In the game of “Survivor,” fire represents life, as host Jeff Probst is always happy to point out. But in “Survivor: The Australian Outback,” the second season of the CBS reality series, fire very nearly represented death for Michael Skupin, who was medically evacuated from the game after severely burning his hands in a fire.
Now, more than 10 years since the 2001 accident, the fan-favorite boar-hunter is ready to rise from the ashes to compete on “Survivor” once again. Skupin, the first contestant to ever leave the game for medical reasons, will join two other previously evacuated players — Jonathan Penner and Russell Swan — in the show’s upcoming 25th season, set in the Philippines.
“For 22 seasons I’ve thought about playing this game again,” Skupin told EW.com about rejoining the “Survivor” cast. “I’m not here because I fell in the fire or to prove to the world anything … I’m here to play the game again, from start to finish. This will be a whole new adventure for me.”
Even all these years later, Skupin’s accident remains one of the most iconic moments in “Survivor” history. But even his brush with death takes second place to the horrors Russell Swan endured during “Survivor: Samoa,” when he lost consciousness during a challenge. It’s a moment that Probst has identified as the scariest moment in “Survivor” history.
“That situation broke me,” Swan told EW. “I’ve had challenges in my life before, but nothing like that. It challenged the very core of who I was.”
Now, both Swan and Skupin will have their second shot at redemption as they return to “Survivor.” For Penner, it’s his third attempt at the Sole Survivor title; he was voted out after multiple failed power plays during “Cook Islands,” then played the game again for six episodes of “Fans vs Favorites,” before leaving due to a knee injury.
The three returning players will go up against 15 newcomers including baseball MVP Jeff Kent and “Facts of Life” star Lisa Whelchel . “Survivor: Philippines” debuts on September 19.
What do you think of the returning Survivors? Let us know in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!