With Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites premiering tonight on CBS, Probst said he has very high hopes for the new season, which will be the franchise's second "Fans vs. Favorites" edition and feature a 20-person cast comprised of 10 new castaways and 10 returning players from previous seasons.
"We have a lot of great [former contestants] who we have not yet anointed as a star or worthy of being in an all-star version of some sort," Probst toldEntertainment Weekly, referencing how the returning players are only getting their second shot at the game rather than the typical second or third chance.
"And we started looking at that list and said, 'We actually have a new batch of people that would be fun to put against a group of newbies.' And the result was fantastic. It really worked. It will be a season that most fans will regard even better than Survivor: Philippines. I really believe that. I know I've been wrong in the past, but if I'm wrong on this one, man, snuff my torch."
All of the returning players derive from fairly recent seasons, as none of them appeared on any of the franchise's first 15 installments and only Corinne Kaplan and Erik Reichenbach's participation dates back prior to the show's most recent five editions. According to Probst, casting relatively new returning players was intentional.
"We realized that we had to make a decision. Do we only bring back our oldest iconic stars, or do we begin to birth new stars. And when we sat down with the list and said, 'Okay let's look at the people that we haven't brought back yet,' we felt like we had a really good group. And it was a bit of a turning point for us to say, 'We're now going to look at the next generation of Survivor all-stars,'" the host explained.
Once John Cochran learned he'd be competing on the upcoming Survivor season -- which was shot back-to-back with Survivor: Philippines in early 2012 in the Caramoan Islands -- and who he'd be up against, he apparently believed he was a part of a list of returning castaways whose game credentials weren't exactly admirable or outstanding.
"I was looking around all the CBS stuff to see if I could find a logo for the season somewhere because I'm dying to know what this season is subtitled because it sure isn't being called Greatest Survivor Players of All-Time," Cochran told EW before filming began in May of last year.
"I'm afraid it's going to be some sort of unflattering thing like Dunce Island where we have to wear dunce caps instead of buffs or something. Because there are a lot of people that made weird moves or poor moves like me. I can name flaws in everybody but [Dawn Meehan] and Corinne."
However, Probst defended the lineup of veterans this season despite admitting the players are better known for their big personalities than strategic gameplay.
"I don't know that that's really different than any of the other all-stars seasons... If you look at it, when [Andrea Boehlke] left the game I remember making a mental note that we should bring her back, because you knew she was a smart player. She was learning, and in her case, learning from one of the best ever -- from Boston Rob. I don't look at Andrea any differently than I would [Amber Brkich-Mariano], who went on to win," said the host.
"[Andrea's] physically strong. She's got the social game. She got outplayed, and she got a little smitten for a guy [Matthew Elrod] who slowed her down a bit. What if she went home and put those tools together and went out to play again? Same with Cochran. Cochran didn't win the first time. He's a very good Survivor player."
And the trend of pitting returning players against newbie castaways in recent seasons apparently won't be stopping any time in the near future.
"Returning players have yet to let us down," Probst told EW.
"They always deliver. They're too irresistible. And the truth is that I'm realizing the only time in quite a while that we haven't brought people back is One World, and it was not one of the most popular seasons. So I don't know if you can deduce from that that returning players are the answer, but certainly a conclusion to draw is that if and when you can bring returning players back, do so, because they add life to your show."
Not only will Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites have life, but it will also apparently have love.
"There's some romance early on which continues to blow my mind! It knocks me over that people want the jungle love!... I can't believe romance happens in front of other people in a game like Survivor," he said.
While the Survivor: Philippines castaways experienced 21 straight days of rain, Probst acknowledged the weather won't exactly let up for Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites.
"The weather is a problem. This is a difficult season. The Survivors get pummeled. And there are evacuations. There are things out of the norm that happen this season that will be very memorable. I was on the boat a lot, going back and forth between camps," Probst explained.
"It starts early. There's a lot of drama. So it indeed seems as if once again at least one person will be taken out of the game for medical reasons."
But despite the weather, Probst also promised the upcoming Survivoredition will feature more water challenges than Survivor: Philippines.
"We were in the water a fair amount for Philippines, but we're in the water even more in 'Fans Vs. Favorites,'" he told EW.
"Nothing gets [executive producer] Mark Burnett more excited than a shot in the water of someone diving down to untie something. That is the thing that he loves the most. So the mandate is, get those Survivors in the water as often as possible."
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