‘Survivor: Philippines’: Jeff Probst defends Jonathan Penner, returnee casting

In lieu of doing our daily “Survivor: Philippines” castaway spotlight today (we’ll have the next entry tomorrow), we are instead going to put the focus on some new comments from Jeff Probst to Entertainment Weekly about an issue that we all care about pretty deeply — returning players.

Really, in some ways we find ourselves having a mixed opinion on this subject more often than not. Without returning players, “Fans vs. Favorites” and “Redemption Island” would have been terrible players — however, the ridiculous editing of such seasons with these players on them make new castaways feel like chopped liver, and it robs them of an opportunity to be as memorable as they otherwise could have been to viewers. If players came back maybe once out of every four seasons, it wouldn’t be such a problem — but instead, we’re seeing them return all of the time. In dating back to “Heroes vs. Villains,” four out of the past six seasons will end up having returnees as a part of the cast. If you add in the upcoming spring season (rumored to have more returning players), that brings the number to a shocking 5 out of 7.

In the following quote by Probst to the aforementioned publication, Jeff tries to justify the inclusion of third-time player Jonathan Penner on the cast this time (especially one featuring evacuated players) with a simple argument, one that he could make for any castaway coming back into the game — it’s what the viewers want:

“No, I don’t think there’s anything to Penner being a little bit of cheat [by coming back again] … He was medically evacuated and he’s getting a second chance. You could say he’s getting a third chance. I understand, yes. See, I never look at it that way. This is how I look at it: I’ve been taught by Mark Burnett. I look at it this way: What does the audience want? Then you justify it. And I think the audience has proven that they like people coming back.”

While many of us diehard “Survivor” fans may cry and moan about it, the truth is that the numbers back up Jeff’s claims — “Survivor: One World” was the lowest-rated season ever, and it actually had a great winner and some good blindsides. The problem? It didn’t have any huge characters outside of Troyzan, Alicia, and Tarzan — a move that producers seem to be arguing as the justification for returning players. Ratings matter more than the opinion of the diehard fan, and we must remember that.

Do you think that returning players are a good thing for “Survivor’s” ratings, but bad news for the quality of the show? As contradictory as that may sound, we want to hear your thoughts below. You can also check out our most recent castaway spotlight at this link.

Photo: CBS

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