'Survivor: Philippines': Michael Skupin Says the Contestants Endure More 'Suffering' Than Ever Before (Video)
He also tells THR that bringing back the three-tribe concept was "brilliant" and led to the formation of even more alliances: "You never know what's going on."
Michael Skupin had one of the most memorable exits over the past 24 seasons of Survivor.
In season two of the CBS show, subtitled The Australian Outback, he fell into a campfire and burned his hands. Viewers saw his skin peeling off as he dunked his hands underwater, moaning in pain, before he was forced to quit the game to seek medical treatment.
Now, Skupin -- along with Russell Swan and Jonathan Penner -- is back for another shot at the $1 million prize on Survivor: Philippines.
"I had gotten calls over the last 11 or 12 years about doing it again ... and somehow the trigger just never got pulled," he told The Hollywood Reporter.
So when he was contacted again for season 25, he didn't believe it would actually happen. He said he wasn't certain he was going to be part of the cast even after flying to the Philippines.
"Until I actually put my toes in the sand, I wasn't sure I was actually going to play again," he said.
It's been 11 years since Skupin's original season, but he said the new twists that have been introduced since then -- like the hidden immunity idol -- weren't a concern for him.
"I didn't worry that the game had evolved past me from a twist standpoint," he said. "I worried if it had evolved past me from the perspective of, it took me a week to form my tight alliance out there [the first time]. They form alliances before they say hello today. It's, 'Do you want to form an alliances, and by the way, what's your name?' You gotta make a selection pretty quickly, and if you don't, you're gone."
One twist reintroduced this season after several years was having three tribes instead of the usual two. It's an aspect that Skupin thinks the show should keep, especially from a viewer's standpoint.
"[Having] three tribes is brilliant," he says. "We all competed in sports, and it's one team against another. Survivor, one team against another. So this time, you have to watch your front and your back -- and your side. The dynamic of three tribes and the alliances and the sub-alliances and the sub-sub-alliances on all three tribes -- you never know what's going on."
Skupin also reveals that weather is a "gigantic factor" in the upcoming season and says that the competitors' living conditions were harder than before.
"They brought the suffering back," he said. "Those viewers that say, 'They don't suffer as much ... they never complain about food ...' If suffering equals viewership, the viewers are going to be very pleased because it's game on in a way that I haven't seen even back in my season."
As for the incident that forced him out of Survivor the first time, Skupin said it took a year of treatment for his hands to fully heal from the burns. He spent 10 days in the intensive care unit and underwent occupational and physical therapy.
"And, fortunately, with the power of prayer, I got my hands back, and I'm grateful for that," he said.
Survivor: Philippines premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday with a 90-minute episode. The cast also includes former Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel, former Major League Baseball star Jeff Kent and two beauty pageant queens: former Miss Delaware Katie Hanson and former Miss Utah Teen Angie Layton.
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