Season 41 of Survivor is right around the corner, and fans are in store for a major change: the game will no longer be 39 days long. In preseason press, host Jeff Probst has confirmed that the season’s gameplay will take place over a 26-day span, rather than the usual 39. This marks a significant departure from tradition as the long-running reality show moves into a new era after a nearly two-year gap between filming seasons.
Of the 40 seasons of the show to air so far, 39 of them were played over a 39-day span. Nearly every season of Survivor has begun with Jeff Probst highlighting the length of the season with the famous catchphrase, “39 days, (16-20) people, one… Survivor.” The only season other than season 41 to not adhere to the classic 39-day structure was season two: Survivor: The Australian Outback. That season featured a 42-day game, but the show returned to the original length in season three and has maintained that structure ever since.
In an interview with Parade, Probst detailed the reasoning for the decision, saying the change would increase the rate of gameplay. “We accelerated the pace by changing the game to 26 days and then adjusting every aspect of the game to ensure those 26 days were unrelenting,” Probst explained. He also referred to Survivor 41 as “a faster, more dangerous and much more intense game.” In the season’s promotional campaign, Probst has described the upcoming season as a “monster,” so the decision to alter the length of the game was done to maximize the intensity and pace of the season.
Though unconfirmed by CBS, there has also been speculation among the Survivor fanbase that the COVID-19 protocols for filming the show in Fiji may have also impacted the production’s shortened filming length, as required quarantine periods for cast and crew could have limited the amount of time the production had to film a season. Though the length of the game will be shorter, the season’s airing schedule will remain a similar length as its predecessors.
There is no official word on whether the season length change will be a permanent fixture on Survivor in future seasons. It’s possible that the 26-day pace is here to stay as Survivor moves into its new era, but it isn’t out of the question that the show returns to its original length once the pandemic allows more ease in production logistics. It likely depends on how successful the change is in creating compelling television.
Though the 39-day game is one of the pillars of Survivor‘s legacy and longevity, it will be exciting to see how the new structure plays out in the upcoming season. As Probst indicates, it could lead to more compelling gameplay. However, Survivor fans who prefer the pace of the old-school game that didn’t feature as many frequent twists, overly complicated strategy, or frantic gameplay may be resistant to the new change if it begins to affect the show’s ability to put forth a cogent and compelling narrative.
Survivor 41 premieres Wednesday, September 22, on CBS.