Survivor: Edge of Extinction: Behind the Scenes

There will be 18 people on your TV screen during the 38th season of Survivor (Survivor: Edge of Extinction) starts Wednesday on CBS. Nineteen, if you include the host Jeff Probst. But there are so many others who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to offer you that magical moment where Probst welcomes candidates and the adventure officially begins – around 645, in fact.

They say it takes a village, but with about 275 international crew members and 370 local Fijian workers working off camera, to make sure every detail is in place for competitors and viewers, the Survivor The production team is more like a well-oiled machine. What is really going on in these precious morning hours before the start of a season? What happens out of the screen before all cameras turn on? How long does it take exactly to assemble a few minutes of television?

We went to Fiji with a pass for access to the best reality show on the planet to get a complete picture of what's going on a morning at the brothel before the competitors are thrown into a big boat . The following is a sneak peak of the events of May 30, 2018 – Day 1 of Survivor: Edge of Extinction – before the cameras begin to roll. It includes last-minute changes, deep-sea trouble, a Probst golf cart ride, and coffee. A lot of coffee.

14.45 – Ponderosa 1 (Bekana Island)
Lift and shine! The 14 new competitors in the running for season 38 of Survivor have been sitting on the island paradise of Fiji for three days now. But it's really torture. Not only have they not been able to talk to anyone outside a few conversations with producers, doctors and journalists, but the actors have no idea when their adventure will actually begin. But, as players are drawn from their tents at this undue time by the participants, they know, "Today is the day.

The morning will be filled with checks from the wardrobe department to ensure that everything that everyone wears is already approved beforehand (never notice how the members of the tribe often wear the same color palette? a chance), and the security department to make sure, as One producer explains that he "has no phone in his pockets nor matches – everything that is not approved to carry with him" (Richard Hatch smuggled matches All stars in a jar.) There is also another meeting that must take place before you can play.

Survivor night shifts of participants before the match

3:00 am – Base Camp: Restoration (Isle of Mana)
Survivor used to film at a different place each season with a break of several months, but in 2009, To reduce expenses, the series began spinning two consecutive seasons at the same place, starting with Samoa for seasons 19 and 20. After then going to Nicaragua, return in Samoa, then to Caramoan in the Philippines, then to Cagayan in the Philippines, then return in Nicaragua and Cambodia, production stopped in Fiji for season 33 and has not since left. Jeff Probst has publicly stated that he hoped that they never leave.

For four months each year (from March 1 to July 7, 2018), production resumes the base camp at Mana Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands. And it's in the dining room at 3 am that poor souls get ready for a quick continental breakfast before going to work. Among these souls is Lucas Faganely, master of accessories. Like many team members, Faganely worked on the series for a long time while climbing the ladder. He started season 21 (Survivor: Nicaragua) as a Dream Teamer to meet challenges.

The Accessory Master catches a quick bite and starts mapping his morning, which involves going to his store to start loading trucks full of supplies, and then transferring everything to a boat in the production marina, which will then be leads to the marronage boat, where everything will be unloaded again. But for now, let the guy have his breakfast.

15:30 – Ponderosa 1
The doctor will see you now. Dr. Joe Rowles was the medical director of Survivor since season 31. After gaining notoriety by crushing the national television contestants' dreams with medical evacuations on camera, Dr. Joe has an easier job this morning. After consuming a large amount of coffee, he begins to see the candidates one by one for their final checkup.

Candidates each undergo a complete medical examination before leaving the United States, and then meet with Dr. Joe upon their arrival to Fiji to review their medical history, as well as any medications they take or allergies that they could have. This last-minute check is "just in case something was bothering them in recent days in Ponderosa," says Dr. Joe. "And because often, opening up has a challenge, and so I have to mend it. "Make sure they're fit, they're healthy, they're ready to go."

And this season, everyone seems to be going. "We've had in the past a person who had insect bites that seemed a bit infected, and it's an opportunity to say, 'Are you okay?' Or "I'm a little worried about it," says Dr. Joe. "Often, it's just something I can note, and the next time I see them, I can follow up and ask," How are you? Does it improve? 'Or whatever.' But nothing like this season.

Interestingly, it's not when the final weighing takes place. This had already occurred a few days ago during their grand medical consultation, although a female candidate who jokes with Dr. Joe would like this to happen now because of all the weight she's been putting since her arrived in Fiji. Without doing anything else, and knowing that the food is about to become scary, "they have been eating really, really, for a few days," says Dr. Joe. "So, they probably took a few extra pounds."

Last meal of the competitors before the start of the match

3:45 pm – Base Camp: Riley Munday's Room
The first thing Riley Munday does in the morning is to turn on his radios. As coordinating field producer, Munday – who started the show in season 7 (Survivor: Pearl Islands) as an 18-year-old Dream Teamer – is the nerve center of the show, coordinating several departments to ensure everything goes as planned. And there are many things to follow. Soon, the radio is not enough anymore. "I was always talking about safety, the wardrobe, our Ponderosa handlers, and also Hennie from the Navy Department, because I wanted to make sure everything was fine with the boat, that it was all right. position and ready, "says Munday later.

At 4 am, Munday expands his text strings to include the arts department, the film crew and the audio, "who are preparing to leave for the boat as we need that. they load all the way down before you even start. [filming] portraits because they can not do any of their work while we obviously take portraits if we use the same location for portraits and open. "

"His story is amazing," said host Jeff Probst of Munday. "Started as a Dream Teamer. Now she directs the show. She has so much to do and runs this army like it's only a picnic in the yard with friends. But imagine a picnic of 645 people spread over several islands. It's a lot of people to manage. Summing up his morning before sunrise, Riley sighs, "I'm just continually texting them."

16.45: Base Camp / Ponderosa 1
There was a delay. The new players must have completed their medical, wardrobe and security checks by 5 am, but Munday has just learned that her deadline will soon be exceeded. She contacted Maui Postma and Melissa Goulet from the Department of the Navy (who have been standing since 3 am) to inform them of the new schedule, but remain relatively indifferent. This is because the assistant director has a trick in her bag. Like any wise publisher who gives a writer a false deadline, knowing that writers often use deadlines more as "guides" than as "rules," Munday has built a cushion.

