"We're asking players to do things we wouldn't have dreamed of doing in the early seasons," says the host. "And they’re doing it!"
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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

It was proclaimed as new era of Survivor when the reality competition program relaunched after an extended 16-month absence due to COVID. That absence also came after a landmark 40th season titled Winners at War that pitted former champions against each other, making season 41 a natural new beginning for the show.

Indeed, we saw plenty of changes starting with Survivor 41. The biggest difference began with the casting, thanks to CBS' new diversity mandate that at least 50 percent of every reality cast be people of color. There was also the fact that the game was now only 26 days as opposed to 39 (originally done because of the extended quarantine protocol, but now here to stay). And then there were the bevy of new twists and game wrinkles: Shot in the Dark, Knowledge is Power, Goofy Secret Phrases, the Hourglass twist, Do or Die, and plenty of Prisoner's Dilemmas.

"LIVIN" - Eighteen new castaways come together to form their own society and begin their adventure for $1 million and title of Sole Survivor, on the special two-hour season premiere of the 43rd edition of SURVIVOR
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

While the core of the game — strangers on an island voting each other out until one is declared the winner — remained the same, the evolution of the show kicked into overdrive. Except in one key way. Many of the challenges seen on seasons 41 and 42 were relics of the past. That's not entirely surprising considering all the complications inherent with just getting the program back up and running in the still precarious COVID era that was the spring of 2021, when both seasons were filmed.

But now, a year later, when it came to Survivor 43 (which premieres Sept. 21 on CBS), challenge producer John Kirhoffer decided to go big. "John Kirhoffer has led our challenge team for every single challenge of every single season," says Jeff Probst. "And I gotta say, Survivor 43 has some of the biggest and most dramatic challenges of any season." 

"LIVIN" - Eighteen new castaways come together to form their own society and begin their adventure for $1 million and title of Sole Survivor, on the special two-hour season premiere of the 43rd edition of SURVIVOR
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

EW has some exclusive images of those challenges, which you can see here (along with an exclusive photo of what looks like the day 1 marooning, because why the heck not?). According to the host, the new challenges will not just be bigger, they will be harder as well.

"I'm not sure what got into Kirhoffer's team," Probst says. "But these challenges are no joke. We're asking players to do things we wouldn't have dreamed of doing in the early seasons and they're doing it!"

"LIVIN" - Eighteen new castaways come together to form their own society and begin their adventure for $1 million and title of Sole Survivor, on the special two-hour season premiere of the 43rd edition of SURVIVOR
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Probst says even he was amazed once he saw the competition courses at their full size and scale: "It seemed like every other day I was saying to Kirhoffer, 'Wow, these challenges looked so much smaller on paper. You're SURE the players can do this, right?!"

And while the contestants will certainly be challenged to the extreme going through these challenges, awaiting them on the other side lies glory… and perhaps an immunity idol or necklace. "They're definitely epic," says Probst of the courses. "And so is the feeling of accomplishment when you conquer it!"

The conquering begins Sept. 21.

"LIVIN" - Eighteen new castaways come together to form their own society and begin their adventure for $1 million and title of Sole Survivor, on the special two-hour season premiere of the 43rd edition of SURVIVOR
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Make sure to check out EW's Fall TV Preview cover story — as well as all of our 2022 Fall TV Preview content, releasing over 22 days through Sept. 29.

Related content:

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
Survivor

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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