Survivor: Redemption Island, the show’s 22nd season, invented a new concept while also bringing back two contestants.
An idea was invented at the Survivor: Heroes vs Villains reunion show and it came about when Boston Rob Mariano tried to explain to Russell Hantz why he failed to win his two seasons. Russell came back with a burn about how Rob hadn’t won to which Rob challenged Russell to a rematch someday.
Well, that rematch came in the form of Survivor: Redemption Island, which aired in the spring of 2011. The season has mostly negative reviews amongst the fans, but let’s get into what was memorable about it.
Rob vs Russell… Again
As mentioned above, this season was brought about because of Rob challenging Russell at the Heroes vs Villains reunion show. Because Survivor is obsessed with giving the so-called “fan favorites” a chance to win, they brought these two men back and had them captain a team.
The obvious solution seemed to be “Let’s vote them out right away”, but unfortunately production tried to protect both former players with the invention of a new twist.
Redemption Island was the title of the season and also the new twist. Instead of players being voted out and sent home (or to ponderosa), they’d go to Redemption Island where they’d then duel with the next person to arrive. The loser of the duel went home while the winner stayed alive.
There would be two times during the course of the game where whoever was left standing on Redemption Island would win their way back in. It came at the merge and again at the final five, making it a final six.
I don’t like any twists that allow people who were voted off to return to the game and Redemption Island is no exception to that rule. It was a twist invented to help keep Rob and Russell around should their tribes decide to give them the axe early on.
Bye Bye Russell
The best part of Redemption Island – and there weren’t many to choose from – was Russell Hantz getting voted out third. The Zapatera tribe made it known early on that they didn’t want Russell plotting and scheming so they hatched a plan to get him out, which involved throwing the immunity challenge.
It worked, as Russell was the third person to be sent to Redemption Island. He lost his duel and cried after Jeff Probst announced he was officially out of the game. This was the final time Russell played a US version of Survivor, though he did play in an Australian version a few years ago, but did not fare well.
Matt Elrod’s Run on Redemption Island
Matt Elrod was the second player voted off of the season and normally he’d be forgotten about and never heard from again. In this season, however, he managed to win the first seven duels he took part in and won his way back into the game.
Unfortunately for Matt, he was promptly voted out shortly after re-entering the game and then won another three duels, winning ten out of 11. He couldn’t win the final duel to re-enter for a second time, as Andrea won it instead.
Matt spent just seven days in the game and the other 29 were spent on Redemption Island.
Redemption Island was the introduction of one former federal agent (?) Phillip Sheppard, who from the get-go was a bit of an odd duck. He was pretty loony throughout the season and one of the most uncomfortable moments came near the back half of the season in the “Rice Wars” episode.
Phillip was an interesting character and a good chunk of people found him hilarious, but I didn’t see the need to have him return four seasons later for Caramoan.
Rob Finally Wins
Production’s dreams finally came true, as Boston Rob made it to the end again and was able to win it all this time. He did so against people who clearly didn’t know how to play the game and that’s why his win isn’t very high when it comes to the winners in the show’s history.
Rob took two goats to the end in Phillip and Natalie Tenerelli, which is why he won. Phillip was largely disliked by everyone (though he did get a vote in the end thanks to Ralph Kiser) and Natalie was mostly a follower and did little strategizing.
It’s very possible that if Rob went up against anyone else, especially Andrea Boehlke or Ashley Underwood, that he’d have lost this season. Fortunately for him, that didn’t happen and he finally was crowned Sole Survivor after his fourth try.
The Rob vs Russell showdown took place again on Redemption Island, but it wasn’t a showdown at all. After Russell took round one on Heroes vs Villains, Rob easily won round two without having to throw a punch Russell’s way.
Russell was taken out early due to his tribe being smart and wanting to get him out (though they threw a challenge to do so) and the two never got to go head-to-head at the merge.
Meanwhile, Rob’s tribe followed everything he said and were the reason the Buddy System was such a success. Normally a former player doesn’t have this easy of a ride to the end, but the Ometepe tribe was not smart and let Rob control far too much of what they did. It made no sense, but hey – Rob finally got his Survivor win, just like production always wanted.
Survivor: Redemption Island is considered to be one of the worst seasons in series history due to it basically being handed to Boston Rob on a silver platter. The players didn’t even try to get him voted off and went along with everything he said. It didn’t make for good television and it’s no wonder this season is usually ranked at or near the bottom.
What do you think the most memorable moments are from season 22?