Survivor and Probst’s specious justification for bringing back Coach and Ozzy

The official announcement of Ben “Coach” Wade and Ozzy “Oscar” Lusth’s return to Survivor didn’t explain why they were asked to return, but a video posted to CBS’ web site offers some insight. (You might need to watch it twice because you won’t be able to hear anything other than your laughter after the announcer says we will get “an all-star replay this season” of Survivor Redemption Island.)

In the video, host Jeff Probst says, “We knew we wanted to bring two people back. We liked how it worked with Rob and Russell, and we looked at different pairings. At first you wouldn’t put those two together.”

Probst should have just stopped there and added something like, But we did because we’re desperate for ratings and had no other ideas, as you can tell by the fact that we’re just replaying last season.

But instead, Probst said, “But when I looked at it, I see them as two sides of a similar coin.” He later explains that “both Ozzy and Coach have had miserable social games” and says the new contestants should “use them to get further in the game and then cut them loose.”

Then why have them at all? Bringing back two people with bad social games is no justification at all. At the most, that kind of thinking could work for an all-star season, where you have a tribe of challenge pros versus those with good social games, or a tribe of over-the-top characters versus everyday people. But it just makes no real sense.

Also in the video, Coach says he will be “Coach 3.0″ who “is bringing the Dragon Slayer back,” and Ozzy says he will be more “humble.” There’s also a pre-game Coachism: He says Da Vinci said, “Obstacles cannot crush me; in fact, they crumble to my resolve.” The actual quote starts similarly but ends very differently: “Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.”

This version of Coach seems somewhat odd to me because it’s so drastically different than the Ben Wade you read about in my July Playboy piece, the one who who talked about Survivor like this: “I went through a lot, man. I feel like they damaged me, and if I weren’t a Christian, I’d be screwed, man.” He also told me, “I had a good coaching career, and for that to be pissed away like that [snaps fingers] because they wanted their ratings to be good was not fair.” But during my time with him in late February, he seemed to have reached peace that I couldn’t imagine he’d interrupt again for another chance to let them damage him and his reputation. Ben said, “I’m not upset about it at all. In fact, I’m really glad they did it–it was just really hard to live with.”

Here’s CBS’ video introduction with Probst talking about Coach and Ozzy:

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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.