According to his official schedule, candidates leave Ponderosa at 5 am They arrive by boat at their destination shortly after 6 am to start filming their "portraits" (which are the spectacular close-ups of the competitors on a boat en route to the crossing – see the first minute of the show) at 7am. But Munday did not only plan a make-up space before shooting, but she also did not plan to start shooting before. "We had a little tour here," Munday says later. "I told them 7, we drove at 7:30. That's when I thought we would do it anyway. I was not worried because I knew they were half an hour late and I had this half an hour more. After 15 years, I finally learned a lesson.

the Edge of Extinction candidates waiting for their security check

5:00 – Ponderosa 1
After seeing the 14 beginners and taking a bite, Dr. Joe embarks on a boat to go watch the four players back on the island of Vitu Levu. But it gets even more confusing than that. While the 14 new players are not aware of the four returning competitors, there is even some mystery among the returnees. Instead of housing the four returning players (Joe Anglim, Aubry Bracco, Kelley Wentworth and David Wright) together, they were separated – Joe and Aubry staying together at one place while Kelley and David are at another, each pair ignoring . on the other.

This is a tactic that goes back to the first Survivor: All-Stars season, when each of the three tribes was hosted in different places so that players do not know all the players against whom they competed. But that means that Dr. Joe has a few other destinations on his route to cross the entire cast.

First, Dr. Joe arrives at Kelley and David's headquarters before 5:15 am and meets the two returnees. After eliminating them, it is a 10-minute drive from Joe's secret location and Aubry's to give them a proverbial boost. And then he's back on a boat – one of the many others he'll be with this morning.

5h05 – Bay of Monu
The first members of the crew arrive at Monu Bay to begin preparations on the giant sailboat. Jeff Probst will later welcome the 18 competitors (and millions of viewers) to Survivor: Edge of Extinction. At least that was the plan.

But three days ago, the boat they were going to use for raking blew up an engine unexpectedly, forcing the navy department to scramble to find a replacement. And the replacement that they have found may seem familiar to eagle-eyed viewers. Based in the Fijian capital of Nadi, the Ra Marama was originally built in the 1950s for the governor of Fiji. Converted to open-deck brigantine rigging in the 1990s, it has a classic pirate ship look, which is why producers have used it for the opening of both Survivor: Game changers and Survivor: Heroes v Healers v Hustlers.

In searching for a replacement boat, the Department of the Navy discovered that the Ra Marama happened to be nearby. Knowing that the boat had worked well in the past, production assured it for a new appearance, and a few hours later, the Ra Marama arrived and the art department began to dress for his third act.

Among the early risers boarding Ra Marama this morning there will be crew members – loaded with coolers and under deck snacks for the other crew members who will work throughout the morning – as well as the captain of the crew. Faganely helicopter and his team bringing pineapples, bananas, peppers and dried fish to the ship.

There are also crates. Many crates. Some with Survivor logos, some with drawings of dragon boats and Japanese characters (made by Dream Teamers), many with SEG Trade Co. stamped on the side (SEG likely representing Survivor Entertainment Group, the joint venture created by CBS and Mark Burnett). And then, there are less obvious signs, such as the mark "JGW 2388" on the side of one of these cases – which happens to be the initials of one of the most devious members of the accessories department.

All crates and food must be set up for maximum dramatic effect. Working in the dark presents another set of challenges. The initial crew therefore uses headlamps to see what they are doing and where they are going. But a pleasant surprise awaits Faganely upon his arrival. "They have a crew lamp," says Faganely. "It was really nice. It does not happen all the time. Sometimes we dress for the morning, there is no light and we only have headlamps. Today, we were lucky. Ah, but will luck continue?

5.30 pm – Ponderosa 2 & 3 (Viti Levu Island)
In addition to Dr. Joe's medical appointments, Aubry, Joe, Kelley and David also have their wardrobes and security checks – with a wardrobe and a security guard at each location. At least that was how it should work. But with one of the unavailable security team members, another delay occurs because a security service must control the four people at both sites, causing a delay of 25 minutes for returnees. This is another reason why Munday has extended his schedule.

Competitor Gavin Whitson passes his security check

5:37 – Ponderosa 1
Thirty-seven minutes late, the 14 new candidates finally take charge of a boat to take them to Ra Marama for their portraits. Scheduled for portraits at 6am, they will arrive an hour later. However, because of the false deadlines imposed on Munday, filming will continue to run at the scheduled time, at 7:30 am. "I was not too worried and I knew they were nearby," says Munday, who also has the comfort of knowing that she can still catch up on the returning players. "With the re-entrant, I have the impression that they know the agreement and that it would be much faster to prepare them." "I also knew that if we started an hour late with them, it would still be enough time to photograph portraits of four people traveling."

5:40 am – Base camp: restoration
Newcomers finally on the way, Munday and his radio head to the base camp dining room, not just for food and coffee. "Catering is a good place to find people and make sure you have your eyes on people," says Munday. "At 6 o'clock, my first crews go to these portraits. I have seven producers and two crews and I do not want the boat captain to call me at 6:15 pm saying, "I have no one to do!" The catering is therefore a good place to find everyone and make sure he gets out of there and ready for their departure at 6:00. I was preparing that. And the coffee.

6:00 am – Base Camp: Dave Dryden's Room
All roads eventually lead to David Dryden. As SurvivorDirector since season 7 (Islands of Pearls), Dryden – with the assistance of Munday – is the person who gathers everything together. Dryden's voice is the last one Jeff Probst will hear before the shoot, once everything is locked, charged and ready to go. It's a huge day for Dryden. Not only is it the day of strangulation, it is also the fifth birthday of his son Levi. But with his wife and his still-sleeping birthday boy, Dryden has only one thing in mind: the weather. Production keeps a close eye on all weather conditions and anything else that could be a problem, but the director has his own method.

