9:45am PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor': Jeff Probst Previews the 'David vs. Goliath' Cast
The battle for the Sole Survivor title and million dollar prize begins soon, with Survivor: David vs. Goliath premiering on September 26.
Ahead of the CBS reality competition's 37th season premiere, it's worth taking stock of the 20 new castaways vying for their place in the Survivor hall of fame. (Yes, it exists.) In that regard, there are many ways to get a handle on the roster. First, read up on the David tribe and the Goliath tribe, with our profiles on each of the contestants. For even more details, there's our preseason podcast series, "First One Out," fully embedded at the end of this very preview. If that's not enough, there's this: the official word from executive producer and host Jeff Probst, who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter only a few short hours after filming began on the season, delivering his thoughts on each hopeful millionaire. Read Probst's preseason assessments below, including his picks for who will win and who will go home first.
Up first: the David tribe, a group of underdogs who fight their way through life wielding hidden advantages. The tribe includes MMA fighter Bi Nguyen, truck driver Carl Boudreaux, robotics scientist Christian Hubicki, social media manager Davie Rickenbacker, kitchen staff manager Elizabeth Olson, technical writer Gabby Pascuzzi, waitress Jessica Peet, airline agent Lyrsa Torres, public defender Nick Wilson and maintenance manager Pat Cusack. Ahead, Probst talks about all ten of the David tribe members, followed by the Goliaths.
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Current Residence: Houston, Texas
"I think Bi is a really great physical representation of a David. She literally fights for a living. She's an MMA fighter. She's tough. She could knock both of us out together, easily. But she sees herself as a David: 'Let me tell you my story. I immigrated from Vietnam. I ran away at 14. I've been fighting literally for my life, and now I fight for my living in the ring.' She's still trying to prove herself. In some ways, Bi is the best-equipped David out there because she's fought her entire life. I can't imagine a little rain or not enough food getting to Bi."
Hometown: Beaumont, Texas
Current Residence: Houston, Texas
"When he walked in, he did something that only somebody who truly believes in themselves can do: he walked in with an 'I don't really [care] about this show' attitude. What he meant was, 'I watch every week, and I love it. But jumping over hoops? No, I don't care. I have a wife, I have a truck, I have kids, I have a great life. I'm awesome. I smoke cigars. I do my whole thing. If you think I'm going to be somebody for you on your show…' And we said, 'Whoa! Where's this coming from? We don't want you to be anybody! You're awesome!' But his attitude was, 'I know who I am. I always struggle. I'm a black man riding a truck. I ride horses. This is all incongruent stuff. I do just fine.' I love Carl. I actually think that attitude, combined with his incredible charm — I find him very likeable — could make him into the guy they don't realize is a threat. They don't realize he's physical. They don't realize he's a good-looking nice guy who also has your number. He may just sashay his way to the end."
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Current Residence: Tallahassee, Florida
"What I love about Christian is that he's a little bit in on the joke. He knows he can play the stuttering robotics [professor]. I think he's a very smart guy. At his core, he's a David. He was bullied when he was a kid. He was odd, he was nerdy, he was the kid people didn't know what to make of because he wasn't a jock. Little did they know what was brewing in his brain would start changing the world 20 years later. To overlook him would be a mistake."
Hometown: Orangeburg, South Carolina
Current Residence: Atlanta, Georgia
Social Media Manager
"Davie is a favorite. Producers love him. I love him. I love his attitude. Davie has an interesting story in that he wasn't going to be on this season. He was going to be next season, which he didn't even know. He got the call with very little time to answer — less than 60 hours before the game started. We called him in the middle of the night, asked him if he wanted to play Survivor in two days, and he said, 'Yes!' At the top of his lungs. No questions about needing to call work, or having to talk to his parents and friends, needing to get somebody to watch his dog… it was just, 'Yes!' He got here and he didn't miss a beat. You would never know that guy just found out about coming out here two days ago."
Hometown: Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas
Current Residence: Longview, Texas
"She was a favorite when she walked in. She just lights up the room. She's really strong in terms of what matters to her in life: her husband, her kids and Survivor. She told us this was the only thing she would leave her family for. Elizabeth is so locked into her world that she insisted when she gave birth that they let her wear her cowboy hat. I think Elizabeth is a real threat to win. She has all of the right qualities. I think she's going to work hard at camp, and she's going to be more physically able than people might think. She's like a country song. I would love to see her go deep."
Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
Current Residence: Denver, Colorado
"Gabby could easily be described as an Aubry or a female Cochran, but I see her as much more unique than that. Gabby is nerdy-ish, and she definitely battles at times with self-doubt. But she's really bright and savvy. Going into the game, I don't think she has a fish out of water crutch. I think she's more social. I actually think she's going to win a lot of people over, and might be one of the few Davids who can easily blend in with the Goliaths without making them feel like she's working them or trying to play them."
Hometown: Lakeland, Florida
Current Residence: Lakeland, Florida
"We tried to get Jessica on the show for a while. We loved her the minute she walked in the door. The first time she applied, she was 18. Now she's 19, almost 20. I think she's going to lie and say she's 22 or 23, but I don't think she needs to worry about that. She's really mature and has been working since she was a teenager. She has a great personality. In the year since we didn't first put her on the show, she's matured a ton. I think any young person has an uphill battle when you're that young — but a young person is going to win someday. Maybe it'll be Jessica."
Hometown: Puerto Rico
Current Residence: Boston, Massachusetts
"Lyrsa is either going to have a very short run, or she's going to be here for a while. Working against her will be her feisty, defensive, 'don't tell me I can't do it, because I'm going to fight you to show that I can.' Working for her is the fact that she really is an underdog, and she's used to it. Being gay as a young woman was probably tougher than she's talked about — her family, and the way they dealt with it, and her rebellious side. But that's my concern about her, that she could pick a fight with somebody, and then she's out."
Hometown: Williamsburg, Kentucky
Current Residence: London, Kentucky
"I like Nick a lot. His story is really unusual and specific. He's a guy who grows up in rural Kentucky in a community where opiates are devastating. His mom is a drug addict. His mom dies. He gets out, goes to law school, heading to the big city to become a lawyer — a Goliath — and then realizes, 'My community needs me.' That's a David. It's a beautiful story of the guy who says, 'It's in my blood. I'm not going to make as much money. I'm going back to rural Kentucky. I have a purpose.' His story is amazing. I think people will be moved by it."
Hometown: Cohoes, New York
Current Residence: Watervliet, New York
"Pat was the beginning of David vs. Goliath. What I like about Pat is he represents what I think is true for a lot of people who watch our show. It's going to be really tough for him to win. This is not a fable. He doesn't come out like a fish out of water who rises to the top. It might happen, but it'll be difficult. He's a guy who has his way of doing things. That's tough out here. You have to be able to dance the dance of spirit and personality. But when you're watching, and you're listening to him, how can you not root for him to get a chance? 'Give me a shot. Don't vote me out first. Let me get my legs, will you?' That's what I hope happens for him."
Next up, the Goliath tribe, featuring ten men and women who are used to winning thanks to their advantages in life. The lineup includes bartender Alec Merlino, physician Alison Raybould, financial consultant Angelina Keeley, S.W.A.T. officer Dan Rengering, attorney Jeremy Crawford, pro wrestler John Hennigan, realtor Kara Kay, filmmaker Mike White, industrial engineer Natalia Azoqa, and publishing CEO Natalie Cole. Read on for Probst's takes on each of these players.
Hometown: San Clemente, California
Current Residence: San Clemente, California
"Alec is the quintessential charmer. You talk to the guy for less than a minute and you want to hang out with him. He's funny. He has that way where when he says something, it's funnier than when I say it, even though it's the same words. You can tell quickly that he's great at the social game, is clearly physically gifted, is good looking… in my experience on Survivor, he would be one of my first targets. I wouldn't want him to get a foothold. I just think he's too dangerous. If he's good, he'll charm people out of it: 'Dude, what are you talking about? I just want to have some fun!'"
Hometown: Leawood, Kansas
Current Residence: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
"I can't exactly describe what I'm feeling with Alison… but I'm feeling that part of this journey for her is about, 'I'm more than what my family thinks I am. I'm more than what my patients think I am. I'm a full-fledged woman. I'm smart, powerful, fun and social. I can win this game, using all of those skills.'"
Hometown: Sparks, Nevada
Current Residence: San Clemente, California
"Angelina's biggest obstacle, and she'll hate me for saying this, is I think she's more high maintenance than she thinks she is. Maybe not! But what Angelina has working for her is a lot. She's very smart. Super accomplished. She's an undergrad from Stanford with a very high GPA. She was the first Latina student body president. She has a master's from Yale. Can we stop there? I don't have a master's from Yale!"
