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When Russell Swan got the call from CBS asking if he’d like to return to Survivor for another shot at the $1 million prize, there was no hesitation on his part.
“My instant reaction was, ‘When do we go?'” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “But my other reaction was ‘OK, wait a minute dude, this almost killed you. Do you really want to go back into the teeth of this thing that almost killed you?’ It was this really weird, schizophrenic reaction: I had to go, but I was fearful to go.”
Swan said his desire to return was so strong that he told his wife that he was going no matter what, which later left him feeling “bad” about not talking it over with her.
Swan is one of three past contestants returning to the show for its 25th season, dubbed Survivor: Philippines, all of whom were medically evacuated on previous seasons (the others are Michael Skupin and Jonathan Penner). Swan became unconscious as a result of dehydration during a challenge on Survivor: Samoa, the show’s 19th season.
“This season is going to be bananas,” he added, saying that viewers who have complained about the show’s lack of water-based challenges in recent seasons will be satisfied. He also said the move to split the contestants into three tribes for the first time in several seasons made for some intriguing gameplay.
“This whole three-tribe thing, three different returning players, all with their own egos and issues and perspectives, it’s going to be a very, very interesting season,” he said.
Swan said he doesn’t remember much of the day he was removed from the Samoa edition but said it was disappointing after having applied for the competition eight times, especially since he was “kicking butt” at the time. While he was elected tribe leader the first time around — which can sometimes be a death blow in the game — his strategy the second time out was to keep a lower profile and observe his fellow competitors.
“I knew that I was going to have a huge target on my back,” he said. “What I was hoping was that because I had experience playing before, that would work to my advantage. … My strategy was to just go with the flow. See who you’ve got. Look at what the tribe looks like. Look at what the dynamics are, intra- and inter-tribe, and just go from there.”
Swan said one aspect of the game that is challenging for him is “dealing with people who are very different than yourself,” saying that minorities often are less successful in the game.
“Culturally, psychologically, spiritually, they are just so different from my urban, African-American experience,” he said. “I don’t know about Crosby, Stills and Nash. Don’t ask me about Friends. … I don’t do what. That’s not what brothers do. But you’re always glad that you push your boundaries, be it physical or social … and it helps you to grow.”
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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