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Survivor will debut its 32nd season on Feb. 17 with the premiere of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng. But while the basic premise of people stranded in a remote location and having to vote each other out of the game has stayed intact since the reality hit first debuted in the summer of 2000, the show has never been afraid to tinker with the format and twists that go along with it.
EW can now reveal the latest wrinkle in the game. While the concept of hidden immunity idols that are found and can protect players from being voted out when used was first introduced in Survivor: Guatemala (season 11), the specifics of the idols in terms of where they were hidden and when they could be used in the voting process have varied from season to season.
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Now, in the Kaôh Rōng season, for the first time, an idol will actually have a potential second power. “This season, the hidden immunity idol is used like never before,” host Jeff Probst tells EW. “The big idol twist this season is that an idol has two separate powers. If you find an idol, it has the regular powers of a normal idol, But when put together with another idol — two can actually fit together — they can be used as one super idol that can be played after the votes are read.”
So any immunity idol found will be able to be used on its own at Tribal Council after the votes are cast but before they are read. However, if it is combined with a second idol it can be used as a safety net after the votes are read and it is clear who has ben voted out, thereby saving that person.
“If an idol is used alone it plays as always — after the votes are cast but before they are read,” explains Probst. “But if you find someone else who has an idol and you are willing to combine your idols and play them together for one move, then you can play the idol after the votes have been cast and after they have been read. It essentially becomes a free pass. But you can obviously only use it for one person, so that means that you have to have a strong alliance because at least one of you is giving up their own personal protection to save their partner or possibly a third person. It has the potential to be a massive game changer, but like all big moves it requires a big risk.”
Another element to the new twist is that only those who find hidden idols will know about it. “A fun by-product of Survivor having been played so many times is that not everybody believes everything they are being told,” says Probst. “This could be a situation where someone shares the info with an alliance member but isn’t believed because it’s just too outrageous. In this sense, the history of Survivor has become its own twist.”
Having an idol that can be played after the votes are revealed has been done before, most recently in Survivor: Cagayan (season 28), but never has an idol been able to be played in two different ways. So now, should someone have two idols (as eventual winner Jeremy Collins did in last season’s Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance), they could plan to hold on to each to use individually at separate Tribal Councils while having the safety net of combining them on the spot should they be blindsided. “You have the security of knowing you cannot be voted out,” says the host. “You simply play them both together and their power is unstoppable. But, it’s a very rare situation for someone to have two idols. The other scenario is you have to seek out someone else who has an idol and convince them to trust you —another rare event — enough to use your idols together.”
We’ll find out if this new combo-idol power comes into play when Survivor: Kaôh Rōng premieres on Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.