'Survivor: Edge of Extinction': Jeff Probst Explains How Returning Players Shake Up Season 38 (Exclusive)

The host and executive producer also breaks down the 'Edge of Extinction' twist to ET.

Survivor: Edge of Extinction is here! 

Season 38 of Survivor kicks off on Wednesday night, with an all-new twist called Extinction Island, which will test castaways in an "emotionally and physically difficult" challenge. Those who withstand the test will be given a shot to get back in the game, but as host and executive producer Jeff Probst told ET over email ahead of the premiere, it's no easy feat. 

Fourteen new players, and four returning ones -- including familiar faces from Millennials vs. Gen-X, Worlds Apart and Game Changers -- will compete this season for the $1 million prize and title of Sole Survivor. And while returnees Aubry Bracco, David Wright, Kelley Wentworth and Joe Anglim might "enamor" the newbies, Probst said there's quite a few new castaways who are here to win. 

Find out what he told ET about the new season below. 


ET: We've got a brand new twist this season. What can you tell us about what happens on Extinction Island?  

Jeff Probst: The idea behind Edge of Extinction was to see how far players were willing to go, both emotionally and physically, to play this game. Once a player is voted out, they will be faced with a decision. They can choose to go home… or they can grab the torch, get on a boat and head to an unknown island in the middle of the night. What awaits them there is a big island of uncertainty. No information, very little in terms of a shelter or supplies. This will push players further than ever before.

We're 38 seasons in. Why was it time to introduce this new twist?  

We look at Survivor as this amazing social experiment that is defined by a few key elements: a group of people who are forced to work together but must vote each other out. Over the years it has also evolved into a complex game of strategy. Edge of Extinction continues this evolution by continuing to combine the physical and the mental alongside the strategy. It’s a new layer to the game and one that I am very excited for fans to experience vicariously through the players.


This season is bringing back four returning players -- Aubry Bracco, David Wright, Kelley Wentworth and Joe Anglim. Why bring these specific players back? What dynamics do you think they'll bring to the season? 

These four players illustrate how difficult it is to win this game. They are experts at different aspects of the game.  Every one of them is a phenomenal player and yet none of them have won. That’s how tough it is to play Survivor, because no matter how good you are, you are always hovering on the edge of extinction, your flame is always in danger of being snuffed. I think the new players will be enamored and also wary of the returning players, as they should be. They can offer a lot of early wisdom but let them stick around too long and they will become an adversary.

Which players should fans keep an eye out for to win this season -- or at least make an impact?  

We spent a lot of time putting this group together, so I think the audience will have a lot of players that they are intrigued by and rooting for, or against. Ron Clark is a dynamic presence. He’s a big-time educator and very savvy with his social game. Wendy is a one-of-a-kind young woman that will charm fans very early in the game. Rick Devens is a news anchor from Macon, Georgia, and I think once his sense of humor emerges, people will wonder why he’s not in a bigger market! 

Lauren is a really sharp young woman, with a college sports background, who is going to surprise people with how aggressively she plans on playing the game. Julie is a mom from New York, who, for the first time in her life, is doing something for herself. She left her husband and kids back home and is set to have a huge adventure. Keith is another really inspiring young man. He may be a bit of fish out of water in the first few days, but if he can get his footing I think he will become an underdog favorite!

Survivor: Edge of Extinction premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. 


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