Survivor retrospective: Ranking returning player seasons

Screengrab via CBS
Screengrab via CBS /
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Survivor loves to bring back former players to compete for the title again. However, not all returning player themes are winners.

Survivor has been around for 35 seasons and over 17 years. This means the show has built quite a large base of contestants who have battled it out for the title of Sole Survivor and the million dollar prize. Luckily, fans are occasionally treated to a season where some of their favorite (and least favorite) players return for another shot at the prize.

However, not all returning player seasons are a smashing success. I’m breaking down the best and the worst of Survivor’s returning player seasons based on the cast, the theme, and the way the season played out.

Survivor Pearl Islands Die Jerks
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8. Outcast Twist, Pearl Islands

Three words.

W. T. F.

Pearl Islands made use of the Outcast twist where the six players who had previously been voted out returned as the Ghost Tribe and competed for a shot to re-enter the game. After the Outcast tribe won, Lil and Burton were brought back into the game, much to the chagrin of the other players. Many fans thought the twist ruined the authenticity of the Survivor experience as it negated the drama of being voted out at Tribal Council. While this twist may have been an early version of Redemption Island, I pray the producers never, ever bring this twist back.