'Survivor' host Jeff Probst on the fan-voted 'Second Chance' season | EW.com

TV | Survivor

Jeff Probst gives exclusive details on Survivor's fan-voted 'Second Chance' season

(Monty Brinton/CBS)

The big twist for the next season of Survivor was announced at the end of Wednesday night’s Worlds Apart episode, and we’ve got the exclusive scoop from both host Jeff Probst and the people that will be competing to play.

Thirty-two former (and current) players comprise a pool from which fans will vote to determine the entire cast for next season. The voting takes place at cbs.com/survivorsecondchance. Unlike CBS’ Big Brother: All-Stars season in 2006, in which viewers voted in only some cast members while the network and producers picked the rest (including Mike Boogie, who went on to win), this time, fans will pick all 20 players (the top 10 men and top 10 women) for the season, which will air in the fall.

Voting is open now, and goes until 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20th, one hour into this season’s finale. The cast will be announced that night at the Worlds Apart live reunion show—all 32 nominees will be present, and they’ll find out their fates live like everyone else. (You can hear from the entire pool of players right here.)

The 32 possible players (full list is below) all have two things in common: They have only played Survivor once, and none of them won in their first time out. Among the wannabe contestants are old-school selections like season 1 runner-up Kelly Wiglesworth (who lost the first million dollar check by one vote to Richard Hatch), Jeff Varner and Kimmi Keppenberg from season 2 (The Australian Outback), Andrew Savage (Pearl Islands), and Terry Deitz and Shane Powers (Panama). Also on the list are four names (Woo, Spencer, Kass, and Tasha) from the thrilling Cagayan installment, as well as five faces from the current Worlds Apart season.

In fact, the inclusion of two particular Worlds Apart players could lead to a bit of controversy. While this next “Second Chance” season is clearly being billed as a contest for non-winners, two of the possibilities on the list—Carolyn Rivera and Mike Holloway—are still in contention for Worlds Apart. The list, then, seems like a pretty major spoiler that neither of them will win their current season.

What does Probst have to say about that? Where did the inspiration for the twist come from? Is the host worried about giving viewers all that power? And should we expect that all the most current players will be voted in, similar to what happened on Big Brother?

We asked Probst all of that and more. Read on for his answers and then peruse the full list of eligible contestants below that. (Also make sure to check out our Survivor gallery to read exclusive pitches from the contestants themselves as they tell you how they will play differently their second time out, should they be selected to compete.) But first, here’s my Q&A with the hostmaster general:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys have been listening to the fans a lot lately—like giving us three seasons in a row with all new players—and now you’re giving the fans even more power by letting them pick your cast. Tell me how this new fan-voted twist came about.
JEFF PROBST: Well, like a lot of Survivor ideas, we’ve wanted to do this one for a long time because we knew we had a group of really good players who didn’t last in the game long enough to warrant being put on an all-star type of season. But we believed they had great game inside them if they were to be given a second chance. So the key came down to timing, because we always wanted the fans to be the deciders in this group. We wanted the fans to make the decision, and then we immediately wanted to be able to go shoot the season. So this is the first time our shooting schedule has allowed us to pull that off, because we’re actually shooting earlier in the year than we normally do. So it lined up. And the minute it did, we pitched it to CBS and they said, “This is great, this is the perfect time to do it. Let’s do it.”

What I love about it is that all the people competing for votes have only played once, so we’re not getting folks that have played two or three times already. I have to imagine that was a conscious decision to keep it feeling fresh.
That was the point. The point was, we have all these great players—people that we liked enough to put on the show—but in most cases, they got cut early…too early to have made the jury. And if they didn’t make the jury, then they probably weren’t known enough to be an all-star. And yet, you would look at them and think, “Man though, they had great game. If they had just lasted a couple of more votes, who knows?” There’s always going to be people who deserve a second shot because they just didn’t get far enough the first time, for whatever reason. And then the no winners thing was the other part of it—it’s not a second shot if you’ve already won. So it was people who have only played once and have not won.

Big Brother did a fan voted all-stars season back in 2006, but only allowed the audience to pick half of the cast so they could make sure that certain players they really wanted in the show made it regardless of being voted in or not. Any concern about giving this much power to viewers to pick the whole cast?
We’ve been on so long that our philosophy has evolved. Six or seven or eight years ago, we would not have given them the power to choose everybody for the exact same reason you just said. But as more time goes on and as our relationship with our audience deepens, I’m certainly a proponent of taking bigger chances. You said at the top of this that we continue to let our fans be involved, and I like to have fun on Twitter and say, “I hate memory challenges.” And then people go, “We love them! We love them!” And I’m like, “Okay, they’ll be back.” Those aren’t do or die decisions.

