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New feature...Jeff does video Blogs:

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.Why On Earth Did You Bring Back Rob and Russell?
by jeff.probst on February 10, 2011 ·

Well, the short answer is because you love them.  Whether you love to “love” them or love to “hate” them, history has shown us that you love them either way.  Rob and Russell are two of our brightest stars and they are both equally polarizing.

If you are a true Survivor fan then you can’t wait to see Russell play again if for no other reason than you want to see him get his ass kicked.  Finally.  By somebody.   I also know that many of you admire how he plays and want to see him rewarded for his bulldozer approach to the game.

If you are a true Survivor fan then you can’t help but be amazed at the transformation Boston Rob made from absolute villain to one of the show’s most popular heroes.  He has grown and matured before our eyes.  First, he married Amber, a former Survivor herself, who won the game and is one of the most beautiful women we’ve ever put on the show.  Then they had a child and recently a second child.  Rob has matured into a very different guy than he was the first time he played way back in Survivor: Marquesas nearly 10 years ago.   I defy you to tell me it won’t be fun to see how he does this time around.

Jon Hein who created the website and coined the phrased, “Jump The Shark” has become a friend of mine over the years.  He currently works for Howard Stern hosting the wrap-up show and as many of you might know I am a huge Stern fan.  We were in Las Vegas together a few weekends ago for CES and we talked about the notion of a show “jumping the shark.”

I said to him that according to his criteria, Survivor has jumped the shark many times throughout our 22 seasons.  He agreed, adding “it’s really just another way of charting the evolution of a show.”

That’s another reason why Rob and Russell are back again.  They fit perfectly with our newest evolution to the game, Redemption Island.

We’ve been pushing for this twist for a few years.  We first pitched it to CBS three years ago but we hadn’t quite worked out all the kinks and they wisely said, “uh… no.”  We went back to the drawing board and came up with a version that felt much better to everybody and this time they said “yes”, albeit with some trepidation.

When you have a hit television show, the last thing you want to do is mess it up.  Making a fundamental change as big as this one is a huge risk for CBS and for Mark Burnett Productions.  For 21 seasons we’ve had one simple rule –when you’re voted out, you’re out of the game.  (Okay for you purists, yes we had a poorly conceived twist in the Pearl Islands – “Outcasts” that cost my buddy Andrew Savage at shot at the million dollars.)  This year that all changes.

The reason we were so excited about this idea is because season after season we would lose good players early on in the game.  It was always so frustrating to me that there was nothing we could do about it other than move forward.

I used to envy Donald Trump.  He can kick out whomever he wants on The Apprentice, thus allowing him to keep more interesting characters around longer.  We don’t have that luxury on Survivor.  Survivor is dictated by the contestants themselves – they decide who stays and who goes.

Redemption Island still gives the contestants total control but what it offers us as producers of the show is the equivilant of a “losers bracket.”  Now when a popular hero or villain is voted out early, they aren’t sent home.  They are sent to Redemption Island where they get a second chance.  Make no mistake, they’ll have to earn it.  Big time.  Redemption Island is no picnic.  You’ll spend a fair amount of time alone. You’ll have to repair your shelter alone.  Sleep alone in the pitch black of night.  Ration your rice.  Keep yourself occupied during the days and then compete in challenges that will test you on various levels.  But if you want it badly enough you may just earn yourself another shot at the million dollars.

I’m always candid when discussing Survivor.  I wasn’t a big fan of Survivor: Nicaragua.  It just didn’t work for me.  But I am a HUGE fan of Redemption Island.  If I’m wrong, then I’ll eat crow at the live show and admit it to all of you but I’m willing to bet that you’re going to absolutely devour this season.  Yep.  I think it’s that good.

Rob and Russell are a big part of that excitement.  Whether they last one episode or are there at the end, it doesn’t matter.  They’re part of the anticipation.  What will happen when they have their first show down as members of opposite tribes.  What if we switch tribes and they end up together?  What if they are both voted out and end up together at Redemption Island?  There are lots of possibilities.

Another reason you’re going to rank this as one of our “Top 5” seasons of all time is this season’s cast.  Phenomenal.  I loved this group.  For more on that, check out my blog “Survivor: Redemption Island – Breaking Down The Cast.”

