The 26th season of Survivor will be the ultimate “Redemption Island” for ten returning contestants who will face off against ten newcomers on Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites.
A few of the returning contestants caught up with PEOPLE just before starting their “adventure of a lifetime” … once again.
Malcolm Freberg, the Frequent Flyer
Less than three weeks after returning from filming Survivor: Philippines, Freberg was headed back out to the wilderness for a second shot at the $1 million dollar prize.
“My mental strategy has been to just not unwind,” Freberg told PEOPLE during his short time in the U.S. between seasons. “I’m at the grocery store and someone will ask me a simple question and I’m thinking, ‘What does he mean by that?’ You don’t trust anyone.”
Freberg, 25, was a force in challenges and a charismatic player on Philippines, where he placed fourth. But in the Caramoan Islands, he will face off against returning players and fans who will not have had the opportunity to watch his season.
“I’m like the new kid on the block. I’m a wildcard and there is a stigma attached to being the guy that nobody knows anything about,” said Freberg, who ate a large amount of sweets and drank plenty of beer while home in hopes of re-gaining the weight he lost while in the Philippines.
Brandon Hantz, the Repentant Liar
While his super-villain uncle Russell Hantz will not be back to play Survivor for a fourth time, Brandon returns to the game with a new mentality after cracking under the pressures of trying to reconcile his faith with strategy on Survivor: South Pacific.
“I was an emotional wreck when I played [the first time],” said Brandon, who placed sixth in 2011. “But now I’ve done it one time already, which created callouses as far as emotions are concerned. [Before] I didn’t know that I didn’t have to live a life like a monk. Now I know this game is not going to change my relationship with God.”
Brandon, 21, will be reunited with his South Pacific castmates Dawn Meehan and John Cochran, but he does not expect previous relationships to cloud his judgment.
“It’s pretty cool to have friends in the cast but to an extent, that goes out the window for me,” he said. “Hopefully not for them, though. Hopefully they keep [their friendship with me] intact.”
Phillip Sheppard, The Rogue "Agent"
As a contestant on Survivor: Redemption Island, Sheppard became notorious for wearing a feather in his headband, his pink underwear and his abrasive antics that left his tribemates uncomfortable – but the so-called “former federal agent” would not have his competitors see it any other way.
“I will give them a little sample of the Phillip they saw play [on Redemption Island] to make them feel like they can control me,” said Sheppard, who made it to the finals alongside Redemption Island winner Rob Mariano in 2011. “But I will be in control. I will win this season.”
Sheppard, 54, will be joined by his former Redemption Island tribemates Andrea Boehlke and Francesca Hogi, the only returning player to have been eliminated at the first tribal council.
“It would be funny if Francesca and I could come together and make everybody believe she hates me and I hate her and we ran the season,” Sheppard said of possibly teaming up with his former tribemate, whose name he was never able to pronounce correctly. “I don’t think it will happen but that would be fun.”
Also joining the tribe of Favorites will be Gabon‘s Corrine Kaplan and Nicaragua‘s Brenda Lowe, who could team up and convince the final returning player, Micronesia‘s Erik Reichenbach, to give up his immunity necklace for a second time.
Survivor: Caramoan premieres Feb. 13 on CBS.