The Fate of Returning Players


With the general consensus being that Survivor Cambodia was a massive hit, could we be headed for another period of over-saturation of seasons featuring returning players? In today's feature article American Ozlet Anthony Rossi takes a look at how the season just past could influence Survivor's future. Read on to find out the fate of returning players.

Survivor: Second Chance has revolutionized the Survivor world with the invention of the fan vote. With millions of votes cast, this is an understatement, but it was a huge success. By putting the fans in a position of power it changes the nature of how returning players will be handled in the future. Who will get the opportunity to play again for their second time? Or third time?  Or more?

The Possible Seasons


After the release of the second chance ballot, many fans were already speculating how this format could be implemented for another season. Fans were picking people they felt deserved to play for another time and compiling various lists. Due to the overwhelming success of the first vote there is a very strong chance that this tool will be used again. What does this mean for future seasons? This opens the door to testing out many season ideas that involve returning players. The fan vote gave people the chance for people to become interested in the show once again. One idea that could be hypothesized is that the huge success that surrounds the season comes down to the fact that is features returning players. Is it possible to have this love for a season that features solely new players? I hope so, because as much I want to see some players play again (Twila, Earl, etc.), I don’t want the returning players to dominate theses seasons.

The Domination of Returning Players


Even though the most recent seasons have been generally void of returning players, there is a concern that returning players will dominate the Survivor scene. The seasons that feature both new and returning players, the new players are often overshadowed and receive very little screen time. Has the recent success of the second chance reinvigorated the love for returning player seasons? Is there a chance (pun not intended) that a few seasons down the line will feature players competing again? This has already been made clear, but season 32 will feature new players only, but I have some strange feeling that this will not last for long. Once upon a time, with the exception of One World, there were 5 seasons back to back that featured returning players. This was way too heavy on returning players and that spell has been broken for now, but I fear that returning players will play a big role in the seasons to come. I am not claiming to be against returning player seasons, but I would rather see new players, or at the very least good returning players. I didn’t need to see Woo play again (No offense to Woo, I just wasn’t a big fan.)

Is a New Style in Order?


Obviously, the new invention of the fan vote was a big shock to the Survivor community and fans across the globe. Did this new device create the new style of bringing players back onto the show? Will and can these tools choose who gets cast for a season of Survivor? Will the production staff continually give the fans the power in deciding? I highly doubt that this will be present in any future season. I genuinely feel that the way that the fan vote was handled bridges the gap between the fans and the production staff. The staff gets to select the players that they want, but at the end of the day the votes are the deciding factor. With the exception of allowing the fans to select the players from a massive list containing every player, there is no better way to handle something like this. That being said, I don’t think this method will hold up and something will take its place or nothing new will happen.



The format of Survivor has stayed generally true from the Borneo and that is what drives this intense show. No matter how many players are on one season, the amount of twists, or how many players return; the show will continue to stay strong, as long as the ratings remain. As a major fan of this show, I would be displeased to see returning players dominate these seasons, but if that is what it takes for the show continues, and then so be it. I am more concerned with the fate of the show rather than the way it is handled. At this stage of the Survivor legacy, the show cannot simply survive without adapting its format, twists, and casting choices. Now that Cambodia has settled down, the idea of having returning players’ return is fresh on everybody’s mind. Can the show continue without having players return and return, or are we simply at the stage where that is no longer possible?

What does the future hold in store for returning players? Are we on a path to seeing more returning player seasons once again? Is this something you want? Leave a comment to let us know your thoughts!


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8 Comments on The Fate of Returning Players

  1. Survivor needs to change the format slightly like it did with the introduction of the Hidden immunity idol. Some suggestions

    1. Open the door to other English speaking nations to get on the american show. Or at least Canada since they have the largest fan base outside of america at 1 million viewers.

    2. Go back to the final 2 and bring back past votes as the tie breaker. The avoiding of ties is stupid and the final 3 is anti climatic.

    3. Get rid of the stupid recruits they need to make it clear to fans that if you have to apply to get on and that they would rather see fans on the show then “characters” because as a fan that wants on the show if I know that only applicants get on then I would feel much more like the show cares about its fans.

    4. Make america feel like they are part of the show! American Idol got successful because america felt like they made the show they were part of the show. They need to do that on survivor and get those idol fans watching survivor. It could be as simple as each week voting for fan favorite and the winner getting 10k or america getting a jury vote.

    5. Go back to physical challenges get rid of the puzzle challenges Make sure that people watching feel like they are in the country that the show is in.

    6. Give everyone a big list of everyone who has played once and have america vote 1 male and 1 female into a season if its returnees vs new people.

    7. Go back to equal editing.

    8. Figure out a way to air season live and let the views get some power (like bb) maybe get am americas survivor player.

    All of these I think could get people involved to where the people feel so involved with the show that they don’t feel like views but feel part of the game and feel like they are important. Its one thing to watch a show and watch for entertainment. Its another thing to watch a show and be involved and have some effect on the how. When you feel like you make a difference you come back and tell others and word spreads.

