'Survivor' Season 37: Meet the Goliath Tribe

7:15 AM 9/19/2018

by Josh Wigler

Wearing purple and classified by executive producer Jeff Probst as winners in life, the Goliath tribe includes filmmaker Mike White, wrestler John Hennigan and more.

Survivor- David vs. Goliath - Goliath Tribe - Publicity - H 2018
Robert Voets/CBS

If the David tribe enters the Survivor battlefield as the underdogs, then their rivals across the sea are the veritable giants of season 37: the Goliath tribe, a group Jeff Probst classifies as winners in life.

The upcoming iteration of the CBS reality series, Survivor: David vs. Goliath, premieres September 26. Before then, get to know the Goliath tribe members in the profiles below, and hear more in our preseason podcast series, "First One Out."

Among the Goliath gladiators, clad in purple: professional wrestler John Hennigan (alternately known as John Morrison, Johnny Mundo, Johnny Nitro, the Wednesday Night Delight and the Mayor of Slamtown), filmmaker Mike White (School of RockChuck & Buck), publishing CEO Natalie Cole, industrial engineer Natalia Azoqa, and attorney Jeremy Crawford — the second lawyer of the season after the David tribe's aforementioned Nick Wilson, who also plans on hiding his professional history from his fellow contestants.

Meet the Goliath tribe, in the stories ahead, based on interviews with the castaways conducted shortly before the season began taping.




  • Alec Merlino

    The pantheon of Survivor "surfer dudes" welcomes a new member in the form of Alec Merlino, who hits the beach hoping to cash in on his good vibes persona and his willingness to stab some backs along the way.

    "At the end of the day, I just love people," he says. "It's just how I am. It's genuine. My game out here is going to be genuine. I'm going to play exactly how I am in my day-to-day life: I love people, hearing their stories, and chatting. I love lightening the mood. I hope my energy and positive vibes, messing around, will be a currency in the game — shedding light on a miserable situation."

    On that note, Alec enters the game fully aware he's on a collision course with some level of misery. For one thing, he's not excited about the starvation: "There's no preparing for that, unless you eat rice for 39 days [before the game]. I need my food in order to run. I'm really curious to see how I'm going to operate." His prediction? "I don't think I'm going to be on all the time. I'll try to be, but being honest, I think it's going to get to me, and it's going to make me a little more mellow at times."

    Even those mellow days are ones Alec looks forward to, as he fully expects Survivor to strip him down to his core.

    "I think I'm going to be proud of the game I'm going to play," he says. "I want people to look at the game I played, or look at my character, and see someone who played the game exactly as he is in his day to day life."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Alec…

    Kara: "He's super chill. I know he's taking this very seriously. He's not going to mess around."

    Alison: "This guy is totally a surfer bro. One thousand percent. He belongs on Laguna Beach. But he's not very friendly. He hasn't smiled much at me. Maybe he's just warming up to the process."

    Angelina: "I don't get good vibes from him. His energy is a little bit cold. He seems like he has a big ego. He seems like he's going to be a flirt. He's flirting with all the staff. He reminds me a lot of Jay [from season 33], but not as sweet."

    Jeremy: "Ponderosa is exactly like jail. Most people don't know about jail. In jail, you wake up at five o'clock in the morning and go to bed at about six o'clock, with absolutely nothing to do. Ponderosa is exactly like that — and this guy is able to entertain himself without needing a lot of attention. He's still young, and may or may not do some things without thinking it all the way through, like sitting somewhere way too long when there aren't a lot of resources. Other than that, I think he'll be a good contestant."

  • Alison Raybould

    Former Survivor champ and friend of The Hollywood Reporter Parvati Shallow was one of the original members of the "Black Widow Brigade," one of the most legendary alliances in the show's history. One of the members of the Goliath tribe would like to see a new incarnation of that classic team-up: Alison Raybould, a deep-cut Survivor fan who took a few years off from the series, rekindled her love for the adventure, and is now primed for her own shot at the million dollar prize.

    "I dream of bringing back the Black Widow Brigade," she says, "if I can get an all-girls alliance… and I think there are some girls out here who might be game for it."

