Like any reality shows involving competition, the specific rules and regulations and contests featured in the definitive program “Survivor” on CBS, there are still certain signature elements that are retained. The competition is initially between tribes, losing members via challenges and elimination by tribal vote, the unintended but now-expected meta-game of player interaction as exemplified by “alliances” and betrayals, and the fact that the Sole Survivor wins a $1 million cash prize among other things. The value of the prize has remained constant throughout the seasons and special editions. But even this element is changing with the upcoming reunion contest.
As Entertainment Weekly would have it, CBS had a fairly good reason for doubling the classic $1 million cash prize for the winner of the upcoming 40th season of the long-running reality survival contest that is “Survivor.” “Winners at War” is, as stated in the season title, another reunion of past Sole Survivors that have been called back to Outwit, Outplay and Outlast each other once more, with $2 million at stake this time. All-time “Survivor” host and co-producer Jeff Probst was pretty candid about why the prize was doubled. It was a network decision to entice winners to return.
It is understandable; the twenty veteran Sole Survivors coming back for the “Winners at War” reunion competition have already gotten their million dollars, and some of them have been repeat contestants in earlier reunions (some of whom won in those repeats appearances). Probst recalls how the prize money increase was put forth. It was the idea of CBS executive Kelly Kahl, who posited $2 million as a good incentive to get returning million-dollar winners invested in another Survivor ordeal. Probst himself was not sure if it would work, but Kahl was confident because, in his words, “It’s another million dollars!”
When the “Survivor: Winners at War” season was filmed from May to June of 2019, Jeff Probst recalls that Kelly Kahl was right about the Winner-Survivors being excited at the prospect. “We said $2 million, and a few of them jumped up so high they’re still floating somewhere,” Probst said about the contestants’ reaction. “It was a brilliant idea. All I’m going to do is sit and watch it all play out.” This comes as another inspired decision by Kahl, who back in 2001 set “Survivor: The Australian Outback” on the CBS timeslot to compete against NBC’s “Friends,” and actually beat the sitcom in ratings.
The “Survivor: Winners at War” theme and contestants were announced during the finale show of season 39 “Island of the Idols” in December 2019. The reunion season starts airing on CBS next month, February 12.
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