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Meet the Cast of the New Survivor Season 44

The newest crop of Survivor castaways includes plenty of big personalities, accomplished competitors and ruthless rivals laser-focused on the challenge to win $1 million.

Yamil “Yam Yam” Arocho, 35

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

Yamil “Yam Yam” Arocho is the first Puerto Rican currently residing in the Caribbean to play Survivor in the show’s history. He admits it’s hard for him fly under the radar and notes his husband says he never shuts up. The beauty salon owner plans to excel in the game by knowing when to use gossip to his advantage and when to shut it down.

Matt Blankinship, 27

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San Francisco, California

Security software engineer Matt Blankinship is a self-professed nerd. His job requires him to find digital loopholes that allow ne’er-do-wells to steal data in order to help technology companies better protect themselves. Those skills, he says, will help him pinpoint and exploit small details about each alliance to cause maximum mayhem. His ultimate goal this season, he explains, is to “emerge from this, sprouting beautiful wings and soaring and win the game of Survivor.” 

Brandon Cottom, 30

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Newton, Pennsylvania

Pilot, pianist, magician — Brandon Cottom considers himself a jack of all trades (he even played in professional football leagues, including the Seattle Seahawks from 2015 to 2018). “I think my biggest assets will be … winning challenges, but then also, too, just morale,” he says. While he knows he’ll be seen as an athlete and competitor from the start, he believes other castaways will appreciate him because he’s a positive person and fun to be around.

Kane Fritzler, 25

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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Recent law school graduate, Kane Fritzler, describes himself as a combination of a self-confident negotiator and big, goofy guy. He believes the fact he doesn’t come across as a high-achiever will help him win the game since other competitors won’t recognize him as a threat until it’s way too late. 

Carson Garrett, 20

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Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia Tech aerospace engineering student Carson Garrett points out he’s younger than the game of Survivor, but none-the-less was brought up in the show’s universe. He plans to lay low and really play up his inexperience and youth — at least initially. “I think other people are going to perceive me as this short 5’5” nerdy nice person, and then by the end of the game I can kind of come out as more of a puppet master leading those votes,” he says.

Matthew Grinstead-Mayle, 43

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Columbus, Ohio

While barbershop owner Matthew Grinstead-Mayle believes the new era of Survivor is “fast, dangerous and it keeps you on your toes,” he’s up for the challenge because he wants to make his 4-year-old son Jasper’s life better. His strategy? Crush competitions and utilize his skills as a social butterfly. “I’m going to come for every single one of them,” he warns.

Lauren Harpe, 31

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Mont Belvieu, Texas

Elementary school teacher Lauren Harpe says she’s fully prepared to have the other Survivors underestimate her as a “cute” and “young-looking girl.” But they should beware, she advises, since as a single mother to two young boys she’s been through a lot and has learned to be adaptable to almost any situation. “If I’m going to come out here and endure all this pain and struggle and all these bugs, you’d better believe I’m coming out with a prize,” she insists.

Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, 43

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt is a first-generation resident of the U.S. mainland. While the engineering manager explains she looks up to past season Puerto Ricans who forged a path for her, notably two-time Survivor winner Sandra Diaz-Twine, she now wants to be a pioneer in her own right. “I would love to carve even more of a path for people that sound different and look different, just as I do,” she says.

Helen Li, 29

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San Francisco, California

“I am going to charm everyone so that they don’t see me coming, and I think I’m going to anticipate everyone’s moves before they know it themselves, so I think I’ll win,” product manager Helen Li says. She explains that though she’s small in stature she’s ready to show just how fearless and persuasive she can be.

Frannie Marin, 23

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Cambridge, Massachusetts

As a research coordinator, Frannie Marin is ready to exploit her ability to stay cool under pressure and make the right decision when there’s a million things occurring all at once and everyone is freaking out. And while she may appear to give off an anxious energy, she explains she can’t wait to “stab people in the back” and “do kind of potentially mean things” — and, she adds, she’ll do it all with a smile.


