Inside the New Twists of ‘Survivor: Redemption Island’

A diverse group of strangers? Check. A remote, tropical location? Check. Officially licensed, multi-colored Buff headwear? Check.

A couple of twists designed to spice up the game? Check.

But where will this season’s twists rank? Will they be as amazing as “Heroes vs. Villains” or as dreadful as “Haves vs. Have Nots”? As game-changing as hidden immunity idols or as snore-inducing as the Medallion of Power?

So, let’s take a pre-game look at the twists the “Survivor” producers have in store for us and try to figure out how they’ll affect the game and if they’ll be fun to watch.

The Twist: The Return of ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz

How It Will Work: “Survivor” Hall of Famers Boston Rob and Russell will each join a tribe as a celebrity tribe member.

It’s Kinda Like:
When Stephenie LaGrossa and “Survivor” Power Rankings veteran Bobby Jon Drinkard were invited back to participate in “Survivor: Guatemala” after their Ulong tribe was wiped out in “Survivor: Palau.”

How That Twist Worked Out:
Not too badly, actually. Bobby Jon got to feel what it was like to win an immunity challenge before becoming the tenth person to leave the game. While Stephenie LaGrossa managed to make it to the finals before being decimated by Danni Boatwright.

How “Redemption Island” Is Different:
Bobby Jon and Stephenie were seen as hard workers who had the bad luck of being put on a cursed tribe. Compare that to Russell Hantz who is best known for burning socks, stabbing backs and punching kittens. Even likable “Boston” Rob will be looked at with contempt as he makes his fourth trek into the wilderness. The sixteen new cast members won’t agree on much, but they’ll all agree that they aren’t interested in being extras on the “Boston Rob and Russell Show.”

How I Think It’ll Turn Out: If Russell can remind his tribe that he turns people into millionaires, he has a shot. If not, he doesn’t see the merge.

On the other hand, Boston Rob’s best bet is an extended stay at Redemption Island.  He’ll probably pay a visit there shortly after the merge.

Pre-Game Twist Ranking?
A four out of ten. Boston Rob and Russell will have the same affect on “Redemption Island” that Jimmy Johnson had on “Nicaragua.”

Video: Jeff Probst previews the “Survivor: Redemption Island” cast.

The Twist: Redemption Island

How It Will Work: After someone is voted out of the game, they’ll go to Redemption Island. There they’ll have to survive with the same equipment and supplies the tribes use. When a second person is voted out, they’ll go to Redemption Island to face the first person in a duel. The winner stays, the loser goes home.  Eventually, the last person remaining on Redemption Island will be allowed to return to the game for a shot at the million dollar prize.

It’s Kinda Like: When Burton Morris and Lillian Morris were allowed to return to “Survivor: Pearl Islands” after being voted out.

How That Twist Worked Out: It was a disaster. The “Outcasts” twist is generally considered to be the worst twist in “Survivor” history. Many fans hated that the twist violated the basic rule of “Survivor” which is “When you’re out, you’re out.” Also, the returning players hadn’t been living in the wilderness during their time out of the game. This caused some serious resentment between the returning players and those who’d been out there the whole time.

How “Redemption Island” Is Different: The players who are voted out of the game will still have to survive the elements. Also, the Outcasts returning to Pearl Islands were a surprise. All of the players will know about Redemption Island in advance.

How I Think It’ll Turn Out:
I’ve never been a fan of how being strong is a detriment after the merge. This will give the more competitive players a chance to win the game, which isn’t a bad thing.

Also, the idea of starting off every show with a sudden death elimination immunity challenge has a world of cool possibilities.

However, whether this twist lives or dies is all going to depend on how the other players view surviving at Redemption Island. If they think it’s a joke and aren’t willing to reward a player who survived on their own, then it’s the Outcasts all over again. If they appreciate someone battling their way back into the game, it could have legs and become the show standard.

Pre-Game Twist Ranking?
A potential ten if the players respect it, a three if the player who returns to the game from “Redemption Island” becomes cannon fodder.

“Survivor: Redemption Island” premieres, Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute “Survivor” news and lame jokes: @gordonholmes.

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