If Survivor: Redemption Island's returning Castaways, Boston Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz, were archenemies, this season's veterans are brothers in arms.
Fan favorites Ozzy Lusth and Coach Ben Wade were announced today as the final two players rounding out the 18-member cast of Survivor: South Pacific. Ozzy joins the red Savaii tribe, while Coach's Upolo tribemates include Brandon Hantz—nephew of Russell, who engineered Coach's ouster from Heroes vs. Villains.
It is the third appearance for both Castaways. After introducing us to the way of the warrior in Tocantins, a more sensitive Coach was betrayed by his tribe once again on Heroes vs. Villains. Ozzy's second time at the game was even more ignominious: Following his second-place finish in Cook Islands, the game's most agile athlete was blindsided (after leaving his Immunity Idol back at camp) on Micronesia by Black Widow Queen Parvati, the season's champ.
While the announcement should surprise no one who uses Google, the veteran adversaries' strategy may raise a few eyebrows.
Could the Dragon Slayer really resurrect his Warriors Alliance—with his opponent?
Seeing his South Pacific rival returnee was love at first sight for Coach. "So I look across the beach and see Ozzy and I think, Oh man, this is going to be good," he told us before the game in Samoa. "I've characteristically been known for wanting to take the strongest people to the end. So when I see a great competitor on the other side of the fence, it's awesome. He's one of the best challengers ever in Survivor history. It's gonna be great If we both get to the merge—I want to go all the way with him. I'll talk to him and say, 'Man, let's run this game together.' "
He'll have a willing partner. "I think that Coach and I can really help each other in this game," Ozzy told us. "I think if he sees my way, or we see eye to eye, we can make it [past the merge] to play together...we can help each other dramatically."
With last season's Redemption Island twist in play again, the seasoned Castaways—especially challenge dominator Ozzy—might just shed that huge target on their backs.
"I couldn't ask for a better twist," Ozzy told us about Redemption Island, where ousted players are sent to duel for an opportunity to stay in the game. "I can be out there by myself and sort of usher in people, beat them and let them go. I would rather be playing the real game, the classic game of Survivor, [but] it's a chance to have a second chance. This is going to be my third chance having a second chance."
"I think I'll make it to the merge," Coach said confidently (of course). After they were both voted out of Heroes vs. Villains, Coach said tribemate Courtney [Yates] told him, "Why weren't you like this in the game? You never would've got voted off." Coach realizes now, he says, "I've always been like this—a high-intense, focused individual—and when I'm like that I tend to lose sight of what's going on around me. I'm not gonna do that this time."
Ozzy also vows to avoid distractions this season—like his romance with Amanda Kimmel during Micronesia ("making little Ozzlets," Cirie Fields famously snarked). "I don't think having a romance on Survivor, unless you're Rob and Amber, is really possible. It also makes you stupid. That's what happened to me last time: My head was in another place, and I wasn't aware of all the signs that told me that I needed to keep my eye on Parvati...I want to play with my heart, but I should probably be using my head a little more."
Coach isn't worried about what others think. "My life is so happy—I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I don't care if people love me or hate me. I'm out here for myself this time and to have another adventure of a lifetime. Are you going to see a little more of the Dragon Slayer this time? Oh yeah."
Will Coach be introducing us to any other Ben Wade personalities? "Coach and the Dragon Slayer are pretty ingrained in people's minds and I think that trying to 'reinvent' myself at this point would probably be counterproductive," Coach told us. "But I do want the Maestro to come out." The part-time conductor explained: "In an orchestra, you tell people what to do, but it's more blending them together...to lead these people as an orchestra is going to be how I approach the game."
Take it away, Maestro!
Are you Team Ozzy or Team Dragon Slayer Maestro? Are you hoping they'll team up in a new warrior alliance, or would you rather see a newbie win the title of Sole Survivor? Sound off in the comments!