Heroes and villains all-stars, return to Samoa both confirmed for Survivor 20

Update: CBS confirmed and gave details on the all-star 20th season during the conclusion of Survivor Samoa.

Details of Survivor 20‘s not-so-secret twist and location have been confirmed: just like season 19, it will film in Samoa, and it will feature the return of past cast members who will likely be organized into tribes of heroes versus villains, according to one cast member who wasn’t asked to return.

Both the location and the show’s desire to bring back previous cast members were confirmed in an e.mail message [PDF] sent from casting director Lynne Spillman to Survivor season one winner Richard Hatch on June 23, inviting him to participate. The letter said season 20 “will be filmed in Samoa” sometime between Aug. 1 and Sept. 20.

That letter was revealed as part of Hatch’s petition to be released [PDF] so he can appear on the show, which notes that he “is presently serving the final approximately 90 days of his sentence under home confinement.” His petition argues that “in this depressed economy, finding a job can be difficult,” and going on the show “will enable him to pay any 2000 and 2001 taxes determined to be due.” (There’s a lot of irony there: Hatch is finishing his prison sentence for not paying taxes on his season one winnings, which he blames on producers of the show, who he accused of allowing cheating.)

Hatch will likely not be permitted to participate. The U.S. attorney’s response [PDF] says the government objects to granting Hatch permission to leave, just as it did when he previously requested to be released to Argentina, in part because “Judge Torres found that Hatch was in need of supervision, including mental health counseling … based on the fact that Hatch perjured himself extensively during the trial.”

Spillman’s e.mail to Hatch said, “We request that you please keep this offer and other details you may learn about the upcoming Cycle 20 of the Series confidential,” and Hatch’s petition requested that it be sealed because of “the confidential nature of network television schedule programming,” but apparently that request wasn’t granted, as Providence’s NBC affiliate obtained and posted all three documents.

While NBC 10’s story has an editor’s note that says “[n]one of the documents filed in federal court identify if the 10th anniversary season will be held in American Samoa or the Independent State of Samoa,” there is no way the show will leave independent Samoa–where it is currently filming season 19–for American Samoa, primarily because you don’t save money by moving the production, and the show is filming back-to-back seasons in order to save money, never mind that the crew’s accommodations are unavailable to the public until October.

Spillman’s letter to Hatch said “this cycle is particularly significant given that it coincides with the 10 year anniversary of the series and your victory as the winner of Cycle 1 of the Series.” (By the way, Spillman’s e.mail message, marked as “Exhibit A,” also says he’d need to be available for “the live finale episode of Cycle 20, which is presently scheduled to air early to mid-December of this year.” That has to be a typo, considering season 19 debuts in mid-Sept. and thus will conclude in December.)

That Hatch alone has been asked back suggests other cast members will be, too, since he’s the least likely of all of them to be able to attend. But if there is any doubt about the all-star season, Palau cast member Coby Archa confirmed that this season will be be a full all-star season, organized into tribes of heroes and villains, a long-rumored possibility for the 20th season. He posted in a Survivor Sucks thread about fasting for Darfur (which I criticized, prompting a response from Coby).

Coby first wrote that “Heros [sic] Vs Villians lives!” and said, “obviously I wasn’t asked since I was neither lol,” and said he wouldn’t reveal the cast but “most of it irritates the shit out of me”–and admitted “I am just jealous!!!!” As to the show’s casting, he wrote, “there are NO gay people on it from what I hear. And yes I said gays…no lesbos were even asked,” qualifying that by adding, “I didn’t say bi-sexuals weren’t asked,” and later posted that Natalie from Micronesia “was bi :) no?”, an obvious suggestion that Natalie will return.

Coby also said “some people from seasons 1-7 were asked who WEREN”T on All Stars” but “not that many though so don’t get all wet about it,” and later posted that around 35 went to L.A. for interviews, and 10 of those were people who have already been on the show twice: their original season and an all-star season. By the way, Coby apparently received pushback from his fellow cast members about his spoiling. He wrote,

“Wow getting some interesting texts/messages from friends who are pissed I am spoiling lol Funny how they all wished/wanted to spoil themselves and now that I am, I am some sort of traitor!” He says that “my shot is forever gone in playing again….this is my last way of playing the game a bit…having some fun. I am not spoiling anything that would hurt the game or Survivor, like I said I love Survivor. I am just letting enough out to piss the casting people off a bit maybe lol been kissing Lynne’s ass for 4 years and look where it got me.”

I still maintain that another all-star season is too much, too soon. I get that season 20 needs to be big, but let’s not forget how relatively awful Micronesia was–with people quitting and favorites dominating–until two months into the season, when the nutty blindsides started and turned it into a blindingly awesome season. All-stars inevitably pale compared to our early memories of them, whether it’s villain Johnny Fairplay quitting or Kaysar’s weak game play during his second stint in the Big Brother house. Being on television changes many people into different people than they were the first time they played, and we’re inevitably disappointed when our memories don’t match this new reality.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.