When producers initially began mapping out season 16 — yes, 16! — of Survivor, they considered making it their second All-Stars edition. But then they considered something else. ”None of us felt like a full-on All-Stars was the right choice, because we did it once and since then so many other shows have done it,” says host Jeff Probst. ”It felt like we needed a twist.” And when has this seminal reality show not embraced a twist? Enter the Fans vs. Favorites concept of Survivor: Micronesia (debuting Feb. 7 on CBS at 8 p.m.), featuring one tribe of former Survivor standouts, and another tribe of newbies who idolize the players they are about to compete against.
So who was lucky enough to make the cut? The Favorites tribe features contestants going all the way back to season 7, including two from the recently completed Survivor: China — gravedigger James Clement and the person who engineered his ouster, Amanda Kimmel. Survivor: Fiji sends its most popular player, 55-year-old Yau-Man Chan, while the Cook Islands season is responsible for three contestants: flirt-tastic Parvati Shallow, triple-crossing Jonathan Penner, and challenge dominator Ozzy Lusth. Rounding out the tribe is Survivor: Panama ‘s Cirie Fields, Vanuatu’s Eliza Orlins and Ami Cusack, and Survivor’s biggest villain ever: Pearl Islands ’ Jon Dalton (a.k.a. Jonny Fairplay), who once famously faked his own grandmother’s death to further himself in the game. ”You can’t do the season and not invite your most notorious person,” says Probst. ”And Fairplay delivered, I will say that.” Does that mean he delivers a victory? Don’t bet on it, laughs Probst. ”This guy is no threat to win this game — zero.”
No people from the highly regarded Palau or lowly regarded Guatemala seasons made the trip. That is in large part because two popular contestants — Stephenie LaGrossa and Bobby Jon Drinkard — already appeared in both those seasons, and Palau’s winner, Tom Westman, declined to participate. (No other past winners were chosen.) Survivor: Micronesia was shot on many of the same beaches as the Palau season, and will also feature the return of Exile Island, which was absent from Survivor: China.
The Fans taking on the Survivor two-timers include a large-and-in-charge firefighter (Joel Anderson), a beauty pageant coach (Chet Welch), a golf course vendor (Kathleen Sleckman), and a man who scoops ice cream for a living in Hell?Michigan, that is (Erik Reichenbach). In contrast to recent seasons, where contestants were heavily recruited and largely unfamiliar with the program, the new players of Micronesia are all followers of the show. How they fare against their heroes remains to be seen.
NEXT: THE FANS