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The 18 All-Stars returnees. |description = A twist that former players are brought back to the game for another chance against new players or other returning players. |seasonsappeared = All-Stars
Heroes vs. Villains
Returning Players in Survivor offer the opportunity for former contestants who have won or been voted out to return for another shot at becoming the Sole Survivor.
The idea for former players to return occurred in Survivor: All-Stars. Executive Producer Mark Burnett wanted to showcase "The best of the best" after the ratings increase of Survivor: Pearl Islands. During pre-production for All-Stars, Burnett wrote down the series' most likable, villainous and memorable players on a legal pad and shortlisted eighteen names within a matter of minutes.
All-Stars seasons feature a cast comprised entirely of returning players. The eponymous season, All-Stars, saw 18 returnees divided into three competing tribes. Amber Brkich ultimately won the season against Rob Mariano. The All-Stars twist was revived for the ten-year anniversary season, Heroes vs. Villains. This season divided the returnees based on the heroic or villainous reputations. Sandra Diaz-Twine became the first two-time winner of Survivor, beating out Parvati Shallow and Russell Hantz.
Although proving to be a success for fans of the show, some critics argued that the survival aspects were completely removed in favor of strategy and exuberant challenges. Fans also responded negatively to players who returned that had no plausible reason to be cast. Notable casting controversies include Amber Brkich in All-Stars (who had been a backup to Elisabeth Filarski and Colleen Haskell) and Candice Woodcock in Heroes vs. Villains.
Fans vs. Favorites
Although initially intending to produce a second all-stars season, Burnett pushed for Survivor to experiment with different twists in their 16th season. The result was the Fans vs. Favorites twist that saw a tribe of ten returning players pitted against a tribe of ten "die-hard" fans of the show. Both iterations of this twist have seen the favorites tribe comprised solely of contestants who had only played once previously.
Survivor 27, Survivor: Blood vs. Water is rumored to be using the same format, with ten returning players on one tribe and ten new ones ( Family Members) on the other.
One Returnee per Tribe
The One Returnee per Tribe twist sees two to three returning players competing against new castaways, with one returnee placed on each of the competing tribes. In all seasons featuring this twist, a returning player has made it to the Final Tribal Council.
The twist was first introduced in Survivor: Guatemala. Two former castaways from Survivor: Palau, Bobby Jon Drinkard and Stephenie LaGrossa, returned for a shot at redemption after being members of the infamous Ulong tribe. New contestant Danni Boatwright won the season against Stephenie.
The Redemption Island twist saw the resurrection of this method for introducing Returnees. In Survivor: Redemption Island, Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz were brought back to settle their rivalry from Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. Russell was targeted early when his tribe threw a challenge to vote him out. Meanwhile, Rob won the game against fellow Ometepe tribemates Phillip Sheppard and Natalie Tenerelli.
The Redemption Island format was revisited in Survivor: South Pacific, with Coach Wade and Ozzy Lusth returning to improve on their weak social games. This was the first time the two returning players had not previously competed on the same season. New contestant Sophie Clarke claimed the prize, beating Coach and Albert Destrade.
Survivor: Philippines introduced three previous contestants, Russell Swan, Michael Skupin, and Jonathan Penner, all of whom were evacuated due to medical reasons. This is the only iteration of the One Returnee per Tribe twist to bring back more than two returning players. New contestant Denise Stapley won the game against Lisa Whelchel and Skupin.
Success in the Game
It should be noted that during every season thus far that has featured returning players, at least one has made it to the Final Two/Three in every season. These players include Rob Mariano (All-Stars and Redemption Island), Amber Brkich (All-Stars), Stephenie LaGrossa (Guatemala), Amanda Kimmel (Micronesia), Parvati Shallow (Micronesia and Heroes vs. Villains), Russell Hantz (Heroes vs. Villains), Sandra Diaz-Twine (Heroes vs. Villains), Coach Wade (South Pacific), Michael Skupin (Philippines), Dawn Meehan (Caramoan) and John Cochran (Caramoan).
Fan reception has evolved from universal acclaim, to mixed, to negative over the series' run.
Returning Players by Season
|Season||Returned to Future Season||Season||Returned to Future Season|
- Survivor: Micronesia currently has the most returning players out of all seasons, with seven.
- As Micronesia featured returning castaways, Survivor: The Australian Outback has the most original returning castaways, with six.
- As of Survivor: Caramoan, Survivor: One World is the only season from which no contestants have returned for another season, with Caramoan itself being excluded.
- Coincidentally, all 3 returning Asian-American contestants are currently the only representatives of their season.
- For contestants who were considered, but were ultimately not chosen, to return, see Alternate Returning Players.