SURVIVOR: SOUTH PACIFIC Kneeling/seated: John Cochran, Elyse Umemoto, Mikayla Wingle, Albert Destrade
Back row: Dawn Meehan, Keith Tollefson, Semhar Tadesse, Mark-Anthony Caruso, Whitney Duncan, Jim Rice, Sophie Clarke, Edna Ma, Rick Nelson, Christine Shields Markoski, Stacey Powell, Brandon Hantz
Dance Team Manager
Hometown: Las Vegas
Like many a Survivor contestant before her, Elyse comes from the pageant world, where she was crowned Miss Washington in 2007 and was the second runner-up to Miss America. (Unlike the others, however, she encountered controversy when some mildly racy party photos surfaced online.) Elyse also already has reality show experience, appearing on TLC’s Miss America: Reality Check. But she says there’s more to her than her background in beauty. ”I like to call myself a tall glass of contradiction. I’m a total dichotomy. I’m such an academic, but was also captain of the cheer squad. I was born and raised in the church, and now perform and live in Las Vegas. There are two very different sides of me.”
Oil Tanker Crewman
Hometown: Katy, Tex.
Just when you thought Survivor was finally done with Russell Hantz, along comes his nephew Brandon. And Brandon is on a mission to show that there is a much different side to the Hantz family. What side might that be? ”It’s loyal. It’s courageous. It’s kind of like a golden retriever,” says Brandon. ”I want to show that we have morals and values and we have a standard in the Hantz family.” So what kind of advice did Uncle Russell give him? ”Pretty much to stay calm. If somebody tries to get in my face, to not lose my temper. Other than that, he knows I’m a nice guy to be around, and as long as I keep my cool, it’s going to be smooth sailing.”
The country singer and fifth-place finisher on season 5 of Nashville Star has no concerns about putting her life back on camera. ”I’m an open book. I always speak my mind. My fans know me already. They know my personality. This is a game, so there probably will be some characteristics that have to come out that aren’t necessarily awesome. I mean, you take food away from me for a couple of weeks and there is no telling what I’ll say or do, honestly.” The real question is what she will say and do if someone in the game recognizes her. She could get Hogeboomed!
Hometown: Plantation, Fla.
This former dating coach was initially recruited for The Amazing Race but ended up on the island instead, and it will be worth keeping an eye on how he does in the elements. ”I work outdoors, but I’m not an outdoorsman by any stretch of the imagination,” he admits. ”I’m not very handy. I’m a little spooked by animals and things like that, to be honest with you.” Uh-oh. But Albert is a smooth talker and physical force, making him a real threat to win it all.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Edna actually originally applied to be on Shark Tank, where she could hawk her BareEase ouchless hair-removal prep cream (she also has a similar product for men called — wait for it — Numb Nuts), but was funneled over to Survivor. However, she has no plans to tell anyone about her day job as an anesthesiologist. ”Historically, Survivor has never granted anybody with a medical degree a million dollars. There’s a perception that doctors are rolling around in cash. Certainly not my situation. So I will be omitting that from my game plan.”
Harvard Law Student
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Allow the Woody Allen-ish Harvard law student (who five minutes into the game instructs Probst to refer to him by his last name only) to tell you why he’s destined to take home the title. ”I will win Survivor because I am a student of the game, unlike any other player that’s played the game before. I’ve never missed a single episode. I used to do a newsletter in high school and wear a buff around my arm every Thursday, now it would be Wednesday. My senior yearbook picture was me wearing three buffs, two around my arm and one around my forehead, and a Survivor T-shirt. This has been ingrained in me for 11 years. This is the culmination of a lot of obsession.” And how!
Christine Shields Markoski
Hometown: Merrick, N.Y.
The feisty New Yorker may have the best story ever for how she ended up being cast on Survivor. ”I ended up on this show because I was angry,” Christine explains. ”At NaOnka and Purple Kelly. I sent in the video, yelling. I told the casting people that they suck at their job and should be fired, and if I did my job as poorly as they did, I would be fired.” More like fired up. Anyhow, it worked! Anything about the experience she’s not excited about going into the game? ”The lack of food, because I get crabby. I’ll have to find ways to decrabitize myself.”
Medical Marijuana Dispenser
The medical marijuana dispensary owner is totally high… on his chances in the game! ”I don?t think there’s anyone else here that has the combination of physical ability, mental toughness, and also the mental acuity to actually win.” And while he says he’d love to meet a lovely lady on the beach, he won’t let it stand in the way of his quest for the million dollars. ”I know there’s a couple of the girls that are on this island right now that are planning to use their charm. I am completely fine with letting them use their charm. I just have to leave that relationship before it leaves me.”
