From the initial negative reaction to the revelation that the rumor was true, Survivor villain and two-time runner-up Russell Hantz would join perennial Survivor Boston Rob for Season 22, it looks like it may be the producers of Survivor would will need redemption. Between the two, they have five prior appearances and hours of time on our TV sets competing for one million dollars and the title that has eluded them time and time again.
So why this third and fourth chance? Ratings. As last season proved only too well, it is hard to find great reality TV characters. NaOnka tried being mean, Fabio tried being nice, but in the end the whole season ended up being boring. Those who tried to be scheming and conniving looked weak and overmatched, those who tried for the good old boy and girl roles were grating and annoying. By the end, the only thing I wished for was that the least objectionable person win.
But with Russell, the king of manipulators, going up against Rob, the converted good guy, we have two larger-than-life personalities to ignite the show. They will immediately put the other contestants on alert and will be the early focus of the game and there will be that something extra at stake from the start. It will be interesting to see how their fellow castaways use, or fail to use, having seasoned contestants on their tribe. Would you take Russell to the end knowing he has zero chance of winning, or do you take him out early because of his destructive propensities? Would you not form an alliance with Rob because he is too well liked or take him to the end, figuring no one would give him the money on his fourth try?
For better (Rob) and worse (Russell), they are two of the most interesting players in the pantheon of past Survivor contestants. I may be in the minority here, but I'm thrilled to have them both back.