'Survivor': Jeff Probst explains the game-changing 'Redemption Island' twist

Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Out with the old, in with the new! At the conclusion of the Survivor: Nicaragua live reunion show, the first promo was revealed for season 22 of the reality franchise: Survivor: Redemption Island, which will premiere on Wednesday, February 16, 2011. EW.com was on location back in August for filming in Nicaragua and spoke to Jeff Probst about the new twist.

“How it works is very simple,” explained Probst. “When you’re voted out at Tribal Council, you don’t go home. You’re not out of the game. You go to Redemption Island and you live alone. And at a certain point in the game another person will join you. You will compete in a duel. The winner stays. The loser goes home. So you’re continuing to live out there on your own with very basic supplies. But you’re still in the game. And at a certain point you’ll be allowed to reenter the game and have a shot at the money.” In other words, people that are voted out will compete against each other for a chance to later rejoin the game.

The concept of being voted out and then reentering the game is something of a sore spot for Survivor fans, after voted out “Outcasts” Lillian “Lil” Morris and Burton Roberts came back into the game in Survivor: Pearl Islands, with Lil making it all the way to the final two. Probst insists this time will be different. For starters, the voted out contestants will not be eating lots of food with a roof over the heads, but will still be stuck out in the elements like everyone else. For another thing, this time everything will be out in the open. “We did a haphazard version of Redemption Island a few years ago called the Outcasts,” said Probst just minutes after fiming the opening of the show, “and it didn’t work and it didn’t please the audience and there was one fundamental flaw: We didn’t tell people up front it was going to happen. I just told everybody [at the opening] it’s going to happen. Make no mistake: When you’re voted out, you’re not going home, and somebody that you vote out could come back and bite you in the ass. So I have no problem with people coming back into the game because everybody knows up front. A rule can’t be unfair if you know going in. It’s an equal opportunity.”

In another format switch, since each episode will include a Redemption Island duel, you can expect there to be just one combined reward/immunity challenge per episode for the players that have yet to be voted out. “This is the most excited I’ve been in a long time when it comes to a twist. I really hope Redemption Island adds a new layer that we can use for years to come,” said Probst. “We have no idea what’s gong to happen. It’s a big risk. It could fail miserably. I don’t think it’s going to.”

For more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.

Comments (277 total) Add your comment
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  • Linda

    So this isn’t going to be an All-Stars season? Man…no Boston Rob?

    • brian

      I think that’s what they were alluding to with all the survivors inthe audience the redemption island thing has been floating around the internet for a while and always connect to a Rob/Russell thing, don’t if its true, but it makes it more credible if the RI rumour was correct. Given that the People’s Choice awards are on CBS and that’s where they announced the HvV concept I would’t be shocked if they announced it there..although that’s still not enough to make me want to watch the People’s Choice Awards

      • BestPlayer2NeverPlay

        Don’t fix what is not broken! They tried bringing back people that were voted out in Pearl Islands and everyone hated that idea? That made it the worst season ever. When you lose, you lose. Why would it work this time around? Sure you have one crappy season like this, but Survivor is still the best game why change it? Just imagine now with a crappy season like this you have one of these lousy players get a 2nd chance.This is not a new idea, this has been tried before and it did not work

      • hutchy

        I’m more curious if they are going to address the Jane/Sash controversy that resulted in the cameras being halted at Tribal, gag orders for everyone, and lawsuits flying at the person who leaked that it happened.

      • sc350z

        What’s that, hutchy?

      • Dodgy

        What’s all this, then?

        Cameras halted? Gag orders? lawsuits?

      • Hutchy

        Apparently (and this comes from an airtight spoiler source who has been 100% accurate on the smallest detail this season), Sash told Jane she was going out, and offered to pay off Jane’s mortgage if she would turn the jury in his favor upon arriving at Ponderosa (rumor has it he tried a non-monetary version of the same thing with Purple Kelly when he found out she was quitting). Jane then told everyone what happened at her Tribal Council. TC was stopped, the cameras were turned off, and producers were brought in to determine what to do, as prize money sharing is THE cardinal sin on Survivor. Eventually, it was determined that it was a he said/she said situation, and all records of this were expunged, with gag orders brought down on everyone including (one would assume) Dalton. If you are wondering why Fabio would take someone who was an obvious jury threat like Sash, and the most strategic player didnt get a single vote (even from Brenda), or why everyone seemed to despise Sash to such a degree (unusual, as his actions werent any worse then what we have seen a zillion times on Survivor), or why a final 3 contestant didnt get even a single question lobbed his way on the reunion show….now you know. The season honestly doesnt even really make much sense without this crucial piece of knowledge.

