CBS has formally announced that Hantz and Mariano will be the two returning Survivor all-star contestants who will compete on Survivor: Redemption Island alongside the season's 16 previously announced first-time castaways.
Survivor: Redemption Island will premiere on CBS on Wednesday, February 16 at 8PM ET/PT and mark Hantz's third Survivor appearance and Mariano's fourth.
Rumors that Survivor: Redemption Island would include a rematch between the former Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains rivals have swirled since last summer when the season was filmed back-to-back in Nicaragua with Survivor: Nicaragua, the 21st Survivor edition which aired on CBS this fall.
However, neither Survivor all-star received -- as had been incorrectly rumored -- a special immunity privilege that prevented their tribemates from voting them out of the game at one of the competition's initial Tribal Council sessions, Entertainment Weekly reported Thursday.
According to Survivor host Jeff Probst, he and the show's producers got the idea for the rematch during last May's Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains live reunion show broadcast when Hantz -- who made it to the end of both Survivor: Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains but lostboth jury votes -- pointed out Mariano has also never won Survivor and Mariano responded by boasting that he'd still "gladly go back" and "kick your ass all over the island" if given another opportunity.
"When the live finale of Heroes vs. Villains was going on, and at one point Rob said to Russell, 'I would gladly take you on anytime, anywhere,'" Probst explained.
Probst also isn't worried Survivor viewers may be tired of Hantz given it's only been one season since he competed back-to-back on Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains, which both aired during the 2009-2010 television season.
"I can feel the energy, I believe the audience is going to love it. I don't think anybody is going to be tired of seeing Russell, he's too polarizing. And if you hated him the first two times, you have to watch so you can enjoy hating him again."
While CBS' announcement touts the fact that neither man has ever "been awarded the title of Sole Survivor" as the reason Hantz and Mariano -- who initially appeared on Survivor: Marquesas in 2002 and also competed on two The Amazing Race editions with his wife Amber, whom he met on Survivor: All-Stars, which she won, in 2004 -- are being allowed "one last shot at redemption," Probst suggested there is a simpler explanation: the pair's Survivor "icon" status.
"The thing you have with Rob and Russell is, for whatever reason, they are now icons on our show," he said.
"Boston Rob is fascinating in that he started as a villain. He was despised by people! And somehow he transformed into a hero."
Survivor: Redemption Island -- which CBS formally announced during Survivor: Nicaragua's reunion show last month -- will feature a new game-changing twist in which castaways who are voted out of the competition will get an opportunity to earn "redemption" and return at a later date.
Instead of being eliminated from the game after being voted off at Tribal Council, a castaway will be taken to Redemption Island, where they will live alone in exile until the next voted-off castaway joins them at the site.
Once a second castaway arrives, the two castaways will then compete in a "duel" challenge and winner will get to continue fighting for "redemption" while the loser will be eliminated from the competition for good. At an undisclosed point, the Redemption Island's exiled castaway will get to return to the main game and resume competing for Survivor: Redemption Island's $1,000,000 prize with the remaining contestants.
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