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Jeff Probst Explains Survivor’s Emergency Evacuation: Contestants Sat in ‘a White, Empty Room’ for Nine Hours

Mother Nature temporarily outplayed Survivor’s newest batch of fierce competitors. For the first time in the show’s 16-year history, the entire cast of season 33’s Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X was evacuated from camp when Cyclone Zena hit Fiji April 6.

“We were monitoring the weather, even on day one, so I had warned the contestants,” host Jeff Probst exclusively tells Us Weekly. “I said, ‘You need to get your shelter built.’ Of course, Gen X immediately starts and the millennials go, ‘Nah, we’ll get to it.’”

Jeff Probst
Jeff Probst attends the 68th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

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But after just two days of game play, the CBS series’ safety guide pulled the plug on competition. Naturally, the tribes — divided by age — reacted differently to the onset of danger. “Gen X was petrified and the millennials were exuberant over the fact that they were making Survivor history,” explains the Emmy winner. “We took them to two separate rooms at base camp. It was literally just a white, empty room. No furniture. Nothing.”

But the break in the action was no reward for the 20 competitors seeking $1 million. “There was no food being served or mattresses being pulled out,” adds Probst, 54. “It was literally like, ‘Sorry, guys, you’re on lockdown. You can’t talk because we’re not filming. Go to sleep and hopefully we’ll be OK. Even though the person sitting across from you is somebody you desperately want to try to make an alliance with, please don’t do it in the room.’”

Jeff Probst SURVIVOR: Millennials vs. Gen. X
Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

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As true fans of the game, the Gen Xers and their millennial counterparts stuck to the rules, and nine hours later, the storm had passed. Thanks to Survivor’s camera team, viewers at home will get to witness the catastrophe hit the campsites. 

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“We couldn’t put a cameraman out to film when we were walking out to evacuate. But I asked our point-of-view guy — he puts the cameras in between the wooden planks on a challenge to get these really epic shots of a foot splashing in the mud — if there was any way to put a camera on the beach and see if we get lucky,” Probst tells Us. “He said yes, but the battery would die in three hours unless somebody had a cellphone WORD adapter. And our location guy walked by and he went, ‘I’ve got one in my office, let me grab it!’ So many little things had to line up for that to work, but we have the shot. You can’t get a shot of a cyclone. You’re in safety. But we got it!”

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X premieres on CBS Wednesday, September 21, at 8 p.m. ET.

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