      • jeff

        If there wasn’t a gag order and they could vote for Sash, I see a 3 way tie with all 3. Brenda, NaOnka and Kelly vote for Sash. Dan, Benry and Marty for Jud and Holly, Jane and Alina voting for Chase. Could have been interesting.

      • andrew


        How can the Outcast twist make Pearl Islands the worst season? In spite of the Outcast it was one of the best with Rupert and Jonny Fairplay becoming legends.

        And they did the RI twist in Israel’s version and from what I heard it worked out.

      • Jason

        @Hutchy Interesting, it fits the outcome of the game. Marty and Brenda said at Ponderosa they wanted someone who played strategically to win the game (and Purple Kelly did whatever Brenda wanted) so I questioned why Sash didn’t get any votes. Jane was in a “tell all” mood that night at TC that night too. I could see Sash trying to bribe his way to the top- if he’d tried it with Kelly and Jane it should have been determined to be more than a “he said/she said” resulting in him getting tossed out of the game.

      • Hmmmmm

        Wow – if that’s the case it would definitely explain Jane’s absolute hatred towards Sash during the Final 3 interview session. Thanks!

      • musica1

        Yeah, I had heard about the Jane/Sash tribal council fiasco. Jane said that Sash offered to pay her mortgage if she supported him in the jury supposedly. Didn’t any of you wonder why Jane/Dan/Fabio were considering voting for Holly, but suddenly when they voted, Jane voted for Sash, who had an immunity Idol and couldn’t be voted for, not Holly? Because a lot happened that we didn’t see. She said she was going to tell the truth about all her alliance mates, but we only got to see her talk about Chase. It was a HUGE deal, and the producers should address it with the fans.

      • Dave T

        WOW! Thats unbelieveable! Probst, burnett if your reading this, this should def be addressed! Some scandal this! Didnt thinkn Sash would do that much for a million bucks!!

      • Jabber

        @bestplayer – Get a life Dude! You say the same crap in every comment section. Word for word, always on the front page, relevant or not. See you doctor for some meds! Seriously, I think you have a problem.

      • Keith

        Well, without the quick trip to the ponderosa, it may put the brakes on people quitting so they can get some food and a bed…

      • Stef

        Yeah I don’t understand what their reasoning is for not acknowledging it. It would have made things a lot more interesting.

    • Siansonea

      Haven’t we seen enough of Boston Rob? Dude got to play THREE times.

      • CP

        Yeah but he’s entertaining on camera, and a VERY strong competitor physically, mentally, and socially. I’m fine with that choice.

      • musica1

        Don’t you remember how great he was in Heroes vs Villains? I can’t wait to see him play again!

    • RW

      God, I hope not. I’m sick of Boston Rob and his slimy smirk. He played 3 times…enough already. Stay in Boston and away from the Reunion show, please.

      • KS

        I agree that we have seen Boston Rob too many times.

      • JB

        I agreee…i never liked him from the first time he was on

    • Jake

      Did it say it was going to be an All-Star season? Should be a simple answer Linda. All-Star Seasons are always lame anyway.

      • Liv

        They just had an All star season last time.

      • tom

        Can’t stand Boston Rob and did not watch the show period the last two times he was on it. The world is full of people wanting on the show so why not let some new players on. No problem with a reunion show every 3rd or 4th year, but Boston Rob can be axed.

      • Dustin

        Boston rob makes me sick

    • Jane v Sash

      Saw this on another site too

      Since the show has aired and what I say will not be a spoiler now I thought I would tell you what really happened at Tribal Council last night.

      Jane accused Sash of offering to pay off her morgage in exchange for her vote and influence with the jury on his behalf. When she said this Jeff ordered the cameras to stop rolling and called in the producers. They discussed this for about 10 minutes and resumed filming without giving any instructions to the jury or the remaining players. In other words they left it as a ‘he said, she said’ situation. If you watch the insider clips on the voting you can see where Jane changed all her thought process of trying to force a tie vote with Holly and instead voted for Sash? Why? Well I have just told you.

      You can also notice how her voting scene appears to have been edited where they left something out.

      His voting confessional refers to this but if you don’t have this information, it makes no sense.

      Voting that night for Jane went like this

      Dan (Jane):

      Holly (Jane): We should have listened to Marty a long time ago.

      Jane (Sash): You can lie all you want to.

      Sash (Jane): You’re a classy Southern lady, but what you pulled at camp today, and at Tribal, is utterly disgusting.

      Chase (Jane): Love ya, Jane. You know I wish this wouldn’t have happened. Gotta keep myself further in the game, though.

