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.
Once upon a time, 26-year-old law student Bradley Kleihege was in the mix for Survivor: Cagayan. He ultimately missed the cut. When he saw the first promo for the season and laid eyes upon eventual two-time Survivor player Spencer Bledsoe, Bradley knew exactly who had taken his spot. Now, Bradley, a self-professed super fan who fears his own inability to get along well with people he deems boring and/or intellectually impaired, has finally arrived at the Survivor arena.
“I love Bradley,” executive producer and host Jeff Probst tells THR. “He’s the kind of guy I wish we could have every season. He’s really bright, and he gets the game. He puts together thoughts in a way similar to a Cochran or a Zeke where it sounds familiar, but he says it in a fresh way, so you kind of lean into him. He’s either confident or arrogant, depending on your definition. I don’t really know the difference, sometimes. But I know I find it very appealing.”
Hear more from Bradley 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.
Bradley’s history as a fan:
“I have been a huge fan of Survivor since the second season. I’ve been watching since I was nine. Nine! I’m so excited to be here. I sent in my first video five years ago and almost made it — Season 28. Spencer took my spot. I lovingly refer to him as spot stealer. I started watching the season, I watched the promo, and when I saw him, I went, damn it! That could have been me. That was my spot!”
How Bradley has changed since his first near-miss with Survivor:
“I think I’ll do better this season than I would have back then. I’m older. I was 20 or 21 at the time. I would have been pretty young. I’m in law school now. I think that helps a lot with Survivor, because it’s mostly a degree in bullshitting people and picking them apart. In a way, I’m glad this is my chance now, because I think I’ll do better. But it’s been tough! You get so close, you can almost taste it, and then you fall short. In the back of my head, it was never a question about if I got on Survivor, but when. Each year would roll around and it would be like, ‘Maybe this year?’ And it wouldn’t happen. And I would get so tired of waiting. I’ve been grinning ear to ear since I got out to the hotel in LA [before coming out to Fiji].”
What Bradley thinks about his odds this season:
“Well, I’m going to win. There’s no question about that. That’s serious and my joking answer. I honestly think I’m going to win. I’m excited by the people I see. They’re young, which is a bit of a bummer. I think I would connect a little bit better with older people than your average young person, so going into it, I felt there was one asset I would have over the other twenty-somethings — so it’s a little bit of a bummer that it looks like everyone out here is twelve, myself included.”
What Bradley plans to say about his life outside of the game:
“Absolutely not law school. I’m going to say I’m a graduate student studying geography and I’m going to be a community college teacher. I think that sounds very unthreatening. I have more undergrad credits in geography than political science, which is what my Bachelor’s degree is in. I could bore your ears off talking about how this island was formed. I could drone on for hours. I love that kind of stuff. It won’t be an issue. My concern is that I had to come up with something that I had a background in, because I can’t sit there for 39 days and tell people I’m something that I don’t know much about. Being a young kid that’s pretty well-spoken, it would be hard to play off that I’m not a student or have some slightly exciting sounding job. I don’t think you can come in here and say you’re a law student. It’s a double-edged sword: there’s the aspect of what people associate with lawyers, that they’re going to play everybody, and the other aspect that they all think you’re rich. No one wants that person to go to the end, and if that person does go to the end, why give them a million dollars? ‘That asshole is going to earn a million dollars in five years anyway.’ It’s not a winning combination.
What Bradley will do with the million dollars if he wins:
“I probably won’t be a lawyer. I think I might actually go back to school to be a geography professor, I shit you not! If I win, I’m going to buy a sailboat and sail around the world, but then I’ll do something productive. I’m way too ambitious to not just do something. I couldn’t just float.”
How Bradley wants to start the game:
“Have a conversation with everybody. I think my biggest weakness coming out here is that I like to surround myself with intelligent people, and I don’t really care to spend a lot of time with people I regard as stupid. Knowing that’s my biggest weakness, and someone like Spencer — we probably come into this with a similar mindset: well-educated young guys that really like Survivor. Looking at the criticisms put on him that he wasn’t empathetic enough. Part of it is growing up in the midwest. People on the face of them aren’t always interesting. So, I want to have a conversation with everybody on day one and try to figure out what about them is different and interesting, so I can latch onto something. Even if I’m not working with them, I think it’s so important to not come across as flippant and to cast them aside, especially at the beginning. After that, we’ll see where it falls. Hopefully we’re not going to Tribal Council for a while.”
Bradley’s ethical philosophy on Survivor:
“There’s certainly a line when you’re playing strategically versus just smearing someone as a person. With that said, the gloves are off. At this point, 36 seasons in, this isn’t the second season of Survivor. People realize it makes the show way more interesting if we have players coming out guns blazing, and really do give themselves moral freedom to play however they want. Obviously a Zeke and Varner situation, I have no interest in that kind of thing. So nothing personally attacking, but in terms of backstabbing people — saying one thing to their face and doing something else? Yeah, bring it on. I’m so excited.”
How Bradley will react if he gets blindsided:
“I’m obviously going to be pissed off, but I think it’ll be a simultaneous emotion. It won’t even be like, ‘I’m pissed off,’ and then when I start drinking back at Ponderosa I’ll think, ‘Yeah, that was good.’ I don’t think it’s going to be that. I think it’s going to be: ‘Damn, they fucking got me.’ And I’ll be mad for a long time. I told Jeff yesterday that as such a huge fan of the show, all I want is to make this season as good as possible. If that means making it to the end? Fucking great. That’s obviously how I want it to turn out. But if it means I go down in brilliant flaming fashion and it all falls apart? I’m okay with that, too. I want to play one hundred percent, and see where that takes me.”