"We have predictions and models of what's going to happen," says Dryden. "These guys get up in the morning to check and call them, but for me the proof is in the pudding. I have to frickin 'walk outside and go' Very good, I can see that the rain is coming here, it could be a problem. We'll have more shadows than we thought "or" It'll be clear on this side. The wind is blowing. Everything should fade by then, but it tells me: What are some of the problems I will have to face? And the better the knowledge is advanced, the better. "

So, Dryden immediately goes outside to see what Mother Nature has in store for him on the first day of Season 38. "There was wind, but it was not raining, so it was good, note -t it. "But I also knew that the wind was going to create problems since we were on the water."

The problem is not only the boat on which the competitors will be embarked, but all the rest surroundings this boat, including the 34 other boats that will be used for today's marronnement. "Weather affects everything," says Dryden. "Because we are on a big boat, we anchor it, we have tracking boats, we have a planned drone, there is a jib on a barge. These things will all be affected by the weather. Because of the high winds, we had to rethink some things, for example, how is it going to affect the boats I've chosen for the camera platform, how do we position things, how much play is there, how it will affect the divers, where are they? are we going to have our safety boat? It's a bit of a domino effect.

Riley Munday and David Dryden gather everything behind the scenes

6:10 am – Base Camp: Riley Munday Office
Having already worked in his room and in the restaurant business, Munday finally goes to his current office. "Even if it's early in the morning, I feel better to be here," says Munday. "I have my two radios, I have the computer. I have everything I need in front of me. Munday continues to browse his list of upcoming boat starts while informing the producers and crews of the segment who have already been radioing the status of competitors arriving for their portraits. . "I'm only informing them of the progress made by calling Maui on the shipping channel that contacted the boat captains and handing us ETA competitors to each boat for portraits."

Like Dryden, Munday also monitors the weather, but it's a bit difficult because the nearest radar is not working at the moment. However, Munday has a rescue plan similar to Dryden's. "Maui and Hennie in the navy are seafarers. In general, I call them and say," Hey, that's what I see here. Is it consistent with how you feel? "They are very good at it."

Even with the winds, there's a lot less to worry about this raking on May 30th – which is Fiji's dry season – unlike the weather nightmares of Season 37, which resulted in two cyclones and a boating accident who put competitor Pat Cusack away from the game. play the third day. "We do not have to worry about everything that's going to happen," says Munday. "There is not going to be a cyclone or anything going towards us. We would have known in advance. "

6:25 – Jeff Probst House (Mana Island)
Jeff Probst gets up early and his mind is already racing. For weeks, the host of the oldest American reality TV show presents his opening speech in front of competitors. All the elements of this season have been collected. Now, just hours away, he finds himself rereading it to make sure he hits all the important beats. (In the absence of check cards or a teleprompter to act as a safety net, the host must ensure that he transmits all information to competitors. – and viewers – in a clear and concise manner.)

Some people organize their thoughts on a whiteboard. Others grab it on a computer. And others write all this in the long run. Probst does all three. By this repetition, Probst burned the themes and thoughts he wants to express at the very beginning of his brain. It is only necessary to refine his presentation. In coffee and eggs, he visualizes the scene that will take place later in the morning as well as "all the little things that will happen and all I want to tell them. And the reactions that I hope we will get. "

The facilitator reviews the points that he must tackle, including "welcome them, then reassure them by reminding them that we will vote on someone." And then, set up the four returning players. And then break the summary of the four players coming back. And then tease them with something they do not know what it's all about, it's the island of extinction. This is how I view the situation from a historical point of view. It's just highlights. But really, this part of my job is the easiest. Organizing a marronnage is easy. I already know what we want them to do.

7:00 am – Monu Bay
Candidates arriving finally at the Bay of Monu, it is time that everyone is ready to photograph the portraits. After radio sweeping problems that led Munday to switch channels, the assistant director called the operators of his drone to make sure they are ready. "We use a special boat from which they can launch the drone," says Munday. Half an hour later, the drone is in flight and the shooting of the new competitors starts at 19:30. Better still, drone fire takes only 25 minutes instead of the 30 planned, which gives Riley another five minutes.

As the drone's shooting ends, Munday contacts Ken Gray helicopter pilot and Cineflex camera operator Mark Hryma to stop them so they can also get their aerial shots. sooooo many aerial photos of this show.

7:30 am – Base Camp: Challenge Office
the Survivor The Base Camp Challenge Office is the coolest place in the world. Seriously. Filled with classic rock posters, darts, Fiji Gold beer and miniature versions of Survivor This is where the producer John Kirhoffer and his team of Chris "Milhouse" Marchand and Anthony "AB" Britten organize all these incredible tests of strength, strategy, know-how and skills that the we see in the series.

Kirhoffer achieved high status in Survivor circles not only to have the coolest job and the coolest office, but he's been doing it since the first day of season 1. In fact, he's one of four people who have been around since the very beginning, with Probst, co-executive producer Jesse Jensen (who also strengthened his composure by appearing in the role of Jedi master Saesee Tiin in Star Wars: Episode III – Sith Revenge in his spare time), and Scott Duncan (yes, Tim's older brother, and yes, this Tim Duncan) who is filming all those great slow shots of the competitors that you see in the opening credits.

To mark the occasion, Kirhoffer sends a quick email to congratulate the rest of this exclusive fraternity. Subject: "For the 38th time, good day."

Jeff Probst is uploaded by Chris "Milhouse" Marchand and John Kirhoffer

7:50 – Restoration
Executive producer Matt Van Wagenen (who started in season 14 as a producer and is now number two in the series after Probst) has another concern: "What will happen on a day-to-day basis? after. Thus, around some improvised burritos for the Indian breakfast, Van Wagenen meets the four producers who will be posted on the beaches of the two tribes to discuss what they hope to capture when competitors begin to settle in. . "We tell some of the stories we are trying to get into, because every season we make small adjustments," says the EP. "For example, this season, we are really wondering about why someone is here and tells more internal stories. The producers had the opportunity to interview the actors yesterday and we are comparing stories to what we thought we were doing and what their interview revealed. "

8:00 p.m.. – Riley Munday's office
Dave Dryden, director, sends a message that nervously checks how things are waiting. "We are really beautiful," says Munday. "There is no need to delay anything this morning." Munday laughed. "He is not used to that. He looked a little shocked.

