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The Blood vs. Water concept first debuted in season 27 when 10 former players returned, each bringing a loved one to compete with/against. But instead of returning players, this new Blood vs. Water cast will feature pairs of all new contestants. Jeff Probst credits the fans for pushing the show to bring back all new players for the Cagayan season that just wrapped up, and the success of that installment gave producers the confidence to do it again. “We really listened to people saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we love new players again. This is so fresh and it feels so good,’” Probst told Entertainment Weekly. “And we went down the road with a couple of different ways to do Blood vs. Water, and we started casting it, and started finding really good people, and then more good people, and then it became a very easy decision to go with a completely new cast. “ Of course, with returning players that viewers were already familiar with, it was easy to make the Blood vs. Water connection in terms of who was whose sibling or spouse. Putting all new players in the mix means the show will have to work a bit harder to establish those connections for viewers. “Since it is all new people you need to find a way to bond them quickly so that the audience knows, ‘Oh, okay, that’s the father and that’s the son,’’ says Probst. “And we do have something out of the gate that will help with that a little bit. We just have to do a very good job in how we tell those stories, when you cut from one person on one beach, then cut to their significant other on the other beach. And you just slowly start pairing them together. I’m not really concerned about it. Also, looking at the group we have, I would bet that if we lined them up randomly, the average person could probably get 60 to 70 percent just based on looking at them.” The Blood vs. Water twist also means the return of Redemption Island, which Probst had previously told EW would probably only return for Blood vs. Water seasons. “Yes, Redemption Island is back,” says Probst. “And there wasn’t even a consideration to not bring it back because so much of our drama came from that explosive energy at Redemption Island when the tribes were already there and then the competitors walk in and it’s the first moment that the other tribe gets to see who was voted out and then you have a loved one going, ‘Oh, man, it was my wife! Are you kidding me? Who did that?’ And I think that was really the cornerstone for a lot of story that came from it.” Probst does note that there will be a change to the way the contests take place there. “We have another twist that’s going to happen regarding duels at Redemption Island, a little different from last year, so I’m curious to see how that plays out and if we can get some story from that.” [ This could that mean a return back to two person duels as opposed to three person contests.] The show will be returning for seasons 29 and 30 to Nicaragua, the same location for the filming of two previous installments (Nicaragua and Redemption Island), and Probst says his team has a plan in place to combat one of the negatives from their previous experience there — a lack of suitable locations for water challenges. “That was the mandate from the moment we decided on Nicaragua,” says Probst. “The one thing I kept asking our scouting crew for was updates on how the water situation was looking, and between our art department and our challenge department, they’ve got it under control. We’re going to have a lot more water challenges and be in the water more —and really that’s the only concern we had about Nicaragua, is that it was a little dry last time.” In general, Probst is confident that Survivor can continue its recent hot streak (the past four seasons all rank in top 10 of all-time). “We have not shot a single second of the show,” says the host, “but I feel really good going in that we have another very good group of people.”