to have to cool it though if he wants to last long. Jimmy, sometimes you are going to have to “not be, not be heard.” In your case, it might be a good thing if they don’t always hear you.

HOLLY makes me smile and laugh and tilt my head like a dog all at the same time. She’s a bit of an enigma to me at this point, but I know I like having her on the show. From the moment we met her in casting I felt there was a lot more going on than meets the eye.

JANE! You gotta love a woman who can start fire! Jane is tailor made for this show. She is no-nonsense, has a great work ethic and she personifies the idea of “where there is a will, there is a way.”

MARTY is a villain. He won’t see it that way and he’s probably already mad at me for saying this, but right out of the gate, he is a villain. Thankfully… Survivor loves villains!


SHANNON is fortunately…or unfortunately… the type of guy who often ends up on a reality show these days. He’s a muscular, good looking, hot headed “dude” who it turns out is a pretty funny interview:

*”It’s important we don’t let these girls take over. I mean we already getting owned in marriage. Pretty soon we’ll have a woman President.”

* “He’s just a dumb blonde. I’ve never called a guy a dumb blonde before, but that’s what he is.”

* “A guy needs to sack up and we need to win this.”

SASH – it’s not so much what Sash says, it’s how he says it and how he looks when he says it. I hope he’s around a long time.

FABIO is perhaps my favorite. I am a huge fan of Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Fabio is Survivor’s version of Jeff Spicoli who was played beautifully by Sean Penn. If you have never seen that movie, it’s worth a watch. Hilarious. Whether it’s the massive splinter he got in his arch moments into the show or the pincher on the finger, he’s funny. Best of all, he seems to have a really good sense of humor about himself. You gotta like that.

KELLY B, not to be confused with PURPLE KELLY is obviously an inspiration but that will not be enough to get her through 39 days. Her tribe is already targeting her.. not because they think she can win challenges, or will be great at the social game, or because she is crafty at tribal council. They’re voting her out because she has an artificial leg and it makes them uncomfortable because they think she’ll garner too much sympathy.

We humans are a nutty group. Certainly this group, anyway! Not one person has even considered the idea of “I wonder how she’ll do…” or… “I’d love to see what she can achieve in the challenges.” Nope. This is a cut-throat game for a million dollars. It’s survival of the fittest. Little do they know she has accomplished more athletic achievements than most all of them combined.

NAONKA.. relax. I didn’t forget about you. You’re pretty hard to forget. Yeah, I know. You already know that. Naonka will become more polarizing the longer she lasts in the game. You will either respect her honesty or absolutely despise her. One thing is certain people will have an opinion. She already knows that too.


The older tribe had the Medallion of Power and they decided not to use it. They’ll tell you they were smart to not use it because it wouldn’t have made a difference. While that is probably true, most of their confidence comes from back seat driving, or better yet, Monday morning quarterbacking because the challenge didn’t play out quite as planned. Let me explain…

INSIGHT: Despite testing our first challenge over and over, the Survivors did something that we didn’t count on. We expected the gutters to go from left to right, back and forth, because that is how the challenge was built to play. Instead, they simply formed one long gutter system, and it worked much better than what we had planned. As a result the challenge went much faster and because of that it reduced the amount of an ‘advantage” they would have had. Would the Medallion advantage have made enough difference for them to win? We’ll never know. But had the challenge been played the way it was tested and rehearsed, it most definitely would have made a difference.

If they resist using the Medallion of Power next challenge then we’ll know they’re not smart, just foolish.


First of all did you catch what Jane said!? She said she read an article in which I talked about the importance of making fire… and she listened! Who listens to anything I say? I’m an idiot. Never listen to me. I’m rarely right. I mean it. Especially when it comes to driving directions. If I say -“go right” – you should always “go left.” And when you turn left, invariably, I’ll tell you, “No, really this time I am pretty sure it really is right.” Don’t do it. Close the ears and put the pedal to the metal because it’s left all the way.

Nonetheless, Jane listened and she learned how to make fire and whadaya know it paid off big time for the older tribe. I love when the Survivors have a victory. They are so few and far between.

Okay now back to the older tribe’s biggest hurdle.. their ego.

JIMMY T – Dude. Get off the “I am jealous of Jimmy Johnson” bandwagon.

I am blown away. Blown away that Jimmy T and Marty are more concerned about being the top dog than they are about winning.

Jimmy T actually said: If he (Jimmy Johnson) leads so well.. the jury will let him win the game.” You nut! If Jimmy Johnson can actually lead THAT well… let him lead you! There will be plenty of chances to cut his throat later in the game.

Consider the dichotomy of the human existence for just a moment. We’ve made some amazing achievements in our time here on earth: The incredible breakthroughs we’ve made in science, the world we’re discovering under the sea, the machines we’ve built that allow us to communicate instantly all over the world, the ability to correct vision problems, reduce cholesterol, make artificial limbs and invent pocket sized cell phones! We sent a man to the moon for crying out loud.. and he came back! Hello…we invented Viagra! We’re even open to the idea of J-LO on American Idol, but we can’t get out of our own way when it comes to EGO. It’s fascinating.


Turns out Wendy’s husband was right. As Wendy said on the show: “My husband thinks I’ll be first out.” Yep. Smart fella.

Well Wendy, I hope your husband said it and meant it with love because despite the fact that you didn’t fit in with this group you are absolutely charming in your own unique way and just before the vote, you uttered my favorite line of the night:

“…and I don’t have any blisters on my feet. That’s an asset. ”

Sorry you left so soon, I’ll miss the accent and the hat!


If you’re feeling smart…CBS put the clue to the Hidden Idol Immunity online ( so you can take a gander and see if you can figure it out before the Survivors do!

See ya next week!

Check out Jeff’s reaction to the first Tribal Council below, and make sure to check out Dalton Ross’ recap of the Survivor: Nicaragua premiere.