8:15 am – Jeff Probst House
Something is wrong. Not with the protein shake, Jeff Probst just snapped. It was really delicious. (It's not surprising that Probst looks so excited.) But something is wrong with Kelley Wentworth – more specifically, some statistics that the team investigated. While Probst consults his notes regarding former players' achievements that he would recite for beginners, he notices that Kelley has only been eliminated as having won a single immunity contest. "I think she's won two immunity challenges," says Probst. "How could we not know that?"

The welcome texts challenge the producer Marchand, who is already on the boat working on a buoy accessory. "Kelley Wentworth. One or two challenges of immunity? And how did we not know that? ?. "

Milhouse responds: "One." Probst is still doubtful and goes online to try to verify it, but "you can not trust online", so Probst calls the producer AB. "No, it's two," replies the answer, with another realization: "Oh my God. It's the second day Joe collapsed[in[in[dans[inSurvivor: Cambodia], Says Probst. "She won, she was a male and female winner, that's what we forgot, she won the first part." At this point, all Probst can do is "We create these challenges, we keep our own records, and even this morning, I found myself gone," I'm sure it's two. "And then checked that it was two and thought: Okay, glad to have caught it a few hours before moving on to the stage!"

8:30 – Restoration
After closing his producers' meeting, Van Wagenen has an important call to make to an important man, who calls himself Jimmy Quigley. As a supervising producer, Quigley plays a lot in the series as one of Van Wagenen and Probst's trusted lieutenants, but there is one particular aspect of his work that each Survivor fan would kill for. "He is the one who crushes idols!" Says Van Wagenen. Yes, Quigley's responsibilities include the concealment of any idol and all the benefits of immunity in tribal camps. Whenever you see a player reach a stump, or under a shelter, or in a tree, or in the sand and take out a package, he was put there by Jimmy Quigley.

"We will not plant them until the day of," says Van Wagenen. It means that Quigley has work to do and that it's not enough to hide the idols. "There is something else that someone from one of the tribes is going to have to fail," Van Wagenen reveals. This something is a hint of a hidden advantage at the beach. The only question left for Quigley is: What beach? Quigley can not find him until he knows who of which tribe has marked him. "He is very conscious of the fact that we are going to have to plant this thing," says Van Wagenen.

"We talked in recent days about where he was going to be hidden. Very often, if there is any clue about something and we know that he is going to go on a particular beach, we can be very difficult as to where the idol is on that beach. But in this situation, where we do not know if it will end at Manu camp or Kama camp, the clue must make sense for both beaches. Bien que nous ayons un indice qui fonctionne pour les deux camps, nous ne saurons pas sur quelle île le mettre jusqu'à ce qu'il soit trouvé. »Van Wagenen dit à Quigley qu'il le contactera avec le précieux renseignement dès que cet indice sera découvert. Quigley peut se rendre sur la plage de cette tribu et la cacher avant l’arrivée des concurrents. Une course contre la montre!

Le Dr Joe Rowles s’occupe des concurrents et de l’équipage dans son rôle de Survivor directeur médical

9h00 – Rivendell
Après deux autres bateaux pour retourner au camp de base, une douche bien nécessaire, puis encore une autre promenade en bateau à encore another bateau, le Dr Joe arrive à la dernière destination de filtrage (nom Rivendell par production) au large de l'île de Tavua, accompagné d'appareils-photo auxiliaires transportant des tonnes de matériel, notamment des GoPros, des GoPros sous-marins et un coureur qui monte le mât navire principal.

Les téléspectateurs ne se rendent peut-être pas compte que le Survivor L’équipe médicale n’est pas seulement là pour les concurrents, mais aussi pour l’équipage. (Et, comme je peux en témoigner, grâce aux multiples voyages au Survivor La zone médicale, les visiteurs facilement blessés comme la presse, par exemple.) Avec cette ouverture particulière sur l'eau, le plus gros problème que Rowles et son équipe médicale doivent s'inquiéter dans les heures qui précèdent le départ est… le mal de mer. «Souvent, il s’agit de soigner les nausées et autres, explique le Dr Joe. «Parce que nous sommes sur ces plates-formes de navigation de plaisance pendant des heures et que les gens commencent souvent à se sentir mal. C'est assez commun. Et quand le temps est mauvais, les gens souffrent du mal de mer, alors que les gens sont assis sur des bateaux dans une houle légère pendant des heures, ce qui peut sembler l’amplifier un peu plus. "

Et parfois les houles ne sont pas si douces. Le cas le plus tristement célèbre était celui de la saison 13 pour l'ouverture de Survivor: Iles Cook (alias le Vomitorium) où une houle massive a poussé les concurrents, l’équipage et, bien sûr, la presse, à se jeter à plusieurs reprises dans, sur et sur les flancs de différents bateaux. Avec autant de membres d'équipage sur autant de bateaux et de plates-formes entourant le ratissage – sans parler du bateau principal lui-même -, les équipes médicales gardent des comprimés anti-maladie dans leurs poches à tout moment.

En général, les reculs en mer ont tendance à être moins dangereux que les grands défis terrestres d'ouverture. La plus grande inquiétude que le Dr. Joe ait jamais eue lors d’un échec judiciaire était un an auparavant lorsque Michael Yerger avait chuté après avoir lancé le défi d’ouverture Survivor: l'île fantôme. «Il est passé de zéro à 100 miles à l'heure et y a vraiment tout mis», dit le doc. «Et c’était un de ces défis qui n’apparaissait pas tellement, mais je sais, parce que j’avais vu des gens le pratiquer, c’était brutal. Je pensais que j'allais devoir aller le soigner, mais il s'est battu et il s'en est sorti.

