9:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor: Ghost Island' Player Profile: Meet Chelsea Townsend
Welcome to the Survivor: Ghost Island preseason! THR's Josh Wigler reports from his visit to the show's shooting location in Fiji, where he interviewed host Jeff Probst, as well as the 20 new castaways battling it out for the million dollar prize.
Click here to make sure you're all caught up on our stories from the island, including our weekly podcast series "First One Out: Ghost Zero," an in-depth look at all of the new players, culminating in an interview with the first person voted out of the season, and Wigler's exclusive overnight stay on Ghost Island.
One could have made an argument for 24-year-old Chelsea Townsend's worthiness for a spot on Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, given the Utah native's dual career as a professional cheerleader and an EMT at the time of production. "I love being busy," she says during our interview, and she will certainly have her hands full in the game ahead — even if executive producer and host Jeff Probst isn't entirely sure of her chances.
"If she flamed out fast, I would be bummed for her, but not surprised," he tells THR at the start of the season. "If she ran an alliance, I also wouldn't be surprised. It comes down to this: how much of her EMT training and experience can she apply to this game? She says, 'People see me as a young and pretty woman, and they forget that I'm in life-or-death situations. I'm not going to be the one panicking when the vote's coming, or in the middle of a challenge, or if we can't get the fire going.' If that's true, then those are some really amazing skills. But as we've all seen, it's one thing to say it, and another thing to do it."
Hear more from Chelsea and the other players in the second episode of our preseason podcast series First One Out: Ghost Zero, and read on for highlights from our interview.
Chelsea's thoughts on the double-edged sword of idols and advantages:
"One of the biggest things about this game is you have to keep the target off your back. If people think you have an advantage, you are the biggest target in the game at that point. I think it's crucial to find those items, because they can save your life, and you're never really sure how things are going to go. It's nice to have a plan B option. I think I'll always be aware. They always seem to be in pretty obvious places where nobody seems to look. I'm coming into this knowing I'm going to keep an eye out for weird knobs on trees that aren't really on other trees, or weird little figures. It's important to be aware and keep an eye out, so when you have an opportunity when you're alone, you can hurry and go out and look, with nobody seeing you. It's very important to be secretive. It's great to find it, but if people see you? You're screwed."
Chelsea's ethical philosophy on Survivor:
"I think there are certain boundaries. I don't know about in the game, but for me, personally. Obviously, this is a game. I am a loyal person, but there are times where I'm going to have to blindside somebody I've befriended, or go against somebody's trust. That's just part of the game. It's not what resonates with me in my real life, but it's a fact of the game. As far as being super confrontational or anything like that? It's not my style. As much as I'm going to be competing with these people, I have a level of respect for all of them. They're going to be going through the same thing I am. I feel like everybody, whether I resonate with them or not, I have a certain level of respect for everybody out here and there are certain lines I won't cross. I won't bash on their character and who they are as a person. This is a game, and not necessarily everything we do in this game is going to be a reflection of who we are as actual people. I think sometimes that's skewed, when people watch it, that they must be like this person in real life … but really, it's a game."
That's Chelsea in her own words. But what do the other castaways think about her? Over the course of our interviews out in Fiji, the Ghost Island castmembers were presented with pictures of their competitors, and asked to establish their preseason thoughts. With that said, here's what they think about Chelsea, member of the Naviti tribe.
Michael Yerger (real estate agent, Malolo Tribe): "She seems a little sassy, a little spicy. She's kept herself a little reserved. But I think there's more to her. She's a little mysterious."
Donathan Hurley (caretaker, Malolo Tribe): "I haven't thought too much about her. I haven't really made eye contact with her or nothing."
Brendan Shapiro (physical education teacher, Malolo Tribe): "I don't have much of a read on her. I think she's probably some kind of athlete. She's among the crew that are very athletic out here. In terms of her temperament and what she brings? I don't have a good read."
Domenick Abbate (construction supervisor, Naviti Tribe): "I had mixed emotions about her, but she's starting to warm up a bit. I'm starting to get smiles out of her. But up until now? I'm not sure. She had a stone-face, didn't want to look at me. I didn't know if that was toward me or toward everyone, but in the last day or two, I got a little bit out of her."
Sebastian Noel (fishing guide, Naviti Tribe): "She looks evil, but not evil in a bad way. Evil in the sense that I'll work with you under the radar. I would definitely work with her, from what I've seen."
Desiree Afuye (student, Naviti Tribe): "She can't even hide the fact that she's going to stab you in the back. She can't even hide it. She's here to get her hands dirty and get blood on her hands. I can just tell. I can see it in her eyes. I'm a good reader of people."
