The Covid-delayed season of CBS-TV's "Survivor" launches Sept. 22 with 18 new castaways, including Arlington resident Evvie Jagoda.
A doctoral student in the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, the 28-year-old offers well-defined opinions as she pits brains against brawn vying for $1 million in segments filmed in Fiji.
In an online interview, Entertainment Weekly asked for three words that describe her, and she responded: "Extroverted, enthusiastic, smart."
The 20-year, successful "reality" show plays Robinson Crusoe, placing strangers in an isolated location, where they must provide food, fire and shelter. Contestants compete in challenges that include testing physical and mental tests, until each is voted out, until only a "sole survivor" remains.
'I will survive'
Jagoda -- who likes to cook, bike, hike and swim in ponds -- told Entertainment Weekly why she thinks she will do her version of Gloria Gaynor and survive:
"I really think I have the right combination of skills. I'm extremely smart and strategic and know the game very well and will constantly be thinking about how to put myself in the best position to win.
"But I'm also so silly and goofy and physically small and clumsy that I think people will really underestimate me and not target me. I've got an infectious smile and personality that will help me make great bonds with people.
"I'm super open and vulnerable with people so I think people will feel close to me, tell me information and want to work with me. I think people will have warm feelings for me at the end of the game even if I vote them out.
"I'm good at reading people's vibes and am very sensitive to shifts in people's energy, so I think I'll be able to figure out if people are lying to me or planning to betray me. Even though I am very empathetic to people, I also can have a wall up in me and always put my closest people above anyone else, and I know I will be able to betray someone for the sake of winning the game. I'm also relentlessly optimistic and will not ever give up or count myself out."
The Westchester, N.Y., native noted a pet peeve -- men. "Not all men, but I cannot stand machismo and man-splainers — anything like that drives me insane. [In grad school] I deal with A LOT of know-it-all male energy ....
"Back when I dated men, I once broke up with a guy because we were on a trip to Budapest and he kept pronouncing it "Budah-pesht" to prove how smart and worldly he was, and it was the biggest turnoff. I broke up with him literally 30 minutes after we got back from the trip."
Her proudest accomplishment? In February 2019, she was featured in an episode of the podcast Radiolab (episode "Asking for a Friend"). "I felt like I was really able to bring a lot of myself into the interview. Normally, scientists try to keep things very clinical and sterile. That's not my attitude.
"We talked about Neanderthals, but in the discussion, I also brought up the fact that we always seem to imagine Neanderthals as males when of course they were females as well. The reporter said, 'Oh maybe I should be imagining myself meeting a female Neanderthal at a bar.' Naturally, I replied, 'Well that's my kind of story.'
"She ran with it and had a whole chunk of the episode be about queer interspecies romance, which is literally my dream come true."
Asked who her hero is and why, she responded: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, adding, "She is just such a bad-ass woman and withstands so much hate, sexism, racism, ageism and somehow never gives up or gives in. I so admire the way that she stands up for regular people and against huge opposition from powerful forces with just her voice, passion and beliefs.
"I genuinely cried when watching her speech after a Republican congressman called her a bitch. She stood there in Congress, so poised and dignified, yet still so clearly channeling intense fiery passion against abusive men and for women everywhere who have to deal with that BS. She said, 'Having daughters is not what makes someone a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect is what makes a decent man.' That's just so true and clear and makes me feel seen by a politician for the first time ever."
Asked which past sole survivor she would emulate, she said, "I think the strategy that would work well for me would be staying close to the center of power, but never directly perceived as the one making the calls.
"For example, Todd at the beginning of China put Aaron as the leader of his tribe, but knew he could control him. I also think Natalie in San Juan Del Sur crushed this. She was Jeremy's No. 2 at first, so he was the one that got cut while she stuck around. Then she pretended to let Jon Misch, et al., be in charge. Ultimately, she struck at the right time and was able to get him out and win."
Of her Ph.D. studies, she says "I am interested in admixture between modern humans and archaic hominin groups including Neanderthals and Denisovans. I am particularly curious about the present-day functional effects of archaically-introgressed genetic regions in the genomes of living humans."
CBS has announced that the Emmy Award-winning series returns for its 41st "season" with a two-hour premiere, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept, 22, and also available to stream live and on demand with the CBS app or Paramount+. The pandemic delayed the original filming schedule in March 2020 .
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This news summary was published Monsday, Sept. 13, 2021.
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