02:43 PM EDT 05/20/2015
Originally posted 01/21/2015 12:00PM
Survivor is one of those shows that rises and falls on its casting. When the contestants are interesting, we get a stellar season like last spring's Survivor: Cagayan. If the cast is bland, we get a mediocre season like last fall's Survivor: San Juan Del Sur. (Don't take our word for it; even host Jeff Probst called it a "frustrating" season.)
But Survivor is shockingly resilient. Now entering its 30th season, it has been around so long that this season's youngest contestant was in the first grade when the show premiered. She's now 22.
This season, producers have divided the 18 contestants of Survivor: Worlds Apart into three tribes based on socioeconomic status. There's a white collar tribe: professionals and executives. The blue collar tribe includes a cop, hairdresser and postal worker. The no-collar tribe is full of bohemians who sell coconuts or design jewelry.
Originally posted 12/17/2014 10:30PM
Although Survivor: San Juan Del Sur was an uneven entry in the long-running reality show, the season finale had its share of blindsides and backstabbing – and, ultimately, a satisfying winner.
At the beginning of the final episode, it looked as though former Miss Michigan USA Jaclyn Schulz would be the next to go – and she would have been, had perennial CBS reality star Natalie Anderson not saved her with her immunity idol.
After Schulz won the final immunity challenge, the tribe voted out likable Louisiana firefighter Keith Nale, leaving an all-female final 3. At the final tribal council, Schulz, Anderson and Texas cheerleading coach Missy Payne answered the pointed questions of the jury.
Originally posted 12/17/2014 10:00AM
There are good seasons of Survivor, and there are seasons that just never get off the ground. Survivor: San Juan Del Sur looked like it would be the latter, until a run of solid episodes near the end redeemed it.
After the first Blood Vs. Water was a critical and ratings success in 2013, the show returned to the same format this season – only to find that lightning hadn't struck twice.
Even Jeff Probst, Survivor's biggest cheerleader, acknowledges the struggle of San Juan Del Sur. "We came off of four fantastic seasons in a row: Philippines, Caramoan, the first Blood vs. Water and Cagayan, he says. "So this one just feels different, because it follows such great seasons. But it got a lot better as it went along."
But even middling seasons of Survivor can be fascinating, and the long-running CBS series remains the gold standard for competition reality shows. Here, Probst, 53, tells PEOPLE what went wrong with this season – and what went right.
Originally posted 09/25/2014 10:50AM
Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach. Erik Reichenbach is a Survivor fan-turned-favorite, a comic book author and artist. He placed fifth on both Survivor: Micronesia and Survivor: Caramoan. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can.
"Your ability to connect with idiots who can't process things properly is a large part of what this comes down to."
– John Fincher, Survivor: Samoa
On Wednesday's season premiere of Survivor: San Juan Del Sur, a long-standing debate was settled once and for all. Which reality show is harder, The Amazing Race or Survivor? When Jeff Probst snuffed the torch of Nadiya, you could see the entire story on her face: This game of strategy, endurance, and social skill had bested a former all-star player from the Race – aka, Who Can Find the Best Cab?
Originally posted 09/24/2014 01:30PM
Although Survivor is entering its 29th season, Jeff Probst clearly remembers every one of the 442 contestants, and can pull obscure trivia out of the air.
His excitement about the reality show is unwavering – impressive, considering that it debuted during the Clinton administration. "Every single season is a different show," he tells PEOPLE. "We're constantly reinventing ourselves."
But sometimes, ideas are recycled. 2013's Survivor: Blood vs. Water was such a compelling season that producers are doing it again, casting pairs of contestants with some sort of existing relationship – married couples, siblings, dating pairs, parent-child. The result, Survivor: San Juan Del Sur, premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
What would Probst, 52, do if he were competing against his wife? The longtime host weighed in on that and more.
Originally posted 05/21/2014 02:15PM
For a show in its 28th season, Survivor has proven itself to be shockingly resilient.
The newest installment, Survivor: Cagayan has been one of the most engrossing seasons in years – and the viewers have noticed. Ratings have spiked, and the show regularly beats American Idol in its time slot.
But it all comes to an end on Wednesday night when the show crowns its latest winner. Unlike previous seasons, each member of the final four could make an argument to win the game.
Originally posted 03/10/2014 07:30AM
When the Beauty tribe lost the immunity challenge on day 8 of Survivor: Cagayan, Brice Johnston knew he was likely to be voted out.
Although he tried to sway two other contestants to his side, he believed that they ultimately felt too threatened to join forces with him.
After splitting the vote, the other contestants voted for him in a tiebreaker, making him the third person to leave the game. The 27-year-old social worker from Philadelphia talks about surviving monsoons, smelling "funky" and why he won't remember his fellow castaways' names.
Originally posted 02/26/2014 02:25PM
The familiarity of Survivor has always been reassuring. The immunity challenges. The tribal councils. Jeff Probst's cargo shirts.
But Probst and his fellow producers like to mix it up – sometimes with better results than others. After the success of Survivor: Blood vs. Water, they had to come up with another twist to keep viewers engaged. For Survivor: Cagayan, which premieres on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET) on CBS, they decided to split the 18 contestants into three tribes: Beauty, Brains and Brawn.
Probst tells PEOPLE that the twist worked beautifully. He breaks down what we can expect – and which tribe he'd rather be on.
Originally posted 12/15/2013 11:00PM
Survivor: Blood vs. Water pitted returning players against their loved ones in a gut-wrenching series of blindsides and big moves. Sunday night, the show crowned this season's winner.
Keep reading for results.
Originally posted 12/12/2013 11:30AM
Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach. Erik Reichenbach is a Survivor fan-turned-favorite, a comic book author and artist. He placed fifth on both Survivor: Micronesia and Survivor: Caramoan. This is his first season illustrating episodes of the show for PEOPLE.com. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can
"Putting up with the people is the survival part, not putting up with the elements."
– Rudy Boesch, Survivor: All Stars
Well, that was kind of … obvious? Maybe last week's on-the-rocks Survivor bender left the show with a hangover, because Wednesday night, a grouchy, tetchy episode led to a predictable end.
Hayden and Ciera tattled on Tyson for saying mean things about mommy Monica. All they accomplished was hurting poor Monica's frayed feelings. The vets stuck together, and sent Hayden to Redemption Island.
The newbies' timing couldn't have been worse. Just three days earlier, Tyson put his life on the line in the Great Rock Draw of '13, so Monica was feeling particularly grateful. Plus, Hayden never made clear how blindly following him was superior to blindly following Tyson.
Here's the thing about smack talk – it's as much a part of Survivor as Jeff Probst's hat. If you're not analyzing and ridiculing your competitors, you're not holding up your part of the bargain for being on television. When you're on the island, the producers ask you to comment on the other castaways. You expect your tribe mates are also commenting on you.
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