    For the show to survive past season 40 its going to need to get a fresh feel to is or it could easally lose viewers to the point of no return. Survivor used to be the show to watch back in the early days and it will hopefully become that again.

    • I see many of your points, but also disagree with many. I think that the past votes gets rid of many big characters, due to the fact that they have bigger personalities and are probably harder to live with (Jeff Varner, Lindsey Richter) which takes lots of entertainment out of the show. Also, I think the purple rock is a great wrinkle to the game. In Blood vs Water, we never would have gotten one of the greatest tribals of all times, when Gervase has one of the worst tribal performances of all times, allowing Hayden to convince Ciera to go to rocks. Also, the Final 6 tribal in the most recent season, which, dare I consider the greatest tribal in Survivor History, would have been just a boring boot for Tasha or Kimmi. It was in my mind good to get rid of this. Also, recruits are a necessary part of Survivor. Having people who don’t know the game as well can also be very interesting. Even on the Cambodia, Keith Nale and Woo Hwang may not be beloved by super fans, but Survivor needs people like them, because more often then not they will not do what is best for their game (Woo voting out Kass, “Stick to the plan”). This prevents a season where everybody is doing the best for their game and it is very predictable. Also, Puzzle challenges give people a chance to catch up if they are behind. I know I keep going back to Blood vs Water, Cagayan & San Juan del Sur (just re watched them), but there were some phenomenal come from behind wins in those seasons (Ciera, Kass, Jaclyn). They make good finishes and prevent the most athletic person from always winning. Also, If you want a live season for America to get involved in, watch Big Brother. Jeff has already “vetoed” (pun intended) an idea similar to this at the Heroes vs Villains finale. Survivor is a social experiment, and American influence doesn’t even work on Big Brother (ex. Elissa getting every MVP on Big Brother 15, giving her way too much control!), it definitely wouldn’t work on Survivor. Survivor is pure, and this would taint it for me, I just really dislike this idea of a live season with control by America. I think that the Americas Vote on the show was the perfect amount of control by America, anything else would be a bad thing. I think each season, Survivor should put out a pool of 32 people and have them make 5-10 minute videos for us to get to know them, then we vote on our 18 favorites. This will give a more equal control to America and production from a casting standpoint. I believe it also gives the contestants more pressure to do good and make big moves for America.

    • cnumusic2014 // January 4, 2016 at 2:08 pm // Reply

      1. Could work, but may prove to be more of a logistical headache than it’s worth.
      2. Agree completely with final 2. Other than China, final three hasn’t really panned out as intended. Still prefer rocks over past votes. Rocks forces tribes to make a decision in a way that past votes don’t.
      3. Agree that applicants should get preference, but also recognize that Survivor’s success is predicated on contestant variety. Using recruits can fill in the gaps left unfilled by applicants.
      4. Doubt they’ll do a weekly fan vote, especially after the panning of Rupert’s million-dollar fan vote. Could see public having a jury vote, although we as viewers would have more info than the jurors in-game, which could be seen as unfair in eyes of some.
      5. Acknowledge that challenges have lost physical demand of earlier seasons, but do believe that mental challenges (particularly toward the end of the game) are vital. Was extremely glad to see more cultural references this season and hope to see more of the same in the future.
      6. Such a list is FAR too exhaustive, especially considering there are several past contestants who have no interest in playing again. Audience voting from producer-made shortlist is much more effective.
      7. Always found it hard to judge editing one way or the other, honestly, but believe that equal editing increases chance for surprise, unexpected endings. (Although, in my opinion, no amount of editing, equal or otherwise, would have could have fooled us from endings of seasons like One World, Cagayan, Redemption Island, etc.)
      8. Survivor in real time next to impossible due to time difference, and considering we see three days of action every seven days, only see something like this happening with a serious change in format.

    • 1. If that ever happens then I’m done watching survivor. It’s always been AMERICANS! gathered to play. It’s not our fault that other countries versions can’t seem to get it right. I’m glad Australia’s rebooting it because really Survivor is so cheap that it will probably last forever. But yeah no other countries sorry.
      2. I like final 3 better because it increases the chances that the person who should win the season does. Like honestly who wanted Jenna to win Amazon? Literally nobody everyone wanted Rob who rightfully deserved to win. What would your life be if Phillip won RI, Sabrina won One World, Susie won Gabon, or Cassandra/Dreamz won Fiji? Woo almost beat Tony in Cagayan!!!!
      3. U need to recruit so u can have 1. A diverse cast because let’s face it they need it to not get scrutinized. And 2. Hello hot people. Yes many people that apply are hot but I’m talking about supermodel eye candy. 3. So many classic moments come from recruits. In fact, most great survivors were recruited especially in the beginning. Come on man.
      4. Dude u realize American Idols got canceled… I mean “retired” ;). #survivorwonidolcansuckit
      5. Then it becomes all about physical strength and is only fair to the 3 or 4 contestants who have a shot at winning. Like literally every season a Joe/Ozzy/Tom/Colby would dominate until the end. It makes threats need to be more well rounded in order to win.
      6. I like the fan vote but 1. A lot of survivor players don’t wanna play again 2. Bro letting me down. A whole cast of returnees no half and half unless it’s blood v water. Like come on man
      7. Yeah because we want less Boston Rob and more Purple Kelly. How about we give more air time to the entertaining ones and less to the dudes that do nothing
      8. That could never happen. Time differences and it’s not like BB where they are all in a house. They r on an island in 2 separate camps walking around looking for idols. There is no possible way u can set up so many cameras to record it all and like not much happens on survivor like fights like BB because everyone’s off u know TRYING TO SURVIVE. Nobody wants to watch them make fire and cook rice :/

  2. I think the way the seasons are set up now is perfect. Have one season of new players, followed by one with returning players. I believe its the key to the show’s future longevity as introducing new players would ultimately lead to more returning players.