OMG this is great! there's a behind the scene footage from after the challenge with jeff probst Q&A by Dalton Ross

Jeff's first RI blog from his website

..Survivor: Redemption Island Episode One Blog 2/17/11

....Welcome to the first official episode blog on I know I promised you a video blog, but here’s the truth. I got home from New York at 1:30 am. I sat down in my living room five minutes after getting home and recorded a nine minute video blog. Was it any good? I have no idea. But as I loaded it to YouTube it.. was… too…long. I’m still learning and evidently there is a size limit.

So… you get the written blog once again. I know a lot of you want this to be a written blog anyway. The truth is doing a video blog is a helluva lot easier for me. So maybe I’ll vary it and on days when I have time I’ll write it and other times I’ll videotape it… just shorter.

For the record it is now 3:30 am. That’s 630 am NY time so I’m now at 24 hours without sleeping. Bear that in mind as you read this blog! But I promised you it would be here when you woke up, so here it is.

Feb. 17th, 2011

Well we are one episode in to our 22nd season and I’d say we’re off to a pretty damn good start.

Phillip: I’m a former federal agent. That’s right. Special Agent Shepard.”

Those ten words ushered in a new Survivor superstar. Phillip Shepherd.

I can already hear you guys complaining. Probst, you love Phillip. You have a hard-on for Phillip. (that was one of the quotes I read on Twitter.) I know many of you already hate Phillip. You think Phillip is crazy. Phillip is a loser. Those words fall on deaf ears. It’s as if I don’t have ears. They just bounce off and fall to the ground. I absolutely love Phillip and I’m pretty sure Jimmy Fallon does too!

But more on him later…

First off – flying out the back of a helicopter is a rush no matter how many times I get to do it. Here’s how we did it: I was attached by one safety strap that is hidden under my shirt and the strap is attached to one clip which is attached to the floor of the helicopter. That’s it. That’s all that stops me from falling out of the sky and to what I’m pretty certain would be instant death. But our safety guys told me that it was “almost completely safe…” so I said “Okay, strap me in!”

To get that awesome shot just after I say: “Thirty nine days, 18 people.. One Survivor” — two things have to happen at the exact same moment. The helicopter I was on has to bank to the right and the helicopter that is filming us banks to the left. If they both hit it at the right moment you get that epic moment where it looks like the chopper that I’m on is falling off the side of the earth. If the earth were indeed flat. Our chopper crew of Mark Hryma (photographer) and Ken Gray (pilot) are really, really, really good and their communication with my chopper was the reason that shot looked so freakin epic.

It’s an incredibly fun experience that I wish all of you could try just once. It’s a total rush. I wish we could use choppers or planes every time. Adds a lot of drama.

We had pitched Redemption Island to CBS for a few years but we could never get it past them because the creative wasn’t quite right. Last year we hit upon the magic formula and CBS said yes. They took a HUGE chance letting us change the format of our show. Survivor is a format that has worked all over the world and has allowed us to garner big ratings for over a decade here in the U.S.

Networks don’t mess with things that work. But Leslie Moonves and the guys at CBS take risks. I think this one is going to pay off nicely.

I will go on the record that I think we’ll be doing it again next year. We haven’t even officially been picked up for next year nor talked about creative for next year but I just can’t see going back to the old format. Afer the first tribal council I thought, “I can’t imagine voting someone out and then having them be “gone” from the show. We’d miss out on so much. The “losers bracket” which is what RI is, just opens up so many options.

I realize it’s too early to decide if you like it but I’ll ask you again in episode 5 after you’ve had a bit of time to try it on for size.

I woke up on day one with a really powerful and positive feeling about the season. No idea where it came from, but I knew it was real. It was still hours before we were going to put them on the chopper and I had an idea.

I took my boombox, yes I still have a boombox, and I gathered the Survivors around me in a circle. They still couldn’t talk because the game hadn’t yet started. I then put on LOSE YOURSELF by Eminem. I blasted it from the speakers. I had the words printed on a sheet of paper. I went from one person to another singing the song.. well talking the song… well actually just basically screaming the song. I wanted them to feel the energy I felt – that we were sitting on the edge of something really special.

If you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.

Not sure what they thought about my performance – if they thought I had lost my mind, (which was kinda true) was a lousy singer, (very true) or maybe they just didn’t care one way or the other (quite possible.) But it didn’t matter, I really thought we were onto something and I wanted to share it. In fact, the lyrics of LOSE YOURSELF influenced some of the language I ended up using at Redemption Island duels. See if you pick up on it as the season unfolds.

