QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Ghost Island.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.
Name: Laurel Johnson
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Current residence: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Occupation: Financial Consultant
Laurel Johnson: Do you know the theme?
Gordon Holmes: I do.
Johnson: I can’t figure it out, I feel like I should know it by now. I should bribe you with something.
Holmes: What’ve you got?
Johnson: What do you like?
Holmes: Keeping my job.
Holmes: Any guesses as to what it is?
Johnson: I don’t feel good about it. I feel like there are a lot of athletes and a lot of fans. I was thinking Superstars vs. Super Fans. But, that feels like Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn. I also feel like people are repping their cities hard. A Brooklyn shirt or an Oregon hat…so maybe it’s location based? And it drives me crazy because I feel like I should know.
Holmes: Does it make it worse that I know?
Johnson: It does!
Holmes: Why do you think you were cast?
Johnson: I think I’m a triple threat. I want to see if I can win. I’m smart, athletic, and I know the game. I think they want to see if I can back up all of the talk that I’ve been talking.
Holmes: You know the game, you’re a huge Gordon Holmes fan, which is a plus.
Johnson: Of course. You’re my idol.
Holmes: How long have you been watching the show?
Johnson: Day one, season one. My whole family, it’s our family show. We don’t live together, but we’ll call together after the show.
Holmes: Is the family still in Philadelphia?
Johnson: My parents are, my brother and sister have dispersed.
Holmes: Who knows you’re here?
Johnson: My immediately family. So, my brother, my sister, my mom, my dad, and my boyfriend.
Holmes: How excited are they?
Johnson: They are pumped. I was almost on season 33, but I got cut at the last second.
Johnson: I know. We were pretty sad about it.
Holmes: Who is your family visit?
Johnson: My older brother.
Holmes: After you win you two need to Blood vs. Water it.
Johnson: He’d love it!
Holmes: Is there anything that isn’t in your bio that I should know about? Have you killed a drifter? Are you the leader of a drug ring?
Johnson: No skeletons in the closet.
Holmes: Anything positive in there that we should know? I don’t know why I went negative with that.
Johnson: (Laughs) I feel like I was pretty honest.
Holmes: Have you set any moral boundaries as far as lying, cheating, stealing?
Johnson: I have no boundaries. I’m not the most outdoorsy person, what I like is the game part. I don’t need to camp, I’m not here for the adventure or meet new people. I’m here to play the game and win. I don’t want to be out here if I’m not going to win. I’ll leave my morals at the door.
Holmes: See, it’s one thing to sit here and say, I’m going to lie to nineteen hypothetical people. It’s another to lie to Laurel who helped me when I was sad on day five.
Johnson: I think you have to remember that it’s a game. They can be your best friend out here, but they’re your best friend that you’ve known for less than 40 days. I think keeping that in mind; you’re playing for your family. And if you’re not willing to lie to help your family, you’re helping their family. I think for me, it’s keeping the game in the game and real life in real life.
Holmes: Shame you weren’t cast in season 33, because they were like, “You stabbed someone in the back? Awesome!”
Johnson: (Laughs) Great job! But, the minorities did not fare well in that season.
Holmes: Yeah, I remember talking to Michaela about that and she made some good points about people being naturally more comfortable around people who look like them. It’s unfortunate.
Holmes: Is there any way to counter that?
Johnson: I think you just have to do your best to be liked. Let people see you for who you are. I’m hoping to make friends quickly. I’m going to be likable and be someone they’re going to want to have around camp.
Holmes: Is there any part of your backstory that you’re going to lie about?
Johnson: I don’t think so. I’m going to have so many strategic lies, that I feel like it’ll be easier if I’m not having to lie about my personal life. People will know I’m smart. They’ll see me in challenges and know I’m athletic. I’d rather not have to worry about those lies.
Holmes: You mentioned a boyfriend.
Holmes: Will that cut down on any flirting out here or do you have an understanding?
Johnson: He told me I can do whatever it takes to win. I’m hoping I don’t have to go there. So, no I don’t think so.
Holmes: Alright, I’ll give you two “Survivor” situations, you tell me which one you prefer.
Holmes: I probably already know this one; align with a Hillary supporter or align with a Trump supporter?
Johnson: (Laughs) Hillary supporter. I think I’d work better with a like-minded person.
Holmes: Uneducated Republicans is one of your pet peeves. Any worries about running into some of them out here?
Johnson: I’m a democrat, I don’t hide that. I feel like there are a lot of people who are bashing the healthcare law without really knowing what it’s about. So, I respect everyone’s opinion if they know what they’re talking about.
Holmes: Steal a vote or eliminate a juror?
Johnson: I hate both of those twists. They’re hard to play. Eliminate a juror. I’d rather just have that in my favor than worrying about when to steal a vote.
Holmes: Endurance challenge or word puzzle?
Johnson: Word puzzle.
Holmes: Align with a racist or a sexist?
Johnson: I guess a sexist. (Laughs)
Holmes: This question has a very different meaning to you than it does to others.
Johnson: (Laughs) It’s a lose/lose situation!
Holmes: Why a sexist?
Johnson: I think if a guy is a sexist, he thinks that men are great and women are bad. I think I can work with that. Whereas with a racist, you can’t really win those people over.
Holmes: It could be a Rudy and Richard situation. He didn’t like gay people and then they became best buds.
Johnson: That’s true.
Holmes: Voted out first or before final Tribal?
Johnson: Before final Tribal, that means you’re the biggest threat.
Holmes: Align with an adulterer or a tax cheat?
Johnson: A tax cheat…adulterers are gross. Tax cheat, make your money, I can respect that.
Holmes: Lose the family challenge or win and decide who to take?
Johnson: I want to win. I want to see my brother out here. It’s a powerful thing if you can bring people along with you.
Holmes: Caught stealing food or caught searching for an idol?
Johnson: Searching for an idol. I think that’s more forgivable.
Holmes: Align with a super fan or someone who doesn’t watch the show?
Johnson: A super fan, but someone who knows it a little less well than me. I don’t want a wild card who goes rogue because she doesn’t watch the show.
Holmes: Dance challenge or karaoke challenge?
Johnson: I’d go karaoke.
Holmes: What’s your go-to song?
Johnson: Usher…Eminem…I can bust out “Lose Yourself” pretty well.
Holmes: (Laughs) Did you ever hear the story that Probst rapped that to the cast of “Redemption Island?”
Johnson: (Laughs) I heard that. That’s amazing. He hasn’t rapped to us yet. But there’s time.
Holmes: What kind of first impression do you think you make?
Johnson: I think people think I’m really athletic. I’ve tried to be friendly at Ponderosa. So, I hope I come off as welcoming. I have these glasses on, so I hope I don’t look too smart.
Holmes: Nobody has ever thinks I’m too smart.
Holmes: Must be because I don’t wear glasses.
Johnson: The glasses work wonders.
NOTE: The cast members do not know each other’s names at this point. I showed Laurel a picture of each of the competitors and asked her to share her first impressions.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes