Coach, Ozzy returning for Survivor South Pacific

Ben “Coach” Wade and Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth are the two cast members returning for Survivor South Pacific. They’ll compete in Samoa with 16 new people, as Jeff Probst revealed during last season’s finale.

The evidence that Coach/Ben is on season 23 is pretty clear. As someone alerted me to, his voice mail message isn’t subtle: “I’m going to be traveling the next couple weeks,” he says, encouraging people to e.mail instead of texting or leaving a message. Ben conducts the Susanville Symphony, which he helped to found, and its final concert is next weekend, which up until recently he was conducting. But now, its web site says there will be “a very special guest conductor” instead.

Ben’ movie 180, which features him making out with Danielle DiLorenzo, has its premiere a week later, June 17. The producer of the film, William Price, told me in an e.mail that Ben was supposed to be at the premiere: “That is plan. We are flying him in the day before.” However, he did not respond to a follow-up in which I mentioned that Ben was likely in Samoa. If Ben shows up for that, we’ll all be surprised.

Reports that Coach would return first surfaced on Survivor Sucks (where Jeff Probst recently responded to criticism about the show), while news of Ozzy’s return first came from Survivor Skills‘ DanieuBleau, who cited “one of my highly dependable, and trusted sources.” Ozzy’s return was confirmed in a report today on TVFunSpot, which says that Ozzy’s voicemail has a similar message to Coach’s, and that he’s taken a leave of absence from his job as a waiter.

Calling this pairing or season Coach vs. Ozzy makes little sense, because besides the fact that Russell and Rob never faced off during Survivor Redemption Island, Ozzy and Coach never appeared on the same season. (Ozzy did get naked and have sex on Playboy TV’s Foursome.) The only way it’d be Coach vs. Ozzy is if the producers start both returnees on Redemption Island, where they’d face off in a duel, with the winner remaining to face off against the first person voted out of the game. I wish they’d do something like that but think it’s a safe bet that Coach and Ozzy will be placed on tribes, just like Rob and Russell were.

Speaking of Playboy, my piece that includes an extensive interview with Coach–or Ben, as I call him in the piece, and as people call him in his actual life–will be especially interesting now that he’s decided to go on the show for a third time. As you’ll read in the story, which is in the July issue out later this month, Ben still has very raw feelings about his time on Survivor Tocantins, and has now settled into a life as a conductor, pastor, and actual coach. When I spent a weekend with him in late February, there was no indication he’d ever even be asked to return.

But he did tell me that “life is about the experiences” and said that, with Survivor Heroes vs. Villains, “I looked at it as an adventure” and “a time to prove what I’d learned about myself. And I thought it was really important to go out there again and find redemption.”

Meanwhile, the media contingent left for Samoa last week (EW’s Dalton Ross announced that he was going offline) and arrived by Friday, meaning that interviews with the cast were likely Saturday, and the game started on Monday, Memorial Day in the United States.

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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.