The real truth is that fans are much better at telling you what they don’t want—they’re not always so good at telling you what they do want. It’s like [Henry] Ford said: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve wanted a faster horse.” I believe that to be true. Sometimes fans will say this is what we should do and they don’t know what they’re talking about. This is a case where the whole premise was based on picking people that we think either played a great game and it got cut off early, or they barely got started and we think they have a better game. Or, in the case of a couple of people, the first time they played, they were maybe lambed…they were virgins. And we feel like maybe they learned something and it’d be fun to watch them play a second time—kind of like Amber when she came back and everybody said “Why Amber?” And I still remember Lynne Spillman and I talking and saying, “Because what if? What if she’s figured it out? That would be fun to watch.”

So that was kind of the idea from the beginning is, when we do this, let them choose. The power we had was putting the list together, and as people will see, we took some chances. We put some people on here that are obvious, and we put some people on there that fans may go, “Wow, really? Huh.” It’s your call: Who do you want to see? You pick!

One thing I remember from the Big Brother voting is that for the most part, the people voted in were all from very recent seasons—because, you know, out of sight out of mind. Are you concerned that you might get all very recent contestants, and that folks from the very early seasons like Kelly, Kimmi, Jeff Varner and others might not make it because of how long ago they were on the show?
I think that’s a good question. In a perfect world, having Kelly Wiglesworth—who is the ultimate second chancer, because she was the first runner-up; she lost by one vote to Richard Hatch in the first season, so there’s certainly a little bit of nostalgia for someone like Kelly that you’d love to see—but you give it to the fans. And the beauty is, the people who are watching the show are telling you who they want. So if they choose everybody from the last five seasons, let’s go. I’m good with that. We have great people. I look at the people on this list and I’m happy to have any collection of 20—10 men and 10 women—and really, honestly, ultimately I don’t care. It’d be great if we had it diverse going back to season 1 all the way to season 30, because that would represent our entire run. But if that’s not what they decide, that’s okay. What was important to us was that we give you the choice. We’re giving you people that span the globe—it’s up to you who you want.

You are calling this twist “Second Chance,” and you clearly mentioned it’s for people that did not win the first time around. But you have two people in Mike and Carolyn that are still in contention for the current season airing. By having them be potential contestants in a second chance season, isn’t that a huge spoiler in big neon letters that they do not win this season?
Oh my God, I didn’t even think of this! You’ve just caught me off guard! [Laughs] As you would expect from Survivor, we found a way to add a little twist, a little layer of mystery, into the Second Chance voting. So the definition of Second Chance is, contestants who have only played once and never won. So, that means either Mike and Carolyn both lost, or one of them could be, ultimately, ineligible.

So people could throw all of their voting into Carolyn, and then if she wins Worlds Apart, you have to tell them that their votes don’t count? That’s kind of a bummer for people wasting all that time voting for her!
Well, that’s the way it goes. This is an interactive, fun game, and this is, in a way, like being blindsided. And the good news is, if it was Carolyn who won and she had a bunch of votes but wasn’t able to play, then whoever was the eleventh woman would suddenly be in the game and that would be fun for them. It’s just a fun way to do it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s like an implied agreement that everything that happens on Survivor will have some sort of “Huh, is that all there is to it? Or is there something else?”

Not to lobby, but I really think Shane Powers and Jim Rice would be fun to see again.
You are hitting on what we hope will happen, which is true fans will vote for people they remember. They may have to think for a minute, but I agree with you—that’s why Jim Rice is on there, because he was a really interesting guy, very conniving, good player, but got voted out early. What would happen if he had lasted a few more weeks? Who knows? He could’ve been a perennial all-star—that’s what fun about Second Chance. I can tell you one thing: from talking to these guys, there is a level of motivation that rivals even the most hardcore fan who finally gets on the show, because some of these people—like, Savage has been waiting since Season 6. That’s what, 13 years or something like that? Pining over this, thinking over and over again. Kelly Wiglesworth thinking about one vote didn’t change my life—that one damn vote. And hers will have been almost 16 years. So those people have had a lot of time to think about it, and I think that makes the stakes for them really big. And yet, someone will still be the first person voted out of Second Chancers.

If Michael Skupin hadn’t fallen in the fire, Jeff Varner’s whole deal in Season 2 could have been completely different as well.
If Jeff Varner didn’t step down for peanut butter! Jeff Varner said he has not had peanut butter since, and that was Season 2, fourteen plus years ago—because he stepped down and got voted out. And he got voted out on a rule that we used to have, which is if there was a tie, then whoever had the most total votes at that point went home. We since got rid of it, because it didn’t really seem like that was an appropriate way to break a tiebreaker. So Varner could make the case that “I was voted out on something you guys don’t even use anymore.” Savage could make the case, “I got voted out on the Outcast twist,” which I’ve said is one of the few times I think we blew it. So there are those kinds of stories, and then there are stories like Natalie, who played with Boston Rob and the story about her was—a lot of people would say she was just a young girl who was dragged to the end. But, in being dragged for 39 days, she was being dragged by one of the best—did she pick anything up? I don’t know. If you’re interested, vote for her.

