My Survivor Twist: Secret Returnees


Another Feature Articles comes your way today as Ozlet, Alex Morella, gives CBS a new idea for a future twist. In his article, Alex’s argues why brining back two returnees, the season directly after their first season, is both a good and bad idea. What makes Alex’s idea different to what we’ve seen in the past is that the two returnees will have their history in the game remain a secret, meaning they will be playing against a bunch of new contestants who don’t know they are two time players! Read on and find out who Alex’s idea works and make sure you let us know what you think of the idea, plus let us know which players you’d like to see compete in back-to-back seasons against the knowledge of the newbies!

Coming up with new twists is hard…especially when there are many sites around the web in which people love suggesting things. Therefore, I apologise in advance if this has been proposed by anyone, I haven’t found it, or even really bothered looking for it..

With the method now employed by Survivor to produce two seasons back-to-back, it is becoming increasingly important for every second season to have a ‘novelty’ aspect, seen with Redemption Island, One World, Fans vs. Favourites and now Blood vs. Water. As this reduces creating the obvious impression of two seasons filmed consecutively in the same location, it reduces the naming options and ultimately the ability to make the season feel different. As a result, we are sadly left needing more ideas and twists, so this is my attempt at giving CBS ideas for future seasons. (If this idea is taken onboard by CBS, I expect full royalties and a photo with Ken Hoang and Alina Wilson).

What is the similarity between Russell Hantz and Malcolm Freberg? Both were on awful tribes the first time they played? Both were beaten by Day One allies? Both were highly overrated in challenges? Both found Idols with considerable ease? The correct answer, was they both played consecutive seasons within a few weeks of the first, ensuring their original game play could be employed again, as no one knew what they’d done before; besides a brief muttering from Probst and friends. What this leaves is an advantage in that nobody knew Russell screwed his own tribe on multiple occasions, not even his own tribe mates knew that, because Samoa was yet to air. Tactics could be employed and trust was given because no one knew all this. While everyone was wary of Boston Rob, Parvati, J.T. and everyone else, they weren’t to worried about these two.


How can these two possibly have something in common?

Just to highlight how differently you can be treated, we saw Russell get annihilated in Redemption Island, which was what we expected. But this wasn’t fun to watch, it was just an execution, it’s our dream to wish all Survivor’s could play the same way they did the first time, with previous strategies, goals and alliances not counting against them second time around. Unfortunately this isn’t the case… until now.

My idea for a twist is to pick two Survivor’s from the first of the back-to-back seasons and throw them in again as ‘new’ players on the second season. I’d prefer to see players who finished on the Jury, just so we don’t get the immediate “double winner proposition”, but I’m not against that happening either if they’re entertaining enough. The players should be either rivals or allies, placed on separate tribes to start their experience and see if that knowledge can be employed against a bunch of people who are yet to play the game. Think Stephanie and Bobby Jon, without the fanfare and fact that we’d all seen it before, just slip them in as if it’s a whole new experience to them!

Why it Rocks:

We get to see two players potentially try and redeem mistakes from their own demise, in a short period of time, without anyone else knowing about their demise or exploits. It’s “start afresh”, but with experience that needs to be harnessed in an effective way. A successful second spell would be difficult due to the conditions, but would be one of the great strategic games ever played. (I do think Russell did Heroes vs. Villains brilliantly; besides his social game and the Final Tribal Council). It immediately creates hidden rivals and dynamics as the two ‘returnees’ aim to defeat each other, or work together due to experience, however they must first not jeopardise their own game, where everyone will judge them solely on their look and first few days. They can show all their experience in making fires, but justify it as preparation before the show and we’ll be able to see if they employ the same strategies.

It could also potentially create some big moves in the game. Not only will the two players feel like they are in control because they are the only two with experience, they will be tired from playing a season already, so Russell and Malcolm style moves are more likely as the mind begins to mess with the players. Russell giving Parvati the Idol in Heroes vs. Villains was iconic, but was just Russell saying, “I’m done with this”, same with Malcolm throwing Idols out into the open and declaring he was voting for Phillip. Eventually, time just catches up with you and you go a bit mad, resulting in some of the most entertaining moves ever seen. It’d also be fun to give Jeff a test, keeping his mouth shut about the two returnees and not trying to seem too favourable to them.

