9:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor: Ghost Island' Player Profile: Meet Michael Yerger
Welcome to the Survivor: Ghost Island preseason! THR's Josh Wigler reports from his visit to the show's shooting location on 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.
A model and real estate agent living in Los Angeles, Michael Yerger, 18, is the youngest member of the Ghost Island cast. But if he has it his way, nobody will know his secret; he plans to say he's 23. It might not be a hard secret to keep, given that he operates as a 23-year-old in real life.
"He lives his life as a 23-year-old. We're not saying, sometimes he buys beer. He lives his life, in his career, as 23," says executive producer and host Jeff Probst. "Nobody ages up! Mostly they'll go, 'I'm actually 32,' and then you look on their Facebook page and they're 70! I'm impressed, going into this. Michael carries himself, for the most part, not like an 18-year-old. I don't think anyone is going to think he's 18. He's physically strong. He's a good-looking guy. He's super likable. The only thing that would concern me for Michael is that he really is only 18. You can't have the maturity of a 23-year-old when you're 18. You can fake it like you do, and maybe you're ahead of the game a little, but he is an 18-year-old kid. I'm curious how that's going to go."
As for whether or not Michael will be allowed to drink alcohol in the case of a merge feast or a reward challenge, Probst says: "No, but he has a plan. He's going to tell people he doesn't drink. I've heard he has a story for how he's going to handle that, something about family issues and he doesn't like to be around alcohol."
Read on for highlights from our interview with Michael.
Michael's favorite Survivor players:
"Malcolm is one of my favorites. He's a great player. Obviously, it's hopeful to say I would play anything like him, but I really admire his gameplay. I like Denise. She played an impeccable game, in my opinion, start to finish. And they were the duo that season. There are so many players that I love. I mean, love him or hate him, Russell was an amazing player. Not so much at the end! But he gets there. Everybody loves different players for different reasons."
The first day of the game for Michael, assuming it goes his way:
"We all dream about how our perfect game will work. I feel prepared for the not-so-perfect day. But if it's up to me, it would be having great camaraderie in the tribe we're on. We get a good camp life set up. Good energy. Those would definitely be the first priorities. My strategy going into the game isn't to be the guy who says, 'Here's the alliance we're going to make.' It's not ever really a smart move, because it's a threat if you're the one strategizing at the beginning. I'm going to keep up with the traffic. If I find something solid on the first day? More power to us."
Michael's ethical philosophy on Survivor:
"There are definitely lines I'm not willing to cross. I hope it's that way for everybody. That being said? It is a game. I'm here to play it. I think everybody can respect the game enough to let themselves go and play the game hard. It's always a theme on each season that people maybe don't play as hard as they want — or if they come back, they have permission or whatever. I don't feel like I need permission in my life. I'm here to play. I'm here to lie, cheat and steal. That's the name of the game. That's why I love it and that's why I'm here. The people who aren't going to play that way? I don't know why they're here."
How will Michael react if he's blindsided:
"Game respects game, 100 percent. I've played football; I've done tae kwon do; stuff like that, my entire life. If somebody beats me? Good for them. They played harder than I did and they beat me to it. Definitely no bitterness or hurt feelings from me. But I'm not going to lie, it would still suck! I'll still end up crying in bed one night because I got blindsided and didn't make the move I should've."
That's Michael in his own words. But what do the other castaways think about him? Over the course of our interviews out on 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 Michael.
Angela Perkins (Army Veteran, Naviti Tribe): "I haven't observed him much. He's quiet. He seems like he's assessing."
Jacob Derwin (Music Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "I don't have a great read on that guy. He's one of the few people who I haven't seen a lot of for some reason. He seems put together, strong, young. I can't tell if he's devious or nice or whatever."
Chelsea Townsend (Cheerleader and EMT, Naviti Tribe): "I think he's going to be really good at the physical challenges, but he hasn't put out much of a vibe to me yet. He hasn't interacted at all. He keeps to himself. I'm not sure if that's part strategy or what. Hard to read him."
Wendell Holland (Furniture Company Owner, Naviti Tribe): "He's strong. He's not one of the super gladiators — we have three of them — but he seems like he's [keeping] to himself. He's probably in his 20s. Maybe he's military or police. I could work with him."
Brendan Shapiro (Physical Education Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "He looks like a salt of the earth, maybe New Jersey blue-collar, hard-working guy."
Kellyn Bechtold (Career Counselor, Naviti Tribe): "I can't get a read on him at all. He hasn't worn any clothes or sports gear to put him on one coast or the other. If there's one person I feel like I don't know, it's him. He's my question mark. I would love to cuddle up beside him, because he looks strong and youthful and like he would be a great ally."
