Jeff Probst explains why ‘Survivor’ just made a huge rules change

The Sandra Sit-Out Bench is about to have a lot more visitors. That’s because on this week’s episode of Survivor 45, the franchise unveiled a big rules change when it comes to challenges.

When Survivor first started in the summer of 2000, the show always had two challenges per episode — a reward challenge and an immunity challenge. And often one tribe might have more members than another, so in those cases the rule was that a tribe could not sit the same person out of both challenges in that one-episode cycle. However, over the years, reward challenges became the exception and not the rule, meaning the no-sitting-out-back-to-back challenges didn’t really make sense, because there was usually only one challenge per episode, and therefore players were allowed to sit out back-to-back immunity challenges.

Jeff Probst on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

But as host Jeff Probst announced in episode 2 of Survivor 45 this week, that is no longer the case. For the first time ever, a tribe cannot sit out the same player in back-to-back immunity challenges. So what went into the change?

“In the early seasons of Survivor, there were always two challenges: a reward challenge and an immunity challenge,” Probst tells EW. “The sit-out rule was designed to force a critical decision, because if you sat out of the reward challenge, you were forced to compete in the immunity challenge. So it came down to strategy. If you really wanted to win [a] reward, you might sit out your weakest player, but if you did, that weak player would then have to run in the immunity challenge. And Tribal Council was always the reset, which meant it was a clean slate with the next challenge.”

Of course, that was then, and this is now. “In this new era, we often only have one combined reward/immunity challenge,” Probst says. “So tribes could sit someone out of the challenge, then Tribal served as a reset, and the next challenge they could sit the same person out again.” (Claire Rafson, anyone?)

Kendra McQuarrie on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

For Probst, that has taken all the interesting decision-making elements away from the process. “There was no dilemma. It took us longer than we should to realize our old system was broken! In fact, I think it was a fan question on our podcast, On Fire, that made us aware! Either way, we’ve changed it and we’re back on track.”

Speaking of rules, with Emily Flippen giving her Shot in the Dark cube — which allows a player a one-in-six shot at immunity when played at Tribal Council — to Sabiyah Broderick, we could not help but wonder: Does that mean if Sabiyah keeps it, that she can play two Shots in the Dark? Each player is told before the season they can only play it once, but that is because they are only given one cube. If they procure another, does that mean they can play it twice?

“Yes, it does!” reveals Probst. So, yes: any player given a second Shot in the Dark cube indeed gets a second chance to play it. “And I am waiting for this to happen!” However, there is one important caveat: “You can still only play one Shot in The Dark at a Tribal, so you don’t get two shots at the same Tribal.”

While the point could become moot in this particular instance if Sabiyah gives the cube back to Emily — as she promised she would — it is still an interesting wrinkle in that Shots in the Dark can be traded like idols, advantages, or even Fire Tokens (R.I.P.) as active and powerful currency in the game. And now, like Probst, we’re just waiting for it to happen.

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