    Of the 20 people who were on Cambodia, look at how many came from recent seasons. You could say its due to recency bias on the part of the producers and/or a lack of old-school players wanting to take part but did that stop Cambodia from being a great season? Nope.

    I’m okay with returning players, just as long as they are pitted against OTHER returning players. I have never been a fan of the two Fans vs Favorites seasons (four if you include Redemption Island and South Pacific).

    I remember watching the infamous tribal council where Erik Reichenbach gave away his immunity necklace and thinking to myself: this would not be happening if Erik was a returning player. That entire season was a great example of how much returning players are able to dominate newbies.

    Don’t even get me started on Redemption Island. As soon as I saw Boston Rob’s tribe fawn over him, I knew he had the season in the bag. Caramoan wasn’t any better but seeing how different Cochran performed in both his seasons perfectly proves how returning players are tougher, smarter and ready to play the game.

  3. I would hate for America to have their say. It just means more air time and attention for over-rated and attention seeking players like Rupert, Cochran, Spencer, Jane & Joe. If anything bring back the fan favourite award for fans to have a vote but leave it at that.

    Jeff Probst said in an interview they will definitely do the fan favourite vote again. At first I thought an All-Winners season would be best scenario and make the most sense for this to work but with many winners either one, stating they will never play again (eg Boston Rob & Jeremy) or two, having health issues that will prevent them playing (Ethan & Todd) or three, are at a point in their lives where they can’t play due to motherhood or not being able to leave the States (Kim, Amber & Hatch) or four, like Jeff said some players are so unlikeable that the producers don’t want them back (Samoa Natalie & Sophie) or five, the producers (or Probst) don’t want the players back for some reason (Brian & Chris). So right there I have eliminated eleven players out of a pool of thirty winners.

    A possible scenario is to do a Heroes vs Villains fan vote. Having eight candidates each for villain females, villain males, hero females & hero males that didn’t take part in season 20 and the five with the most votes from each gets through. The only issue is that the likes of Terry, Abi, Kass, Joe, Spencer & Keith as well as a few others all from this past season stand a good chance of making it in again so combining the formats of two of the most successful seasons ever. Survivor Heroes vs Villains Second Chances would be a decent scenario.

    Survivor has given us Fans vs Faves 2, Blood vs Water 2 & now BvBvB 2 so combining two of the fan favourite seasons would be something I would like to see happen.

    The only other possible scenario I see with a fan vote is Old School vs New School which was played up in this last season but will we be bombarded with the likes of Colby and Jerri again or even worse seeing Rupert return for a fifth time so perhaps again making it second chances only.

    I love returning player seasons and rank All Stars, Micronesia, Heroes vs Villains, Blood vs Water 1 and Cambodia in the top fifteen of all seasons. I just hate when only two or three return and the season is about them, funny how I rank Palau, Redemption Island, South Pacific & Caramoan (so much wrong with this season which makes it rank low) in my bottom ten seasons. Philippines had a bit of spark but isn’t far off either. So bring back the returning player seasons.

  4. Fans vs Favorites is really the only format in which I have disliked returnees. I think Micronesia is overrated. It is just as lop-sided a season as Caramoan, in my opinion. I think the three full-fledged All-Star seasons we’ve seen have had some of the most entertaining gameplay in the run of the show. I wasn’t a fan of the South Pacific “captain” format, but it worked better in Philippines, so that format was ultimately shown to be effective with the right cast. If I could choose for myself, based on the twists we have currently available, I’d like to see a full-fledged All-Star season every fifth season (preferably with an audience vote), with two seasons of all new players, an All-Star Blood vs Water season, and a three tribe All-Star “captains” season (with mostly new players), in-between. I found Blood vs Water to be much better with returnees and wouldn’t want to see that format again with all new players. I like the conceit of a Heroes vs Villains season (even if it is just window dressing) and would like to see that play out again with some of our new heroes and villains in the mix. I’d also rather see an All-Star version of Brains vs Brawn vs Beauty as opposed to what we’re getting in season 32. I’m getting San Juan Del Sur vibes … in a bad way.

  5. I don’t against the returnees season, but honestly I was overwhelmed with the stretch of RI-BvW1 era (minus One World) are all having past season returnees. Another thing that many people like to give BvW1 a free pass because we have returnees and their loved ones play Survivor, but BvW1 itself was technically another lopsided FvF type which returnees are having massive advantage on the season. Overall I think SJDS was overall better than BvW tho.

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