      Fabio (Jane): You’ve had a great run, but it’s your time to go, and pouring the water on the fire at camp was not cool.

      I’d like to hear from Dalton or Probst what happened.

    • T2

      No one WANTS to see “Boston Slob” again. 3 times? really? And got on The Amazing Race as well?
      He can just go away. Doesn’t he have a wife and kids to be focusing on?

  • Jules

    Remains to be seen, if knowing the new rule upfront will effect game play. Anything has to be better than this past season.. It was like a cleansing of the pallet after HvV (which was the best season ever). Like most people, I am hopeful for a great season.. Do we know the location?

    • brian

      I’m pretty sure its Nicaragua again

      • danna

        except that all the artifacts looked to be Mayan. The Mayan Empire wasn’t located in present day Nicaragua. Plus, i doubt they want another season where they cant do any ocean challenges.

      • dddoug

        “By the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several indigenous peoples related by culture to the Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Aztec and Maya”

        And it’s been confirmed that they’re in Nicaragua again.

      • Dustin

        They said before last season started that there would be 2 consecutive seasons in nicaragua just like survivor 19 samoa and heroes vs villains was in samoa as well

    • T2

      “cleansing of the pallet”

      Oh dear.

  • joblo

    I like it in theory. It adds an entirely different twist to the way you have to strategize; especially when you are thinking of voting out a physically strong player early, I would imagine. Seems like a well-thought-out change (unlike the Medallion of Power).

  • Russ

    So wait – is this a permanent thing?

    • forrest

      “…adds a new layer that we can use for years to come,” I would call that a permanent change in the game.

    • Papa

      I’m it turns out to be popular, yes (though I’m guessing as with most of the Survivor gimmicks, this will be a one-season wonder).

    • tigersmurfette

      i think if it goes over well, its gonna be permanent. if it doesnt, well…

      • KrisDude

        I’m pretty sure if it goes well, it will become used, but not for all seasons. For example, what happened to exile island?

      • dddoug

        They didn’t make it nearly as interesting as it could have been (ex: Cook Island, Fiji). They barely experimented with it, but when they did, it was interesting (Tocantins).

        The nice thing about this twist though is that it doesn’t really need tweaking to stay interesting, because unlike Exile Island, it can’t be repetitive within the same season.

  • Anth

    Is it more ‘fair’ than the Outcasts? Sure, but to act like that was the only issue fans had with Outcasts is misguided at best. It messed with a fundamental part of the game. The ultimately simple format of Survivor is one most appealing things about the show; this completely changes it unnecessarily. This is not a twist; it’s a rule change, and an awful one.

    “The other thing about Pearl Islands is one of the most debated twists ever — the Outcasts. I hated the Outcasts. I felt it went against everything we say the show is about — that if you are voted out, you are out of the game.” -Jeff Probst


  • Stacie

    I don’t know about the twist. I agree that next season can almost do nothing and be better than this season, but to have people who were voted out be able to come back defeats the purpose of the game. For a show that is still very highly rated I feel it is a desperation move. They are coming off a bad season, but 2 seasons ago was one of the best. So I don’t get it. Maybe it will be cool and interesting, but changing the entire dynamic in Season 22 is strange.

    • Carl

      The show has seemed desperate for a long time. I think they are also trying to allay their boredom. I actually preferred this season to the 2 seasons ruined by the endless camera hog Russell and the laziness his LOOKATMELOOKATME hamming brings out in Jeff and the producers. Sadly that seemed to be a brief respite.

      • Jimmyohyeah

        Russell single-handedly saved Survivor. It was so stale.

        I also agree that most of what they try to do hurts rather than helps. Hopefully that stupid medallion of power or whatever it’s called is gone.

      • musica1

        Russell didn’t “save” survivor. It was never dying. He just showed everybody how NOT to play if you want to win. He’s an idiot and a loser in every possible way. He acts like he’s the king and everyone else beneath him and is constantly confused as to why they don’t want to vote for him.

      • LMNOP

        Russell is a very good player, but he lacks the social game which is why so many people can’t stand him. If the element he lacked had been one of strategy or physical endurance, he would have been knocked for that but not hated.

        As it is, Survivor takes a risk by having Boston Rob & Russell back. If things go well, it would be one of the best seasons. If things go wrong, they’ll go very wrong. There won’t be an in between on this idea. I can just imagine players quitting right & left because having a set “leader” who can’t be voted off for some time gives that person way too much power. We’ve all seen on past Survivors that few players in the game are willing to go against one with so much power because of fear. Even after a merge, one of the two gents will win the power struggle and make it to the end. No, not interested in watching that. Too predictable.