Spoken Word Artist
Hometown: Los Angeles
The former Miss Eritrea is not looking forward to getting her well-manicured nails dirty. ”I’m definitely not psyched about being out in nature. It’s not my thing. I know I lived in Africa, but I lived in the city. I’m not psyched about living like a homeless person, stinking, having to smell other people. My biggest fear is probably Redemption Island. I am very scared to be alone.” Which, as a result, kind of makes us want to see that happen. (Sorry, Semhar!)
Hometown: Willsboro, N.Y.
Sophie became a Survivor fan quite by accident. ”I started watching the show when I was 9 years old when it came out. My dad thought it was a documentary. We weren’t really allowed to watch TV, but he thought it was going to be all educational, and it was not at all. We watched it anyway and I’ve been a fan ever since.” But what will transform her from fan into winner? ”I think I have that je ne sais quoi that other people don’t have,” says Sophie. ”I’m super determined. I’ve never quit anything in my life. And I think all my life experiences put together amount to a winner of Survivor more than anyone else. At least I hope so.”
Retired NYPD Detective
Hometown: Forest Hills, NY
”I call myself Daddy Bear,” says the openly gay former NYPD morgue detective. ”I’m older, wiser, and cuter, I guess. No, I’m kidding. I’m not cuter.” One thing he’s not kidding about, however, is which two former players he’d like to see return this season. ”I would like to see Jane. And I know people may not like hearing this, but I like Russell. I do! I just like him! I worked in the New York City police department for 20 years. There’s a thousand Russells!”
Lingerie Football Player
If you were thinking of doubting Mikayla’s toughness, think again. The Playboy cover girl plays linebacker and cornerback for the Tampa Breeze of the Lingerie Football League. ”We hit just as hard as the guys. We wear less padding than them,” she says in perhaps the understatement of the year before turning her attention to the other contestants. ”I can probably squat half these people over my shoulder.” But will Mikayla — who was originally recruited for The Amazing Race — pull an Ometepe and let a returning player come in and walk all over her into the finals? ”I don’t think anyone wants to be embarrassed like that again,” she says. ”It’s not going to happen like that again.”
Water Treatment Tech
Hometown: San Diego
Keith has one big worry coming into this game: the pacemaker that has been in his chest since he was a young boy. Not that it will hamper him in the challenges, but will it hamper him in making it further in the game? ”It’s definitely an issue about telling [the other contestants] or not telling them, but I have a pretty big scar and it’s pretty visible. You can see the bump. So I need to figure out how to play that because there have been people in the past that have gotten kicked off because they think they’re going to get a sympathy vote.”
Hometown: South Jordan, Utah
File this one under ”better later than never.” Dawn applied for Survivor way back in 2000, but when her audition tape was unearthed in 2009, she got the call and was cast for Survivor: Redemption Island. ”And about a month before the show, they made a change and cut me,” Dawn explains. ”But it was the best thing that could have happened. I prepared physically six days a week for 10 months and have read every strategy book.” Now she’s finally made it and looking to put that preparation to use. But will she be prepared for the emotional strain of being separated from her husband and six adopted children? She already has a contingency plan that involves her younger tribemates. ”I’m hoping to leave with an extra kid.”
Hometown: Aurora, Utah
He may sport the most incredible mustache in Survivor history, but Rick will need more than fabulous facial hair to make it to the end. He’ll need persistence, something he has already shown by applying 14 different times to be on the show. He finally made it this go-round after winning Sears’ online Casting Call contest (Marc-Anthony and Sophie also initially applied through the Sears contest). ”My whole strategy is going to be, do your work, give it 110 percent at everything,” says Rick, ”but don’t whine.” And what about the returning players? ”They had their chance. This is our chance. This is our time.”
Hometown: Grand Prairie, Tex.
Stacey has a message for the two returning players this season: ”The two returning players, whomever they may be, they got to go. I don’t care who they are, because they’ve been here. We haven’t. Give us the opportunity and chance to scrounge and learn.” And she has a message for all her fellow players as well. ”Don?t let the smooth taste fool you. You think size matters? Size doesn’t matter. Don’t let it fool you. The smallest can be the strongest, and the biggest can be the weakest. Don’t talk the talk until you walk the walk first.”