Back in June, TV.com placed Price Peterson in a poorly ventilated cardboard box and mailed him to Samoa. For one thrilling, occasionally nightmarish week he explored the set of Survivor: South Pacific, interviewed the cast, and wrestled pumas to the ground (but mostly those first two things).
Hey, you guys. Quick question: What kind of people would willingly go on Survivor, and WHY would they do this to themselves? To answer my first rhetorical question, CBS has announced its list of castaways for the upcoming 23rd (!) season of Survivor. But hey guess what? Not to brag, but I've MET them. I've asked them questions. I've passed judgment on them. And I'll be real with you—they are just a bunch of nice people. There are no obvious crazies like Phillip or NaOnka. Disappointing, right? Don't shoot the messenger. (Maybe just put the crossbow away altogether?) However, there ARE some interesting folks, and here's what I think of them!
Dawn Meehan, 41
BYU English Professor
South Jordan, Utah
On paper: Married mother of six, college professor, and hardcore Survivor fan.
In person: After coming thisclose to making last year's cast, Dawn regrouped and spent ten months working out in the hopes of getting another chance to be on the show. Clearly elated at having reached her goal, Dawn cuts an intimidating figure—but now that's she's here it's not immediately clear whether her emotional strength will match her physical strength.
Odds of winning: 10:1. Unless Dawn can safely move between the younger and older players, she may quickly find herself an outsider.
Elyse Umemoto, 27Model/Dancer (2nd runner-up to Miss America)
Las Vegas, Nevada
On paper: Glamorous girlie-girl.
In person: Whipsmart, funny and—yeah—easy on the eyes, Elyse is a natural for this show. It's hard to imagine anyone not liking her... oh wait, except maybe for other ladies? Who knows? All I have to say is, there are worse people to share a secluded beach with. She's fun!
Odds of winning: 3:1. As long as Elyse can refrain from sassin' off too much, she'll probably go pretty far.
Sophie Clarke, 22Medical Student
Willsboro, New York
On paper: Brainy, sassy, dorky?
In person: Sophie walks like a jock but talks like a debater. She's the kind of person who, when asked why she cited Albert Schweitzer as her hero on her Survivor questionnaire, quickly admits that she Googled him at the last minute rather than leave the question blank. Sophie doesn't anticipate getting along with the prettier girls, but it seems likely she may become an audience favorite.
Odds of winning: 7:1. Sophie's extensive knowledge of Survivor could get her far, as long as she keeps a cool head around the cooler kids.
Whitney Duncan, 27Country Singer
On paper: Statuesque blonde country singer, fifth-place finisher on CMT's Nashville Star.
In person: It's tempting to write Whitney off as some kind of Nashville Barbie, but she comes across as pretty thoughtful and surprisingly wry. Very humble about her rising stardom in the music world, she competes on Survivor with the added stress of an ongoing family trauma—her cousin was abducted shortly before she left for Samoa.
Odds of winning: 4:1. Though young, Whitney's a veteran of the public eye and her show business experience should help her keep a level (and photogenic) head through the later rounds.
Stacey Powell, 44Mortician
Grand Prairie, Texas
On paper: A proud single mom with a morbid occupation.
In person: The most physically intimidating cast member (male or female), Stacey was cited by many castaways as the one person they were most put-off by—and that's without any of them having ever spoken with her. They were right, Stacey intimidated me too! That is, until she got comfortable with my nonsense questions and became the funniest interview I had all day. Now she is my favorite. Team Stacey!
Odds of winning: 30:1. Stacey tends to tell it like it is, which works in almost no situations.
Mikayla Wingle, 22Bartender/Lingerie Football Player (what?)
On paper: Hard-partying, sports-playing Playboy model.
In person: This lady's going places. Effortlessly personable and appealingly forthright, she'll be popular with both the men and women. Add to that a keen mind for strategy and we could be looking at a future All-Star here.
Odds of winning: 3:1. I'm not sure what Lingerie Football even IS, but in my opinion there's a decent chance Mikayla may get to retire her "jersey" when this season's done.
Christine Shields Markoski, 39Teacher
Merrick, New York
On paper: Tough-as-nails, driven schoolteacher.
In person: People in the olden days would've called Christine "one brassy broad." She's got 'tude! And a big heart: She repeatedly emphasized her anti-bullying stance, which is refreshing coming from a school teacher. (Haha just kidding, teachers!) Also, SPOILER ALERT (Sorry, CBS): If there's one thing you should know about Christine, it's that by day two of this game she had CORN ROWS.
Odds of winning: 12:1. Big personalities have a hard time making the jury, let alone winning.
