Blindside me once, shame on you. Blindside me twice, shame on me. Blindside me three times? That's what it's coming to on Survivor.
The reality series comes back for Season 23 with two new returning favorites, Oscar "Ozzie" Musth and Benjamin "Coach" Wade, in tow. But after the success of Heroes vs. Villains in 2010 and "Boston Rob" Mariano's applauded Road to Redemption last spring, recruiting beloved former players for another tour of duty is becoming standard practice for the aging competition series. But is it really the right move? As much as we enjoy watching the Russell Hantz's and Jerri "Black Widow" Manthey's have to face (and sometimes apologize for) their past power moves and manipulations, are these familiar faces really adding to the game or detracting from it? We look at three reasons it's time to throw the vets' buffs in the fire once and all:
3. The newbies don't think for themselves. Yes, the whole point of introducing returning players is to throw a curveball in the rest of the contestants' pre-determined game plans and expectations. But it's not nearly as much fun watching the newbies tough out the almost 40-day shoot when they have one, or possibly even two, expert guides there to possibly hint at what's to come and what they should be doing. Russell helped his tribe in no such way, minus his two allies who were quickly plucked off after he left, but Boston Rob's entire nice-guy routine last season hinged on his appearance as the elder statesmen who knew just what to do, and wasn't afraid to share his wisdom in exchange for alliances. Granted, Boston Rob and Russell still had to adjust to redemption island along with everyone else, but their advantages in the game influenced not just their own game play, but everyone else in the cast, (and not necessarily in a good way.)
2. How will the first-timers shine? One of the biggest reasons Survivor keeps bringing back veterans is the same reason it may be hurting its own franchise: star power. Yes, a familiar face not only gets rabid fans but also those fair-weather Survivor fans who need a big hook (redemption island), a hint of nostalgia, or both, to be enticed back. Next to the one-two punch of Ozzie and Coach, how are the 16 fresh-faced cast members supposed to find their time to shine? Redemption Island produced one breakout star next to Russell and Boston Rob, but don't think Phillip Sheppard didn't work for it. (Getting into racially charged arguments, wearing feathers on your head and doing it while practically baring all is no easy feat!). As long as returning players are in the game, it will always be that much harder to breed the next generation of Survivor fan favorites. And then who will be around to partake in the next All-Star edition (as evidenced by Colby Donaldson's underwhelming performance on Heroes vs. Villains, these kids aren't getting any younger).
1. Some veterans just repeat their past mistakes. As much as we would like to think that every returning player is smart enough to change his up game the second (or third, or fourth) time around, that is not always the case. Take legendary villain Russell, who returned for Redemption Island so soon after Heroes vs. Villains that he still had Samoa sand in his shoes. After the attention he received in Seasons 19 and 20, it seemed obvious he would need a new strategy for Season 22. Unfortunately, Russell tried to play the exact same game and not only wound up going home fairly early, but made for a boring addition to the cast. For every "Boston Rob" — who transforms from villain to sly nice guy — there are a few Russell's who are too cocky and stubborn to change things up.
Survivor: South Pacific premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 8/7c on CBS.
Are you excited Ozzie and Coach are back? Or are you over the returning vets? Share your thoughts in the comments below.