'Survivor' Goes To China

"Survivor" has taken its audience to almost every corner of the world -- from Thailand to Africa and Guatemala to Panama -- but this season is sure be different.

Not just for the viewers, but for the record books.

The 15th season of the hit reality show will be the first American TV series to be filmed entirely in China, its host, Jeff Probst, told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. After years of rejecting the CBS program's efforts to film inside the country, China officials at long last said yes, though Probst does not know why the country changed its mind.

"We've been trying to get in there," Probst said. "I don't know why they finally said yes. I don't know if it's because the Olympics are coming up and they want to open their arms or if they've watched 'Survivor' and thought we've always treated other countries well."

More surprisingly, China officials did not hang over the show's shoulder during production, Probst said, aside from one minor incident involving a cultural difference.

"They had a rule that any representative at any time could look at any tape they wanted to make sure we were portraying China in a positive light," Probst said. "We did a gross food-eating challenge and they heard it and thought gross food-eating? This is not gross, this is our normal everyday lunch (China said). We had to explain that it's a cultural thing we (Americans) don't eat."

The difficulties that the cast confronts in the upcoming season, including fishing for food, moldy rice and extreme heat, has generated positive reviews from critics, Probst said.

He also had a few things to say about some members of the cast, which has also been praised by critics:

  • On Jean-Robert Bellande, a profession poker player: "He thinks just because he was a poker player, he can read anybody. That guy is gold. He's the guy you go to tribal council every time because he'll give you something."
  • On Todd Herzog, a flight attendant: "(He) is a 'Survivor' fanatic. He was like 13 when the show started. He knows everything about 'Survivor' and it comes into play. He can tell you, merges always happen on this day and this always happens here."
  • On Frosti Zernow, a Parkour student-athlete: "He's hardcore … He jumps over things and he's very aerobatic."
  • On provocatively-clad Ashley Massaro, a professional WWE wrestler: "She was the girl in with the knee-high boots, fishnet stockings. This is 'Survivor' and you won't forget her."
  • On waitress Courtney Yates: "From New York City, a girl after my own heart."