The Name Of The Game http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/29/earlyshow/series/survivor/main596652.shtml
PEARL ISLANDS, Jan. 30, 2004
(CBS) The last time “Survivor” followed a Super Bowl, more than 45 million viewers tuned in. Now, three years later and with a cast of “All-Stars,” it is poised to return CBS' top reality show to the top of the ratings.
CBS News Correspondent Tracy Smith caught up with the players and producers to see how the game has changed for this special edition.
When “Survivor: All-Stars” premieres after Sunday's Super Bowl, it's sure to be a blockbuster night for CBS with tens of millions tuned in to hear four little words: "The tribe has spoken."
Their torches have been snuffed once before. Most of the "All-Stars" are returning for a second chance and many of them with changed lives.
Lex Van Den Berghe quit his day job and got himself a new tattoo.
Colby Donaldson landed a girlfriend. He says, “The coolest thing was, right before I left, she said, 'Know that you're going away, and in seven weeks, you're going to come home to a girl that absolutely loves you.'"
And "Big Tom" Buchanan learned how to read.
Back in Africa, he admitted, “How many million people watching and I can't spell? And I said, 'Learn. Don't be like Big Tom. Learn to read. And reading will learn you to spell and stuff.'”
It's at tribal council where the fate of the “Survivor: All-Star” cast will be determined. But what's become of some of “Survivors”'s past stars who you won't be seeing? Those who were not invited to this newly crafted ring of “Survivor" elite?
Three contestants who survived all of their tribal councils will not be here. They are the winner's of "Survivor" Pearl Islands, Thailand and Marquesas: Sandra Diaz-Twine, Brian Heidik and Vecepia Towery, respectively.
Show host Jeff Probst says, “It’s very tough deciding whether winners should get an instant invite. In the case of someone like Vecepia, name a Vecepia moment. Name one moment about Vecepia. That's not to say she's not a great player. She won.”
Of the non-winners, the biggest no-show may be Mike Skupin, the guy who, after falling into a fire pit in the Outback, became the only contestant unable to complete the game.
So why not Skupin? Executive producer Mark Burnett says, “Well, everybody was not completely available in their life. I mean, it was a big thing to give up eight weeks. I’m not saying I would have put Skupin in, but I happen to know that it wasn't really possible in his current life.”
Two contestants who were pursued but declined are Colleen Haskell, who went on to star in a feature film soon after season one and Elisabeth Filarski, now Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the new co-host on ABC's "The View."
Hasselbeck says, "I just thought I did it. I'm done with it. Time to move on."
But with so many great contestants to choose from, how did producers know when to stop?
Burnett says, "I could have had 24 people here and it would have been a great game. But there comes a time when the real estate, the amount of television time, how many characters you can tell a story of? And 18, I think, is the outer limits."
Of those 18, four are winners, all of whom share relatively low odds of a repeat victory.
Burnett says, "I think all of the winners, especially Richard, have targets on their backs. No one made them come. They chose to come. I'm not going to level any playing field. This is fate."
His advice? "You know what? The true sign of a champion: be a champion. Don't hide it, and still play better than the others,” he says.
At the art department, where challenges are designed and built, there is a lot of pressure to find new ways to test the game's best players.
Jon Kierhoffer says, “They're the ‘All Star’ personalities from the show. The challenges will be as tough as any we've ever done."
He is “Survivor"'s challenge producer and notes, “We decided the only thing appropriate would be to choose our favorite challenges from the previous seven seasons and pump them up a little bit.”
So the first All-Star challenge will be a repeat of the first "Survivor" challenge ever: Quest For Fire. But while the game may look familiar to the Survivors, the pressure to prove their all-star status may be the toughest challenge of all.
Probst notes, "I'm telling you it's not going to be comfortable out here. They are the All-Stars. All they talk about is: 'We're the best, we're the…' They're going to prove it this time. And it wont be easy."
You can catch the premiere of "Survivor: All-Stars" this Sunday on CBS right after the Super Bowl.
And don't forget to watch The Early Show Monday morning to get all the dirt and details from the first all star sent packing.