Bradley’s biggest concern about the game:
“I think the hardest part about playing Survivor is going to be doing nothing. I go from being a law student and working 80 hours a week, taking an hour for dinner and otherwise being busy the whole day, to doing nothing? They put you in your tent for twelve hours a night [at Ponderosa]. First of all, it’s seven o’clock and you’ve put me to bed. Second of all, I got up at 6:30 and I just ate dinner five minutes ago. I’m supposed to sleep right now? It’s been really tough. I’m honestly fairly worried about what I’m going to do without books. At least I’ll be able to talk to people, but 39 days is a long time.”
That’s Bradley in his own words. But what do the other castaways think about him? Over the course of our interviews out in Fiji, the Ghost Island cast members were presented with pictures of their competitors, and asked to establish their preseason thoughts. With that said, here’s what they think about Bradley, member of the Malolo tribe.
James Lim (Business Analyst, Malolo Tribe): “I sat next to him on the plane here. He seems kind of young. I would put him maybe in college, actually. He seems nice. He’s a little introverted. Maybe he’s a super fan. I get that vibe.”
Wendell Holland (Furniture Company Owner, Naviti Tribe): “He seems like a likable person. He was on the boat with me coming over [for these interviews], and he was one of the people I wanted to work with.”
Libby Vincek (Social Media Strategist, Malolo Tribe): “Average Joe, man! He’s happy to be here. That’s all I’m getting from him. You’re giving me nothing, buddy. Just a good smile.”
Chris Noble (Male Model, Naviti Tribe): “He’s interesting. He comes across as someone that’s like a mathematician and in the corporate world. There’s something about him that I can’t figure out. I feel like he could be strategic, but he’s not going to be a huge personality.”
Angela Perkins (Army Veteran, Naviti Tribe): “I think he’s intelligent. He’s obviously quiet. He’s genuine. Maybe he won’t cross the boundaries. I’m willing to work with anybody, but I don’t know how easily he’s persuaded. Once he’s loyal, he’s going to be very loyal.”
Domenick Abbate (Construction Supervisor, Naviti Tribe): “Clark Kent. The noble intellectual. Looks like a smart kid.”
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): “Does he have the Superman side?”
Domenick Abbate (Construction Supervisor, Naviti Tribe): “He might, but if he doesn’t, there’s another guy out here who looks like Superman. Put them together, and they’re trouble.”
Michael Yerger (Real Estate Agent, Malolo Tribe): “He seems like an intelligent guy. Maybe it’s just the glasses? We’ll see!”
Stephanie Johnson (Yoga Instructor, Malolo Tribe): “I really like him. There’s something about him. He has gorgeous eyes. He’s someone I think can manipulate into being on my side. I think that I can flirt my way to the final three with him.”
Morgan Ricke (Marine Animal Trainer, Naviti Tribe): “I like him. He has great eyes. He seems very intelligent. He’s always reading books. He seems very knowledgable. Putting out the book vibes.”
Jenna Bowman (Advertising Account Executive, Malolo Tribe): “He’s hard to read. He’s always kind of lurking. If I’m looking anywhere, all of the sudden, we’ll make eye contact. He always has his eyes on everything. I think he’s going to know a lot.”
Donathan Hurley (Caretaker, Malolo Tribe): “He’s probably a big social threat. He has that essence about him. I can read people well. He’s very observant, I can see, because I’m really observant, too. I see a little bit of me in him. It could possibly be in my benefit if I’m correct, once I get in the game.”
Chelsea Townsend (Cheerleader and EMT, Naviti Tribe): “He seems very smart, like he’ll be a big strategic player in the game. He’s always watching everybody and reading. He seems like he’ll be really smart. He’s one of the people I feel like would be good to align with, if the opportunity presents itself. He seems nice and like someone you want on your side, because he’s going to have a really good strategic game and you want to be a part of it.”
Stephanie Gonzalez (Graphic Sales, Malolo Tribe): “He is inquisitive. He looks at people a shit ton. He’s a little similar to what I’m doing; analyzing people and paying attention. He’s reading thick books, so he’s probably pretty smart. Might be a good person to be aligned with.”
Jacob Derwin (Music Teacher, Malolo Tribe): “He is reading a book called The Sympathizer. I have never read The Sympathizer, but I have to assume someone who reads The Sympathizer is someone who needs to learn how to be more sympathetic. He may not be the most gracious player. That said, if he’s making an effort to better himself in that way, I would bet he’s a big fan and someone I’ll get along with.”
Laurel Johnson (Financial Consultant, Malolo Tribe): “He seems like he’s a super fan. He seems like he knows the game really well. He seems really excited to be here. I think he could be good to work with, but I’m afraid he’s a little too strategic.”
Brendan Shapiro (Physical Education Teacher, Malolo Tribe): “I think he’s probably a super fan who really knows the game well. He looks like an Ivy League buttoned up kind of guy. I wonder about those ones. I think guys like that will have an easier time sniffing out guys like me.”
Kellyn Bechtold (Career Counselor, Naviti Tribe): “I wonder if he’s from the midwest, like some investment banker, doing the right thing! He seems very smart. I can see myself wanting to get to know him, but I wouldn’t trust him one lick.”
Desiree Afuye (Student, Naviti Tribe): “You can’t lose sight of him. He might not be in my sites at first, because he may not be the strongest guy. We’re all looking at the strong guys and all of that, but he’s one you can’t lose sight of. He’s going to do some tricky stuff.”
Sebastian Noel (Fishing Guide, Naviti Tribe): “He’s one of those guys that sits below the radar. Those are the ones you have to watch out for. The ones you’re watching out for are the ones that aren’t generally going to win. It’s the ones behind your back. He might have a chance at winning this game.”
Keep up with all of our preseason interviews:
• Angela Perkins
• Bradley Kleihege
• Coming soon: Brendan Shapiro
What’s your read on Bradley? 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.