The show may be returning to Nicaragua for its 22nd season, but expect a couple of major new twists as "Survivor: Redemption Island" premieres Wednesday, Feb. 16, on CBS.
The show's title hints at the biggest new wrinkle, as castaways who have been eliminated at Tribal Council will have an opportunity to return to the game and a chance to win the $1 million prize. After each Council, the person voted off is exiled to a remote place called Redemption Island, where he or she lives alone until the next person is voted out and sent to the same island. A duel between the two takes place, with the winner earning the right to keep fighting for an opportunity to return and the loser sent home.
"You could therefore have a situation where the first person voted out continues to win duels at RI and at a certain point is allowed back in the game to continue their pursuit of the million dollars," explains Emmy-winning host Jeff Probst, who is also one of the show's producers. "The question at that point is how best do they worm their way back in? Is there an alliance that needs a new person? Is revenge a factor? Or maybe nobody wants them there and votes them out again. It's the single most exciting twist since the hidden immunity idol."
In the second twist, two players from earlier seasons, "Boston" Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz, each will join a separate tribe at the start of play, but it remains to be seen whether the other 16 castaways will welcome these veterans' perspective or simply band together to eject them from the game as soon as possible.
"Psychologically, I think the addition of Boston Rob and Russell had a huge impact," Probst says. "A lot of the contestants are die-hard 'Survivor' fans, and having one of the most popular players competing alongside one of the most despised players added an energy that boosted the game.
Some people will complain about them returning, but I have zero doubt that Rob and Russell raised the level of play."