Breaking! Shocking! Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz returning to Survivor for “one last shot”

The worst-kept secret in reality TV casting has finally been announced by CBS: Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz are cast members on Survivor Redemption Island, playing for a fourth and third time, respectively. It’s too bad CBS and the show’s producers couldn’t just trust that their big, smart, and interesting new twist wouldn’t be enough of a draw.

Jeff Probst has been practically orgasmic at the possibility Rob and Russell would return, which served as further confirmation that it was, in fact, happening. In a press release–I mean, sorry, in Entertainment Weekly–he said, “I’m not concerned at all about any Russell fatigue — that people have had too much. If you’ve had too much of Russell, I dare say you’re not really a Survivor fan. He embodies Survivor. He’s polarizing. You hate him or you love him.” Probst says a version of the same thing in the video below.

Why did the announcement come today? I have no idea. While I understand that not all of the show’s viewers follow news online, delaying the announcement made little sense except to drag out this season’s announcements. You’d think CBS would have wanted to distract us from the cast that, at least on paper and in the preview video, seems kind of lackluster, and thus announced Rob and Russell’s return earlier this week. But instead it’s been a huge secret; Mark Burnett even lied to me last week by saying “no” when I mentioned that two former cast members were returning this season, though he quickly segued into an unrelated answer to change the subject.

The actual CBS press release offers no information other that they have been cast, and that this is their “one last shot at redemption.” (I think it’s Rob’s third last shot, but who’s counting?) As the network said earlier this week when the cast was announced, each “will join a separate tribe of new castaways at the start of the game, but it’s up to the tribe to decide if they will welcome the knowledge of an experienced veteran, or view these former castaways as a threat.”

Let’s hope for that last option. Meanwhile, here’s the preview, which nearly made me puke:

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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.