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A Miss USA competitor, two former NFL players, and an Iraq war veteran are among the contestants who will be playing for $1 million when Survivor: Redemption Island premieres Wednesday, February 16 on CBS. But the most famous faces competing have yet to be announced, as two former players will once again be returning to the game, bringing the total contestant count to 18. (Their identities will be revealed later in the week.) This will not be the first time that two former players have come back to lead their tribes into battle: Stephenie LaGrossa and Bobby Jon Drinkard of Survivor: Palau returned for the Guatemala season, with LaGrossa making it all the way to the final two (where she lost to Danni Boatwright).

As for the 16 newcomers, they do not include 2009 Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean — who, like MMA fighter Kimbo Slice, was erroneously reported online as being part of the cast — but another 2009 Miss USA competitor, Ashley Underwood (Miss Maine), did make the cut. And a few of the other cast members do have connections to previous Survivors: Steve Wright used to play football on the Dallas Cowboys with Survivor: Guatemala‘s Gary Hogeboom, while Grant Mattos (another former NFL player) was encouraged to compete by his good friend Natalie Bolton (Survivor: Micronesia). Other contestants with notable pasts include Mike Chisel, who saw combat in Iraq, and Krista Klumpp, who was the head cheerleader at Auburn University.

In addition to the two returning players (who will each end up on a tribe after a drawing of concealed buffs), the other big twist to season 22 of Survivor is the addition of Redemption Island, where players are sent after being voted off and compete in duels for a chance to reenter the game at a later point. “We have all our duels laid out,” host Jeff Probst told EW.com while on location in Nicaragua just moments after filming began on the season. “Luck of the draw which one you get. Depends what time you’re at Redemption Island. Some will be a little tougher. Some will be puzzle based.” Unlike the hotly debated Outcasts twist of Pearl Islands, this time contestants will be informed of the twist at the very start of the season, and the people voted off and hoping to return will be stuck in the same conditions with the same supplies as everyone else (meaning no advantage in being able to refuel and recharge).

Filmed on the same beaches as those used for Survivor: Nicaragua, the season begins with the contestants (along with Probst) being delivered to their destination in style. “We came in on a Mil-17, ” says Probst, “which is a Russian helicopter that is owned by the Nicaraguan air force, and that was one of the baddest rides that I’ve ever had. It is a huge machine. You can’t hear a thing when you’re up there.”

For exclusive video interviews and footage of each contestant, check out the video player below. (The full list of Survivor: Redemption Island contestants is below the video player.) Also make sure to view our photo gallery of the new cast, with quotes from each. Finally, for Survivor news, views, and reviews all season long, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.

EW.com
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