    As a physician, Alison is certainly a healer, and likely a hero and hustler in her own right. Out here on Survivor, however, the good doctor understands that she will need to break away from her training and cause some harm on her way to the top. She believes it will come down to three core aspects of the game: "strategic mastery, social gameplay, and being a physical challenge without being too much of a threat."

    "That's kind of true of everything," says Alison, whose athletic prowess is regularly cited in other interviews with the players. "You can't be too much of a threat. You need to be able to read people. You need to be able to sneak in, so when you're sitting at the final Tribal Council, you can say you were sitting behind a lot of these moves.

    "In my every day life, I'm guided by the Hippocratic Oath," she continues. "It says first: do no harm. I have to check that at the door. The Hippocratic Oath does not exist out here."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Alison…

    Alec: "She's an athlete. Smart. She comes across as confident. She exudes confidence. She reminds me… not of a villainess. Not of Parvati. But she has a game plan. I feel like she has a strategy coming into this."

    Kara: "She's one of my favorites. She's like my favorite kindergarten teacher who I could never forget."

    Angelina: "I really like her, but she reminds me a lot of myself. Maybe I'm wrong. She seems like a super duper fan, and she's kind of shown her hand with that. When Jeff flew in, she was freaking out. And all of us are excited, right? Jeff's cool! Great guy! But she's clearly a fan of the game. She's someone I probably want to work with for a bit, but she's also so similar to me. Eventually, she's got to go."

    John: "She's probably a current or former athlete… volleyball or basketball. She's a hard worker. It's hard to say without talking to these people. She seems nice. If those assumptions are correct, she's someone I would be excited to work with. The people I'm most excited to work with are honest, nice and value loyalty. If I'm planning to work with someone, I'm going to be loyal to them. Douchebags, turd cutters and chump-stains… we have to send them back to the Ponderosa, ASAP."

  • Angelina Keeley

    Like everyone else on the cast, California-based financial consultant Angelina Keeley aims to win the David vs Goliath crown. Unlike everyone else, she plans to hand the crown right over to two-time champion Sandra Diaz-Twine, the reigning queen of Survivor.

    "Sandra is the queen, period," says Angelina. "I want to be the prime minister, so we can rule together. She can be the dynasty, and I'll be in charge of policy. Together, we can rule. Personality-wise, we have nothing in common, but identity-wise, we're both Latina and we're both marine corps wives. It's kind of crazy, right? It writes itself!"

    Impeccable fanbase pandering aside, Angelina (whose journey toward Survivor owes origin to her friendship with season 33 champion Adam Klein) likes her odds to win the veritable prime minister election due to the bag of tricks she's bringing into the game.

    "I bring a lot to the table," she says. "I'm a smart girl. I went to Stanford for undergrad. I went to Yale for my MBA. I'm a management consultant. I used to work at Google. That's my resumé; it's not who I am. I've gotten to do a lot of cool shit, I'm clearly a hard-worker, I'm a go-getter, I'm super ambitious... blah-blah-blah. More important than all of that, I'm an extremely social person. I build relationships quickly. I connect with people quickly. I have all of the right things to be a threat in this game, and really slaughter. I think with my brain, with my social IQ, and my attitude and wherewithal, I think I have the trifecta [of what it takes] to be strong in this game."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Angelina...

    Mike: "I can tell the staff thinks she's a little high maintenance. When she walks into a room, one by one, they slink away. They don't want to deal with her."

    Alec: "The one sticking memory I have of her was her complaining about something. It was about her hair. If you're on my tribe and you're doing this at camp? It's going to get a lot worse than fighting for some breeze for your hair."

    Natalie: "She's going to have some sex appeal on the show. Not quite Parvati level, but a Parvati wannabe to some extent. But I like her."

    Alison: "Huge fan of her. I can see her being part of my Black Widow Brigade."

  • Dan Rengering

    Some know him as Dan Rengering. Others know him by another name: "Hot Cop." Hopping straight out of the Instagram feed and onto the beaches of Fiji, Dan enters Survivor with a pretty good idea of what it's like to go from a life of anonymity to viral recognition in the blink of an eye; good training for adjusting to the post-Survivor life, to be sure.

