The greatest interview with a fictional character you've read in the last few minutes. Possibly.
Truedorktimes: Thanks for talking to us, Mr. NotJeffProbst! (At least, we assume we can address you as "mister.") First off, people are starting to complain about how the Redemption Island concept is negatively affecting Survivor. Is it really set in stone that it will return for at least the next season, possibly more?
NotJeffProbst: Oh, I'm all man, brother! Or all pretend-man, as long as you're not implying I'm pretending about being a man. I mean, yes, I am pretending about being a specific man, but not about being a large, virile, muscular male. Okay, let's move on.... Wait, you don't like Redemption Island? How can that be? I thought of it myself, after seeing it used in Israeli Survivor. And because I thought of it, it's one of the best changes we've ever made to the game! Sure, people complain about it on twitter, in the interactive living room, but those people are stupid.
TDT: But can't you see it's changed the structure of the show, and not for the better? Before, the show ended with a dramatic, climactic vote, followed by "the tribe has spoken" and a grim, final torch-snuffing, followed by the contestant's often-bitter parting thoughts over the closing credits. Now the vote is not really all that bad, because the contestant can still come back, and instead of final words, we get lame nightvision shots of Redemption Island, with the votee saying "Hi, I'm here" and the previous votee(s) going "Oh... yay. So you are." It's not nearly as exciting, or interesting.
NJP: Are you crazy? At the start of the next episode, you get the real drama - the duel loser leaves the game for good! And then you still get the cliffhanger at the end. It's double your value! Anyway, just wait until you see how it plays out at the end of this season. Top five season, guaranteed!
TDT: But that's kind of my point: It's not double the value, it's hard to see that it even adds up to the original value. Tribal Council now is less compelling -- Matt's already been voted out twice and he's still playing! -- and instead of (possibly) having a brand-new, epic, tough, grueling reward challenge at the start of the show, now there's some watered-down version of a challenge we've already seen. Furthermore, because it has to fit inside the Redemption Arena, it's usually something that involves moving very little (concentration, puzzles, ball mazes) or not at all ("Chimney Sweep"). And that doesn't even begin to address the drama/strategy you guys removed from the show when you did away with individual reward challenges in the post-merge phase, which have been missing since Samoa. Grant's choice of who to share his cake with after the RC/IC two weeks ago just reinforced that. Gone are the days when an alliance could be broken by someone choosing to take the wrong person away with them on reward, leaving their bitter alliancemates grumbling and plotting back at camp.
NJP: We got rid of individual rewards because the good players, like Colby, Terry, and Chase, usually won, and we didn't want to penalize them for being so awesome. And if you don't like classic challenges like the memory game, then I daresay you're not really a Survivor fan. Go watch Idol or something.
TDT: Dude, tone it down. It's not like I'm accusing you of stocking the cast with actors who pretend to be crazy and pull unoriginal, asinine stunts for the cameras, or of intentionally making "hidden" idols easier to find than sticks whenever Russell's on.
NJP: Those are just a series of unfortunate coincidences. Or from our perspective, fortunate ones. We don't tell people to act like previous contestants, we just cast people who are extremely likely to do so. But you don't like hidden immunity idols? They're the best part of the show! If we didn't have them, we'd have to show people talking to each other in camp, or something. That's always death.
TDT: Okay, fine. But to get back to Redemption Island for a minute, maybe I should make a list of grievances. Because it's gotten significantly worse since the merge:
1. The contestants still in the game only compete in one challenge per episode. In the pre-merge phase, the team that wins the first IC could conceivably sit someone out the entire way to the merge, as long as they maintain a 1-person advantage on the other tribe. Besides this being boring for the contestants, it also gives them much less of an idea who's good in challenges, who are normally targeted post-merge. And post-merge, the contestants get IC, reward and tribal council in one day, then sit around for the other two.
2. The large number of people on Redemption Island post-merge sucks. It's essentially just moving the tribe that gets Pagonged to a different island. And it encourages continued tribal thinking, as Andrea pointed out, because the Ometepes are presumably keeping Grant around to increase the chances that they can beat the final returnee. So... another bonus for challenge whores.
3. Having Redemption Island during the jury phase in unfair, especially if someone can be there from the merge, like Matt, and reach the final three. They get to suck up to all the bitter people who got voted off, without ever having blood on their hands. So you're essentially giving someone who's good in challenges a bunch of free jury votes.
NJP: Can you repeat that? I kind of tuned out after you started listing numbers. They're not my thing.
TDT: Um, fine, I'll email the list to you. Let me know when you've read it.
[...several hours later...]
NJP: Okay, fine, I read most of those words. Blah blah blah. I see an awful lot of whining about people who are good in challenges. Why would we possibly be sad about people like Colby, J.T., Tyson, Chase or Terry doing well on Survivor? Outplay, Outlast, right? That's kind of the whole point of Redemption Island in the first place!
TDT: Well, there's also that pesky "Outwit" part. With the final three, you've already made it very hard for someone who plays a cutthroat game (like Richard Hatch or Brian Heidik) to ever win again. Now you've made it almost certain they'll never win again.
NJP: Um.... Boo-hoo?
TDT: Let me remind you that Russell Hantz will also be out quickly, and has no chance of ever getting back into the game via Redemption Island.
NJP: Oh, we know. But he won't figure that out for at least two or three more times around. The reality we got when he lost on Redemption Island this time was priceless! We figure we can milk that at least twice more, right?
TDT: *sigh* Well, that's probably about all I could expected from talking to the actual Jeff Probst, as well. Well played, sir.