Well, this should be fun.
CBS has released the first details of Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance, and the season sure looks like a winner.
By and large, America got it right, although the omission of Survivor: Africa’s Teresa Cooper was a heartbreaker.
Still, multiple sources have told PEOPLE that the season turned out to be one of the franchise’s strongest in its 31-season history. Here’s what to expect:
PEOPLE spoke to the contestants while they were sequestered in Los Angeles before the season began. They already had their game faces on – and were prepared to swing for the fences.
“Everyone’s trying to catch everyone’s eye,” contestant Jeff Varner told PEOPLE on the day before the cast flew to Cambodia. “You have no idea what people are trying to get away with.” (Varner even told PEOPLE about two contestants – who shall remain nameless – who were busted trying to talk before the game began.)
As for his own plans, Varner said he had very few rules, except to enjoy himself. “Oh, I’m going to lie my head off,” he said. “I’m just going to stir up drama and tell the biggest lies I can think of. I’m going to have fun with this.”
Kass McQuillen, the scheming attorney who finished Survivor: Cagayan in third place, spent the entire time in sequester reading How to Win Friends and Influence People – visibly, so everyone else could see her. Although she was the contestant that most others said they would target early, McQuillen was ready for battle. “I’ve been preparing,” she joked to PEOPLE. “I’ve even learned how to twerk.”
Contestant Andrew Savage, who is a social friend of host Jeff Probst, assured PEOPLE that there would be no favoritism on the season. “Jeff is committed to Survivor,” he said. “If anything, he’s going to be stricter on me than on others, just so it doesn’t come across that he’s favoring me. Jeff loves Survivor a lot more than he loves me!”
PEOPLE’s own Stephen Fishbach was showing his pregame jitters. “I’m so nervous,” he explained. “I’ve put myself out there as a know-it-all. I have a lot to lose if I go home first!” (Note to Stephen: You still write for PEOPLE, so you can totally have the last word if they vote you out.)
Terry Dietz, who dominated the challenges in Survivor: Panama had a plan for victory. “Last time, I relied on my challenge abilities, but I’m 55 now,” he said. “So I’ll have to play a social game. I made a lot of mistakes when I played, almost 10 years ago. That means I’ve had 10 years to think it through and analyze what I did wrong.
Brutal Conditions and Unexpected Twists
Survivor has always done a masterful job of introducing twists that keep the contestants on their toes.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the immunity idols will be hidden in the middle of challenges – and will not be consistent in their appearance. Some will look professional; others will look homemade, leading contestants to question whether they’re valid idols or not.
Cambodia provided a harsh setting for the game, with weather and illness issues – not to mention some of the most brutal challenges in the show’s history.
Additionally, CBS says that there will be a battle for dominance between the contestants from older seasons versus the newer contestants.
Keep this in mind: When Kelly Wiglesworth last played the game, Bill Clinton was President. She’s playing this season against 23-year-old Spencer Bledsoe. When Wiglesworth played the game last, Bledsoe was 7.
Swinging for the Fences
Still, the 20 contestants were ready to play the game hard from day one.
“It’s an open chapter of my life,” Wiglesworth told PEOPLE before competing. “I want to go out there, play really hard and finish the chapter. I’ll form an alliance, and I’ll make it work for me.”
Added Bledsoe, “I’m open to aligning with anyone, but I know it’s not going to be easy this time. They’re going to make it really hard on us. Whoever wins the game will earn it.”
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Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance returns to CBS on Sept. 23.