    "We were working during Hurricane Irma," he says of the Hot Cop origin story. "Our public information officer sent out an e-mail: 'Send pictures of you doing stuff through the hurricane and we'll post them on Facebook.' And so we decided to spam him, e-mail him pictures all night long. We just wanted to have a good time. That's me; I just want to have fun wherever I go. If we're going to be miserable working all night in the rain? Let's have some fun with it. We took a selfie together, and a couple hours later, there were a lot of comments — a few hundred. A couple hours after that? A few thousand. 'Guys, do you see this? They're calling us hot! Hot Cop!' I used to be a fat kid! I'm not used to this! This is fantastic!"

    Since initially going viral, Dan says he's still recognized on the streets every now and then, even once being stopped at a Walmart to take a selfie with a customer. Officer Rengering, prepare yourself to be stopped at a lot of Walmarts moving forward; Survivor fans are a rabid bunch. For his part, Dan is only recently coming to terms with the Survivor universe, having only watched the show in the context of preparing for the game. With that said, he has a few ideas about how he wants to play, including the fact that he's going to be upfront about his line of work.

    "I work in a college town, so my social game is going to be [great]," he adds. "I can't just go and yell at some college kid and tell them, 'Hey, stop doing this.' They're going to question me. If I let them question me and get me all worked up? It'll end badly. Now, I do this thing called 'verbal judo,' where you talk around them, and talk to them, and talk some sense into them. There are books on that stuff! That's where I feel like I can defer to them. [I work in] a very diverse community. There's college kids, people from very low incomes, homeless people all over the city... I'm dealing with a huge array of people, and everyone out here is from a different walk of life. I've dealt with people from every walk of life. I'm prepared."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Dan…

    Kara: "He's someone I want to keep on my side. He always appears next to me. If we're on the same tribe, I think we're going to have some kind of connection. I feel like we're vibing."

    Mike: "The first time I saw him, he was wearing a Top Gun T-shirt with a Superman backpack, and I wondered, 'Is this guy for real?' And I think he is. He's like a little boy all grown up into a big man. It's like he's 12 years old, but he's been Big-ged."

    Jeremy: "We don't have a lot of big, built men, so his height's going to make him a threat. I can't tell if he has the [strategy] to go against these girls."

    Angelina: "He's too overeager. He's always chatting with all the staff. And I get it, I'm an extrovert, I'm always exploding at the seams. But he's always throwing in an extra word when we're not supposed to be talking, or telling a joke, or whatever. He's so loud with who he is with his external stuff. He has a Top Gun shirt and a Superman backpack, and he's reading all these comic books. You can tell that's his thing, which is cool! I'm not mad at it! But you're showing your hand way too early. From an alliance perspective, I feel like he would be a liability, because he'll make an amateur mistake."

  • Jeremy Crawford

    "I am the Sole Survivor. Haven't you heard?"

    That's how Jeremy introduces himself when he sits down for his pregame interview, exhibiting the mix of playfulness and confidence he hopes to bring to the game. Jeremy is a longtime fan of the show, who feels in some ways his life has prepared him for Survivor, as a gay man who grew up in the south. Over the years, Jeremy struggled over whether or not to apply. ("Sometimes I think I'll be good on the show, and sometimes I think I'd be horrible," he explains.) However it works out now, Jeremy knows it's time to put up or shut up — and he claims to know how hard it's going to be to shut up.

    "My philosophy on how to win Survivor is to play against myself," he explains. "People don't understand that you have to play against yourself. You have to know yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your tendencies? Will they propel you further into the game? You're your own biggest enemy. It's Jekyll versus Hyde." (Editor's note: future theme for a season?)

    Entering the game, Jeremy acknowledges more than a few potential weaknesses: "Talking too much. Telling people the truth too fast. I'm a truth-teller and I'm a spirit-reader, and some people don't want their spirits read. Some people don't want to deal with situations right there and then. Even though I know what we're talking about, sometimes you have to let [arguments] go. Survivor is all about timing. Realizing those things about my own personality? That's the first goal. If I get hungry, I'm going to try not to snap at people, and if that doesn't work, I'll use my humor so that the snap is cushioned."

