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‘Survivor’ Host Jeff Probst Reflects on How the Game Has Evolved Over the Past 45 Seasons

Survivor Jeff Probst on How the Game Has Evolved Over 45 Seasons
Robert Voets/CBS

Jeff Probst has seen his fair share of tribal councils since Survivor premiered 23 years ago — and it hasn’t gotten old.

“There’s a phrase I said to myself years ago that stayed with me — which is one of the things I learned from Survivor — everybody has a story,” Probst, 61, exclusively shares in the newest issue of Us Weekly. “Once you know their story, their life makes sense. So when somebody’s acting in a weird way, ask a couple of questions, maybe you’ll find out they’re having a bummer of the day and you can help them.”

The Emmy-winning host of the longtime reality series has had a “front-row seat to human behavior” since the show premiered in 2000. Over the course of 45 seasons, Survivor has outwitted, outplayed and outlasted as its castaways strive to be the Sole Survivor and take home the $1 million cash prize. While the show has maintained a strong following, Probst confessed that he knew that the game needed to evolve since its debut.

“I don’t think we would’ve known in season one what we would be needing to do in season 45,” Probst, who also serves as an executive producer, reflects to Us. “But when you look back on it, I think it’s the game design.”

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When Survivor first premiered, the game was simple and didn’t have many twists or mechanics other than surviving the natural elements. During Survivor: Guatemala, which aired in 2005, the Hidden Immunity Idol was introduced and the talisman has been a staple on the competition show since. Following the success of Hidden Immunity Idol, new advantages have been introduced including the Steal A Vote, Knowledge Is Power, Safety Without Power and more.

Survivor Jeff Probst on How the Game Has Evolved Over 45 Seasons
Jeff Probst selling ‘Survivor’ props and memorabilia for charity in 2002 Theo Wargo/WireImage

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis in putting twists and different advantages and things in the game, but they’re only to create uncertainty so that we can get back to what players were dealing with in the early seasons,” Probst explains. “Because in the beginning of Survivor, [castaways] didn’t know what was coming next. After a few seasons, they start to know what’s coming next. So our job is to get back to that uncertainty.”

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Along with the new advantages and twists, season 45, which premiered in September, has given the viewers what they’ve been begging for — longer episodes. CBS announced in September that the newest season of Survivor was getting 90-minute installments every Wednesday night.

“90 minutes is fun because we knew in advance, so we designed the game for longer episodes and that allowed us to put a few more fun elements in,” Probst tells Us while sharing how they’ve elevated hidden immunity idols this season. “They’re very elaborate this year. They take a lot more work, a lot more ingenuity. You’re probably going to need somebody to help you look out for cover, but we have the time to show it. So fans are going to really enjoy watching the process play out.”

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