You might find this hard to believe, but the 29th season of "Survivor" wraps up Wednesday. That's right, the 29th. And host Jeff Probst's thoughts are already firmly on the 30th, debuting next year. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. He's actually already thinking beyond that. "I’m always amazed at how much time we spend on casting — months and months," he says. "Every year it feels like we’re starting over and we’re once again even now, looking for seasons 31 and 32."
And for those upcoming seasons — which, again, won't be on the air for a good long while — Probst says they're already facing some familiar problems with the casting process. "We’re once again short on women," he admits. "We can find lippy, loudmouth weird guys all day, every day, but finding a woman who wants to do it, who wants to come out there and has the personality is tough."
You'd think that they'd have casting for the reality juggernaut down pat by now, but no, at least according to Probst . "Here we are 30 seasons later and sometimes I feel like we still don’t quite know how to do it yet, and we still end up with people on the show that disappoint us," he says. "I remember about Season 5 or 6, we had back-to-back interviews with people, and one woman came in and told this tragic story of losing her husband in a car accident and how it impacted her life, and all of us were bored. And then the next guy came in and was saying, 'I’m eating some chips downstairs and these potato chips I was looking at,' and we’re on the floor laughing. Which guy got on the show? The potato chip guy."
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While Probst may not have mastered the casting process for "Survivor" just yet, he has at least learned a few things about himself — even if he had to do it the hard way. "I continue to learn about my own nature through 'Survivor,'" he says. "I had a really big life lesson when a bunch of friends came to visit the Philippines and we left the [set] and were driving home in a van. For some reason we decided to play 'when would you be voted out?' It got to me and I was thinking in my head, they’re are going to say that I’ll go pretty deep — maybe not win, but I know the show and I’m good with words. This is what my ego was saying. And my closest friends said, 'Probst, you'd be out so fast.' And I was shocked, but I knew from 'Survivor' that when a group of people tell you what they think of you, they're right. And my friends said, 'Your mouth. You're too lippy. You find it funny, but a lot of other people would find it annoying and they would vote you out.'"
SIDEBAR: Not going back Down Under
"Survivor" went to Australia for its second season nearly 15 years ago, and while it's revisited plenty of other locales, the show has never returned to the continent. Why is that, exactly? "I don’t know why we’re not back, especially given our location scout is Australian and at least half of our crew are Aussies ," Probst says. "That was a great place for us. I can’t even believe I haven’t asked why we’re not there, but I’m sure if I call [producer] Jesse [Jensen] right now he’d say, 'Oh, mate here’s why. Number one, we can’t afford it.' That’s a big problem right now. It’s just the falling dollar. We can’t afford the places that we used to be able to afford. We simply can’t afford it."
Another place "Survivor" won't be going anywhere near? The Middle East. " I don't think 'Survivor' is going to be going to Middle East anytime soon," Probst admits. "We were scouting Jordan, and 9/11 happened that was the end of that."
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick