Jeff Probst already announced on Entertainment Weekly Radio that the next season of Survivor —subtitled Blood vs. Water — would feature returning Survivor contestants playing with (or, rather, against) their loved ones. Then, yesterday we revealed that one of those pairs would be Survivor: One World’s Kat Edorsson and her boyfriend, Big Brother season 12 winner Hayden Moss. Now the rest of the cast can be officially unveiled. And that cast will be playing in the most twist-heavy Survivor season ever.
Among the cast of Survivor: Blood vs. Water —which filmed this past May and June in the Philippines — will be a contestant from the group that started it all, as season 1 player Gervase Peterson returns to compete along with his niece Marissa. He will be joined by three million dollar winners — Tina Wesson from The Australian Outback (who will be playing with daughter Katie), Aras Baskauskas from Panama (with brother Vytas), and Rupert Boneham, who has never won in his three previous outings but did collect a million dollars as the winner of a special fan voted prize given away during the All-Stars season. He will be joined by his wife Laura.
In a surprise, the new cast also features three players from One World — which is generally considered one of the weakest Survivor seasons ever. Joining Kat will be Monica Culpepper (and husband Brad) and the controversial Colton Cumbie (and fiancé Caleb). Rounding out the cast are threepeaters Tyson Apostol (with girlfriend Rachel) and the former Candice Woodcock (now Candice Cody, with husband John), as well as Laura Morett from Samoa (with daughter Ciera).
Survivor host Jeff Probst gives credit for the loved ones concept to Survivor casting director Lynne Spillman. “It’s something she brought up for years,” Probst told EW.com. “But this year she pitched it and she said, ‘I think I can pull it off. I think I’ve found the right amount of couples.’ And once we started talking about it and talking about who would play, it went from something we thought about doing next year to something we were going to do this season. It was one of those moments were I left and went ‘Oh, everything’s different.’” As if having returning players playing against their loved ones was not a big enough twist, there are several other smaller changes, some of which could dramatically alter the way the game is played. Here they are:
*For the first time ever, the game will not be 39 days long, but rather 39-and-a-half days, as the couples will begin the game the night prior to day one with a new twist titled “Day Zero.” The 10 pairs will be sent out at sunset to 10 different locations to live by themselves for the night. They will then all meet up to be officially welcomed by host Jeff Probst and start the game the next morning. “The whole idea was to try and get them thinking and maybe believing that they would play as a pair,” says Probst.
* Just minutes after congregating, the returning players and their loved ones will be split into two different tribes, with the returning players making up the yellow Galang tribe and the newbies comprising the red Tadhana tribe. “Suddenly your partner becomes your adversary, your competition,” says Probst. “And that was the whole premise of Blood Vs. Water. How is that going to play out in a game where only one person can win?”
* First impressions can be key in the game like Survivor, and that will prove true here as just moments after meeting each other, each team will vote one member off their tribe. They will later be informed that these people have not been voted out of the game, but rather will be sent to Redemption Island, which makes its return after having been absent for the past three seasons. There they will battle to stay alive and reenter the game at a later point.
* Confused yet? Well, it gets even more confusing! Jeff Probst will then immediately offer each of the loved ones of the two people voted off the opportunity to trade places with them, meaning that if, say, returning player Tina is voted out of her tribe at the start, her daughter Katie can opt to take her place at Redemption Island instead, and Tina would then join the tribe of newbies.
* As mentioned, Redemption Island is back. Anyone voted out will be sent there and will then compete in a three person duel. The last place finisher in each contest is out of the game for good, while the top two remain. However, if someone’s loved one is still in the game they can take their loved one’s place before a duel. (So if, say, Monica is at Redemption Island but her husband Brad thinks he would do better at a duel involving strength, he can swap places with her, electing to do the duel while she takes his place on his tribe. They could then swap again at the next duel if it is a contest better suited to her strengths.) “That puts blood and water to the test,” says Probst. “And we’re gonna do it at every duel. So the first time early in the game, somebody may say ‘It’s just too early.” But as those duels increase and they get closer to what they think might be a merge, their strategy is going to start to change.”
* That’s not all when it comes to Redemption Island. The person who finishes first in each duel will also get to give a clue to the location of a hidden immunity idol to any person from either tribe that they choose. “There’s all these things you can do,” says Probst. “Because for a moment, even though you’re on the outest, furthest part of the game, you have a little bit of power.”