Danny Massa, 32

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Bronx, New York 

As a New York City firefighter, Danny Massa is already used to living with “a lot of personalities” 24 hours at a clip, so he’s more than ready to tackle the social side of the game. “Reputation is everything, and then you use that reputation to work in your advantage,” he says. But, he adds, his biggest challenge will be his tendency to initially come off as a “bro-ish jerk.” To counteract that perception, he plans to show off his fun, kind and charismatic side as much as possible.

Bruce Perreault, 46

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Warwick, Rhode Island

Bruce Perreault is a huge fan of Survivor and believes his experiences growing up in foster care from the age of 2 until he was adopted at 7 will aid him in quickly getting up to speed in the game. “You’ve got to be a chameleon,” the insurance agent says. “You have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to formulate to what’s going on.” Positive self-talk also is part of his strategy, and he tells himself multiple times a day he’s going to walk away from the game as Sole Survivor.

Maddy Pomilla, 28

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Brooklyn, New York

Maddy Pomilla isn’t afraid to “put it all out there” and step up since she’s the middle child in a family of five girls. She quit her job as charity projects manager to compete, and she believes replicating her “one-step-back” approach to life in the game will help her not appear too intimidating. If she makes it to the merge, however, she’s planning to go full-throttle and execute big moves on her quest to take home the prize money. “I’m tired of the girls playing from the sidelines,” she says. “I want to be in the middle of it. I want to be fully in the game and kind of see if I can pull it off.”

Claire Rafson, 25

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Brooklyn, New York

Claire Rafson feels confident she’ll go far in Survivor since the tech investor and venture capitalist successfully accomplishes most things she sets her mind to do. As a queer, Black, Jewish girl, she says Survivor taught her she might be the “odd one out” but can use that as an opportunity to excel by going full-force on her social and strategic game to fit in and get what she wants. “I think that those are the lessons I’ve taken into my everyday life, and that’s kind of how I want to play the game,” she says.

Jaimie Lynn Ruiz, 35

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Mesa, Arizona

Jaimie Lynn Ruiz says she used Survivor as a template for creating alliances and strategizing how to get promotions while working as a marketing consultant rising through the ranks of corporate America. Now, she notes, her career approach will inform her game play. And as a yogi, her meditation will be her true guiding light. “It reminds me of my power that I have,” she explains, adding she likes to speak things into existence: “This is the next Sole Survivor, Jaimie Lynn Ruiz.” 

Sarah Wade, 27

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Chicago, Illinois 

Sarah Wade began really pursuing her dreams after losing her best friend, and now she’s ready for Survivor to push her to see what she’s truly capable of in life. Her profession as a consultant has exposed her to a lot of different personalities who may have varying views of her, and in Survivor she’s determined to show she can win over people’s trust and bring her A-game to the table. “It is so important for me to be here, because playing a game that’s so hard teaches you how far your limits are,” she says. Even if she loses, she believes the experience will have a “powerful” impact on her future.

Carolyn Wiger, 35

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Hugo, Minnesota

Though Carolyn Wiger has watched Survivor her entire life she never thought she would be a part of it — and she didn’t even actually want to be on the show. That changed during Season 41 when she and her young son watched together and he told her she would be “awesome” on the show. “I got that permission,” the professional drug counselor explains, adding she’s “got this.” “I’ve been sober for 13 years and being active in my addiction was torture. I feel like if I can handle that, I can handle anything.” 

Josh Wilder, 34

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Atlanta, Georgia
A series of challenges in life has readied Josh Wilder for this moment. “I grew up in Ohio as a Black gay man. I survived medical school. I survived a kidney transplant. I survived cancer,” he says. “So, with all that, you have to take negative situations and turn them into positive outcomes, which is going to be beneficial in Survivor.” His career as a surgical podiatrist also will benefit him in the competition since he’s learned in the operating room to “always be ready for the unexpected.” Still, he says he’s going to keep his profession secret to avoid anyone seeing him as a smart, strategic threat in the game, especially since he’s so athletic.

Read more about Survivor:

Season 44 Begins Next Week

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