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'Survivor: Ghost Island' debuts with new twists and return of Final 4 fire-starting change

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/28/2018 

Survivor: Ghost Island premieres Wednesday night on CBS, and fans can expect to see one game-changing twist return, as well as a brand new one introduced!

Twenty new castaways -- divided into two tribes -- will compete on Survivor: Ghost Island, the show's 36th season, when it premieres with a two-hour episode on February 28 at 8PM ET/PT.

In a new game twist, players might be sent to a separate "haunted island" filled with Survivor relics, including hidden Immunity Idols and advantages, that were misplayed from the previous 35 seasons of Survivor. But that's not all.

According to Survivor's longtime host Jeff Probst, this season will feature major cuts in food supply as well as another fire-starting challenge that will determine the season's Final 3 castaways.

In most seasons of Survivor, the castaways were given enough rice to function and survive if rationed into daily meals. 

But Jeff told The Hollywood Reporter, "We're constantly looking at the show, and I'm trying to examine, 'Where is the society element of it?' I never want to lose that."

"Even though the game is definitely dominating, these people are still living together, building shelter, making fire. It has bothered me for quite some time that they can get by without catching any fish or really working that hard," he continued.

Survivor: Ghost Island's castaways will therefore experience an extreme reduction in rice rations so they are forced to find food on the island or in the ocean.

"The idea is, 'Let's cut their rice in half.' And to be clear, that means we're cutting the minimum amount of rice our medical team was comfortable with giving them in half, knowing they're going to have to go find coconuts -- and there are plenty, but it takes work, and you can only eat so much coconut meat before you become a coconut!" Jeff revealed.

"That, or you're going to have to go out into the water. We gave them a really big fishing kit, and there's a lot of fish out here. People have been catching fish out here in Fiji every season."

Jeff believes reducing a tribe's portion of rice could add another complexity or complication to the game, such as changing the voting criteria at Tribal Council.

"The dilemma is going to be, if you do have somebody like Sebastian Noel [a professional fisherman on the Naviti tribe], and he's out there catching fish, and you want to vote him out -- what do you do? I like that," Jeff explained.

"It's not trying to give Sebastian an advantage, but trying to expand the definition of advantage, or necessity. You can't get rid of someone who's very good at challenges as a tribe, because you need them. You shouldn't be able to get rid of someone who's very good at fishing, either, nor a fire-starter, nor a shelter builder -- at least not without consequence."

Jeff added that if a tribe runs out of rice and struggles to catch fish or find coconuts, they could ask for more, but it will certainly cost them.

As for the returning twist, viewers will see a repeat of the fire-starting challenge when only four castaways remain that was featured in the Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers finale in Fall 2017.

And Jeff disclosed to Entertainment Weekly in a separate interview that the castaways were informed of this twist before the season began taping.

"If you get to Final 4, you are guaranteed a shot to earn your way to the end. And if you are the one to win the Final 4 challenge, you are in charge of who you take and who you force to fight for it in a fire-making showdown," Jeff recalled.

Last season, Ben Driebergen was a huge threat and the obvious target to take out before the Final 3, but he had an opportunity to make fire and advance himself to the final Tribal Council, resulting in his ultimate victory over Ryan Ulrich and Chrissy Hofbeck.

The twist's rules allow the winner of the final Individual Immunity Challenge to pick one person to take to the end, forcing the other two remaining players to compete in a fire-starting challenge. This way, the most dangerous player can still earn his or her way to the end of the game without the pressure of winning the final immunity.

"This idea came about to solve a problem that has bothered me for years. If someone plays a great game and gets to the Final 4, it has always bothered me that the other three can simply say, 'We can't beat him so let's all just vote him out.' So this year we decided to make a change," Jeff told EW.

Jeff added, "And of course, it goes without saying, we got lucky with a huge million-dollar showdown between Ben and [Devon Pinto]. It was electric."

Unlike the contestants of Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers -- who were blindsided by the move -- the Ghost Island players were informed of the format change before the season began filming so they could plan and strategize accordingly.

The castaways were reportedly told about the fire-starting challenge because Survivor: Ghost Island began filming only a few weeks after the Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers edition wrapped taping. The Ghost Island castaways were therefore unable to watch last season unfold on TV.

By telling the Ghost Island players about the fire-starting twist at Final 4, castaways and viewers will be on the same page. 

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