A ‘Survivor’ Producer Just Explained How Many Contestants They Actually Recruit for the Show

Whether you’re just a casual Survivor fan or you’ve been watching the show since it first aired nearly 20 years ago, there’s no doubt the show has made its mark on reality TV forever. While the locations and plot twists have changed, the core concept has remained the same. Contestants are stranded on an island in Fiji and left to their own devices to win challenges, rewards, and band together to take out their other tribe members in the hopes of winning the $1 million prize.

Many superfans of the show would love to make an appearance on the show, but it seems not all of the contestants applied on their own accord. The producers recruit people as well — but just how many contestants are recruits, and how many are picked from their application?

Survivor has utilized a mix of applicants and recruits since the beginning

Survivor: Edge of Extinction
Survivor: Edge of Extinction | Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

Part of the appeal of Survivor is that anyone can play — and if you have the social prowess to navigate the emotions and thoughts of your peers, you can potentially win the $1 million. And while many of the contestants chosen had to apply multiple times to get their foot in the door, they had that spark that Survivor producers wanted to see and thus attained fame through the show.

According to Medium, when Survivor first began, only a few contestants were recruited for each season and the rest of the players were applicants. Unfortunately, toward Survivor‘s middle years, the show waned in popularity, and good applicants were allegedly more difficult to come by. It seems the show producers felt the pressure to provide viewers with plenty of drama and big personalities, and thus they began using more recruits than applicants. Ianic Roy Richard, the writer for Medium, explained on the first “Fiji” season that there was only one applicant.

The tides have changed yet again, however, and fans hoping to get on the show can rejoice. It seems producers are using more applicants nowadays than they were in the early 2000s for the show.

A producer of the show just explained how many recruits they’re using now

Jeff Probst addresses the remaining Survivors
Jeff Probst addresses the remaining Survivors | Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

Season 39 of Survivor is upon us, and Entertainment Weekly spoke with executive producer Matt Van Wagenen on any details we can gather for what’s to come. When EW asked Wagenen about the upcoming cast, he had a lot of insight to share — and it sounds like many of Season 39’s castmembers are well-acquainted with how to play the game. “I think as we’ve progressed in all the seasons, we definitely have gone more towards playing with fans. Like, hardcore fans,” Wagenen said.

The producer also noted that this upcoming season is mainly fans who applied to appear on the show as well. “And, in this case, of all the people we’re talking about there are maybe one or two ‘recruits.’ Which, for us, you know, that’s a great ratio. I like that,” Wagenen added. He then went on to say that the two recruits they do have “knew the game — just maybe weren’t super fans like the others. And they were quick studies, and really put all their effort into it.”

What can we expect from Season 39?

Jeff Probst extinguishes Joe Anglim's torch
Jeff Probst extinguishes Joe Anglim’s torch | Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

Tons of intel has already been released for Season 39, otherwise known as Island of the Idols. Entertainment Weekly notes 20 new contestants will compete for the prize, but the new twist includes two prior winners. Sandra Diaz-Twine, who’s won the game twice, and Boston Rob Mariano, who’s also won in the past and appeared on multiple seasons, will serve as advisors to the castaways and help them advance in the game. It seems Diaz-Twine and Mariano will be on a separate beach as well, so only some contestants will know about them.

As for where the twist came from, host Jeff Probst wanted to find a way to get Rob Mariano back on the show — and this seemed to work. “The idea came from wondering how to get a player like Boston Rob, who has said he’d never compete again because he doesn’t feel he’d ever really have a shot to win, to return to the show,” Probst said. “They aren’t playing, they can’t cast a vote, they can’t be voted out, and they can’t win the million dollars. The basic idea is they run a Survivor boot camp. They teach aspects of the game and then give players a chance to test what they’ve learned.”

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