Monty Brinton/CBS
January 28, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST

When Survivor: Worlds Apart premieres on Feb. 25, we will see a battle between White Collars, Blue Collars, and No Collars. But more important than the designations, perhaps, is the number—that number being three. Survivor has started its seasons with anywhere from two to four tribes, but it has experienced some of its greatest success lately (Survivor: Philippines and Survivor: Cagayan) when it has gone with three groups of six people each.

Host Jeff Probst has told us in the past how the three-tribe setup gives the show an advantage in that it acts as a safety against the boredom of majority alliances predictability picking off the competition in two-tribe seasons. But when we chatted recently, he expanded on why three is the magic number.

“Three tribes gives us a few advantages,” says Probst. “One is even tough we tend to have the same amount of people out there, because they are broken down into smaller groups it appears that it is easier to get to know people more quickly, because you can capture a tribe that is only six people. So you can kind of quickly go ‘Oh I know that person and I kind of like that person.’ As opposed to looking at maybe 10 people on a single tribe. And the other thing it does is it changes the dynamics of the game because of the way the numbers play out. There’s now this triangle, and when a switch happens or the inevitable merge happens, it complicates everything. And Survivor has always been a game in which one tiny little change can really result in a big result—a sweeping result. And so that’s what we tried to do and it’s always my preference now if the creative lines up to do three tribes, because of that.”

So there you have it. It certainly worked out well the last two times out, so here’s hoping that good things once again do come in threes when Survivor: Worlds Apart kicks off Feb. 25.

For more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.


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