Jeff Probst Jeff Probst
Survivor: Guatemala kicked off its new season (premiering tonight at 8 pm/ET) in an unusual way. CBS got such former cast members as Rupert Boneham,

Gervase Peterson, "Boston" Rob Mariano and host-with-the-most Jeff Probst to cluster in Times Square under a "Mayan pyramid." There, they greeted fans and put the onlookers' Survivor trivia knowledge to the test in a tribal council setting. This brave reporter even managed to get into a group and, thanks to having watched the show religiously for 10 seasons, won some prizes (a T-shirt, DVD set and hat). But it wasn't all fun and games — in between answering questions, managed to glean some info about what to expect in this 11th installment.

CBS has been running promos about a big twist, which is that two popular former Survivor players are coming back. Wouldn't that mean everyone's favorite good-natured pirate was a shoo-in? "No, they didn't say they were bringing back the most popular player," Rupert laughs. "I don't know if it is going to be me or not, but I sure hope it is."

Alas, it seems doubtful, as rumors of the returnees' identities have been spreading rapidly. But the "tribe has spoken" utterer himself insists that just because audiences may know who they are, that doesn't spoil everything. "[We're having] two surprise people, yeah," Probst acknowledges with a laugh. "But it hasn't been revealed yet in what capacity they will be involved.

"It is not like [Survivor:] All-Stars," he promises. "We still have 16 new people who have never played. The question is, if you introduce in any capacity somebody who has already played, what will the reaction be? Will it be welcoming? Like, 'Hey, you know the game, you know how this works?' Or would they be seen as a threat?

Besides all this much-hyped twist stuff, will Season 11 actually be good? "It is definitely the toughest that we've ever put [our players] through," Probst insists. "Up until now, Africa had probably been the hardest. But Guatemala was very hot, very humid, with a lot of bugs and no water for relief. The only water that they had was a lake that was muddy and filled with crocodiles. The challenges were physically exhausting. But that was the idea; we knew that Guatemala was going to be tough. We decided to just embrace it and go for a very tough, challenging season."

Is Probst himself starting to wear down from the Survivor grind? "I'm not exhausted," he says. "We don't have it like they do; we get breaks and food. The exhausting part is trying to keep it fresh. We have to keep reinventing the show. But the stars of the show are the 16 people we put out there, and they did not disappoint this year."