Jeff Probst says there is no limit on times someone can play Survivor
Survivor has had its share of repeat offenders — folks brought back to play a second time. Even more exclusive is the list of threepeaters. And then there is the most rarified of airs — contestants who have played on four different occasions. Before this season, that club contained only two members, Boston Rob Mariano and Rupert Boneham, but now its size has doubled as Cirie Fields and Ozzy Lusth will both be making their fourth appearances on Survivor: Game Changers (premiering March 8 on CBS).
With that in mind, we asked Jeff Probst on day one of filming season 34 whether they had internal discussions during casting on whether it’s possible to bring someone back too many times. “Yes, and there’s no answer,” says the host. “You can go to EW.com and read all the comments you want about people having an opinion and they’re all valid. I don’t think we have the exact right answer on anything. We have to make a decision and we go with it, and I’m being very candid, as I always am with you. My first person that I wanted on the show was Cirie. And I said, ‘The audience still wants to see her win.’ And CBS said, ‘The first person we want is Ozzy.’ And I said, ‘Wow.’ And they said, ‘How can you do a season called Game Changers without Ozzy?’ And I said, ‘You’re absolutely right. You’re right! He’s changed the game arguably as much as anybody.’ And that was how it went.”
So is there any sort of limit on how many times a contestant can play Survivor? “No, I really don’t think so,” says Probst. “I think that would be foolish to say, ‘Yeah, five is the number.’ Because there is that idea of diminishing returns, but there’s also the idea of, maybe this is the time! It’s like playing a lottery. Maybe I’ll win this week! ‘Jim, you’ve been playing for 27 years, you spent a lottery trying to win the lottery.’ I know, but what if? It’s always a question of what if.”
Probst also insists that even though there were what he has described as “battles” with the network over which contestants to bring back, that ultimately everyone working on the beach is happy with the final casting result. “We just went back and forth, and we have the greatest time because we had 48 people that we originally started with,” says Probst, “and we ended up with 20. So that was a pretty fun process. And painful at times to let people go, and say, ‘I’m not going to win this one. You’re not going to win that one.’ And we ended up with 20 people that can take solace in the fact that everybody wants you to be here. Every producer on the beach is waiting to interview you. And we hope that the fans will trust us that we’re trying to always deliver a good show for you. We’ve been on a pretty good run. We hope you liked Millennials vs. Gen X. Give us a shot on this one.”
Watch the video above to see Probst weigh in on bringing players back multiple times, and for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.