    "The second thing is," he continues, "is I want to [make] two-person pacts. I want to find the other super fans, especially in the beginning, and say, 'Hey, we need to make the merge. We are super fans; at the minimum, we have to make the merge. Even if we're not in an alliance, if you hear my name? Let me know. If I hear your name? I'll let you know. I may not be able to do anything for you and you might not be able to do anything for me, but if you hear my name, let me know.' I want to carry that at least through to the merge, and then get a strong alliance."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Jeremy…

    Kara: "He's awesome! He's walking around in short shorts, swaggering around… he's a super friendly face."

    Mike: "He seems funny, friendly, and maybe a little diva-ish."

    Angelina: "He's very sassy. He seems cool, but I'm probably not going to be in an alliance with him."

    Natalie: "I think he's extremely smart. I don't know that for a fact, but I get the sense he is. I think he's traveled a lot. I think he's well-rounded. I think he might do well in the game."

  • John Hennigan

    Looking at the man, it should come as no surprise that professional wrestler John Hennigan is a Goliath, the veritable poster boy for the tribe. But Hennigan, whose self-appointed nickname as "The Wednesday Night Delight" could gain new meaning in the coming Survivor season, isn't all bravado all the time.

    Make no mistake: John, the legendary Mayor of Slamtown (the nickname is emblazoned on the jacket he's bringing into the game), often refers to his future competitors as "turd-cutters," "chump-stains," and various other putdowns. But Hennigan also offers some insightful commentary on the other players on the battlefield, not to mention the way he views the road to the Survivor win.

    "One question I get asked frequently is 'What was your favorite wrestling match,' or 'What's your dream match?' And honestly, this island is really about me versus me," he says. "That's what defines Survivor. It's the ultimate test of who you are. At times, to bond with people? Sure, I'm a pro wrestler, but there's probably a teacher out here, and a cop and an animal wrangler. Who knows who's out here? But on a very base human level, we're all people. We're all vulnerable. We all have similar hopes and dreams. I've been on this express train of professional wrestling for so long, that this feels like a really awesome opportunity for me to get off of that and bond with people without social media and all that bullshit, and really take myself on."

    "Can I do this? Can I survive out here? Yeah," he adds. "Can I bond with people and live for 39 days without my Instagram account? Probably! But the real question for me is this: can I be happy doing that? Ultimately, I feel in order to win this game, you have to be happy. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable and not exude crap energy. You have to hold that uncomfortable card close to the vest and deal with that personally, while putting positive energy out there. You don't want to bring people down around you. I'm excited about that. It's easy to be the Mayor of Slamtown in the wrestling ring. But to be John Hennigan out here on an island and be uncomfortable, cold, hungry and vulnerable with a group of [new] people? It's something I've never done."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view John...

    Natalia: "Oh my god. Something about this guy… I just can't."

    Mike: "He looks like he should be on the cover of an old lady romance novel."

    Alison: "He looks like the incredible Hulk. He's a huge physical presence. I could potentially work with him, but if I'm going all girls, then he has to go early."

    Jeremy: "The good thing about him is he's stunning with a great body, and this season, there are not enough men who look like him. Normally, hot guys link up together and get voted out because they become a threat together. Because he's by himself as the hottest guy, if he can get with someone else, he could pull a Malcolm and go a little bit longer than one of the first out. The problem is he's the only one of that stature, which makes him a threat. But if he can get on a winning tribe that wins the first three or four challenges, he might make it far."

  • Kara Kay

    For any and all fans still mulling over their Survivor winner picks, former NFL cheerleader and current realtor Kara Kay would like a moment of your time to make her case.

    "I'm going to be the winner because I have what it takes mentally and I have what it takes physically — and I have what it takes, socially," she says. "It's outwit, outplay and outlast. Those three categories, I feel like I've taken them on. I'm the person you underestimate, and then when you see me as a threat, it's too late. I'm just taking it to the end."