Mais lorsque les concurrents se contentent d’acquérir des fournitures et de plonger, comme aujourd’hui, «c’est assez discret», explique le Dr Joe. «Nous craignons que les gens nagent, mais ils sont tous testés pour s’assurer qu’ils savent nager. Nous avons des plongeurs de sécurité. Ma principale préoccupation est que quelqu'un saute à l'intérieur, puis que quelqu'un de plus gros saute à l'intérieur et atterrisse sur eux. Mais, les doigts croisés, cela n’est jamais arrivé et j’ai le sentiment que ce ne sera pas le cas. "

9h10 – Bureau de Riley Munday
La productrice de ce segment, Talia Sawyer, passe à la radio de Munday avec de bonnes nouvelles. Ils en ont terminé avec tous les portraits de débutants – et 50 minutes d’avance, selon le programme bien rembourré de Munday. Maintenant, il ne leur reste plus qu'à finir les portraits des joueurs qui reviennent et à retrouver leur position pour le ratissage principal – ce qui n’est pas toujours aussi simple qu’il semble. Quelques saisons en arrière, les producteurs sont allés dans le nord pour obtenir leurs portraits antérieurs au marroning et, comme l'explique Munday, «Ensuite, le vent a tourné et ils n'ont pas pu revenir. Il leur a fallu une heure pour revenir, puis amarrés, nous avons donc commencé avec une heure de retard. ”Oups!

À ce stade, Munday occupe presque toute une tasse de café, avec un ordre de chai. Pouvez-vous la blâmer? Après tout, la coordination de toute la logistique de voyage est une opération délirante à la limite, avec 34 bateaux différents transportant 714 corps sur une distance totale de 1 500 milles. But Munday also feeds off of the energy of day 1 filming, even if it can be mentally taxing. “Yeah, it can be quite stressful, especially when it’s getting close to the departures of producers and the last-minute people that are coming out to the open. I find it extremely stressful when you have to start pushing people’s departure times, because it doesn’t just affect that person. It affects marine, it affects the rest of the day if we have other things scheduled.” But today, so far, so good.

Riley Munday started on Survivor as an 18-year-old Dream Teamer and is now the behind-the-scenes nerve center of the show

9:20am – Jeff Probst’s house
Jeff Probst just cracked the code. Even with all his preparation, there was one part of Probst’s introductory speech that he just couldn’t make work. The host wanted to tease the Edge of Extinction twist without completely giving it away, and also needed a bridge to connect two different — yet related — themes. “I couldn’t figure out how to connect that it’s so hard to win and you never know what you’ll be called on to do,” says the host.

But then it hit him. “I need to say it’s hard to win Survivor because Survivor‘s unpredictable. And that led me to the last part, which was, ‘Because Survivor‘s unpredictable, you never know what you’ll be called on to do. And when you’re pushed further than you ever imagined, that is your opportunity to stand up, adapt, and conquer.’”

For Probst, that crystalized both the theme of the season and the returning foursome. “It’s connecting the dots of Survivor being very hard, as evidenced by these four players. And it’s hard because it’s unpredictable. Now we’re starting to foreshadow Extinction Island. And the reason you have to be prepared for anything is because you never know what it’s going to take to win this game.”

9:30 a.m. – Base Camp Marina: Whiteboard meeting
Have you ever watched one of those football movies where the team all gathers around as the coach diagrams plays on a chalkboard while pointing out everyone’s given assignment? Or have you ever sat through one of those war movies where the troops gather around a giant map, monitor, or futuristic virtual touch screen as a general-type lays out the attack plan and tells everyone exactly when and where they need to be at a specific time? That’s basically a Survivor whiteboard meeting. Only instead of a locker room or a bunker, this one takes place on a dock looking out on the Fijian ocean. Alors, slightly more picturesque.

The whiteboard meeting is had before every marooning or challenge so key crew members know how the event is going to unfold and their responsibilities during it. Who’s there? Around 25 people with a variety of responsibilities. “We have basically all departments there,” says Dryden, who will be running the show. “We’ve got anybody who’s gonna participate. We’ve got audio, camera, people that aren’t already bumping gear out to the boat, the divers, everyone. And basically I go through what’s gonna happen.”

And there has been one big change for today they need to go over. At a run-through the previous day, big swells kept causing the boat of four returnees to keep bashing against the main marooning boat when they practiced transferring what would be Aubry, David, Joe, and Kelley. The solution? “We actually reoriented the ship,” explains Munday. “We re-clocked it about 90 degrees.” But that meant all the backgrounds would change as well.

Not only that, but the tribes might end up on the wrong beach! That’s because now the contestants would be paddling out closer to land. “One of the things that I was super nervous about is instead of them paddling into the open ocean, they would be paddling towards shore,” says Munday. “Just because of the swell at the moment, I was really worried with the dropping tide that they’d get caught on the reef range of motion that the swell would take them in.”

After assuring Munday that a plan is in place to keep the contestants from drifting off, and giving everyone a basic rundown of what’s to come, Dryden lets the camera team know which players they are assigned to film: “You’re gonna be on the blue team, you’re getting close ups, you’re getting twos and threes, you’re getting panning shots, you’re gonna have the wide group shot. Let’s make sure that we get clean tribe shots that aren’t overlapping.”

And that’s just for the opening set-up. After Probst gives his introduction to the players, the entire camera team will have to reposition into a new area with new responsibilities, so Dryden needs to make sure everyone knows what to do for that as well: “For the repo, you’re gonna be exclusively on people jumping overboard, you’re going to the yellow boat, you’re gonna be shooting people jumping overboard going to the blue boat. You’re gonna be responsible for getting whoever grabs the secret advantage. I need a wide here, I need a tight there.”

