A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Game Changer


In his first tribal council on ‘Survivor,’ Dr. Mike loses his closest ally.

Nothing shakes up a season of Survivor like the long-awaited merge, where the three tribes become one and it’s every player for him or herself. On episode 7 of Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, Mike Zahalsky ’95 MMS’98 MD’99 made it to this show milestone.

In keeping with tradition, after the merge the survivors were treated to an elaborate lunch of steak, margaritas, and even molten lava cakes. The calories were a much-needed boost for the hungry players whose supplies were depleted after 16 days on the island.

But the camaraderie over cold beers had subtext. In a phone interview, Zahalsky says that post-merge, “Survivor is about making your way socially and strategically.” Players have to test the bonds of their established alliances, or reach out to find new ones. The five Yawa tribemates, including Zahalsky, went in planning to stick together.

After Desi won the first individual immunity challenge, the 12 survivors headed to tribal council―Zahalsky’s first. “My tribe had won so many challenges and never been to tribal council, which is great,” he says, “but that prevented us from playing the true game of Survivor.” In fact, Zahalsky now holds the title for most consecutive first-place wins in a three-tribe season.

At council, the Yawa tribe tried to oust hard-core player Chrissy, but were blindsided by the defection of Ben and Laura, who joined the majority to vote out Yawa’s own Jessica.

For Zahalsky, losing Jessica, a nurse practitioner who was on the original Healers tribe and who, he says, was his “biggest ally,” was a tough break. He’s undaunted, however. “It’s like figuring out how to triple concentrate at Brown and still graduate in three years [he was the first person in Brown’s history to do so]. I have to find the holes and work inside of them,” he says.

We’ll see how that goes on the next episode, Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.


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