The Facts of Survivor

The cast of the upcoming 25th season of Survivor has been announced, and there are some interesting tidbits.  Of the 18 people playing the game, seven have some degree of celebrity.  Two are beauty pageant queens, because the casting directors like to stuff those bikinis full of eye candy.  Three are past players-- we'll get to them in a bit.  One is a former National League MVP, which for me is roughly equivalent to "former president of Slovenia" for recognition value.  But the last one-- now we're talking.  Lisa Welchel will be playing the game.

If you're under 35, you probably have no idea who Lisa Welchel is.  If you're closer to my age bracket you might recognize her name, but you'll almost certainly remember her big claim to fame: she played Blair on The Facts of Life.  Stuck up, silver spoon pretty princess Blair is getting down and dirty with the insects, hunger, and weather.  Apparently she's a longtime fan of the show, tweeted a video about how she'd love to be on it, and the producers gave her a call.  Can you blame them?  I'm certainly curious to see how she does.

Players will be split into three tribes this time, each led by a former player who was medically evacuated.  This is a great twist on the returning player craze-- medical evacuations are terribly unsatisfying, and it's great to see people who were eliminated without a vote get a second chance.  In fact, the only twist I'd like to see more than this is a show comprised entirely of people who were voted out in the first tribal council of their season.

Miraculously, we're being spared a second dose of last season's Colton, although I'm sure it's only a temporary reprieve-- he's too good a character for them to leave on the sidelines for long.  The first returning player is the one I suspect the most people have asked for over the past 12 years: Michael Skupin, the first player to be medically evacuated.  He was airlifted out of the game after he fell into his tribe's campfire in season 2's Australian Outback.  Now he's 50 and says he isn't looking for redemption, he just wants to play the game fresh from start to finish.  Returnee number two is Jonathan Penner who comes back for a third try.  He was taken out of the game in Fans vs. Favorites because of an infected knee, giving up what seemed like a very strong position at the time-- Parvati may owe him a huge thank you.  Jonathan has always been an entertaining player to watch, so I'm looking forward to seeing him again.  The final returnee is Russell Swan. Russell caused one of the biggest scares in the game when he collapsed from dehydration, eyes rolling back into his head.  He was strong, liked by his tribe, and appeared to be on a trajectory to make it to the finals-- a great choice for a second chance.

Survivor: Philippines premieres September 19.

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