Laurel Johnson (Financial Consultant, Malolo Tribe): "I can't get a read on this guy. I keep forgetting he's here, actually. I think he flies under the radar. I forget about him, then I don't see him for a few days, and he pops up again. I can't get a good read on him. Maybe it's just that he's the model type who doesn't know what he's doing here, but I can't get a read on the guy."
James Lim (Business Analyst, Malolo Tribe): "I don't remember this guy. Is he the bigger guy? I think that's probably him. He's as big as the other guy with the big ego. A good meat shield to have. I haven't seen him interact with the others that much. I'll be curious to find out."
Chris Noble (Male Model, Naviti Tribe): "He might be an alpha, but more of a quiet alpha. I think he'll be good on the challenges. Depending on the situation, I wouldn't mind teaming up with him. He might be a good shield. Sometimes the best ally is your greatest enemy, too. I haven't been able to get much of a read on him, but he seems like a good guy and a quiet guy."
Sebastian Noel (Fishing Guide, Naviti Tribe): "He's like a Rocky Balboa stallion kind of dude. He's someone to work with, but not for long. He's someone who I'll be his friend, but I might have to stab him in the back. As long as that bond is strong, I feel like we can do something."
Morgan Ricke (Marine Animal Trainer, Naviti Tribe): "I love him. He's one of the male model fitness magazine guys, but he seems like he has those Southern charm elements, too. He's super polite. He has these little coloring books that he colors in. Something about that… there's a little kid in him that I like."
Libby Vincek (Social Media Strategist, Malolo Tribe): "I like him. He's a cutie! He's one of the nicer guys, compared to Ken. He's really cute. I hope he's on my tribe!"
Donathan Hurley (Caretaker, Malolo Tribe): "Very attractive as well. A lot of the men are the same for me: attractive! I don't get to see many men [back home] like that!"
Stephanie Johnson (Yoga Instructor, Malolo Tribe): "He's too hot. [LJ McKanas from Survivor: Cagayan] said that there's hot and then there's cute, and I don't trust hot. So I don't trust [Michael] as far as I could throw him, which isn't very far, because he's huge."
Stephanie Gonzalez (Graphic Sales, Malolo Tribe): "That guy? Oh, my God. First time I saw him, he grabbed my hand very flirtatiously — so flirtatious that I thought it was my boyfriend! Wait, rewind! Super flirtatious and he knows he looks good. He stares at me unbelievably, so he probably thinks he's working his charm… but you're learning from the pro, so I know what you're doing! I think he's going to be taken out early, because he thinks he's got it all, and he really doesn't."
Desiree Afuye (Student, Naviti Tribe): "He's another one — a juice head. He's so about himself, like, 'Yeah, I'm totally hot.' I see that from him. But with him, I think I can give him direction, and he'll totally follow it. He may not play so hard, you know? He may play it safe."
Jenna Bowman (Advertising Account Executive, Malolo Tribe): "When we first got here, I thought he was my dream man. We both had Vans on and were both kind of trendy. Since then, we haven't really talked or anything. I've kind of noticed he's hanging more with the guy with glasses. They've been getting along."
Bradley Kleihege (Law Student, Naviti Tribe): "He's reading How to Win Friends and Influence People, which I'll admit, I read — but at the hotel where no one can see me, because I don't want anyone to know I've been reading that. He's been reading it right out in the open. I don't know if he's a huge fan and he's been trying to give it the honest try, but I don't know if he realizes that it's putting a huge target on his back. But at the same time, he could be very smart."
Domenick Abbate (Construction Supervisor, Naviti Tribe): "This is Superman. The other guy is Clark Kent. This is actual Superman. Again, it's a young kid who looks like he can lift a house. I can't put a finger on whether or not he's intelligent, or if he's a man of honor who doesn't really care. Although I think I recently saw a tattoo on him that said: 'On my honor.' Maybe honor is his game. Maybe he's a Marine. I don't know. Something like that."
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): "Wouldn't it be crazy if you got a tattoo about being honorable right before coming out to Survivor to fool people?"
Abbate: "Yeah, but you know what? I take it back. He is a man of honor. Right before we had dinner the other night, he put his head down and did a quick little prayer. I thought, 'Oh, that's fantastic. I'm so taking advantage of that.' Between 'On my honor' and the quick little prayer, this kid seems pretty straightforward. But, if he has me fooled? I will give him my vote today! Because I'm convinced this kid is a straight shooter."
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 Michael? 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.