Hometown: Lake Butler, Florida
Current Residence: Gainesville, Florida
"Dan is going to be a threat. He's a very good looking, charming guy. He's straightforward. He tells the truth. He doesn't try to sugarcoat an answer. I think he's going to be a great interview. I think people are going to like him instantly, within one-and-a-half seconds. You're going to say, 'I hope that guy wins!' I kind of feel the same way. When I met Dan, I sort of fan-boyed out: 'You are so charming and good looking, you should be on CBS' show SWAT!' And he said, 'Well, I am a SWAT cop.' And I went, 'Oh my gosh!' Then I realized, 'Wait, you should be on Survivor. What am I talking about? Bad producing! You're on our show!'"
Hometown: Clover, South Carolina
Current Residence: New York
"Jeremy is very smart. His secret weapon is he's incredibly aware and astute. He can quickly grasp an idea and spit it back to you while still keeping his peripheral vision on the targets around him: the other players. I felt it, just in our short Q&A during the marooning, that Jeremy is never taking his eyes off of anyone, even when he appears to be looking right at you. I like Jeremy. He's a threat to win."
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current Residence: Los Angeles
"In many ways, John is what you think of when you think of the Goliath. He has the long hair, he's gigantic and physically fit, he talks with a deep voice and looks right at you when he talks. You wonder if he's thinking about putting you in a headlock and knocking your head in. Then you find out he's a very likable guy and very charming. His secret weapon is he gets judged as a meathead, when he's actually pretty bright. He doesn't want to tell people where he went to school and what he did. He just wants them to think he's a wrestler playing pretend."
Hometown: San Diego, California
Current Residence: San Diego, California
"Kara is a favorite to win. I think a lot of people will say, 'Really?' But the more I watch her, the more I see her blend. 'I'm not standing out at all. I'm just one of the Goliaths! They're all very good!' And what do you do? 'Well, I came from a very good family. I was a cheerleader in the NFL. I'm in real estate.' If you ask her about her looks, she'll say they absolutely open doors. She doesn't ever defend and say, 'But I have to work hard!' What you see is what you get. 'I'm successful, I'm pleasant, I have a great attitude.' She's still dealing with the loss of her mom, which I can't imagine. I really think Kara could be a surprise player, where all the sudden you say, 'Oh my god… she's going to win.'"
Hometown: San Diego, California
Current Residence: Los Angeles, California
"There are two things I like about Mike's story. You look at him, and you don't think he's a Goliath. Then he tells you about his success, and how he always knew he would be successful, and he's never not going to be successful. He's a writer, director, actor, producer who has probably done something you have seen and loved, even if you don't recognize him. Then you realize it: 'Oh my god, you're a killer. You always win.' What sealed the deal for me was he left a job behind in Hollywood to come play this game. When we asked him why, he said, 'I'm greedy for life. I want this experience. I want to see how I do.' And what if you lose? 'I lose. I'll win at something else. I'm a winner. But I want to see how I'll do on Survivor.'"
Hometown: Irvine, California
Current Residence: Irvine, California
"Physically, she's ripped. She's obviously very smart. She's probably very good at the social game. My feeling with Natalia is that a girl's alliance could serve her well, and if so, she and Angelina and a couple of the other women get together — maybe they get Gabby — and it could be the year of the woman. I'm just feeling it with this cast. I think they could take over, and it would be a new battle where they slay all of the men."
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current Residence: Los Angeles
"Natalie is either going to get in deep, or she's going to be gone fast. The reason is the same in both cases. She's a very strong woman. She's a 56-year-old black, successful woman who takes no grief from anybody. 'If you think I'm going to be your mom? You are mistaken. I'm not a mom. I'm a woman out here playing Survivor.' The problem could be other people might look at her and want her to be the mom! When you're that smart and you've been through as much as she has … you're used to [a fast pace]. If people want her to hold her hand? There's going to be a collision."
With all the contestants identified, who does Probst see as his winner pick? Hot on the heels of reversing his own curse and correctly picking the winner of Survivor: Ghost Island, Probst opted not to make one single winner pick, and instead identified four people he sees making it to the end: "My winner pick at this point would be… man. Can I have a couple? On the Goliath tribe, I think Dan and Kara have a really good shot. On the David tribe, I think Gabby and Carl. I think that would be a great final four."
As for his pick for first one out, Probst named two different players, one from each tribe: "Natalie and Pat. I don't want to see either of them go. I don't want anyone to go. I would miss Natalie so much because I want to see her interact. I would desperately miss Pat. But I think both of them have the same obstacle: blending in. If you cannot find the flow and go with it, you're dead, man. You're dead out here."
Catch up on our preseason podcast series, "First One Out," in the players below.
"First One Out," Chapter 1: An Overview of David vs. Goliath