The big shift in gameplay: When contestants are voted off, they will be sent to Redemption Island, where they'll receive meager rations and spend the time alone. At the next elimination, the new bootee and the previous bootee will face off in some sort of "Survivor"-style gladiatorial combat and the winner will get to remain in the game or reenter the game.
Certain aspects of the twist are still a bit unclear (at least to this writer). If the previously eliminated contestant loses to the new bootee, are they done and is nobody left on Redemption Island? If the new bootee loses, do they then go to Redemption Island? If the previous bootee is then re-eliminated the next week, do they get to again go head-to-head with the person they beat to get back into the game? Can you only do one tour on Redemption Island, or could the same player keep getting voted off and keep dominating Redemption and coming back?
Tiny bit confusing.
[Dan's Note: Apparently I'm the only person who found the Redemption Island structure at all confusing. It's clarified in the comments. Oh well...]
"Survivor" fans vividly remember how unpopular it was the last time the show experimented with bringing back eliminated contestants, specifically the Ghost Tribe twist in "Survivor: Pearl Islands," so one can only assume that the prior issues were carefully considered.
The show's producers aren't immune to considering the way things look to the public. Case in point, the abrupt and embarrassing departure of NaOnka and Purple Kelly during this current season led to a new rule unveiled by Probst during the finale: Starting next season, players who quit the game without viable extenuating circumstances -- medical leave, emotional duress -- will not automatically be granted jury privileges even if they make it to the Jury stage. Probst said only that status would be determined at the discretion.
One thing Probst and company didn't do is confirm the most widely rumored "Survivor 22" twist.
Here's where we'll politely encourage you to stop reading if you don't want to be hypothetically spoiled:
You've been warned...
There had been circulated and solidly reenforced suggestions that Rob "Boston Rob" Mariano and Russell Hantz would have some tie to the "Redemption Island" concept -- both players are viewed (sometimes by themselves) as strategic masterminds, but neither has won a "Survivor" season.
Although there was ample opportunity to announce that twist at the finale -- Probst even got Boston Rob to recount the birth of his second child with Amber Brkich -- but nary a word was said.
Is CBS saving that reveal for a different announcement? Or were "Survivor" insiders somehow faked out.
A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.