A 1980s sitcom star and a major league baseball MVP will join 13 other new players — as well as three returning ones — when Survivor: Philippines premieres on CBS with a special 90-minute episode at 8 p.m. ET on Sept. 19.
Lisa Whelchel, best known as Blair Warner from The Facts of Life, will do something that preppy Blair never would have considered by volunteering to spend up to 39 days on a remote island. A huge Survivor fan, Whelchel openly campaigned to be on the show, and calls the chance to outwit, outplay and outlast a dream come true. “I’ve watched it from the very first episode, and had Survivor parties with my family,” Whelchel told EW on location before the game started. “A friend of mine said, ‘Let’s just film a little iPhone video of you and you can put it on your Twitter and ask all your followers to retweet it. And maybe they’ll contact you and know you want to be on the show.’ And that’s what happened!”
Whelchel even has a strategy on how to deal with her famous past. “I’m not going to volunteer it, but at the same time, even though there are a lot of young people and I’m sure they have no idea who Blair Warner is, there are some older people and even if only one knows it certainly will get around, so I won’t deny it.”
But Whelchel is not the only famous face that will be new to the island this year. Former National League Most Valuable Player Jeff Kent — another longtime fan — will also be playing for the million dollars. And he plans to bring that same fiery competitiveness he was known for in baseball to the island. “I’ve got a chip on my shoulder,” Kent said before the game began. “I hate to lose.” Like Whelchel, Kent is keeping his fingers crossed that his fellow players will be unaware of his athletic accomplishments. “You know, there are not many tall white guys with mustaches walking around still these days. I’m hoping my reputation’s not big enough that these people know who I am.”
The other new players include two beauty pageant winners (Miss Delaware and a Miss Teen Utah), a seminary student, and a sex therapist (see full list below, under the video player). The 15 newbies will be divided into three tribes — each of which will also welcome a returning player who was medically evacuated from a previous season. (The returning players will be revealed later this week.)
When it comes to other twists, the Do It Yourself challenges from last season will not be making a repeat appearance, and there will be a new wrinkle to the first hidden immunity idols. “They are hidden in plain sight,” says host Jeff Probst. “There’s actually a clue at the bottom of a rice jar that says, ‘The idol is hidden in plain sight. In fact, it’s right under your nose.’ And if they take the top of the rice tin off, they would find that is the idol. The top of the rice tin is the idol.” Sneaky!
As for the location in the Philippines, it was an edict from executive producer Mark Burnett that led to the show going to the Caramoan Islands for it’s 25th (and 26th) season. “It actually came as a slam-down from Burnett,” says Probst, “who said, ‘Get us back in the water.’ So we’re here in the Philippines, which is vintage Survivor, and I love it.” The location means an opportunity for challenges that can take place out in deep water — something the show has lacked since back in season 16 (Survivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites).
A full list of the new cast members, as well as video interviews with all 15 newbies (including Whelchel and Kent) can be found below. Also, make sure to check out our photo gallery of the new cast, complete with quotes and observations on each. And for more Survivor news and views all season long, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
The new cast of Survivor: Philippines:
Silver Spring, Md.
Former Miss Delaware
Former baseball MVP
Los Angeles, Calif.
Roberta “R.C.” Saint-Armour
New York, N.Y.
Terry Town, La.
Former “Facts of Life” Actress
Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Roxanne “Roxy” Morris
Cedar Rapids, Iowa