Season 38 of Survivor starts Feb. 20, shaking up its rules and regs a bit by introducing the Edge of Extinction. The Edge is an island. When a contestant is voted out, they can either go back to the hotel and have a shower and a cocktail, or hop on a boat and head to the Edge of Extinction.
“They will live on the island and have to work harder than ever before for a chance to get back in the game,” said Jeff Probst, host and exec producer. “This will definitely take the game to a new level.”
Four returning players join the 14 new contestants in Fiji. The veterans are Joe Anglim (“Worlds Apart,” “Second Chance”), Aubry Bracco (“Kaoh Rong,” “Game Changers”), Kelley Wentworth (“Second Chance,” “San Juan del Sur”) and David Wright (“Millennials vs. Gen-X”).
Who among the season 38 contestants has caught Probst’s eye? “Rick Devens is a really likable local anchorman from Macon, Georgia who uses his self-deprecating approach to life as his secret weapon,” he said. “Wendy Diaz is a strong-willed young woman from California with a story that will endear her to the audience very quickly. Ron Clark is an educator who was named ‘Teacher of the Year’ by Oprah. He’s a very clever guy who can read people quickly. Victoria Baamonde is a 23-year-old, smart, likable and lippy young woman from the Bronx whose approach to life is perfect for Survivor.”
The show debuted in 2000, when Richard Hatch won the million. What keeps viewers tuning in? Probst said it’s to see people pushed to “their absolute limits.”
“Our biggest audience is families because kids just adore the show and instantly imagine themselves playing one day,” he added. “I’ve met a lot of parents who got into Survivor through their kids. It plays on both levels in a variety of ways.”
I asked Probst about his all-time favorite Survivor player. “Given that nearly 600 people have played, it’s a fun question to contemplate and nearly impossible to answer,” he said.
Probst said the show’s true stars don’t need full names to be identified. “Sandra, our only two-time winner,” he said. “Boston Rob, Parvati, Cirie, Hatch, Coach, Phillip, Christian, Sarah, The Culpeppers, Rupert, and a couple of notorious villains like Russell and Johnny Fairplay.
“It’s quite a long list,” Probst added, “and I’ve left out a couple hundred.”