Survivor: Philippines Odds & Analysis on Who Will Return

Now that we’re more than a week past the always-fun Survivor finale Sunday, crowning another deserving champion (even if the second two-thirds of the season were no where near as exciting as the Colton-fueled first third) and leaving me, your resident Survivor expert and reigning Wise Guise Fantasy Survivor Champion, a winner once again.

But the past is the past and ol’ Probst left us with quite the tease to keep us thinking throughout the summer, while we spend our time at the movies and occasionally and shamefully sneaking a peek at a Big Brother episode or ten. Giving us more to work with in the reunion tease and new season preview than he has in the past (when he told us to catch up on John Forbes Nash’s game theory works), some time spent on YouTube and Wikipedia jogs our memory and gets us thinking about which three former contestants will return for…

SURVIVOR: PHILIPPINES. With 24 seasons done and a 25th one ready to premiere in the fall, Survivor is as exciting and relevant as ever.

Ever since Mike fell in the fire during the 2000 winter telecast of the second season of Survivor set in the Australian Outback, I’ve wondered what would happen if he ever came back into the game. Ten seasons passed before another contestant had to be medically evacuated from the game. Now, with 24 seasons in the books, ten contestants have had to leave the game early for some medical reason or another, unable to continue playing the game, leaving us wondering what would have happened if they had stayed that season and what they would be able to do if they ever played the game again.

Editor’s Sidebar: Don’t miss this article providing Jeff Probst’s thoughts on the new season.

Now, we have to wonder no longer. Three contestants who had to leave the game early for medical reasons will be returning next season, each joining one of three tribes. Other than the intriguing twist of the return of a three tribe format at the start, the new format brings back former players (who are arguably the most deserving to actually be given another chance). So, inevitably, once law school final exams and the journal write-on was complete, I had to do some research into the ten potential contestants who could return. As I scoured the internet and YouTube to jog my memory, I inevitably ranked and gave odds to each contestant based on the likelihood that they will return next season. In full disclosure, my rankings are highly biased based on who I would like to see return to the game/who I think would make the season most interesting/who I think is arguably most deserving to be given another chance.

1) Colton Cumbie
Original Season: Survivor: One World (Season 24)
Chance of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 98%

Take this pick to the bank. I wouldn’t be surprised if this twist was added simply to bring Colton back to the game as much as possible. The idea was foreshadowed on this season’s reunion show. Fans of Survivor, haters of Colton, and producers of Survivor all thought about the chances of Colton coming back as soon as he made history in the game by convincing a tribe that had won immunity to give it up and go to tribal council, only to get sick and evacuated soon thereafter. He was offensive. He was conniving. He was a proud gay Republican. He was southern. He was a character so unique to Survivor… and a darn good player of the game too! Most of all, he’s always a risk to go far in the game because who doesn’t want to go up against him in a jury vote? This means he’s likely to be in the game for a long time, stirring things up and making things interesting for us every week. He’s good for ratings and he’s good for viewers. Love him or hate him… (and most hate him), he’s good TV, he’s a fascinating sociological creature, and he’s just really good at Survivor. He’ll be back.

2) Michael Skupin

Original Season: Survivor: The Australian Outback (Season 2)
Chance of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 70%

I’ll never forget the episode when Survivor became very real. With such a memorable cast, the moment when Mike fell in the fire, with skin hanging off his hands causing the first medical evacuation, the danger of the game was evident and the victim was one of the most intense competitors we’d seen so far.

Honestly, Russell Swan is probably more likely to return than Mike from Australian Outback, but I’ve wanted to see what Mike still had in him for 12 years. I’ve even pondered this exact twist at least five times over the past decade in order to get Mike back in the game. Sure, he’s 50 years old now, but that hasn’t stopped some players from dominating this game in the past. And Mike made it very clear in the second season (catching a pig anyone?) that he’s outdoorsy, athletic, and a competitor. He needs another chance. Does he still have it? Could he compete in the social game down the stretch? We have to know!

3) Russell Swan
Original Season: Survivor: Samoa (Season 19)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 65%

What Probst called the scariest moment he had filming the entire 19 seasons, this elimination was scary. Like the two above, Russell Swan is highly likely to join Mike and Colton because he was a dominant player who led the game early before leaving due to a medical problem. What made Russell’s exit so memorable and scary was his eyes rolling back into his head, going in and out of consciousness, and the fact that the scariest medical emergency was happening to one of the more physically dominating players. It’s time to give him another chance.

NOTE: I’d honestly be surprised if Colton, Mike, and Russell weren’t the returning contestants. But, if some of them didn’t want to return or if Probst and Burnett want to bring back James Clement once again, the trio could be different. The most likely to break into the season are Jon Penner and James Clement. Anyone other than them would frankly be shocking.

