Who would have imagined that Survivor could still surprise us? Yet its 16th edition, Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET, CBS; see programming note below) — which finds notable former players alongside a group of ardent devotees — has proven refreshingly unpredictable. According to host Jeff Probst, the twists just keep on comin': "Mark my words. There's so much crazy stuff to come — the kind that producers pray to the reality gods for." Here's an exclusive peek at the whiplash headed your way. (Lots of spoilers ahead!)
Jonathan Penner is forced to leave the game — and he's not alone!
A nasty gash on his right leg that Jonathan sustained during a challenge in the March 6 episode grows increasingly infected, ultimately forcing the prickly player out of the game on March 13. Says Probst: "There was a certain point when our doctor said, 'You're done. If the infection's not treated, it will spread to your lymph nodes and kill you.'" (Jonathan was rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment and has since fully recovered.)
Perhaps the bigger shock is that he won't be the only player to leave this season without having his torch snuffed. While Probst won't specify whether the second exit is the result of an injury, he will reveal that it happens in this week's episode, airing Wednesday, March 19 (due to the NCAA tournament). "It's a testament," the host says, "to the wear and tear, not only physically but emotionally, that this game can take."
Unfortunately for the remaining players, the two premature exits don't preclude trips to tribal council — meaning viewers will see a total of four Survivors leave within two episodes. "Thank god," Probst says with a laugh, "we started with 20 people."
The favorites face betrayal!
After the teams were switched up in the March 6 episode, loyalty to original tribes remained for most — but not all. "Somebody's gonna jump ship," Probst teases. "The big question is, who's gonna flip?" The most obvious answer would seem to be Ami Cusack and/or Eliza Orlins, whose alliance took a serious hit with Jonathan's premature exit. "The aftermath of Jonathan leaving is how many other people it affects," Probst concedes. "Ami seriously starts to question her loyalty to the favorites and wonders if maybe there's a better opportunity across the street."
Ozzy and Amanda's romance is legit (not so much James and Parvati's)!
One alliance that seems stronger than ever is jungle wonderboy Ozzy Lusth and tribe mate Amanda Kimmel, who have quickly become Survivor's hottest couple since All-Stars' Rob and Amber. (Their recent nighttime make-out session just might pale in comparison to their "really sexy shower scene" after they win a reward challenge in the March 19 episode.)
Probst believes the connection between the favorites twosome is real. "Ozzy fell in love right away," he says, "and Amanda is falling in love as it goes." (Word is that the two, who both live in Los Angeles, have remained an item since filming in Micronesia wrapped in December.)
In contrast, Probst characterizes the season's other flirtation, between Parvati Shallow and chiseled James Clement, as "equal opportunity. Parvati's playing James, and I'm not sure James cares one way or the other. He's getting what he wants, and she's getting what she needs — to get further in the game."
Probst cautions that for both pairs, such open alliances could backfire: "I don't think it's in their best interests. It can make them vulnerable." But with Ozzy a dominant force in challenges and in possession of the immunity idol, he and Amanda have the potential to make like Rob and Amber in another way and win the million.
The fake idol is found!
In the March 13 episode, one player discovers the false idol Ozzy left on Exile Island and believes, as the heartthrob hoped, that it's the real deal. And you just know somebody's gonna play it. But it's the real idol that may cause the biggest drama of the season. "The hidden idol has never played a bigger role than it does this time," Probst says. "Your jaw is gonna drop at least twice, and maybe more, when you see how it's played."
James passes on the title of "dumbest move in Survivor history"!
By the end of this season, the hard-bodied gravedigger might not feel so ashamed about failing to use either of his two immunity idols in China. In Micronesia, says Probst, "there are three or four people lining up to hold that crown." Like James, some are on the receiving end of what the host claims are more blindsides at tribal council than ever before. "We have four or five," he says, "in a row." Play on, players!
Check out clips of Survivor: Micronesia in our Online Video Guide.
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