"Survivor" creator Mark Burnett, Emmy-winning host Jeff Probst and casting director Lynne Spillman stared at the 301 past "Survivor" cast cards in front of them. After 10 years and 19 cycles, they knew they wanted to celebrate the show's 20th season by inviting former castaways to compete again, but how could they make it distinct?
There had already been an "All-Stars" season, and the 16th iteration pitted some of the CBS show's biggest fans against favorite players. Burnett liked to think of his castaways in terms of good guys and bad guys, so they lined up the cards to see the possibilities. They seemed endless.
"We all agreed we couldn't do 'All-Stars 2,'" Burnett said. "But 'Heroes vs. Villains' is a one-sentence sell because there are people who played the game in very different ways. So this became the best way for us to celebrate a decade - 20 seasons - with these people coming back in the groupings in which they played the game. Will they stay in those roles? Or will they change?"
On the "Heroes" tribe are Rupert Boneham ("Pearl Islands" and "All-Stars"), James Clement ("China" and "Fans vs. Favorites"), Colby Donaldson ("Australia" and "All-Stars"), Cirie Fields ("Panama" and "Fans vs. Favorites"), Amanda Kimmel ("China" and "Fans vs. Favorites"), Jessica "Sugar" Kiper ("Gabon"), Stephenie LaGrossa ("Palau" and "Guatemala"), James "JT" Thomas Jr. ("Tocantins"), Tom Westman ("Palau") and Candice Woodcock ("Cook Islands").
The "Villains" are: Tyson Apostol ("Tocantins"), Randy Bailey ("Gabon"), Sandra Diaz-Twine ("Pearl Islands"), Danielle DiLorenzo ("Panama"), Jerri Manthey ("Australia" and "All-Stars"), Rob Mariano ("Marquesas" and "All-Stars"), Parvati Shallow ("Cook Islands" and "Fans vs. Favorites"), Benjamin "Coach" Wade ("Tocantins"), Courtney Yates ("China") and, of course, Russell Hantz ("Samoa").
"All of the memorable players are either a hero or a villain," said Probst, who is also an executive producer. "There's nobody that you remember that you just go 'eh.' You either loved him or you hated him. So in a sense 'Survivor' as a celebration of 20 seasons is a celebration of what our show really is - either people who are heroic or people who are villains. And sometimes people would argue one or the other."