You've undoubtedly read other coverage of the newly unveiled Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers cast. This article, right here, is obviously the most important one, because it asks the crucial question: Which Ivy League school now wields the title of the most (undergrad) alumni in Survivor history?
If you're reading this article, you can probably read a graph, so the answer is, clearly: Brown University. The Berkeley of the East. The one the late JFK Jr. was wealthy enough to get into. Heckuva job, Brownies!
We should probably point out that this prestigious title is not without controversy. You see, Brown has held the overall title since Worlds Apart, when the Shirin/Max alumni duo put them squarely in the lead. But had So Kim not been pulled from San Juan del Sur due to her sister's pre-game medevac, Penn might have briefly held the lead. Instead, Penn is left with their traditional asterisk status, honed through years of "No, we really are an Ivy, not a state school."
Why is this important?
We know, we know, you're probably skeptical. But let's be honest: This *is* important because Survivor casts are a true cross-section of American society, and clearly, Ivy representation is a demonstration of that. As this season shows, one in every six Americans is a former student of an elite, highly selective Ivy League university. (And one in nine men are former NFL players. And one in nine men and women are 2014 graduates of the University of Alabama.)
But it wasn't always this way. Historically, Ivy alums showed up only sporadically, with a mere three in the first nine seasons. But around Palau, casting sent out a directive to find a male "Ivy League type," and ended up with the relentlessly entertaining strategic mastermind, Gregg Carey (Penn).
So delighted were audiences with that result, Survivor casting kept at it for a full one additional year, resulting in Guatemala including both Brian Corridan (Columbia), whose chyron even identified him as an "Ivy League student", and Rafe Judkins, who (being from Brown) had to settle for being a "wilderness guide." (He's now a successful TV screenwriter.) Since Brian and Rafe were both interesting, game-altering characters, Survivor promptly forgot all about the Ivies for several recruit-heavy seasons. (Technically, astronaut Dan Barry is also an Ivy alum, but that's not why he was cast.) Five seasons later, by some freak accident, two ended up on Gabon.
Since nobody watched that season, the drought really extended all the way through to South Pacific, when Survivor realized it could combine general nerdery with Survivor superfandom, and cast John Cochran, who was quickly followed by the more triple threat-ish Malcolm Freberg. Since Worlds Apart, Survivor has been on an unbroken Ivy streak, with casts now containing up to three ex-Ivy contestants: Three in S30, two in S31, three in S32, one in S33, two in S34, and another three in S35. Hooray, progress!
In order to pad this out into even more words, let's break down the battle by school:
First place: Brown University - Six contestants | eight appearances.
Contestants: 1. Greg Buis - S1: Borneo; 2. Rafe Judkins - S11: Guatemala; 3. Max Dawson - S30: Worlds Apart; 4. Shirin Oskooi - S30: Worlds Apart, S31: Cambodia; 5. Aubry Bracco - S32: Kaoh Rong, S34: Game Changers, 6. Mike Zahalsky - S35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
What else can we say about Brown? Its reputation for quirky students is supported by the likes of memorable characters like Greg, Shirin, and Aubry. And, obviously, this season's requisite urologist, Dr. Mike Z. With Mike's inclusion, not only does Brown retain its title for most contestants, it also extends its lead in most overall appearances (now at 8, three ahead of Penn). Brown is also the only Ivy to have more than one player return. Not to mention that after a stately two appearances in the first 29 seasons, Brown alumni have now made six appearances in the last six seasons. Sure, go ahead and run up the score.
Second place: University of Pennsylvania - Five contestants | five appearances.
Contestants: 1. Gregg Carey - S10: Palau; 2. Charlie Herschel - S17: Gabon; 3. So Kim - S30: Worlds Apart; 4. Cydney Gillon - S32: Kaoh Rong; 5. Chrissy Hofbeck - S35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
While Penn has produced a first boot, some later jurors, and most recently a respected (if underedited) just-missed-the-Final-Three contestant, it's still lacking a finalist or winner. Could Chrissy the actuary (leading the hauling above) be the one who carries Penn over the finals line? Maybe.
Third place: Columbia University - Three contestants | four appearances.
