The host discusses the "new era" of the reality competition show.
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Jeff Probst has a lot of famous stuff he like to say over and over on Survivor. Once again, immunity is back up for grabs…. Wanna know what you're playing for?… Come on in [guys]!

And, for 40 seasons, he kicked off every premiere the same way: "39 days, [16 to 20] people, 1 Survivor!" (Okay, The Australian Outback was actually 42 days, but stop nitpicking.) That opening season line was officially retired last year when Survivor went down to 26-day installments  for seasons 41 and 42 due to a prolonged Covid quarantine period.

"The decision to change the game to 26 days came from the fact that we couldn't leave our bubble," Probst explained to EW before Survivor 41. "So if we wanted to shoot two seasons, we had to do it back to back. For us to shoot two seasons of 39 days, back-to-back, along with our 14-day quarantine, would have meant nearly 100 days, and that was simply too long." 

Survivor 43 Jeff Probst
Jeff Probst says 26-day 'Survivor' seasons are 'here to stay'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

When asked back in 2021 what that meant for future editions of the show, the host replied: "We haven't decided if we will go back to 39 days."

They have now. The Sept. 21 premiere of Survivor 41 on CBS is now less than a week away, and once again, the 26-day season is back. But after telling EW about the all the twists that won't be returning, Probst also revealed that the 26-day campaign is no longer a temporary fix. In fact, the host tells EW that "Yes, the 26-day season is here to stay. This is our new game, and we are very excited about the future." 

It's not a surprising announcement. The longer a show is on the air, the more expensive it becomes, so the network (in this case, CBS) is always looking for ways to trim the budget. That's why instead of moving around in between countries every season a few months apart,  Survivor started filming seasons back-to-back in the same location beginning with Samoa in season 19. It's also why production set up shop permanently in Fiji in season 33.

Survivor 43 gallery
The cast of 'Survivor' 43
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

And while some Survivor purists may throw their hands in the air and scream about the change, the truth is, a 13-day subtraction does not actually make a big difference in terms of the story on the screen. While former Survivor players say there is a huge change in terms of the physical toll a 39-day game takes when compared to one only 2/3 as long, that change cannot be detected as easily on screen.

In fact, the only real issue with the shortened season on Survivor 41 was the relentless (and monotonous) assault of player interviews that kept dubbing it the hardest Survivor season ever, as if producers were trying too hard to convince the audience that the show was still as difficult as advertised. Such convincing was unnecessary.

And, in many ways, the shortened campaign is preferable to extended over 39-day ones on international editions that often feature non-elimination episodes to stretch out the season. For if you truly crave an all-killer and no-filler experience, then Probst says this is the format for you. "From a big picture point of view, this new era is here to stay," says the host. "Twenty six days, no food, meager supplies, penalties for losing, risky advantages, fast pace, small tribes. We like this version and we think it has legs, so we're going to work within that format and see where it goes."

And so are we.

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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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