After years of fan wishlists and shameless begging from pre-merge boots (I'm looking at you, Brian Corridan), it's finally coming: a "second chance" season of Survivor filled with contestants who didn't quite make the impact necessary to be deemed "All-Star," "Favorite," "Hero," "Villain," or "Most Bangable." The producers assembled a batch of players but are giving fans complete control as to who makes the cut, because someone caught the fine print they were hoping we wouldn't see. (Alas, nobody on the ballot was eliminated before the fifth episode, so your annoying co-worker will continue to tell you how awesome he thinks it would be to see a season of all the people who were voted out first.) As you'd expect, the options range from OMG! to WTF? to AHNNCA (Aw hell no, not Culpepper again).
So now that we've officially been given permission to stop caring about Worlds Apart, let's enter the brief window of time in which we will care about Second Chance, before the boot spoilers come in and we realize how awful it's going to be. Jeff Probst gave an interview to EW.com with some details about how the voting works, but naturally, he left out some key details. Below is an annotated and translated version that might clear up some discrepancies.
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. [To warrant being put on an all-star type of season, you need to last a while. You know, like Francesca.] 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 someone to blame if it sucked ass.] We wanted the fans to make the decision, and then we immediately wanted to be able to go shoot the season. [If we had more time to think about it, we'd probably just play it safe and have Rupert for a fifth time. Everybody loves the pirate.] 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. [Stay tuned for season 2 of The Jeff Probst Show, coming this fall to TBS!] 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." [We went in to Moovnes's office when he'd just popped a Viagra and was about to have a quickie with Julie Chen, so he'd agree to anything to get us out of there.]
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. [Except for the 75% of players on the ballot who did make the jury or finals.] And if they didn't make the jury, then they probably weren't known enough to be an all-star. [Like that one dude from that early season who wore a Red Sox cap and quoted The Godfather...Boston Todd? No, that doesn't sound right. Boston Jed? Yeah, that was it!] 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. [So basically people like Tony and Denise are punished for being successful? I blame Obama.]
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. [Now we trust the audience enough to pick 62.5% of a list we've already determined.] But as more time goes on and as our relationship with our audience deepens [I'm thinking of having the audience spend the night in my virtual living room], I'm certainly a proponent of taking bigger chances. [I might let the audience try some butt stuff.] 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." [Whatever.] Those aren't do or die decisions. [We don't let fans make those anymore after the backlash from our "Should we pull Russell Swan off of life support?" Twitter poll. #SAVERUSSELL barely trended.]
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. [I changed the word "women" to "fans," but otherwise I took this verbatim from my 1980s stand-up routine.] 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. [I'm referring, of course, to the infamous petition, "Let a Dog Play Survivor."] 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. [Which is why all of this season's contestants will receive a special pre-game "pep talk" from Parvati Shallow.] 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?" [Because Elisabeth said no.] 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." [And I still remember Mark Burnett saying, "Don't let Amber board that plane until we know for sure that The View is a done deal."]
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. [Like the chance that nerdy fans might go all Baltimore on our asses when they find out we cut Greg Buis.] 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! [#SAVEBUIS]
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 [Lasting all 39 days, coming within one vote of winning, and setting a still-unbroken challenge record? That doesn't scream "all-star" the way blindly following Jerri does], 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 let them take her, and do whatever they want with her, with no ill regrets.] 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. [I get paid either way.] 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. [*puffs a cigarette and pulls down sunglasses as I rev up a motorcycle*] 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. [Quick poll: should we make every challenge this season a memory challenge? The first 12 people to tweet me decide!] 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! [DURRRRRR!!!!!!] You've just caught me off guard! [Laughs] [He's buying it. This is my best acting since Two and a Half Men.] 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. [Nice save. Whew, that was a close one. Now just don't say Will's name at any point in this interview or it will be a dead giveaway that he won.] 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, that means either Worlds Apart has the most horrible winner of all time, or we're wasting a voting slot on someone for the sake of a last-minute "shocker" at the reunion.]
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. [I think Americans would enjoy the electoral process a lot more if random ineligible candidates were thrown into the mix.] 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. [Fun, unnecessarily torturous, it's all the same!] 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?" [Oh crap, I said Will's name!]
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. [See, it's another memory challenge! You guys love those things!] 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? [Could he have helped Ozzy or Coach win? That's the real question.] 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. [He knew Pearl Islands was a lost cause.] 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. [Then again, Dr. Sean was right; that Fat Naked Fag calendar really was worth it.] 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. [Let this be a warning to all potential contestants: for the next two weeks, steer clear of Danny Bonaduce.]
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 didn't even get a Playboy spread out of it.] 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. [Using votes to break a tie? In a game that's all about voting? What the hell were we thinking?!] 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. [One of the other times is when we let a dog play Survivor. His name was Mike Borassi.] 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? [Herpes.] I don't know. If you're interested, vote for her. [What a heartfelt and enthusiastic endorsement.]
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. [But you have to be at least 13 to vote, so tough shit, tweens.] 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. [But, you know, I really don't care either way. It's all so Whateversville to me, man. *takes another puff of the cigarette and puts another pair of sunglasses over the ones I already have on*]
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. [Yeah, we're doing that whole live finale thing that nobody likes. Stay tuned for exciting segments like, "Questions From a 9-Year-Old Girl Who Has a Crush on Joe," "Viewers Incoherently Babble About Watching Survivor," and "Here's How Much Food the Contestants Eat in a Day, and Here's How Much You Eat, You Fatass."] 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. [They will get more airtime at the reunion than 2/3 of the current cast.] 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. [Thus ensuring that, one hour after he or she is crowned the winner, the Worlds Apart champion will be completely forgotten, at least until they get arrested in a few years for tax evasion, shooting a puppy with a bow and arrow, or skateboarding while high (or hey, why not go for the hat trick?).] 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. [It's pretty ballsy to put yourself in the same shoes as potential baby daddies on Maury.] 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." [But don't feel too bad for them; they'll all be featured on a special episode of The Jeff Probst Show about dealing with rejection, this fall on TBS!]
So now that we've got that covered, let's get down to the main event: the 32 contenders. Why should you vote for them? What will they bring to the season if they get another shot? And what does a casual fan (i.e. my mom) think of them? Here's a look at the potential cast members of Survivor: L̶e̶f̶t̶o̶v̶e̶r̶s̶ Second Chance.
About the guest author: beatles20147 is a longtime Survivor fan and former Survivor Historian, who also holds the vaunted distinction of being the only Survivor Sucks poster to whom Jeff Probst has ever responded. (beatles posted logical, constructive criticism about the Redemption Island format after Redemption Island aired; Probst posted a response, saying he understood his concerns, then promptly put RI right back in for South Pacific, because he's Jeff Probst, and he does Jeff Probst-y things.)
Follow beatles on twitter: @beatles20147
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