BY JILL WAHLEN
Julia Carter had just one month to prepare to be a contestant on CBS’s “Survivor,” which filmed last year in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji.
“With only a month, I knew I wouldn’t get into stellar shape so I thought about the best ways to use my time,” said Carter, a 2011 graduate of Hazleton Area High School.
Carter wasn’t allowed to discuss the show’s outcome, but she recalled how she went into the season not knowing anything about it or who she would be playing with. She found out right away that she would be playing a very different game.
“As soon as we got there, (host) Jeff Probst lets us know that it was Survivor Season 38 ‘Edge of Extinction,’” Carter recalled. “‘Edge of Extinction?’ I thought, ‘What the heck does that mean? Who’s becoming extinct? What does that mean?’ He didn’t explain it.”
The daughter of Catherine Carter and stepdaughter of Douglas Keen, Wilkes-Barre, Carter now works as a medical assistant in Bethesda, Maryland. To prepare for the show, which debuted last Wednesday on CBS, she studied episodes from the previous 37 seasons. She took notes and tried to determine which strategies worked best, and which contestant’s personality was most like her own.
Like in previous seasons of “Survivor,” 18 contestants are taken to a remote location where they must provide food, water, fire and shelter for themselves. They also compete in challenges for rewards and for immunity from elimination. Contestants then are voted out by their fellow castmates until only one remains.
But in this installment of the show, a person isn’t eliminated for good. The ousted player receives two options: he or she can quit or get on a boat and continue the game.
The show features newbies such as Carter along with four contestants from past seasons. A longtime fan of the show, Carter recognized the repeat players.
Carter initially applied to the show about three years ago, recording a two-minute video to talk about her life and why she wanted to play.
“And then I submitted it off into the universe,” she said.
She didn’t hear anything, so a year later, she attended a “Survivor” casting call in Wilkes-Barre.
“I thought I might as well go to double my chances,” she said.
In April 2018, she received a call from CBS. At first, she “thought it was a joke” and fired off questions to the caller.
“I had to make sure it was legit,” Carter said with a laugh.
Sure enough, she shipped out to the South Pacific in May.
“Fiji is beautiful. It’s very tropical,” Carter said. “Overall, it had a moderate climate and a typical kind of island vibe. It was very hot, but it wasn’t the rainy season there, so it wasn’t too bad as far as any storms.”
The experience, however, came with a transition.
“Although you’re on a beautiful island, you have to realize that you’re actually in the game,” she said. “You have limited resources, limited food, and you’re really exposed to the elements.”
And, Carter said, you’re surrounded by strangers.
“You’re not sure if you can trust them,” she said.
Carter joked that she plans to watch the show “more times than you can imagine.” It airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
“I am going from being a fan to a player to a fan again,” she said.
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