From some of the past few season’s players I’d potentially propose as returnees would’ve been:

Nicaragua – Brenda and Sash, Holly and Jane, Marty and Brenda/Jane

Redemption Island – Matt and Andrea, Phillip and Steve

One World – Alicia and Christina, Tarzan and Troyzan, Chelsea and Kim

Philippines – Malcolm and Denise, Abi and R.C., Malcolm and Pete, Pete and Abi, Jeff and Pete

Caramoan – Eddie and Reynold

If we wanted to go further back, (although hypothetically impossible), we could have seen match-ups such as: Jean-Robert and Courtney, Erik and Jaime, Shane and Courtney, Terry and Aras, Corinne and Sugar, Randy and Crystal, Tyson and Sierra, Adam and Candice… actually scrap that last one!

You get the point, two returning players from a season, possibly not even big rivals if it works out that way, just something that would switch it up. Why I think it could work is because recent seasons have seen a lack of returning female players and I feel this would be a chance for some of the best female strategists to prove they played great games that are under-appreciated. Jeff says there are less memorable female players… well let’s create a situation that would truly determine how brilliant some of them could be. I’d love to see Abi and R.C. start out again on separate tribes and see if things end out the same way, or if inability to mix with newbies on the first day is enough to send them home early, without their tribe even knowing what they’ve been involved in before. The confessionals would reveal an interesting aspect too, as you’d get a thorough analysis of where the first game differed from the second. We would also potentially see some strategic development and epiphanies of what went wrong the first time; it’s all about learning and when no one knows who you are, it makes it a whole lot easier.

As these seasons are now always filmed together, CBS may as well just acknowledge that fact more openly and use it as an advantage, rather than claiming seasons are filmed apart.

Additionally, as a minimal twist, it reduces the need for a crazy twist, like Survivor: Dragon Slayer where the only way to get back in the game is to actually slay Coach after getting voted out and you wouldn’t need to introduce things such as the Medallion of Power.

Why it Sucks:

Of course I have to critique my own twist, there are many flaws in it.

Notably, it’s essentially a season of Survivor that uses fourteen to eighteen guinea pigs, who are simply being used as a sideshow to the two returnees. We’ve seen these seasons before and they are generally less enjoyable. (I’m looking at you South Pacific and Redemption Island). We just would want to see if the two secondary newbies are able to use their experience to control the game and take advantage of the poor, naïve newbies they are now playing with.

It could also potentially destroy the great perception of a Survivor we’ve developed in their first game, making us all believe that there is a lot more luck than social skills involved in developing early alliances. It would be pretty awkward to see someone booted out early the second time for failing to do what they did the first time. Although on the bright side, it’s just another season of Survivor with no horrible undertones.!

We’re also handing up to thirty-nine days experience to two of the players and not telling the others… so they already know how to start fire, fish, cook and keep their bodies in good shape, as well as understand the madness everyone goes though. We’d basically be handing them the ability to look like the perfect Survivor to the newbies! This feels like extreme editing and manipulation and I’m less comfortable with allowing a completely manipulated season.

Alternatively, the reactions on the faces of the newbies afterwards when they find out they were playing with two ‘impostors’ would be fantastic!


The expected expression of a new player after they find out they have secretly been player with a two time player.

So in short, CBS don’t listen to me and try this only if you get desperate and are willing to pay me lots to produce it; in which case… I reluctantly accept.



What do you think of Alex’s twist idea? Love it? Hate it? Comment below to let us know!

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2 Comments on My Survivor Twist: Secret Returnees

  1. Tony Bacigalupi // November 11, 2013 at 10:11 am // Reply

    I don’t think returning players is the problem. The problem is that they are now doing it too often. I think having returning players every 3 or 4 seasons keeps things fresh. Now, it just seems too forced.

    As far as this particular twist, I like the idea of having 2 (3 or 4, depending on the number of tribes) coming back into the next season without anyone knowing they just played previously.

  2. Ha, I remember suggesting this twist to Probst a few years ago on Twitter when he had one of his calls for new ideas. He never responded, but glad to hear that someone else came up with the same idea!

    For me though, the big essential thing is that none of the new players know who the returnees are. Jeff sets them down on the beach on day one and tells them that each tribe has a returnee – and it is up to them to reveal themselves. Some players might want to keep it secret, while others might want to reveal themselves and the other returnees. I daresay some of the newbies will go on witchhunts trying to out the returnees. Throw in a tribal shuffle after episode four or so to do some interesting things to the dynamics.

    The one major flaw I can think of is that there may be obvious physical wear and tear on the returnees (insect bites for example) that will give the game away for their tribemates.

    I’d favour three or four returnees myself – for example, Marty, Brenda, Holly and Fabio for Nicaragua, or Jeff, Abi, Malcolm and RC for Philippines.

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