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Cyclone Zena temporarily votes every Survivor contestant off of the island

Photo: CBS

With 16 years and 32 seasons under its belt, Survivor feels like an untouchable mainstay of television, defined by codified traditions, including immunity idols, blindsides, snuffed torches, washboard abs, and pathological narcissism. But production for the upcoming season was forced to break a cardinal Survivor rule when a Fijian cyclone caused a temporary evacuation, according to an Entertainment Weekly interview with host Jeff Probst.

When players individually leave the game—usually because of illness, infection or injury—it results in automatic disqualification. But in this instance, the severe weather event required that the entire cast be evacuated. Tropical Cyclone Zena hit on the second day, presumably before producers finished determining which players had earned the time-honored mantles of “campsite sloth,” “challenge-dominating meathead,” “braying libertarian survivalist,” “bossy trial attorney,” “backstabbing puppet master,” “creepy self-appointed masseuse,” “home wrecker,” and “lovable dimwit.”


The producers apparently waited as long as they could before temporarily yanking both tribes from the game. “We were monitoring the weather minute by minute back at base camp,” said Probst. “When the national Fijian weather service upgraded it to a cyclone, we had to evacuate both tribes from their beaches and get them to safety. We have never had to evacuate tribes in 32 seasons of Survivor.” Those seeking the catharsis of watching 20 players’ torches get simultaneously snuffed out will be disappointed to learn that Survivor returned the players to the game after the cyclone had passed.

This season promises to pit a tribe of Gen-X players against millennials, and Probst told EW that the generational divide was evident in their respective reactions to the storm. “It was very interesting how the two groups responded to the news,” Probst said. “The Gen X tribe was responsible and very concerned about their well being. The millennials were less concerned about their safety and more excited that they were making Survivor history.”

Whether you’re a millennial rooting against uptight corporate sell-outs, a Gen X viewer rooting against coddled, cellar dwellers, or a Baby Boomer fantasizing about cyclones sending them all to Oz, you can tune in when Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X premieres September 21 on CBS.

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