Survivor: Edge of Extinction host Jeff Probst is explaining what all viewers are curious about -- how the new "Extinction Island" twist will work and how it may affect the game of Survivor and its players.

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When Survivor: Edge of Extinction was in the early days of production in Fiji, Probst discussed the franchise's dramatic new format for Season 38 during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

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Probst said the idea was born when producers wondered what would happen if castaways had an option to continue playing the game after being voted out at Tribal Council.

"It's not Redemption Island. It's not Exile. It's not the Outcast [twist from Survivor: Pearl Islands]. It's truly a situation where you're going somewhere where tribe life as you knew it on the island will seem wonderful, because on Extinction, you will have to work for everything," Probst teased.

"And with no certainty that you will get back in the game, it comes down to one question: how badly do you want this? How far will you want to push yourself? How curious are you to see what you're capable of?"

The game will begin with two tribes competing head-to-head in challenges, with the losing tribe voting off a member at Tribal Council in usual fashion.

But from there, the eliminated castaway will reportedly walk down a road and eventually encounter a sign that asks a player to choose one of two paths: throw in the towel and head to Ponderosa, or walk in a different direction to continue playing the game.

If the person chooses to keep playing, he or she will be taken by boat to a stranded, remote location known as Extinction Island, which presents itself as a barren wasteland with limited resources and harsher winds off the ocean, according to The Reporter.

"You're always on the edge of extinction in this game," Probst said of the new season's theme. "As we continue to evolve the show, it's really important to us that we continue to see how far we can take this experiment."

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The castaway will remain on Extinction Island for an unspecified amount of time until he or she is offered an opening to return to the game.
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But if the player finds Extinction Island too difficult to bare, he or she can reportedly signal a white flag on a broken ship's mast and withdraw from the competition, ultimately giving up the chance to win $1 million.

"We've done a lot in the last few years about gameplay and advantages and twists and really wanting players to come in and play strategically. Lately, it's also been occurring to me that we should try to get a little deeper psychologically, a little deeper spiritually," Probst explained.

"Let's see how far people want to go. Is there a possibility of the spiritual death and rebirth that you seek in life, where you realize something deeper about yourself?"

Meanwhile, the Survivor players still left in the game will have no idea about Extinction Island and will be led to believe the castaways they had voted out of the game are gone for good.

Probst saw the Extinction Island twist as a way to advance Survivor's ability to tell a story and shape a narrative.

"One of the things that I was saying to the producers is we have to evolve how we tell our stories, and if you look at an episode of Survivor from a structure standpoint, we're pretty traditional," Probst told The Reporter.

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"We tend to establish where we are, why we're there, what the story is, and then whatever's changed as a result. We get out and we go to the next scene. But there's no reason that we can't treat Survivor like any other kind of murder mystery drama in terms of how we structure and edit."

Probst reasoned, "We don't have to spend five minutes of screen time at Extinction Island. We just have to tell the story in the most dramatic and entertaining way."

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Viewers can therefore expect to see a structural change in future episodes, as footage might bounce back and forth between a tribe's time at camp to a brief glimpse of a player or players' grueling experience on Extinction Island.

"We want to continue to break down the walls. We're just telling stories. We want to tell them in whatever way is most compelling and works," Probst noted.

Probst said the return of four veteran castaways -- Joe Anglim, Aubry Bracco, David Wright, and Kelley Wentworth -- will play right into the show's new theme.

"These are all four great players who are slightly different, so you can relate to any different part of their game. None of them won, but all of them pushed themselves," Probst said.

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"They all had obstacles they had to overcome, and they overcame them. So if you combine those things -- that this is a very hard game to play, and you must push yourself further than you want, and you still probably won't win -- it makes you ask: how far are you willing to go?"

Survivor: Edge of Extinction premieres on Wednesday, February 20 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.