Hot host ... Jeff Probst reveals the secrets behind the show.
Survivor secrets revealed
By Eleanor Sprawson
THE tribe has spoken again and again over nine seasons of Survivor but viewers have rarely been given the chance to speak back.
That means the big questions have never been asked. Questions like who came up with that line, "the tribe has spoken", in the first place?
To celebrate the finale of Survivor: Vanuatu, which airs with special episodes on Sunday and Monday nights, we asked host Jeff Probst some of the secrets to one of reality TV's longest-running successes.
Probst says that right from the beginning, the show wanted to set itself apart by its use of language. "I talked to Mark (Burnett, executive producer) at the beginning about not having words that anybody had ever heard in television in terms of our important phrases," he recalls.
"Mark Burnett had been thinking about this show for four years before he hired me and what he said to me made me instantly realise that want he wanted was tribal council to feel like it had been going on for centuries," he says.
"So let's don't say 'game', let's don't say 'players', let's don't say 'winner'. Let's say challenge and survivors and sole survivor."
The same thinking went into naming the tribal council and the phrases that are used ritually at the council at the end of each episode.
"I was very much aware that the vernacular of the ritual was going to be important," says Probst.
"But it wasn't scripted at all and what happened was the first night we got out there for our first tribal council (back in 2000 when the show was filmed on Pulau Tigu in the South China Sea) we started talking about what was going to happen.
"Mark said, 'Well I think what's going to happen is we'll have them walk up and maybe they'll have torches and we'll have the fire behind them - because fire's important you know, in a survival situation fire represents life.
"So I'm sitting there thinking, 'Fire represents life man, that's great. It's super-corny but it's worthy'. "And then he goes, 'Then at the end, after the person's voted out, you're going to say, 'Well obviously your tribe don't want you around no more, get out'.
So I go,'Well I don't know Mark, that's kind of harsh to say time after time after time'.
"And he goes, 'Well I don't know what to say, I mean that's the way it is, the tribe has spoken you know'. So boom, there it was."
Jeff Probst is the first to admit that after the huge success of the first series, the kind of people who applied for the show went wrong.
"Originally we had these people who wanted a really cool adventure," he says. "Then we morphed into people who wanted to be celebrities.
"But there are easier ways to become a celebrity now on reality shows - just go on a dating show or any number of things.
"So I think the survivors have come full circle - we're now back to the people who are applying because they want this experience."
Unfortunately Probst and the show's makers don't have any say over which of their contestants stay until the end of the game.
Indeed, the tribes can actually sometimes seem to engage in a joint conspiracy to vote out the series' most watchable characters.
"That's the most ulcer-inducing aspect, hoping your great characters stick around. I mean they don't have to stay to the end but they have to stay deep into the show," says the host, who has already filmed the 10th season of the show on an island in the South Pacific.
"We've had times when we've lost good people and there's nothing you can do, I mean (the Survivor series set in) Thailand is the perfect example. Nothing we could do about it - we were left with four unlikeable people. Argh."
Seeing how the show gets from the scene of voting for the winner at the final tribal council on location to the live (at least on American TV) counting of the votes is right up there with finding out who has won.
Ever since the second series, which was set in Australia, the show has linked the two parts by pretending that, for example, a helicopter has taken off from the outback with the votes and is just arriving live in New York for the tally.
Most famously, Probst boarded a jet ski in the finale of the Amazon series and headed upriver. He was seen emerging into New York Harbour in front of the Statue of Liberty.
"Once you start thinking about it you realise it's ridiculous, so we decided from Australia on to treat it as if it's absolutely serious," says Probst.
"And the funny part is every time we do it some idiot will come up to me and say, 'Uh, for the record? It's impossible to ride a jet ski from the Amazon to New York City'."
"So you just go, 'You know, you're right. You got me'." http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,11627058%255E10431,00.html