Alum and ‘sex doctor’ Mike Zahalsky survives his first week as a reality TV contestant.
Competing on the reality TV show Survivor has been one Brown alumnus’s wish since the show first aired in 2000. With the kickoff of Season 35, “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers,” on September 27, viewers got their first peek of Mike Zahalsky ’95 MMS’98 MD’99 living his dream.
This season, the 18 contestants are divided into three tribes based on profession: hero, healer, or hustler. While Zahalsky certainly “hustled” to build a bustling urology practice in Coral Springs, FL, and would rightfully be considered a “hero” by patients he treats for infertility, he found a home on Healers.
For those new to the show, one contestant is voted off the island every episode. Early in the season teams compete in weekly challenges and the losing group is forced to vote off one of their own.
In the first episode, the contestants arrived by boat to the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji, where a sharply dressed Zahalsky introduces himself as a “sex doctor.” After some giggles and a few other introductions, the players grab supplies from the main ship, dive into the ocean, and climb aboard small, tribe-specific boats to paddle to shore.
First to reach the beach and light their symbolic torch, the Healers credit their communication skills for an early success, which is rewarded with a giant fire, pre-built at their campsite. Aside from a teammate questioning Zahalsky about his efforts to locate a self-serving immunity idol, which protects its owner from being voted off, the Healers are a supportive group.
The tribe’s cooperation was on full display during the week’s immunity challenge involving a mini DIY roller coaster and a table-sized puzzle. Zahalsky himself led the team to victory by tilting the large table maze to guide balls through obstacles, a success he attributed to the fine motor skills he’s mastered performing surgery.
The Healers’ win meant all members survived to the next week. The first episode closed with the Heroes voting off a former Olympian, leaving Zahalsky to continue hunting for an immunity idol next Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.