‘Survivor’ Season 39: Why Wasn’t Host Jeff Probst at the Marooning?

Survivor is back! And season 39 is already off to a crazy start. But if you’ve been a long-time Survivor fan, then you know that insane seasons are pretty par for the course.

This season’s theme is Island of the Idols, and while we aren’t exactly sure what all that entails quite yet, we know that the show is bound to deliver all of the drama, high stakes, and breakdowns that we love to see.

Jeff Probst
Jeff Probst | CBS via Getty Images

How did they come up with the ‘Island of the Idols’ theme?

Each season of Survivor has a different theme with unique rules and twists. So how did Island of the Idols come to be?

Host Jeff Probst recently spoke with Entertainment Weekly to clear that up.

“First, we had the idea to bring back Sandra and Rob as mentors. Next came the title of the season: Island of the Idols,” he told the outlet.  “That led us to the idea that players may suspect that there is a separate island and it’s full of hidden immunity idols.”

Why wasn’t Probst at the marooning?

Every year, Probst usually opens the season with a marooning of the contestants. This year, there was no such marooning. But that was no accident.

Ultimately, the producers wanted to create as much confusion amongst the players as possible.

“[We] decided that if I wasn’t at the marooning it would create even more uncertainty and force them to give more weight to the only information they had, which is: This season is called ‘Island Of The Idols’ … so it must mean something. And as a second layer, we are always trying to keep the players uneven and force them to adapt to ever changing situations,” he continued. “That is at the very heart of what we try to do every season, so a ‘host-less’ marooning worked on that level as well.”

What were Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rob Mariano’s roles in making this season?

Last night, two-time Survivor winner Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rob Mariano, the winner of Survivor All-Stars were brought back onto the show. According to Probst, they helped craft this season from the beginning.

“During pre-production, we involved them in the process and asked them for any ideas or any lessons they thought should be included during the season,” Probst said. “We then got the Survivor creative team together and went to work creating the structure for which lesson would play in which episode, what it would entail and what the advantage would be. Once we were on location, we treated Sandra and Rob as on-camera producers. We would write up the idea for the Survivor lesson we were going to feature in the episode, and some suggestions on what they might say, or questions they might ask of the visiting player.”

As the two winners are in mentor positions this season, they were offered a bit more luxury than the other competitors.

“We offered to build them a shelter but they were adamant that if they were going to be preaching the life lessons of Survivor to new players, they too had to be living in the same conditions,” Probst said. “So when you see a player visit Island of the Idols, that really is the camp where they are living… and they have big plans for expansion!”