updated 02/26/2014 AT 8:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/26/2014 AT 2:25 PM ET
But Probst and his fellow producers like to mix it up – sometimes with better results than others. After the success of Survivor: Blood vs. Water, they had to come up with another twist to keep viewers engaged. For Survivor: Cagayan, which premieres on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET) on CBS, they decided to split the 18 contestants into three tribes: Beauty, Brains and Brawn.
Probst tells PEOPLE that the twist worked beautifully. He breaks down what we can expect – and which tribe he’d rather be on.
Last season was one of your strongest seasons ever. How do you follow up on that?
Survivor’s been on a roll. The last three seasons have been way above average. We approach each season the same way: How do we make this season the best ever? We have a great cast, a great concept. Viewers are going to like this group of people and will be surprised at how it plays out.
You’ve divided them up into Beauty, Brains and Brawn. Which tribe would you belong on?
With my age [He’s 52], I’d be on the brains tribe, which would delight me. I like to think of myself as being smart.
So what were the reactions of the players when you told them about their tribes?
Everyone was flattered; they all thought they were on the right tribe. Morgan, who’s a young girl, said, “I don’t want to be conceited, but yeah, we’re good looking.” There was instant animosity between the tribes.
Sounds promising. How did you come up with the theme?
We already had the cast assembled. There are a couple of the contestants with 130 IQs. There was a contingent of beauty pageant winners. And we have a former NBA player in Cliff Robinson, and a couple of buff cops. So it all became clear to us.
Some of the brains look buff, and some of the beauties, well …
That’s the interesting thing. The lines are blurred. One of the brains is named Garrett, and he is the buffest, fittest guy we have out there. He’s chiseled. He could have been a beauty, but he plays poker for a living, so he’s a brain.