And then there are the cameras underwater as well. “Divers are gonna go down at this point,” says Dryden “and what I’m looking for is a wide shot from underneath, getting people hitting the water. You’re gonna be by the team advantage, so just once you’re down, stand by, don’t get distracted. Someone’s gonna come to you and untie that thing and that’s your shot. Once they have that, follow to the boat, get them loading it, and then you can start freelancing on your water, getting people climbing in or whatever else happens.”

Everyone has a job and a specific responsibility. Seeing as how this is all happening alongside 18 contestants scrambling like chickens with their heads cut off (and often with actual chickens), it is the very definition of order in the middle of chaos.

the Survivor marine department had to track the comings and goings of 34 boats for the marooning

9:35 a.m. – Monu Bay
With some of the advance dressing and preparation complete, Ra Marama departs Monu Bay for its final marooning destination of Rivendell off the coast of Tavua. That is where the contestants will board and the latest Survivor adventure will officially begin.

9:45 a.m. – Jeff Probst’s golf cart
Jeff Probst’s house on Fiji is situated in between base camp and the Tribal Council set, so Probst, like many other senior producers, gets around on golf carts. But as the host travels from his abode to the dock to leave for the marooning, he has one very important video to record for someone back home who cannot be here on this special day.

“Yo, I am pulling up to the dock to go do the 38th marooning,” says Probst on the video. “Dude, 38! It’s a beautiful day. It’s been raining like crazy, but, man, the sun just parted this morning and it’s awesome out. And we’re gonna go do it. It’s another big, risky idea but hey, that’s what you told us to do — go big or GO THE F— HOME! Alright, later!”

The host then stops recording and hits send. And that’s how Survivor Svengali Mark Burnett received his personal video message from halfway around the world as the show that changed the face of television kicked off filming on its 38th season.

10:15 a.m. – Rivendell
Six-and-a-half hours after waking up, Munday arrives at the marooning boat… and can’t get on. Even worse, nobody can. The problem is that even though they talked about repositioning Ra Marama by 90 degrees after yesterday’s rehearsal, it’s not at the proper angle so it’s not currently safe to board. The fact that the wind and current are presently blowing in opposite directions is not helping matters either, so safety divers are forced to use four 300lb anchors to help secure the boat in place.

The delay means all those camera operators that were supposed to be setting up all that gear in preparation are instead, in the word of Munday, “floating out in the water waiting to go to the mothership.” Nine boats, four zodiacs, and two barges are already on the scene ready and waiting to transfer people, props, and gear.

For one of the few times all day, Munday is frustrated. “I had reiterated so many times that at 9:30 we need them to start mooring,” she sighs. “I was told that they’d be done by 10. I get here at 10:15 and it’s still not in position.” And, as Munday explains, the delay has caused a domino effect. “Art hasn’t been able to get aboard to set their last-minute items. Audio hasn’t been able to get aboard because audio have to sync cameras and audio first. Which means they need to do that before I can even send audio out to the contestant boats to get them mic’d and ready.” Now Munday is worried that she won’t have time to mic the contestants and have them ready for the open in time, but here’s the thing: It’s Riley’s job to worry. That’s why she’s so good at it.

10 minutes later, smaller boats are brought in to transfer crew and gear to the main boat, and the race is on.

The scramble to set up cameras, food, and clues begins!

10:36 a.m.
The chaos is officially underway. 30 people are now on-board Ra Marama.

An art boat filled with additional fruit and fish arrives and is locked onto the “Hero” boat (production name for the marooning vessel). The crew immediately starts grabbing and placing these valuable supplies throughout the boat — valuable because these are the supplies that contestants will scramble to procure in the roughly two minutes Jeff Probst will give the players before forcing them to jump overboard. The more they can grab, the better fed they will be. In total, 20 produce crates and 15 baskets filled with perishables like fresh vegetables, lots of green leafy items, and seasonal fruit, as well as longer lasting items like taro, potato, sweet potato, and pumpkins are strewn about.

Meanwhile, cameras are placed all over. Fourteen cameras are being positioned, as well as another remote camera on the mast head, two on follow boats, two underwater, various GoPros, and the ever-present drone. And wherever there are cameras, there are microphones, including two that will be placed on Probst, 18 for the contestants, three boom mics, and seven mics planted throughout the boat for a total of 30. Normally the Survivor audio team has two hours to prep the ship with various microphones, but with rough ocean conditions delaying the arrival of the ship and their ability to board, that time has been cut to a mere 20 minutes.

10:49 a.m.
Wanna know a secret? There often is a secret reward or advantage hidden on board at a marooning. Not this season, however. This season there are two secrets— a secret tribe reward and a secret individual advantage. The tribe reward message is hidden in the middle of the boat behind a bag of fruit. Whoever removes the fruit will find it… as long as they are actually looking. “Secret Tribe Reward!” reads the message. “Dive under buoy, find the handle and pull!”

The notice is sufficiently obscured, but challenge producer Marchand has a thought: What if the person who finds it wants to cover it back up so the other tribe does not see and race them to it? “Right now we’re looking at the communal advantage and we’re making sure there are enough items around it where if they want to re-hide it as quickly as possible, they can,” he explains. Since the notice is locked down on the ship and cannot be removed, Marchand calls over some more produce. “This way they can rebury it, because they can’t move the actual thing.”

Meanwhile, prop master Faganely hides the secret individual advantage at the forward of the boat, sticking it to a crate using some black tac (so it doesn’t blow away in the wind) and behind some fruit. While the fruit is technically hiding the advantage, it also serves the purpose of drawing players over to it. “There will be a bag of pineapples on top of it,” explains Faganely. “You can’t pass that up, so someone’s going to take it for sure and see the advantage.”

And viewers will see it as well, with the advantage crate placed strategically right by a GoPro camera to ensure it is all captured on film. How much time does Faganely spend figuring out the perfect place to stash an advantage? “Quite a bit,” he laughs. “You have to see where you can cover it with a camera and then we just try to make it work with random props. We’ll throw these boxes in so it’s at the right level, throw stuff around it, make sure everything is fine. You always want to make sure you have the perfect spot and perfect things around it that look good too.”

