By People Staff
January 07, 2010 12:00 AM

“It is not in my power to offer you a greater gift than one which… will enable you to understand all that I have learned in so many years, and with much difficulty and danger.” — Machiavelli, The Prince

As soon as they step off the island, almost every Survivor dreams of going back. If they tell you otherwise, they’re probably lying. Losers want revenge or redemption; winners want a return to their triumph. In some sick variation of Stockholm Syndrome, past players can’t wait to starve, betray and blindside once again.

Heroes vs. Villains offers 20 lucky bastards another chance. Personally, I’m not sure the labels fit. The preview at the end of Samoa said that the Villains were chosen for their skills in “deception, manipulation, and duplicity.” Really, Jeff Probst? What sly strategies did Coach put into play? I’m also a little disappointed that major players like the Amazon’s Rob Cesternino, China’s Todd Herzog, and TocantinsStephen Fishbach were overlooked.

Meet the entire cast of Heroes vs. Villains!

As for the Heroes, who are allegedly “defined by their decisions of integrity, courage and honor” — wasn’t Amanda as devious as Parvati? Isn’t Cirie the most subtle and manipulative person out there? And why is there nobody from season 1 on this cast?

The Heroes also seem to have major firepower advantage. Can you really see a team with Sandra and Randy standing up to Stephenie and Colby? Hopefully the producers have some twists up their sleeves or a tribe swap that will even out the teams.

In the original All-Stars, the players thought that the strategies that worked so well for them the first time around would pan out just fine again. Hatch was ready to move his chess pieces across the board. Ethan would play with integrity. A few smart players like Kathy O’Brien resolved to roll with the punches.

But they all were blown out of the water by Boston Rob’s no-holds-barred attitude that swept aside past ideas about loyalty and who “deserved” to play the game.

Does that sound familiar? Multiplatinum Fishy artist Russell Hantz now has his second chance to prove he’s the greatest Survivor ever. And he’s got one enormous advantage in addition to his seemingly God-given ability to dominate the game. Nobody has seen him play. All of his sock-burning, idol-finding and blindsiding only aired well after the All-Stars left for Samoa.

He’ll also be coming straight out of the game. Colby and Jerri Manthey haven’t played Survivor in five years. Do they even know what an immunity idol is? Russell only had two weeks between seasons 19 and 20. That means his body will be better adjusted to starvation and his mind will be sharper for scheming.

My former cohort JT also starts off the game in a great position. Putting JT on a tribe with Rupert, Colby and James almost isn’t fair. It’s like asking the fox to team up with the hens. His aw-shucks demeanor and country boy image will lull the Heroes into safety while he readies his knives for their backs. The only big strategic threat on that tribe is Cirie; I hope he eliminates her first.

Whatever happens, I’m as excited as heck to watch the blowout begin. First, though, I should make my biases clear. I’m dating villainess Courtney Yates. JT is my best friend. And I have a strategy crush on Russell.

That said, I’ll try to remain as fair as I can. If JT makes a blunder, I’ll call him on it. If Courtney screws up… well, I probably won’t say anything so she doesn’t dismember me with a kitchen knife.

I’ve tried to avoid all spoilers, and I’m going to do my best to ignore what little I’ve heard. But I will say that I’ve heard Tyson is finally looking to buy that Man Tiara. — Stephen Fishbach

Tell Us: What do you think of the cast? Who are you rooting for? Who do you think can take it all? Who will be the first booted?Rob Kim/Landov