'Survivor' host Jeff Probst explains Season 41's big finale changes, including pre-filmed winner reveal!
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/15/2021
Survivor host Jeff Probst has confirmed and explained some big finale changes for Season 41, including how there will be no live reunion special hosted from Los Angeles, CA.
Survivor: Winners at War, the 40th edition of Survivorthat aired on CBS in Spring 2020, concluded with Jeff reading votes live from his garage while videochatting with the finalists from their respective homes or locations due to COVID-19.
In order to play it safe amid the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic and avoid another virtual reunion, Jeff has confirmed producers filmed his reading of the votes and the announcement ofSurvivor's Season 41 winner on location in Fiji in May, almost immediately after the jury had cast their votes at the final Tribal Council on Day 26, Paradereported.
"For context, you have to remember that production for Survivor 41 started back in early April with a mandatory 14-day quarantine in Fiji, before we even began shooting," Jeff explained.
"At that time, no television shows had live audiences, and there was no way to predict where things would stand in December . Nobody loves a live finale more than me. The energy is fantastic, but it simply wasn't an option."
Jeff therefore said producers decided on the "safest and most practical" option for the finale and reunion, which was "to finish the show in the jungle and reveal the votes at the Final Tribal Council."
Jeff recalled, however, there was "a really fun upside" of this decision.
"It gave us a chance to do something we hadn't done since Season 1 -- reveal the winner in the jungle in real time! It was electric, and it blew the player's minds," Jeff said.
Survivorviewers haven't seen an on-location reading of the final jury votes since Season 1 back in 2000 with the exception of Survivor: Ghost Island, which featured a tie vote at Final Tribal and then Jeff reading only the tiebreaker vote months later from the United States.
But the winner announcement in Fiji wasn't the only big twist of the evening for the Season 41 castaways.
After Jeff read the champion aloud, he immediately sat down with the cast for an unprecedentedSurvivor After Show in Fiji, which will replace the show's typical reunion special -- which takes place live in a television studio months after a season has filmed and the castaways have been able to watch it air on CBS.
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"So once we announced the winner, we brought in some pizza and champagne and just kept shooting!" he told Parade.
"We had a really candid, raw, unfiltered conversation while the players and jury were still very much in game mode. I thinkSurvivor fans will enjoy it."
Jeff got into a little more detail about the final reading of the votes and said it was "a really fun moment" for him in a separate interview withEntertainment Weekly.
"After the last jury member voted, I looked over at the Final 3 [castaways] and then over to the jury and said, 'I'll go get the votes.' I knew that as I walked away, they were all naturally assuming we were going to do the finale back in Los Angeles months from now. Just like always," Jeff explained.
"I got back to my little booth in the jungle where I check the votes and the first thing I did was look at the votes to see who had won! It was a cool moment, because normally I don't look at the final votes at all."
Jeff said he really "savored" and appreciated the quiet moment, knowing he was about to walk back out and shock the Season 41 cast by declaring a winner right away for the first time in over 20 years.
"I put the votes in order and then headed back to the players," Jeff shared. "I could barely contain my smile as I sat the urn down and said, 'Guess what...?!' Their reactions were fantastic."
Jeff recalled seeing "huge smiles" and excitement on everyone's face.
"And then without any fanfare, I read the votes. It was so quiet. We're used to the live finale where thousands of fans and family members are screaming with each vote read," Jeff teased.
"Not this time. It was very fun and very dramatic in large part due to its simplicity."
The finale of Survivor 41 is set to air as a three-hour episode on Wednesday at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.
The finale will begin with the Final 5 castaways -- Xander Hastings, Deshawn Radden, Ricard Foye, Erika Casupanan, and Heather Aldret -- starting fresh at a new beach on Night 23 of the game with no shelter and limited food and supplies.
Jeff said the last few days of the game were designed to make the players -- who were already running on "fumes" -- dig deep into their souls.
The remaining castaways will face two Individual Immunity Challenges, two Tribal Councils, and one fire-making tiebreaker heading into Day 26 of the game and the finale, when the winner will be crowned.
"I have to say, the highlight of Survivor 41 for me has been the players. I had such excitement and joy every day I saw them. I hope they felt that from me," Jeff told EW.
"I was genuinely enthused to see them and watch them play. We spent a lot of time putting this group together and they really delivered. Of course, it was difficult, that is part of the design."
Jeff saidSurvivor is meant to push players out of their comfort zones -- physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
"Otherwise, it's not worth it," Jeff noted. "We don't design the game to trick players, we design the game to test players. It's their response to the conditions of the game that we love watching!"
Jeff added, "I know the players were shocked at the intensity of the new game design and that was our intention. This was a complete rebirth and we wanted them to be completely off-balance and uncertain from the opening minutes to the final moments."