    • Al

      Every season has a twist. The hidden immunity idol was initially a twist. They have also used exile island, men v. women, tribes by races, old v. young etc. They have even tried brining people back as Dalton points out. Changing the game is nothing new.

    • Christian C

      I have to wonder that this might be a very interesting twist. So many times the first few players to get voted out have votes against them based on snap judgments, perceived snubs, or just because the game is in its early stages and the tribe mentality is I’ll vote for anyone as long as it’s not me. It could be fun to see the first player voted out show up at the merge after defeating the other 6-8 players that were voted out after.
      they could be a swing vote, they would have to be respected to make it this far alone. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

  • DanOregon

    Sounds too much like “the Duel” on MTV. And Nicaragua again?
    I’m just hoping the casting is better. I’d suggest a question during interviews – are you a quitter?
    Anyone know how everyone voted in the final?

    • AK

      That’s what I thought. I’m worried this will turn into an MTV challenge.

      • mark

        from what i understand this idea was lifted from the Israeli version of Survivor. A twist is nothing new.

      • dddoug

        Yeah, and a lot of other countries’ versions do it with what seems to be success (or at least complete acceptance). I’m pretty sure Bulgaria and Serbia both do it, and I wanna say that the original Expedition Robinson even did it at some point (not positive though).

    • David Good

      I agree that I like to see new locations each season, but they are filming in the same location for back-to-back seasons as a cost-saving measure. Bummer, but smart. Cost saving is probably also the reason why we don’t see Probst “traveling” back to the U.S. with the votes on a Sea Do.

    • Duude

      So you think someone will sit in an interview and admit being a quitter?

  • Cartman

    This “redemption island” thing sounds pretty lame.

    And if they dare to put Russell back on the show I am tuning out permanently. I know Jeff Probst has a stiffy for the little troll but I’d rather date Naonka than watch that little sociopath operate again.

    • Tim Tebow

      Wah Wah Wah. Seriously, is there anything more pathetic than people who threaten to stop watching the show if a result doesn’t go their way? I hope someone breaks into your house and steals all your stuff, you whiny cry baby.

      • Chris

        Wow…that last sentence in your reply makes your handle extra ironic.

    • BestPlayer2NeverPlay

      I’ll deal with watching russell again. I love him but it’s way too much. However please don’t put losers back on the island.

      • SLB

        I wont. Russell is the first person in Survivor history that made me stop watching the show, or i fast forwarded every time he was on screen. He ruined that season for me.

      • LMNOP

        SLB, funny you should say that. Russell’s the reason I stopped watching the show live every week. With the OnDemand, we can watch it later with no commercials and skip what we want (it’s a whole family thing at my house).

        But what I find interesting is that as much as I didn’t want to listen to Russell anymore, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Naonka this season. I was just so shocked and awed (yeah, I love that!) by her manic/depressive behavior.

      • Pippin

        uh ok if you don’t want loosers back on the show then WHY do you want RUSSELL back? He was the biggest looser of all with back to back seasons and and nary a vote at either FTC!

    • Carolyn

      Tim,a worse punishment would be for Cartman to date NaOnka as he suggested.

    • DJ


      • Cass

        I did nto care for this season eithe rto tell the truth but watched the finale and reunion. I did not mind Russell i think it humoous how everyone knows what he is but keep him around. But personally I wouldn’t mind Russell and Rupert duking it out on RI.

    • PinBox

      Russell Hantz is the best reason to watch this show. He is a pure player, plain and simple. Every season should be so lucky as to have a Russell Hantz!

    • mary

      Really? Don’t watch then. Who cares? I would love it, he is awesome to watch.

    • sogSurvivor

      Wow Cartman, that name fits you well.
      I think RI is a good idea. As mentioned before, an early vote off returning would be an interesting twist.
      It will also create a social challenge for the liars and playa’s as they may find their scheming come back to bite them. So they will have to really think through their conniving. It should make things interesting.

  • Amy

    Congratulations Fabio u did a GREAT job! Overall this was the worst Survivor yet, so I couldn’t be MORE excited for next season! I was hoping that next season wouldn’t allow “QUITERS” to stay/get money/or be a part of the jury!

  • Autumn

    I think this redemption island thing is a good idea, EXCEPT the word “duel” makes it seem like the strongest person will win. If that’s true, I don’t think that is fair. I hope the duel competition will be part strength and part smarts, like a puzzle or something. Otherwise, it will be unfair.
    This ads a whole new twist to the game because people who have been backstabbed can now come back in and seek revenge. Plus, things change so quickly on Survivor that the ringleader, may not be so popular anymore. So many possibilities and this is a great thing. After this last horrible season I was so turned off of Survivor. I love the show and I am getting sick of the wanna-bes. Hopefully this redemption twist will also come with good players, people who want to be themselves and no a Russel or a Rob or a Parverty. Please no more Na’Onka’s, no more Sash’s.

