'Survivor: Cagayan': New cast includes NBA All-Star Cliff Robinson
After a successful season of having former players compete with/against their loved ones on Blood vs. Water, Survivor will try another brand new concept when Survivor: Cagayan premieres with a two-hour episode on Feb. 26 at 8pm on CBS. This time, 18 contestants will be separated into three tribes: brawn, brains, and beauty. And while all of those contestants will be new players — marking only the third such all-newbie season in the past nine installments — one of the names may be familiar: former NBA All-Star (and recent visitor to North Korea as part of Dennis Rodman’s basketball troupe) Cliff Robinson.
Robinson played 18 seasons in the NBA for the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets — averaging over 14 points a game and making the playoffs every season but one (sorry, 2004). So how did he end up on Survivor? “He’s a fan of the show,” says host Jeff Probst, who in the past has also welcomed other professional athletes or coaches like Gary Hogeboom, Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Kent to compete on the reality hit. “There’s a common thread through all the former athletes and people that have been involved in sports like Jimmy Johnson, and it’s the competition. Jeff Kent talked about it a lot. He said, ‘This won’t define me, but it is something I want to try.’ Cliff was the same way. He made a lot of references during casting to the high he got from having to win in order to eat. He’d say, ‘Because if I don’t win, I might not be asked back, and if I’m not asked back I don’t make my money, and if I don’t make my money I don’t eat. So I have to win to eat.’ And that’s the essence of Survivor: You have to win to stick around.’”
Robinson — who, naturally, will be on the brawn tribe — is not the only figure from professional sports to appear on Survivor’s 28th season. Miami Marlins president David Samson will also be competing, even though that meant leaving his team in the middle of the season last summer to play (Survivor: Cagayan was filmed in July and August). “I was surprised that David could get away from his job while his team was still playing,” says Probst. “But he was definitive in his answer and very to the point: ‘I have it worked out. Next question.’ And that’s how he plays this game.” (Samson will be on the brains tribe).
The rest of the cast includes a pro poker player (brains tribe), a former Miss Kentucky Teen USA (we’ll let you guess what tribe she is on), a nuclear engineer (again, pretty obvious), two former NFL cheerleaders (one on brains, one on beauty), and two police officers (both on brawn). For a full cast list, see below.
The whole concept of brains, brawn, and beauty was something producers stumbled into late in the process of planning out season 28. “We didn’t really know until late in casting,” Probst tells EW. “We were deep into casting and loving everybody. It was very exciting. It’s the first time we’ve had all new players in a while. We were feeling really good. And it was actually [casting director] Lynne Spillman who came over as we were having something to eat and said, ‘I got an idea: What if we separate them into brains, brawn, and beauty?’ It was a pretty exciting moment because after 27 seasons, finding a new fresh way to continue the social experiment is not easy.”
Probst says part of the fun of the season comes from seeing how the players will react to the labels they are given. “The brawn tribe does get bumps and bruises, and if they need wood they just pull a tree down,” says Probst. “And the beauty tribe does sit around and bowl with coconuts and walk around in their underwear and talk about their haircuts or their latest modeling job, And the brains tribe, just as you would have expected, sits around talking about the greatest way to structure a shelter and where they should put it. And the funny part is watching each tribe have success or failure in their perceived expertise. The brains tribe does not necessarily have the best camp, but in talking to them, you would be certain that they did by the way they talk. And it’s interesting watching that play out and how much of that is because they really are the smart tribe and how much is that they believe they are the smart tribe because they’ve been told they are the smart tribe, so they start behaving as the smart tribe.”
Probst told EW back in December in his first comments about the season that going back to the all-new players concept was a nod to fans that asked for an installment with no returning players: “We listened to our fans. That was really it. They’ve been saying over and over, ‘We love the returning players, but we’d like to see a cast of new players.’ And that’s why we did it.” In another nod to old-school Survivor, there will be no Redemption Island this time around, so when players are voted out of the tribe, they are out of the game for good.
Click on the video below to see a special “booty shaking” Survivor: Cagayan cast preview. Below the video is a full Survivor: Cagayan cast list complete with photos of each tribe. Also make sure to check out our Survivor: Cagayan photo gallery for individual pictures and bios on all the contestants. And for year-round Survivor coverage, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
Beauty Tribe (a.k.a. Solana)
Miss Kentucky Teen USA
San Jose, Calif.
Brains Tribe (a.k.a. Luzon)
President, Miami Marlins
Santa Monica, Calif.
Pro Poker Player
Kassandra “Kass” McQuillen
Latasha “Tasha” Fox
St. Louis, Mo.
Brawn Tribe (a.k.a. Aparri)
Former NBA All-Star
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Jersey City, N.J.
Yung “Woo” Hwang
Newport Beach, Calif.
Martial Arts Instructor