From the moment R and R exited the chopper the energy changed and it stayed that way for the entire 39 days. Having Rob and Russell ignited something in every other contestant. Like them or not, they are stars of Survivor and they bring something special to the season.

Their journey won’t be easy.

Both have huge targets. Huge. For obvious reasons. No need to waste the space we know the drill. We know their backs are up against the wall. So do they.

But give Russell 3 more days on that island and that one girl alliance could become the two girl alliance that he has used so successfully in the past and he’s off and running. Is it even plausible that he could do it a third time?

Give Boston Rob a few days to solidify an alliance and a few more challenges to prove his worth and he too could become unstoppable.

But if either of them lose many challenges in a row they are probably in trouble. Kristina is already onto Rob and the entire Zapatera tribe, save Stephanie, seems to be onto Russell.

Ah but Survivor is an ever changing game.

And even if they are voted out early… they have Redemption Island. They are guaranteed a second chance. Good luck beating Boston Rob at a duel, Francesca.

Natalie – our youngest competitor ever at 18. Huge adventure for a girl just out of high school. Think about it. Takes nerve just to show up. I root for Natalie.

Matthew, whose religious faith is going to be severely tested if he lasts very long at all. Survivor is a game where “turn the other cheek” typically doesn’t work very well.

Kristina showed herself to be a very strong contender by finding the idol in first few hours.

Ralph, as Mike said has the best man sweater in Survivor history and will need a full-time interpreter if we are to understand him. Or subtitles. Maybe both.

In addition, we have MANY other great characters that you will come to know. Have no fear if I didn’t mention your favorite or the person from your hometown. They’ll all get their chance to shine. This really is a great season. Great.

Our opening challenge is indicative of what to expect this season. Big challenges. Our challenge department had a lot of pent up energy left over from having to do smaller challenges during Survivor: Nicaragua (aka Old vs Young.) This one set the tone that you’ll be earning everything this year.

That was hands down the best first tribal council ever. It was yet another sign to me that whatever that feeling I had the morning of Day One was legit.

Poor Phillip, he really had trouble with Francesca’s name. I think he mispronounced it a few more times but we just couldn’t include them all because sooner or later we had to get to the vote.

It was funny the first three times. Really funny the next three and I nearly fell off my stump the last three. But as he mentioned, he did have dry mouth for which he was getting treatment, so we have to account for that. What wasn’t included was Phillip telling me at tribal council that he had dyslexia. I don’t think anybody believed him but honestly who knows who is telling the truth in this game. Certainly not me. I never know when someone is bullshitting or being straight up, but after he told me he had dyslexia I couldn’t laugh at the mispronunciation any more. He found my soft spot. If he was lying, it worked on me.

Have I told you how much I love Phillip. It’s his earnest nature. That’s what I responded to from the day I met him in casting. He lives this stuff. He believes it. For real. Just like another great Survivor character… Coach!

The moment of the episode had to be Rob demanding that Kristina show him the idol. HUGE MOVE. And it worked. She not only showed it to him she handed it to him. Damn, that is how you do it.

I say it all the time. To get to the end of this game – sooner or later you will have to make a big move. Rob isn’t waiting or wasting any time to make big moves. First tribal, first gigantic, intimidating move. I think Kristina was even considering giving it to him a sign of solidarity. It’s amazing what Rob can pull off. Boston charm.

Downside for Rob.. the target on his back just got a lot larger. Remember that huge red Target store logo from season one? Yes I know some of you were only three when we started… well the target on Rob’s back is that big.

NEXT WEEK TEASE – It’s a great episode. The tease: Phillip goes hunting for crab. You will laugh for sure and you may even shed a patriotic tear. It’s one of the best scenes of the season. Yes, he’s wearing his peach underwear.

OUR LIVE TWITTER EXCHANGE: For those of you who missed it. I was flying home from New York and while on the flight I tweeted live with fans who were watching the show at the same time. It was really kind of amazing. I was watching the show on the airplane at 30,000 feet and tweeting back and forth. It was quite the fun experience. I’ll see what the feedback is over the week and maybe we’ll try to do it again. I stole the idea from Howard Stern who did it recently while watching his movie Private Parts on television.


Jeff just tweeted this lil gem for all us fans!

JeffProbst Jeff Probst

Tweeting live tomorrow during the Survivor west coast broadcast, new video on home page explains it all


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