    Kara's confidence comes from career successes (as a realtor, she notes, she's used to putting out fires, if not quite starting them in the jungle), while also drawing from hardships she's experienced in the past — including losing her mother a few years ago.

    "When you go through some really hard hardship that wakes you up and shakes you and makes you realize your life isn't what you thought it was going to be, it makes you tougher," she says. "It's so cliché, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. It really does. I know people have been through harder stuff, and a hard thing is relative to the situation. But I think having been through [hardship], I'm numb to surprises."

    Which is exactly why she thinks she's going to surprise a lot of the players and audience members alike, leaning on her bright and outgoing personality.

    "I think I might be the biggest surprise of the season," she says. "I am very smiley. I'm very loyal. I love my people. But if you cross me… I'm not spiteful, but I'm not willing to forgive and forget. If you cross me, I make it a personal mission to win."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Kara…

    Jeremy: "First or second biggest threat. She's gorgeous. In a normal opportunity, I would say she's first out. But she just gives off self-confidence. She's here to play the game. She's not even looking at the guys. It's hard, because we don't know any of these people, but she seems like she could go the distance. She seems like a Parvati."

    Dan: "I want her on my team, but at the same time, I don't. That's my kryptonite."

    Alison: "I think this girl has more to her than her beautiful blonde head of hair. She's someone I want in my Black Widow Brigade."

    Angelina: "In my mind, she's my blonde twin. We're probably around the same age. We have similar personalities, she's very aware, smart, all that good stuff. We're either going to work together for a long time or go after each other in a very big way."

  • Mike White

    Best known for his work in Hollywood bringing films like School of Rock and Chuck & Buck to life, filmmaker Mike White's place on the Survivor cast may come as a bit of a surprise — but it's only a surprise to the people who aren't aware of White's history with the CBS reality machine.

    Indeed, Survivor isn't Mike White's first time appearing on a televised competition series. It's not even his second. White is a two-time veteran of The Amazing Race, in which he competed alongside his father, landing in sixth place and getting cut second in his two respective seasons. What's more, he's also a longtime Survivor fan, famous within fan circles for allegedly convincing host Jeff Probst to abandon the controversial Redemption Island twist (in which eliminated players have a chance to reenter the game via a veritable loser's bracket) ahead of season 29, Survivor: San Juan del Sur.

    "I've been watching since the first episode, and after a while, you're tired of watching it; you want to go and do it," says White, who tells THR he has no plans to hide his Hollywood background from the other players. "This is everything to me. It's a huge adventure. It's a little absurd. At least I'm not stuck on the 405!"

    For White, appearing on Survivor isn't just a longtime fan's dream come true; it's also an opportunity to gain new life experiences, and shake up his current world order.

    "Even making movies and TV — and I love what I do — it gets kind of familiar," he explains. "I've been doing this for 25 years. I feel like I need a new thrill. This is a different game for me to play. I feel like anytime I risk something, like with Amazing Race, I wonder: 'Am I going to embarrass myself?' Well, whatever. Whatever the negatives are, it's never been more negative than all of the positives that come out of pushing yourself out of your house."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Mike...

    Alec: "That guy scares the hell out of me. Every time I see him, he's making people laugh. This is the older guy people are going to like. He almost looks a little bit like a surfer. Oh man… who does he remind me of?"

    Alison: "So, I know who this is. I recognize him as Ned Schneebly from School of Rock. I saw him at casting, and I extensively researched him, embarrassingly so. I would like to work with him. I know he's been hugely successful in Hollywood, and someone who is hugely successful in that kind of a dog-eat-dog world is going to do well out here. He's either my ally, or a huge threat."

    Kara: "He is Mike White. He's Ned Schneebly from School of Rock, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. I'll totally nerd out. I'll approach him on the side: 'I know who you are, but I'm not going to say anything!'"

    John: "I'm a film major, and I'm really excited he's here. When I saw him walk in, I flipped out. I didn't say anything. I don't know if he knows that I recognized him. I've seen a bunch of his movies, and he's a really talented dude. He's an artist for sure. ... I saw a movie of his called Chuck & Buck, and I was impressed with how honest the film felt. For some reason, I always felt he must be a really good dude since then. So hopefully, he doesn't turn out to be a douchebag."