Morgan Ricke (marine animal trainer, Naviti Tribe): "I feel like she's strong and independent and will do her own thing, not necessarily what she's told. I wouldn't say it's a bad thing, but we'll see how it plays out in the game."
Stephanie Gonzalez (graphic sales, Malolo Tribe): "She's kind of cocky. I think it's an insecurity she's got. She's more petite, and I'm kind of petite, too, so she'll probably be an underdog if she gets far in the game. But she has red hair, so I think she's a little more go with the flow, gives into peer pressure, can probably be easily persuaded."
Chris Noble (male model, Naviti Tribe): "She has a quietness to her, but definitely possibly a dark side. I could see her flipping back and forth, backstabbing people without anyone even knowing. She's definitely potentially dangerous, but I wouldn't be surprised if she's potentially the first one voted out, because she doesn't click with anybody."
Laurel Johnson (financial consultant, Malolo Tribe): "She seems like she doesn't know what she's doing here. She's been walking around in little bathing suits the whole time. I'm not really sure what she's here for. I'm hoping to take advantage of that."
Wendell Holland (furniture company owner, Naviti Tribe): "She's like a creature from Game of Thrones. She's reading a Game of Thrones book right now. She seems like a character and a nice person. You don't always get eye contact from everyone. Some people will smile at you. She's not one of the ones who's smiling at me."
Jenna Bowman (advertising account executive, Malolo Tribe): "She always reads Game of Thrones books, and she looks like a character from Game of Thrones. I think she's going to be pretty cool. "
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): "Are you a Game of Thrones fan?"
Jenna Bowman (advertising account executive, Malolo Tribe): "I've only watched the first couple of episodes until there was a midget and an orgy and a brother and sister having sex, and I just could not follow."
Stephanie Johnson (yoga instructor, Malolo Tribe): "She is like the really, really hot nerd. She's hot. A total babe. I think I could connect with her on all things nerdy. I feel like I could probably talk about Game of Thrones with her, The Walking Dead. I have a total nerd side."
Jacob Derwin (music teacher, Malolo Tribe): "Best eyebrows in the game. You could get cut if you looked at them too long. I saw her during finals, and my first impression wasn't a good one. There was something too cosmetic about her, and you're applying for Survivor! She seemed too put together for being on a show where you're a disaster on an island. But then during this process, I saw her reading Game of Thrones. I was reading The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, which is another epic fantasy novel. I sat there with her reading the book and I thought to myself, 'Wait a second. You're actually kind of cool, aren't you?' I saw her laugh at something silly that happened at Ponderosa and I realized I was wrong. She could be very dangerous, actually, because she's super pretty, and clearly a lot cooler than I gave her credit for."
James Lim (business analyst, Malolo Tribe): "I call her 'Kristen Stewart.' We've glanced at each other a couple of times. I'm getting pretty good vibes. If she's on my tribe in the beginning, I'd like to include her in my alliance."
Kellyn Bechtold (career counselor, Naviti Tribe): "She seems fun! I would like to go shopping with her! I love her red hair! She seems like a really fun person who has probably done more daring things than I have done in my life."
Libby Vincek (social media strategist, Malolo Tribe): "She's very athletic. She's sweet. She smiles. She doesn't give off this 'I'm better than you' vibe. If I'm going to be in an alliance with girls, I'd want her to be one of them."
Angela Perkins (Army veteran, Naviti Tribe): "She's quiet. She doesn't seem physically strong, but she does seem aware of the situation, and she does appear to assess a lot."
Bradley Kleihege (law student, Naviti Tribe): "She's pretty hot. I like her. She seems like she's been studying everybody. Some of the girls — and some of the guys, too — look like they're along for the ride, and this is a fun field trip, enjoying their books. I keep trying to read. I'm flipping through the pages and looking at the words, but none of it is soaking in. I'm focused on what this person's doing and what that person's doing. She looks like she's reading people a fair amount, too. She looks like someone I can work with."
Keep up with all of our preseason interviews:
• Angela Perkins
• Bradley Kleihege
• Brendan Shapiro
• Chelsea Townsend
• Chris Noble
• Desiree Afuye
• Domenick Abbate
• Donathan Hurley
• Jacob Derwin
• James Lim
• Jenna Bowman
• Kellyn Bechtold
• Laurel Johnson
• Libby Vincek
• Michael Yerger
• Morgan Ricke
• Sebastian Noel
• Stephanie Gonzalez
• Stephanie Johnson
• Wendell Holland
What's your read on Chelsea? Sound off with your predictions in the comments section below, and keep checking THR.com/Survivor for more interviews with the Survivor: Ghost Island cast.