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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 that had no plausible reason to return. 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.

The first installment, Survivor: Micronesia, became one of the series' most popular installments. Returning player Parvati Shallow beat out fellow favorite Amanda Kimmel in a 5-3 vote.

The twist was brought back ten seasons later for Survivor: Caramoan. Returning player John Cochran beat out fellow favorite Dawn Meehan and fan Sherri Biethman in a unanimous 8-0-0 vote.

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
Borneo 50px50px
Australia NB 50px50px50px
100px 50px50px
100px 75px75px
100px 100px 100px 75px75px
100px 50px50px
100px 50px50px
100px 75px75px 100px 50px50px
100px 100px Panama NB 75px75px
100px 50px50px
Fiji 100px
China NB 50px50px
Micronesia no background 50px50px50px
Gabon 50px50px
Tocantins NB 50px50px
100px 75px75px Heroes vs. Villains NB 50px50px
Survivor Nicaragua logo 100px Redemptionisland 50px50px
100px 50px50px
One World NB None
Philippines NB 100px Survivor26logo None



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