  • Natalia Azoqa

    As an industrial engineer, it's Natalia's job to improve processes. So, how does she plan on improving the process of winning Survivor?

    "I don't know," she says, laughing as she delivers her honest answer. "I really don't know how I'm going to play. I don't know what I'm going to do and who I'm working with. I'm just going to go in and meet people. I think people help you go far. Picking the right people will help you make your way through."

    Natalia certainly picked the right weekend plans a few years ago, when she attended a Survivor event in California and began the casting process. After originally eyeing a go at The Amazing Race (shout out to Natalia's twin sister, who would have been her partner in that endeavor), Natalia now finds herself in the thick of the 39-day hunt for the million dollar prize. Even without a concrete plan laid out, Natalia makes it clear that friendship is the name of her game.

    "Friendliness is very important to me. If I like someone, I'm going to want to work with them. First and foremost for me is if I like the person. I can't see myself working with someone I don't like."

    Even regarding people she doesn't like, Natalia is curious to learn more about her competitors: "Everyone is here to win, and everyone has their own strategy, and I really want to get to know everybody. I want to build really good relationships first, without showing my more aggressive side. I want to know people's strengths. Why were they cast for this show? Everyone is cast for a reason. The production team [behind Survivor] believes these people have the determination to win. I want to be the person who makes it on top."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Natalia…

    Alison: "She's another one I could totally work with. She's very friendly. She could be part of the Black Widow Brigade."

    Kara: "She's very serious. She's strong, you can tell. She's very focused."

    Alec: "She always seems very serious. I haven't seen her crack a smile, unless she's talking to people. She's super athletic. She seems like she's going to be good at challenges. She gives me a villain vibe, a little bit, just based on what I've seen. It's the serious face. It's the occasional eye roll."

    John: "She seems like competition. She seems wily and well-versed at stuff — and she seems like she's going to be surprised when she gets voted out first."

  • Natalie Cole

    A veteran of several different Southern California publications, including her current stint as publisher and CEO of Los Angeles-based newspaper OurWeekly, Natalie enters Survivor having already wrestled with versions of the game in her real life.

    "It's very similar to what I did when I climbed the corporate ladder in my younger years," she says. "It's layers and layers and layers of absolute chaos, and it tries to be somewhat organized. It's about dealing with people. Not only manipulating them, but managing and directing people from all walks of life. While you have your end goal in mind, you're managing all of this stuff in the periphery."

    Natalie has had her eye on playing Survivor since the show's earliest days, all the way back in the time when Richard Hatch and the Tagi Four forged the first alliance: "I knew since the beginning I would be on the show. I spoke it out: I'm going to do that show one day. And then life happened. I was already married with kids, but things were moving so quickly for me in my home life and business life that I never took the time to apply until recently. I applied, I got the call back, and here we are."

    And now that she's here? The players in her way are advised to watch their backs; Natalie describes her philosophy toward Survivor as an anything-goes mentality: "Everything's a green light. That's the attitude I have to have in order to move and advance in this game."

    Here's how some of the other Goliath tribe members view Natalie…

    Jeremy: "I think she'll be one of the first ones out. She's old. I don't think she's as physically fit. Stuff gets on her nerves easily. The air guitar guy [Pat from the David tribe] gets on everybody's nerves, but he really gets on her nerves. We shouldn't know that this early. We're in Ponderosa. Just walk away. Do something else. She goes somewhere else, but you know why she's going somewhere else."

    John: "She's going to have a hard time. I don't know if she's watched the show Survivor before, but it's physically demanding. She's obviously here for a reason, which makes me view her as dangerous. People aren't just brought here for nothing. I haven't been able to get a good read off of her yet, but I'm excited to talk to her and find out what she's all about."

    Kara: "She's going to be a strong player. She's somebody who is going to pull the strings and try to orchestrate these major power plays."

    Alison: "She is a player. This is the next Cirie Fields. I think she's going to have some social mastery behind her. She's going to be sneaky and big time. It's scary — but if she's on my side, I like it."