‘Survivor’ Season 42 Finale: Jeff Probst Says Shortened Game Is ‘Here to Stay’

Jeff Probst in the Survivor Season 42 Finale on CBS
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

The Survivor Season 42 finale is here! The annual three-hour event premieres Wednesday, May 25 on CBS. In it, Maryanne Oketch, Jonathan Young, Romeo Escobar, Mike Turner, and Lindsay Dolashewich will have their last chances to impress the jury and win the $1 million.

Survivor host Jeff Probst chatted with TV Insider about what to expect in the Survivor 42 finale, as well as how he has felt about the season — one of the most fun installments of the franchise in recent memory. Part of why it’s so much fun is because of the shortened format.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Survivor to shorten its seasons, resulting in 26-day competitions for the Seasons 41 and 42 casts. While a massive change from previous seasons, the shortened competition raised the stakes of the game and refreshed the series for longtime viewers. Survivor no longer guarantees food, punishes tribes for losing challenges, and throws in major plot-twist advantages.

Here, learn what Probst loves most about Survivor Season 42’s “modern” players — and why the shortened Survivor format is here to stay.

We rarely see players get excited by their own elimination. Hai, Drea, and Omar were all taken out by some really great strategic moves, so their reactions make sense, as Survivor lovers. Can you recall any other season where the players were so visibly thrilled by the game while playing it, and how does it feel for you to watch these moments of glee?

Jeff Probst: I am so happy you asked this question because it highlights one of the most exciting things I am noticing about the modern Survivor player. Today’s Survivor player is able to attack the game and orchestrate devastating blindsides while simultaneously showing respect to the player they are voting out. In other words, it’s not personal. And because it’s not personal it also allows the voted-out player to not take the blindside as a personal attack on them. Blame the game!

Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to be voted out, but I think it’s very cool that we seem to be reaching a point where players truly understand that Survivor can offer many things: a great life adventure, the chance to be physically and emotionally tested, and the opportunity to play an amazing game of social politics. And you can experience all of this and still respect your competitors when it’s over.

Romeo Escobar, Jonathon Young, Mike Turner, Lindsay Dolashewich and Maryanne Oketch and in the Survivor Season 42 finale

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Drea and Maryanne used their idols after Rocksroy and Chanelle’s eliminations, saying past seasons have shown a pattern of Black players being voted off in succession. The most interesting part about that Tribal was that, because of the filming schedule, they had no idea that had just happened in Season 41 with Shan, Liana, Danny, and Deshawn. Were you thinking about Survivor Season 41 during this moment? 

It’s another great question. Yes, I was thinking about it. What Drea and Maryanne were dealing with was obviously a different situation than the Survivor 41 players, but from a cultural point of view, it’s the same. It’s a very clear reflection of what we are dealing with in our society right now. It’s powerful, it’s moving, and it’s painful. But it’s necessary and I am grateful to every player involved in both seasons. I could not be more proud to be associated with a group of humans who handled these two situations with such grace.

This season was shorter than past runs, but that also keeps players on their toes. Without revealing any spoilers, are there any plot twists in the finale brought about by some of the new features from 41 and 42? What can fans expect to see?

I’ll be completely transparent for future players and fans. This new 26-day game centered around limited supplies, no food, and penalties for losing was not designed as a one-off. We designed this specifically to give us a new game to play, and we believe there are still a lot of layers in this new game that we haven’t even begun to explore.

As an example, I found it very telling that we basically played the same game in 42 that we did in 41, with things like funny idol phrases, risk reward advantages, and shot in the dark. But because it was with a different group of players, the game play was totally different. And I think that will always be the case because it’s always about the players and the community they form. They dictate the rules. They decide what is to be valued. And that is directly related to how the game is played. The players of Survivor 42 played at a relentless pace from the opening seconds. Who knows what the next group of players will do?

So, yes this version of Survivor is here to stay, at least for the short term. This means players should start to anticipate certain elements of this new era, like smaller tribes, no food and having to earn it every day.

Survivor, Season 42 Three-Hour Finale, Wednesday, May 25, 8/9c, CBS