Woo kept saying after his season that he did not regret taking Tony to the end, and would do the same thing again. If he makes it back in, I would be fascinated to see if he would actually stick with that line of thinking or not.
Yeah, Woo is definitely a well-liked guy. The kids loved Woo. I’ve wondered—should I be in an alliance with Woo? Or does he still have some resentment and bitterness and maybe that’s a bad choice, I don’t know. But he’s a likeable guy. And all of the people we’ve mentioned so far—if all of those people made it, I’d be through the roof. They’re all great—no matter who you pick, I could give you a story about why I think they’d be fun.

So how is the announcement of who actually makes the cast going to work?
Here’s how this is going to work—you vote up until the first hour of the finale when we’re live. We’re in Los Angeles, we kick off the show, we start running that last episode. And for an hour, the polls are still open.

Up until 9 p.m. Eastern.
Then they close. Then we finish this season, we have a reunion show, and in the audience will be the 32 people with their suitcases ready to go. And at the end of the reunion show, we will do a live reveal of the new cast and they will literally leave the studio, get on a bus, and start heading out. And what I love about these guys is they know that—they know that it’s going to be in front of everybody, and you’re either in or you’re out. And that speaks to what I talked about: that motivation. They don’t care that they might be embarrassed by not getting the votes, because they want it bad enough that they’re willing to risk that. That’s a ballsy move, to sit in an audience on a live television show and know that you may be told yes or you may be told no. And if you’re told no, it really is being voted out. The audience of your favorite show just told you, “We don’t want to see you, sorry.”

FULL LIST OF ELIGIBLE CASTWAYS FOR SEASON 31 OF ‘SURVIVOR’

Kelly Wiglesworth
Season 1
Survivor: Borneo
Previous Finish: Runner-up 

Jeff Varner
Season 2 
Survivor: The Australian Outback
Previous Finish: 10th place

Kimmi Kappenberg
Season 2
Survivor: The Australian Outback 
Previous Finish: 12th place

Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper
Season 3 
Survivor: Africa
Previous Finish: 5th place

Andrew Savage
Season 7
Survivor: Pearl Islands
Previous Finish: 10th place

Shane Powers
Season 12
Survivor: Panama
Previous Finish: 5th place

Terry Deitz
Season 12
Survivor: Panama
Previous Finish: 3rd place

Peih-Gee Law
Season 15
Survivor: China
Previous Finish: 5th place

Stephen Fishbach
Season 18
Survivor: Tocantins
Previous Finish: Runner-up

Monica Padilla
Season 19
Survivor: Samoa
Previous Finish: 7th place

Natalie Tenerelli
Season 22
Survivor: Redemption Island
Previous Finish: 3rd place

Stephanie Valencia 
Season 22
Survivor: Redemption Island
Previous Finish: 14th place

Jim Rice
Season 23
Survivor: South Pacific
Previous Finish: 12th place

Mikayla Wingle 
Season 23
Survivor: South Pacific
Previous Finish: 14th place                                                      

Sabrina Thompson
Season 24
Survivor: One World
Previous Finish: Runner-up                                                                     

Troy “Troyzan” Robertson
Season 24
Survivor: One World
Previous Finish: 8th place

Abi-Maria Gomes 
Season 25
Survivor: Philippines
Previous Finish: 5th place

Brad Culpepper
Season 27
Survivor: Blood vs. Water
Previous Finish: 15th place

Ciera Eastin 
Season 27 
Survivor: Blood vs. Water
Previous Finish: 5th place

Vytas Baskauskas
Season 27
Survivor: Blood vs. Water
Previous Finish: 10th place

Kass McQuillen  
Season 28 
Survivor: Cagayan
Previous Finish: 3rd place                                                                           

Spencer Bledsoe
Season 28
Survivor: Cagayan
Previous Finish: 4th place

Tasha Fox
Season 28
Survivor: Cagayan
Previous Finish: 6th place

Woo Hwang
Season 28
Survivor: Cagayan
Previous Finish: Runner-up

Jeremy Collins
Season 29
Survivor: San Juan del Sur
Previous Finish: 10th place

Keith Nale
Season 29
Survivor: San Juan del Sur
Previous Finish: 4th place

Kelley Wentworth
Season 29   
Survivor: San Juan del Sur
Previous Finish: 14th place  

Carolyn Rivera
Season 30
Survivor: Worlds Apart
Previous Finish: ??? (still in game)

Joe Anglim
Season 30
Survivor: Worlds Apart
Previous Finish: 10th place

Max Dawson
Season 30
Survivor: Worlds Apart
Previous Finish: 14th place

Mike Holloway
Season 30
Survivor: Worlds Apart
Previous Finish:: ??? (still in game)

Shirin Oskooi 
Season 30 
Survivor: Worlds Apart
Previous Finish: 8th place

Also make sure to check out our ‘Survivor’ Second Chance gallery, in which the 32 potential contestants explain how they will play differently a second time out if chosen. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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