Semhar Tadesse, 24Spoken-Word Artist
Los Angeles, California
On paper: Soulful, artsy, model type.
In person: The above are certainly true, but did you know she was once crowned Miss Eritrea? Not everybody can claim that! Plus Semhar's attitude is as cool as they come.
Odds of winning: 12:1. Semhar may be a lot of things, but rough 'n tumble she is not. Be careful out there, lady!
Edna Ma, 35Anesthesiologist/Entrepreneur
Los Angeles, California
On paper: An overachieving anesthesiologist with designs on world domination.
In person: Whiplashing between casual banter and laser-focused seriousness, Edna is inherently intimidating. Not to mention gutsy; before our interview even began she pitched me her new product, a scrotal numbing cream called Numb Nuts. (Why, I never!) But anyway, Edna's one to watch out for: Genius and unpredictability go really well together!
Odds of winning: 5:2. If she can fake her way through thirty days of human interaction, Edna has a real shot!
And now for the gents...You've met the ladies. Now it's time to meet the gentlemen! The non- Returning Veteran gentlemen, I mean. Uh-oh, did I just spoil the returning veterans' genders? No, I did not. Do the math! Anyway, here are my first impressions of this season's Survivormen. (Check back Wednesday for more on the returning players!)
Brandon Hantz, 19Oil Tankerman
In person: Soft-spoken and serious-minded, Brandon has a nice-guy attitude that's quickly thrown into question by the crazy tattoos he sports. At least a couple of them say "Hantz" or "BH," which may jeopardize his plans to keep his relationship to Russell Hantz a secret. Although Brandon seems to admire his uncle a great deal, he's pretty emphatic about not wanting to play like him.
Odds of winning: 3:1. Quiet and honorable, Brandon is immediately likeable. Hopefully his family tree won't jeopardize that!
Keith Tollefson, 26
On paper: Classic male model-esque midwestern surfer bro.
In person: Despite Keith's Bill and Ted affect, he comes across as more thoughtful than he looks. A survivor of some pretty serious health conditions, he's got a laid-back, humble attitude about life, and his biggest source of Survivor-related stress seems to be that his mom is about to find out about all his new tattoos.
Odds of winning: 5:1. Keith is a physical threat without being threatening, and people could easily underestimate his ability to strategize.
Jim Rice, 35Medical Marijuana Dispenser
On paper: A walking contradiction, Jim's a clean-cut overachiever with an MBA who's also a poker-playing operator of a medicinal marijuana dispensary.
In person: Incredibly smooth and persuasive, Jim's got a knack with language that few people could contend with. Especially these people.
Odds of winning: 2:1. Assuming he doesn't overthink his strategies, Jim's basically the one to beat, in my opinion.
Albert Destrade, 26High School Baseball Coach
On paper: The suave jock.
In person: Definitely a suave jock. First impression: verified. But he's also articulate and genuinely kind, and he makes the kind of intense eye contact that will either charm or repel people, depending on their moods. Also (LADIES) his Survivor uniform of choice is underwear.
Odds of winning: 10:1. Doesn't seem like much of a schemer.
John Cochran, 24Harvard Law Student
On paper: Ivy League wedgie magnet and Survivor superfan.
In person: Chatty, neurotic, and frequently hilarious, John (or "Cochran," as he asked Jeff Probst to call him) should have no problem becoming a fan favorite, assuming he can avoid talking himself into an early elimination.
Odds of winning: 20:1. Although people like John are just what this game needs, Survivor traditionally doesn't tend to favor the anxiety-prone.
Rick Nelson, 51Cattle Rancher
On paper: A 14-time applicant in a cowboy hat and an AWESOME mustache.
In person: Surprisingly sensitive, Rick doesn't seem the type to boss anyone around, let alone do any backstabbing. But it won't be hard for people to take a shine to him or his extremely agreeable personality.
Odds of winning: 10:1. Rick's appeal may get him as far as the merge, but it seems really likely that he'll fall victim to some ruthless player's evil plans.
Mark Caruso, 48Registered Nurse (Retired NYPD Morgue Detective)
Forest Hills, New York
On paper: Oh, nothing interesting about Mark—unless you count being an openly gay detective in the NYPD during 9/11 as interesting.
In person: Flirty, hilarious, and personable with a wicked sentimental streak, Mark will probably polarize cast members who may not know what to make of him. His preferred nickname during the game? Papa Bear. (Obviously.)
Odds of winning: 10:1. Mark has it in him to skate all the way to the end as long as he aligns himself with people who appreciate him.
Okay, YOUR TURN! Who are YOU rooting for?