After 15 years and 30 seasons on the air, Survivor has run the gamut in twists, turns and thematic gimmicks. However, with its upcoming 31st season, the reality competition looks to be turning to the tribe of its audience to provide its latest angle. CBS has corralled cast members from the past, stretching all the way back to the very first season. Now, they will be put up to a vote, so fans will determine who gets cast on the new season.
It does appear that CBS is looking to reward fans who have stuck with the seminal staple of the reality show genre for its full decade-and-a-half existence with the latest season twist, called “Second Chance.” Borrowing from the past repertoire of Big Brother this new spin on Survivor presents an interestingly egalitarian take on the casting process. As the voting form reveals, the show is putting up 32 prospectively returning, non-winner alumni from the show’s past seasons, five of which are from the currently running Season 30, “Worlds Apart.” The results of the vote will be revealed on that season's post-finale reunion show on May 20.
What’s clear when looking at the long list of intended returnees is that it heavily reflects recent seasons. In fact, 16 of the 32 candidates are pulled from just the past five seasons. Interestingly enough, two of the people pulled from the current “Worlds Apart” season, Mike Holloway and Carolyn Rivera are actually still on the show, which presents an interesting, possibly spoileriffic dilemma in regards to the “no-winners” caveat. As host, Jeff Probst tells EW on the curious development:
Oh my God, I didn’t even think of this! You’ve just caught me off guard! [Laughs] As you would expect from Survivor, we found a way to add a little twist, a little layer of mystery, into the Second Chance voting. So the definition of Second Chance is, contestants who have only played once and never won. So, that means either Mike and Carolyn both lost, or one of them could be, ultimately, ineligible.
With Probst’s coy answer, it appears that Survivor is still attempting to “outwit, outplay and outlast” the audience, even in this fan-friendly twist. Yet, while the pool of candidates does lean heavily towards recent seasons(including one that’s still playing out), CBS does seem to be sending out an olive branch to old-school viewers who watched the show during the apex of its pop-culture proliferation during its first few seasons.
Sticking out the most from the group is Season 1 runner-up Kelly Wiglesworth, the immunity challenge-dominating target of her former alliance, who ended up getting out-politicked in the end by inaugural winner, Richard Hatch. (And absorbed one of reality TV’s most famous verbal smackdown speeches at the hands of her fellow contestant, Sue Hawk.) Additionally, Season 2’s memorable Australian Outback season will see the return of Jeff Varner and Kimmi Kappenberg. Plus, the elephant-dung-water-drinking memories of Season 3 in Africa will be relived with the presence of Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper. Depending on how the voting goes, we could be in store for an interesting mix that sees Survivor pioneers tangling with its notable contemporaries this coming fall.