    • MeLoveJane

      I agree, Autuman. I like the idea of someone being voted out — espeically the ones who are blindsided — having the chance to come back into the game and seek revenge. Like exile island before it, I think Redemption island has a real shot at being a very interesting twist to the game.

      Don’t know why former “star” players are in the audience though at the reunion show. For me, a little bit of Russell goes a long way. I’d rather see more of Jane.

    • Chris

      Of all the things to get worked up about, the fact that they’ll be having duels is one that surprises me.

      Nobody said that they would all be brute strength physical challenges. Do people really think that the Survivor execs won’t be able to mix in agility and mental challenges? In fact, one-on-one challenges should open up far more options for competitions.

    • Th3TrojanHorse

      I think this RI idea will actually encourage people to quit. “Ah what the heck, I’m cold and tired and hungry. Someone else will get to take my place, so I’ll just quit.” 2nd-chancers will NEVER have the slightest chance of winning. Survivor is a one-shot game and if you blow it, you’re out – and there is generally a very good reason people got themselves voted out.

  • squirlgirl

    I’m excited about the Redemption Island twist, can’t wait to see how it works out. I’ve always had a problem with people getting voted off too early because the tribe perceives them as a big threat before the merge and they have a chance to win individual immunity. This gives them a way to stay in the game. I’m all for anything that give the strong players a chance to win and gets rid of the useless people!

    • KarlHall

      Agreed. Like Jimmy Johnson this season, and Brenda.

      • Nan

        When I heard about Jimmy Johnson being on this past season, I groaned. It would have been fine if it was a “Celebrity” edition. But not for a regular season. The Redemption Island is a good idea. Sometimes they vote someone off so early, they don’t get a chance to show what they can do. This will give them that chance.

  • J

    F F F FAIL

  • Carol

    My favorite parts have always been the challenges and finding out what they will be. With only one challenge (excluding the island challenging), I think it might not be as fun, I will keep my mind open as I am a 22 season fan. Come on back Boston Rob!

  • R

    Not so sure how this “Redemption Island” plan is going to work out. It seems once someone id voted off, they should be off – that’s part of the game. One aspect of Survivior that has frequently frustrated me is the final voting. Often it seems that the person who really played the best either mental or physical game is not voted the money because somehow they didn’t lay low enough to not offend the other contestants and thus couldn’t command their votes. I feel like there have been many seasons when someone who just rode coattails ended up getting all the votes. I realize that the $100,000 reward was added in to allow fans to vote who they feel was the best game player, but I think fans should be allowed to have a part in the final Survivor vote – perhaps the fan vote counts as two or three votes in the final vote. Although the fan vote would take place when there are 5 remaining – the votes cast for those not in the final three would be disgarded and the top vote getter from the audience of the final three would receive a two vote “bonus”. It could impact the final outcome or in some cases, not, but at least the viewers, who have “witnessed” (even if edited) much of the game play would have input.

    • mark

      its survivor not American Idol. Get over it…you don’t get to pick the winner…that changes the game completely and makes it a popularity contest decided by the editors.

    • Pippin

      @R so are we to assume then that if you like an aspect it should stay in the game because “its part of the game” but if you don’t like it – such as the final vote – then its NOT part of the game?????

  • R

    Additionally – it would be terrific if the shows were available online faster – our DVR didn’t get the last 18 min. because of the delayed start and the show’s not avail. online, yet. So who won the $100,000 – Jane?

    • Anna

      Yes, it was Jane, apparently by a landslide. It surprised me a little bit because I sure haven’t been feeling the love for her here on the EW comment sites.

      • Al

        I think if they had voted after tonight, it would have been closer.
        She looked possessed at the final tribal council.

      • Steph

        I really liked Jane until her rage exploded as a sore loser when she was voted out. It was ugly. Plus all her beady-eyed glaring at the last tribal council. It was as if she was wearing a t-shirt that said “woman scorned.” WE GET IT!

      • LMNOP

        Steph, I thought the same thing. I enjoyed her playfulness, but when she put out that fire it may have made for good TV, but my esteem for her dropped (not unlike it did toward Russell every time he acted scorned). At TC, I felt like she was showing her true colors. Wow.

    • Hagan

      Yeah it was Jane :)

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