Tonight is the night, fellow Survivor lovers!! Tonight, at 8:00pm ET/PT, Survivor: Redemption Island premieres on CBS. Jeff Probst will welcome sixteen new castaways, and Survivor legends (for better or for worse) Boston Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz, to Nicaragua for thirty-nine more days of Outwitting, Outplaying, and Outlasting. Of course, there is a huge twist to how the game will be played this season: namely, Redemption Island.
In case you didn’t hear or have forgotten, when a player is voted out of the game at Tribal Council, he or she will not go home immediately. Instead, that player will go to Redemption Island and live alone for three days with the same basic provisions the contestants have back at their camps (water, rice, and a machete). Three days later, when another player is voted out, the second evictee will join the first on Redemption Island where they will compete in a one-on-one challenge to remain in the game (the order of the Redemption Island Challenges was predetermined, so there won’t be any manipulation to favor one player over another by giving a possibly ‘favored’player an advantage). The winner stays on Redemption Island and awaits the next player voted out at Tribal Council. The loser of the Redemption Island Challenge will be sent home. At a predetermined time (my bet is on The Merge or one vote after The Merge), whomever is left standing on Redemption Island will rejoin the other players and have a full opportunity to win the game.
Personally, I think this is a great twist. Yes, it has echoes of the Outcasts returning in Survivor: Pearl Islands, which was pretty loathed by the viewing audience, but this time the players will have full knowledge from the beginning, so they can vote and plan accordingly. It is also true that tribal Reward Challenges have been eliminated to make room in the episode for the Redemption Island Challenge, but I’m willing to give those up for what could be some pretty intense one-on-one showdowns. Just imagine Rob versus Russell squaring off to remain in the game. I’m sure this is Mark Burnett’s dreams about this scenario.
In terms of strategy vis a vis Redemption Island, I wonder if a given tribe might purposefully vote out a strong player close to The Merge to try to permanently eliminate a player on Redemption Island and keep that person from returning to the game. Might a big strong guy fall on his tribe’s sword to try to keep someone else from making a comeback? I know I wouldn’t make that sacrifice, but you never know.
Redemption Island aside, we also have the return of Rob and Russell. Instinct says to write these guys off completely as far as either of them making it past their first Tribal Councils. Russell is loathed, and both have had numerous attempts at playing and winning the game. I can see a Goonies-style, ‘They had their time! This is our time!’cheer rising from the new players.
Then again, if you were playing, wouldn’t you like one of the most detested players in Survivor history sitting next to you at the final Tribal Council? Wouldn’t you like to have Rob or Russell look like the person pulling off blindsides and taking all the heat while you were really the mastermind of someone’s ouster? It may be worth keeping them around for a while, but how long is too long? If Russell somehow gets to the finals for a third time, especially when all of the players know how he plays the game, does he not deserve to win? All of these questions will be answered in the coming weeks, and they help inform my preseason Odds to Win.
If you missed my rundown of the new players, make sure to check out my take here first. Below you will find the players grouped by their chances for victory, a previous player I liken them to, and the Odds that they will win the whole game. Remember, I am not trying to predict the order in which they will be voted off (an even trickier proposition with the introduction of Redemption Island), just the likelihood that a particular contestant will win the kit ‘˜n caboodle. Away we go!
Up First, the Favorites!