This particular advantage is actually a clue as to the whereabouts of said advantage back at the tribe beach, and somewhere, Jimmy Quigley is waiting for a call to tell him at which camp he should start burying.

Prop master Lucas Faganely shows off the Secret Advantage before hiding in on board Ra Marama

10:56 a.m.
Remember that secret tribe reward sign telling someone to dive under buoy, find the handle and pull? It has been the cause of much recent consternation. The problem began when production had to change the marooning boat a few days prior. That meant the first full rehearsal the crew did was, as Dryden puts it, “null and void.” Therefore, the second final rehearsal the day before actual filming was really the first (and only) full walk-through with cameras that would correspond to what they actually shot at the marooning. And when they did it, something was off.

The plan was for a player to jump off the boat, swim over to a buoy, dive down, and pull a handle that would release the reward crate of canned food. But that’s not what happened. “It was too confusing for somebody who has not seen a diagram or seen footage or pictures of what they’re gonna do,” says the director of the rehearsal with Dream Teamers. “It basically was canned goods, but they were attached to a bunch of bamboo things to keep them floating. And the thing is under a buoy. So you have this object that they’re gonna win which they’ve never seen, and they don’t know what it is. And then below that is the mechanism they have to trigger in order to release it.”

During the rehearsal, the Dream Teamers never saw the trigger. “And so they got there,” says Dryden, “and they’re pulling on the cans and they’re trying to untie the knots that are holding it to the line that goes to the release mechanism. Then finally somebody else comes over and they again can’t figure it out.” The director can only laugh. “Then they just drug the whole thing over and lifted it into the boat before they even figured out ‘Oh, s—, there’s a handle there!’  And then they released it. We were all like, ‘Oh my God!’ It needed to be totally revamped and simplified.”

So with only about 14 hours until go-time, Dryden walked over to the challenge office (a.k.a. Best Place on Earth) and tasked Kirhoffer with making the contraption “idiot-proof.” Kirhoffer immediately gathered Faganely and marine dive team coordinator Douglas Ahnne in his challenge shop, and after fielding a concerned call from Probst (“How’s that looking? We gotta make sure that it’s bulletproof. It’s definitely gotta work. We can’t have them coming up saying, ‘I can’t figure it out.’”), the team laid out the underwater apparatus to figure out how to make the entire operation cleaner, more visible, and more user-friendly.

The problem — and corresponding solution — was all in the handle. Because they didn’t want the handle to fall to the ocean floor after being pulled, it had a rope attached to it, which was also attached to all the cans. But the ropes only added to the underwater confusion, so Kirhoffer’s solution started with a simple idea: “Let’s just not worry about losing the handle. Pull the handle, let it drop to the floor of the ocean. We have scuba divers — they can go down and find it later.”

The team got rid of one rope completely, changed the other one from a vanilla color to a clearer white one that was easier to see, and then adjusted the handle length and color (painting it bright orange) to make it more obvious what and where to pull. It all sounded good in theory, but how would it look once they got it in the water? With the new contraption finally in place, John Kirhoffer wants a pair of eyes on it to make sure it will pass muster, and in cases like this, the only eyes he trusts are his own. The challenge producer dives into the ocean to inspect it for himself.

Now you see it, now you don’t! This secret tribe reward before being hidden behind bushels of produce and potatoes

11:02 a.m.
“Can you please put your hand up so I can see where your dinghy is?”

This is just one of the random, out-of-context quotes you hear on a boat now filled with people making last minute adjustments. Like, say, director Dave Dryden proclaiming “Let’s lose that. I don’t want a big nut in his face” while pointing to a dangling coconut that will be in frame next to Jeff Probst when he welcomes the contestants.

Dryden is getting his first look at the almost-finished product and making other adjustments when necessary. “The wind is strong so that just makes maneuvering boats and positioning tricky,” he notes. “We just need to fine tune a few key elements, and get a barge out of Jeff’s background now that we repositioned the boat, but we’re getting there. We’re right on schedule.” Then, amongst all the chaos, Dryden takes a moment to look around his outdoor office-at-sea. “Look at this day! C’mon! It’s been raining all week! I’m loving it.”

Meanwhile, Milhouse is still tweaking the hiding of the secret tribe reward clue. “Let’s move these potatoes up front,” he says seemingly to nobody in particular, and yet then, magically, potatoes appear. Milhouse thinks having potatoes as cover will keep this reward a bit harder to find because they are less attractive to contestants than the other foods, causing the challenge producer to snicker. “The funny thing is, the potatoes have so many nutrients that’s what they should take.” (Future contestants take note!)

With most of the food and props now placed, Faganely has one last important task: getting the tribe maps and buffs ready. Faganely takes all the blue buffs out of a bag, checks them, puts them back in the bag and then ties the map to the outside of the bag. He then does the same for the yellow buffs. The level of detail goes even further. After confirming that the Manu tribe will be receiving their buffs first, Faganely hangs that bag on the outside so that Probst can grab it easily, while the second Kama bag goes on the inside.

With so many moving parts and time becoming scarce, Munday needs to clear out some of the human clutter getting in the way. “We need all non-essential personal to move from the main area of the boat or else we’re not going to get this off in time,” she announces. Speaking of getting things off on time, where is Jeff Probst?

Lucas Fagenely takes the Manu tribe map and attaches it to the bag of buffs

11:10 a.m.
The eagle has landed! Repeat: The eagle has landed! In actuality, it’s just Jeff Probst and exec producer Matt Van Wagenen, who step on board Ra Marama. After greeting various members of the crew, Probst makes a beeline for the starboard side of the boat, where John Kirhoffer has just emerged from the water with an eyewitness account of the new and improved handle in question.

Kirhoffer explains to the host how he dove down seven feet without a mask on “so I can see what they will see to make sure that it’s not confusing.” After feeling good about the rejiggered rig, he dove down again, this time with a mask so he could see everything clearly and make sure everything was exactly as it should be. “I wanted to make sure it’s dead perfect,” the challenge producer says to the host while dripping wet. “And it’s dead perfect.”

