In a recent interview, Jeff Probst denied there are concrete plans for future all-star seasons, but his careful language and enthusiasm for the rumored format suggest to me that rumors for Survivor 22 are pretty much on-target, and thus Russell versus Rob is happening.
Asked by IGN about the rumor I first reported that producers were considering doing one season with returning cast members every year, Probst insisted that “there’s nothing on the books” and said “a lot of rumors get started.”
He also admitted that too many all-star seasons in a row won’t work: “Heroes vs. Villains was great. But you do have to space those out, and you have to have the stars to pull it off. So I don’t know that we can do it every season, but I think what’s happening is we’ve been on long enough that we now have over 300 people to chose from. But it is fun to bring back people occasionally as a little bit of a spice. Maybe you don’t do the whole season but maybe you bring a few back or maybe you do one tribe like we did with Fans vs. Favorites. So yeah, we’re open to all those ideas.”
But notice his careful phrasing about not necessarily a full-all star season, but how it’s “fun to bring back people occasionally.” That seems to confirm the kind of season that is rumored for the season that starts taping soon: Russell Hantz versus Rob Mariano.
While Probst wasn’t asked directly if season 22 will feature such a match-up, he was asked about the general possibility, and that answer, too, suggests to me that this is going to happen. He talks about it in the future tense, but also makes a passionate argument for it in the Probstian language that he will use come December and January when he is promoting that season: “I would love it. I would love to see Rob and Russell go head-to-head or represent different tribes, something like that,” Probst said. “Yeah, because it is a matchup that you want to see, ’cause in a weird way Rob is suddenly the hero [now] and Russell’s the villain. In what world does that make sense? [Laughs]”
Apparently, it makes sense in the same CBS world in which it makes sense to bring them both back a year after Survivor Heroes vs. Villains.