Contestants: 1. Brian Corridan - S11: Guatemala; 2. John Cochran - S23: South Pacific, S26: Caramoan; 3. Simone Nguyen - S35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
Technically, this NYC-based (and thus obviously Wine-and-Cheese aligned) institution is tied with Cornell for third place, with three contestants each. But we'll give Columbia the edge here, because (1) Brian was officially an "Ivy League student," and has written for this site, and (2) Cochran actually won (and is the only ex-Ivy winner), and (3) Simone (above) is on this season. Hooray, recency bias! Also (4) counting Cochran's return in Caramoan, Columbia has now had four total appearances, which further differentiates them from the other New York Ivy, Cornell.
Fourth place: Cornell University - Three contestants | three appearances.
Contestants: 1. Matthew von Ertfelda - S6: The Amazon; 2. Dan Barry - S12: Panama-Exile Island; 3. Neal Gottlieb - S32: Kaoh Rong.
While Brown's quirky reputation precedes it, Cornell has itself churned out some unique characters, from an aloof, Mandarin-conversing, machete-sharpening global adventurer, to a Space Shuttle-riding astronaut, to an ice cream pants-wearing entrepreneur who found an idol, was medevacced before he could play it, then was removed from the jury in one of Survivor's lamest twists ever. Not an unremarkable run, by any stretch... but not represented in this season.
Fifth place: Dartmouth College - Two contestants | four appearances.
Contestants: 1. Linda Spencer - S3: Africa; 2. Malcolm Freberg - S25: Philippines, S26: Caramoan, S34: Game Changers.
The New Hampshire Ivy has produced but two contestants, but also the Ivy alum with the most appearances: Malcolm Freberg. Then again, Malcolm swore during Philippines that he actually went to college somewhere in Georgia, so maybe we should deduct one of those appearances. Although he should get bonus points for enduring the ridiculous production decision that led to his elimination in Game Changers, so we're probably back to even.
Sixth place (tie): Harvard University - Two contestants | three appearances.
Contestants: 1. Marcus Lehman - S17: Gabon; 2. Zeke Smith - S33: Millennials vs. Gen X, S34: Game Changers.
It's hilarious that Harvard and Yale, bitter rivals, and the two most famous Ivies, are exactly tied (and near the bottom) with two total contestants and a mere three total appearances each. We've listed Harvard first, since it had the most recent appearance, but they are tied. Tied, we say. Indistinguishable. So there. If not for Princeton's continuing goose egg, Harvard would have at least held the title of the last Ivy to field a contestant. But at least their most recent alumnus has been a memorable player. Wait, didn't Zeke also hide (in Malcolmesque fashion) his Harvard education in MvGX? Maybe we should move Yale ahead, then. Hmm.
Sixth place (tie): Yale University - Two contestants | three appearances.
Contestants: 1. Anthony Robinson - S14: Fiji; 2. Stephen Fishbach - S18: Tocantins, S31: Cambodia.
Ah, Yale. The only noteworthy thing in Connecticut, except maybe the Mystic Aquarium and the 100 or so miles of exits you wish you were done driving past on the 95. Yale! The school, forever in Harvard's shadow, that George W. Bush was wealthy enough to attend. While Harvard produced the most Hawaiian-shirted recent contestant, Yale did give us the Knowingest Know-It-All (Stephen Fishbach). This can't be overlooked. Certainly, Yale's Survivor podcast appearance numbers are unlikely to be matched anytime soon (unless Aubry ups her output considerably). And Stephen's casting did lead to Liz Markham's appearance on Kaoh Rong, making her the only MIT (undergrad) alumna ever to play Survivor (to our knowledge), which is way more impressive than some dime-a-dozen Ivy. Then again, we're still waiting for a Caltech grad, Survivor casting. Or maybe someone from Harvey Mudd. Put it on your to-do list.
Last place: Princeton University. Zero contestants, zero appearances.
We have no idea why Princeton has, at least through the first 35 seasons, never produced a Survivor contestant. Maybe Brandon Hantz's pre-Caramoan tiger stripe tattoos have so scarred casting that they now have a tiger phobia that extends to collegiate mascots. Maybe Princeton grads are just really, really boring. But you would think that, what with New Jersey recently becoming the new West Hollywood of Survivor casting, maybe at least one Jersey resident would have attended their resident Ivy. But alas, not so far. Who knows what the future may hold? Could Brandon Hantz attend Princeton before Princeton produces a Survivor contestant? Who knows?! Maybe!
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