4) Jonathan Penner
Original Season: Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites (Season 16)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 40%

Penner was a longtime fan of the show whose minor knee injury became infected and, without medical supplies to clean it, was so potentially dangerous that he had to be evacuated. Penner was a fiery, Hollywood screenwriter who constantly stirred things up, had strong opinions, butted heads with people, and knew the game well. Because of this, he’s a dark horse for someone to return next season. While many fans of the show may not remember him as well as the three above, he’d bring a lot to the 25th season of the show and surely take his second chance at playing a game he loves so much very seriously.

5) James Clement
Original Season: Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites (Season 16)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 40%

James is such a classic Survivor favorite. He’s strong. He’s charming. He plays hard. He gets blindsided. He gets medically evacuated. While it’s always fun to watch James play, he’s already had three chances at playing this game (China, Fans vs. Favorites, Heroes vs. Villains). It doesn’t seem fair to let him play a fourth time when so many other deserving players (see the four competitors above) have only had one chance to play the game. For these reasons, James is the fifth most likely to return… which would be fun to watch, but disappointing given the concept they’re pushing for true second chances for competitors who have always wanted it.

6) Joe Dowdle
Original Season: Survivor: Tocantins (Season 18)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 15%

Joe was a decently strong player, but nothing special.  An aggravated knee injury took him from the game early.  He lacks that memory and fan desire.  If he were to return, he’d likely be a strong competitor, but from the standpoint of wanting to bring favorites back who will both bring in viewers and stir up the game, it’s simply not him. He doesn’t bring anything special that new solidly casted contestants will also bring.

7) Mike Borassi
Original Season: Survivor: Samoa (Season 19)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 10%

Mike was the oldest contestant in Samoa several years ago and is even older now. For this reason, he’s not likely to return.  Low blood pressure and fears of heart attacks also don’t exactly present him as someone ready to return to the game, giving it their all until the end to win that million dollars.

8) Gary “Papa Smurf” Stritesky
Original Season: Survivor: Fiji (Season 14)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 8%

Papa Smurf took a hard fall during a challenge, but his condition was aggravated by thousands of bug bites he received when not sleeping in the shelter. He was a nice guy with a fun nickname. But I don’t see him being that competitive or adding anything special to the game.

9) Bruce Kanegai
Original Season: Survivor: Panama (Season 12)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 5%

He has a freakin’ fan-made music video tribute on YouTube. Some people love him. He was certainly an interesting character, but a contestant who had already suffered several near-death experiences and called the pain he experienced on Survivor the most excruciating in his life will not likely get much chance at returning given he’ll be several years older this time around.

10) Kourtney Moon
Original Season: Survivor: One World (Season 24)
Odds of Returning to Survivor: Philippines – 1%

Why is Kourtney even below all the old men? Because she injured herself in a pretty simple challenge right of the bat. Bless her heart, but she had her fun for a couple days. She’s not adding a lot by coming back to the game other than being an easy target to be the first voted off her tribe. For this reason, despite her youth and spunk, she just doesn’t present much in the way of an exciting Survivor season. For this reason, she’s the least likely to return.

Conclusion: Ultimately, there are three spots for five potential returning contestants in my eyes. With Clement likely excluded due to having played three seasons already, that leaves us four. Colton’s a lock. Russell Swan is practically a lock. If Mike wanted to come back, he will. If for whatever reason he won’t (which would be tragic), expect Penner to give the game he loves so much one last try.

Until the fall, outwit, outplay, and outlast, friends.


Posted on by Joseph Williams in Featured, Reality Check, Television

7 Responses to Survivor: Philippines Odds & Analysis on Who Will Return

  1. nope

    actually, colton won’t be back (for this upcoming season). but the next three you’ve got listed are spot on!

  2. phuzE

    I think you’re wrong about Colton just judging from his weight on the reunion show (and the strongly-negative viewer reactions). I think it will be Michael, Russell S., and Penner.

  3. Bailey

    Even though we didn’t get to know Kourtney what so ever. I feel like she has an even chance just because she was the first and only female to be evacuated from the game, but after that, I don’t think she has a big shot at returning to the game. I want Colton and Mike to return and then I’m happy…

  4. Joe

    Just fyi if Penner came back it would not be his 2nd chance it would be his 3rd chance. He previously played in Cook Islands and went pretty far, so its hard for me to see him or James coming back since both had previous seasons where they weren’t medically evacuated. However, if it has to be between Penner and James I would much rather have Penner back, just tired of James.

  5. James

    I would really enjoy to see Penner come back and play one more time. To me, Penner has all ability to come into the game and win it, similar to a Boston Rob on Redemption Island. Just based on how Penner played on the Cook Islands and Micronesia, he is very savvy. It seems like 3 times is the limit for most players, and the only other person I can think of that played four times is Boston Rob. Bringing James back, I don’t think, would cause any stir as far as viewership goes. Penner, Mike, and Russell Swan make the most sense to me to come back.

  6. Joseph Williams

    Well, #1 was wrong (as was clearly pointed out to me due to his weight at the Reunion show and social media presence during filming of this upcoming season). BUT, #2, #3, and #4 are coming back! All three great players, but I’ve been waiting for more than a decade to have Mike Skupin back in the game! Rooting for him… ALL THE WAY!

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