‘Survivor: Redemption Island’ pits evil against evil

Survivor,” the show that launched the reality competition craze, returned Wednesday night with its 22nd installment. “Survivor” is back on the shores of Nicaragua once more but with a game-changing new twist.

After each contestant is voted off, they’ll be sent to Redemption Island, where they wait for the next castaway whose torch is extinguished. Then, the two rejects engage in head-to-head battle, with only the victor remaining on the island to face the next castoff. Later in the season, the ultimate Redemption champion will return to the show as a full-fledged player hoping to win the $1 million prize.

Beyond this exciting new element, this new season of “Survivor” should sizzle with a rematch between Uber-villains “Boston Rob” Mariano and Russell Hantz who first clashed on last spring’s “Heroes vs. Villains” installment. Back then, Rob was voted out early with Russell leading the alliance against him.

This time around, Rob and Russell, who are starting out on opposing tribes, enter the game at a serious disadvantage. Their devious ways of playing the game are well-known by the other contestants. They will have to convince their fellow tribespeople to disregard their ways of old and trust them. Should that fail, one of them could still fight their way back into the game by winning all of the challenges on Redemption Island.

Based on the premiere episode, this season has all of the makings to be a serious Emmy contender in the Reality Competition category. There’s the ongoing battle between good and evil accompanied by backstabbing and betrayal with an epic showdown in the making.

“Survivor” has been a four time also-ran (2003 to 2006) for Best Reality Competition series, losing each bid to “The Amazing Race.” While last year’s “Heroes vs. Villains” revitalized the franchise, “Survivor” was snubbed by Emmy voters for the fourth year in a row. Prior to the creation of this category in 2003, “Survivor” did win in the catch-all Outstanding Special Class Program category.

Although the show has been shut out of the Emmy race since 2006, host Jeff Probst has owned the Best Reality/Reality Competiton Host award since it was created in 2008. He’s a shoo-in to be nominated again this year, but will the show make the cut, or has its Emmy glow been forever snuffed out by the television academy?

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