Probst and Kirhoffer have been doing this together for over 18 years now. They have a shorthand and level of trust that has been forged over an astounding 1,446 days of filming. If the king of challenges says it’s good to go, then the host believes him. But just because everything looks in place doesn’t mean Kirhoffer still isn’t at least a little nervous. “The thing I’m most concerned about with today is making sure that thing pops up,” he says when asked about what he’s going to be focused on once the contestants finally show up. “We have plenty of people concerned with everything else.”

Challenge producer John Kirhoffer, all dried off and redressed after diving down 7 feet to inspect the secret tribe reward

11:15 a.m.
Matt Van Wagenen seems way too relaxed. “Usually I have these nervous butterflies at the marooning,” says Van Wagenen. “But there is a calmness about this season for some reason.” The beauty of unscripted television is that even with all the planning in the world — and the Survivor production team overplans for all — you never know what is going to actually happen. “This is like Christmas morning,” explains the EP.  “It’s shaking the presents and getting ready to see how this turns out.”

The calmness of this season may be somewhat due to familiarity. Out of 38 seasons, this will be the 9th time that the show has begun with some sort of variation of having payers starting their adventure by scrambling and then jumping off of a boat — and the fifth time in the past eight installments. Why? Because it just works. “We had an editor named Eric Gardner who worked on the show for years who said, ‘If it’s not better than throwing ‘em off a boat, then throw ‘em off a boat!’” laughs Van Wagenen.

As for what he is most excited to see at the open, it is not who discovers the group reward. Nor is it who finds the individual advantage. But there is actually a third secret item on board, and this one is a bit of a misdirect. “There’s a small little thing,” Van Wagenen explains, “and who knows if it will even make it on the show, but we have a small little fishing kit that’s floating around that actually looks like the Legacy Advantage. We’re going to keep an eye on that and see who grabs that thinking that they got something. It’s still great, but they’ll come back to camp pulling that out of their pants and realize they just got a bunch of hooks.”

The fact that Van Wagenen and his team have spent this much time and energy creating something may not even make it on TV is typical. In fact, many of the elements at play here — from the crates and props and underwater cameras to the very rewards and advantages themselves — may never actually be used or seen, yet every detail is painstakingly obsessed over. That’s the genius of Survivor, while the fact that producers planted a fake Legacy Advantage would qualify as the wrong genius portion of the game.

EP Matt Van Wagenen (passing both a pensive Probst and the secret tribe reward clue) is like a kid on Christmas on marooning day

“If you are on the Ra Marama and don’t need to be here, you need to disembark now,” announces Munday to the crew. “Last call.” This means all non-essential personnel need to make their way off to the boat and onto either one of the two floating barges or dozen boats or Zodiacs off to the side. Speaking of barges, one of them at the top of the hour had drifted into a camera shot, forcing four safety divers into the water to secure four 100-pound anchors to help reposition it. At the same time, grips had to chop off a canopy support pole that was in a camera shot, while other security boats were also moved to ensure clean visuals.

The game of cat and mouse with the tides continues as the marine department delivers yet another anchor to help secure the barge. Even with all the preparation in the world, last minute tweaks and changes like this are the norm.

“Jeff is coming upstairs” a segment producer radios to Munday, and sure enough, Probst emerges from below deck, now dressed in his official opening attire: a black shirt and his trademark orange Survivor hat (#OrangeHatAlert). He works the boat a bit, asking one cameraman how many seasons he’s been on the show. “I started season 11,” comes the answer. “Dang!” sighs Probst, now talking more to himself. “Wow, we have a massive combined total of seasons with our crew. That’s really amazing. Season 11. Wow.”

From there the host starts running through what he will say to the contestants when they arrive. It’s a routine with which crew members are very familiar. Probst will close his eyes and enter almost a trance-like state, murmuring to himself what to say to make sure it sounds right to him and that he does not omit any key pieces of information. Right now, he’s working on how he wants to introduce Joe Anglim to the newcomers once the returnees make their way on to the boat.

“He has pushed his body so far that it literally gave out and he dropped. He lasted 32 days,” Probst whispers under his breath. He’s got it. He’s in the zone. The host is ready.

Director Dryden and his camera team, ready to go

11:39 a.m.
All water bottles have been hidden (crew members are not allowed to eat or drink in front of the contestants) and phones turned off. Seven safety divers have been positioned in the water. Security has locked down the waterways to ensure clean visuals for filming. (After all, they don’t want to risk a stray tourist boat taking passengers to nearby Castaway Island — where Tom Hanks made best friends with a volleyball — all of a sudden coming into frame.) And then, Munday gives the order: “Let’s bring the contestant boats in.”

Slowly, two boats come into view. They get closer. Everyone on Ra Marama waits in silence. For three days, the 14 new contestants on these boats have been anxiously waiting for their adventure to begin — wondering if all that preparation and strategy will actually come to fruition. But now it is the crew — who have constructed, tweaked, and often reconstructed every tiny detail countless times — that must wait anxiously to see if all their preparation and strategy will pay off in terms of the marooning going off without a hitch.

It takes seven minutes for both boats to make their way to Ra Marama. (Meanwhile, a speed boat with the four returning players remains just out of view, ready and waiting for its dramatic entrance once cued by Munday.) “You’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Probst says to the newbies as they file in and take their seats near the aft of the vessel. “Alright, guys, take a spot,” he orders. “Everyone find a spot on the boat. Let’s get this thing going.”

The players spend a few minutes making sure they are all in proper position and can be clearly seen by cameras. Perched on a port beam railing right behind the row of cameras, Van Wagenen flashes a grin. He knows what’s coming next, and as someone who compared what’s about to happen to Christmas day, he also knows the biggest present of all is about to be opened.

“Alright,” announces Probst at exactly 11:50 a.m. “Welcome to the 38th season of Survivor. Give it up!”

The game is on.

For tons of other pre-game articles and more Survivor scoop all season long, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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